via Zen Koan.
And so the parable goes:
There was a very wealthy man who kept all his money, jewels and gold locked inside a box inside his mansion. One late night, he wanted to go count his loot but couldn’t remember where he left the keys. “I know I had them in my house last I looked but I can’t remember where I put them. Now where could they be?” (Note that he did remember what a key was just not where it was–not a dementia tale here.) The house was quite dark, the fires already having been drawn down for the night, but outside the street lamp was still lit. So the man went outside and began searching and searching under the street light becoming more and more agitated as he looked. A friend saw him and came up, saying “What are you doing, old friend?” And the wealthy man answered “Looking for the keys to my treasure box. I can’t find them anywhere.” The friend began to search with him, both looking everywhere under the street light but finding nothing. At last the friend said, “I can’t see them anywhere! Do you remember exactly where you last saw them?” And the wealthy but keyless–and clueless–man replied, “Oh, yes, they were in my house. But it’s so much easier to look out here where there is such bright light!”
And so the parable ends.
Easy one, right? When I first read this parable, I felt slightly insulted to be presented such a simple puzzle. Well, of course, it means that we shouldn’t be looking for answers in the outside world just because that is easier. We must look only within for the key to the meanings and treasures of life.
Or should we? If that’s all the parable means, I think I have just cause to cry foul, because can all answers really come from within? Of course, many times I find myself reaching for the easy solution or quick fix that the latest diet guru or purple pill might provide when I know that this probably isn’t going to mean I’ll become rich and skinny–or poor but enlightened. And introspection and meditation certainly have given me far more insight (by definition!) than self-help books.
But what about that friend? I keep coming back to him, the man willing to help our buddy under the street light. Didn’t he play an important role as well? Wasn’t his willingness to stop and take time ultimately likely to help the wealthy man “see the light”? I can imagine the next scene of the parable being the friend saying, “well, then, let’s not waste time out here. C’mon, I’ll grab a flashlight and we’ll go inside and look for the keys where you think you saw them last in the house, old buddy.”
Of course, looking for the easy answer outside won’t lead me to my deep treasures. But I’ll be better off with a friend with a torch than alone in the darkness looking only inward.
As other introverts will understand immediately, after I’ve charged into the world with some public face on, blogging faithfully for a week, for example, I’m left both exhausted and terrified and I slink back into my den, wrap my tail around my face and try to hibernate off the contact. I use to try to justify this in various ways: I really don’t like people; I’m no good at anything, anyway; why bother when there’s so much else to do.
But that’s all bull and I know it. Truth is: I’m an introvert and while I might love listening to and engaging with others, it’s just really tiring after a time. Like writing, being part of the world is just hard for me.
Given the careers I’ve had so far–and I don’t count out there being even more despite having used up more than my allotted quota in just 60 years–people don’t get it when I express this. “You’ve taught university classes; you’ve owned a business; you’re a teacher of Qi Gong and a personal trainer now. How much more extrovert can you get than that?” But those aren’t extrovert jobs are they? When I’ve done those things, I can fill a very specific role, much like a shy actor can still dominate the stage.
When I stopped blogging a week or so ago, while I was curled up in my den being damned impressed with all the blogs I was reading, I started wondering about how or whether I was odd at all. Are others out there posting because they are wild party extroverts? Or is blogging, whether as brilliantly done as livelysceptic or as minimalistic blather as I, really a safe haven for the introverts of the world? When I read others blogs, I feel “part of the world” in a way I never can standing stupidly at a cocktail party, drink in hand, wishing I still smoked just for something to do with the other hand, trying to think of those pithy questions you are supposed to be asking to draw others out so you can just listen.
Having crawled out of my safe warm fur-lined hole for a moment to ask the question “Are you an introvert or extrovert?” I think it’s time to go back to sleep.
Sitting, my free ten minutes scrolling before me, I find the breath, acknowledge the sensation and happily settle into my meditation. When I meditate, I try not to shut out the world, try instead to let all sensation in, listening to not just my breath but the gentleman, using the term loosely, in the next office screaming into the phone, rather enjoying the way he can string profanity into argument. I feel the tingle in my crossed legs, the air from the heater on my face, or the scratch of my sweater on my neck.
All very relaxing, refreshing, reminding me to stay in this moment, this place.
Until the next sensation comes through, one that really makes me feel this moment all too vividly: my socks are smelly. Do you suppose the Buddha had this problem?