“The middle of the road, is trying to find me. I’m standing in the middle of life, with my plans behind me.”
The Gateless Gate is a collection of 48 Zen koans compiled in the 13th century by the Chinese Zen master Mumon Ekai. Pausha Foley, an amazing artist and self described strange creature that doesn’t exist, explains the gateless gate in a way that even a child like me of 58 can understand:
“The gate is a creation of the human mind. As long as one believes oneself to be one’s mind, the gate is as solid and real as the mind is. As soon as one cases to identify with one’s mind however, the mind and all its creations reveal themselves as what they are: a bunch of ideas, devoid of any substance. So, from within the mind the gate exists, from outside of the mind it does not.”
If this isn’t crystal clear by now I give you koan 7, Joshu Washes the Bowl:
A monk asked Zhaozhou to teach him.
Zhaozhou asked, “Have you eaten your meal?”
The monk replied, “Yes, I have.”
“Then go wash your bowl”, said Zhaozhou.
At that moment, the monk was enlightened.
Of course one very important point must be made; if you don’t rinse your bowl before putting it in the dishwasher, it will not get completely clean and you will not be enlightened. The cleaning lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute says otherwise, but they also say that pre-rinsing is a needless time suck. Obviously they’ve never heard of the theory of relativity.
It was a brisk 25 degrees this morning so I decided to go out and photograph the sunrise. My destination was the Leacock Presbyterian Church in Intercourse, Pennsylvania. Its close, I know exactly where the sun comes up, and there’s a big tree and a little shed for the foreground.
Since I was up an hour and a half too early to leave, I considered other possibly more interesting places to go. Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area had potential with thousands of snow geese, but it’s further away and there’s a hike down a dark trail to the lake.
I considered various other lakes, rivers, and bridges with great views, but spectacular sunrises do not magically appear every morning, as all photographers know. So I decided on Intercourse, which is always a good choice.
The sunrise was perfect as every sunrise is, though my photos insist that it was nothing special. But I went out, got some fresh air in between cigarettes, and watched the sun come up and another day begin.
As scientists, taxi drivers and long haul truckers know, the sunrise is an illusion. To get up early, stand outside on a cold morning, and watch a beautiful illusion is worth it to me every time.