Happy Bodhi Day 2021!
There is a very popular organic u-pick farm near where we live. It’s mostly popular as a pumpkin patch in the Fall around Halloween. However, it is more apple orchard than pumpkin patch.
We usually have the apple orchard to ourselves since, being organic, the apples aren’t of the aesthetic quality most people seek. Away from the dozens of families trampling through the pumpkin patch, Mrs. Hanamoku and I find solitude and tranquility in the orchard of blemished apples.
But the blemished apples aren’t nearly as bad as they look. They aren’t half rotten and filled with maggots. Rather, the blemishes are slightly more than skin-deep. And because there aren’t many u-pickers that pick these apples, there is an abundance of perfectly tree-ripened fruit well within our reach.
Such examples of bountiful low-hanging fruit is rare. How often do you find a parking space close to the store, an idea for an easily developed product to fill an untapped market, or an affordable house in a very nice neighborhood?
Sure, you could find low-hanging fruit if you look hard enough. But as it is with everything, you become better at what you practice. So by seeking low-hanging fruit you become better at finding low-hanging fruit.
What if you instead practiced figuring out how to reach the high-hanging fruit? In a sense, Mrs. Hanamoku and I found low-hanging fruit by our willingness to recognize metaphorical high-hanging fruit.
It may sound un-Zen to cultivate the skill of reaching high-hanging fruit. Intuitively, paths of least resistance would be peaceful, not a rocky road of dukkha (roughly “suffering”). But there will always be obstacles in your path that you cannot walk around. Instead, becoming skilled at climbing over them leads to a net gain of peace.
The Folly of Low-Hanging Fruit
If our ancestors of millions of years ago scurried along the high branches of trees as effortlessly as monkeys today, high-hanging fruit was more than simply no problem for them. It was their niche. That is in terms of both a food source and themselves being hard-to-get high-hanging fruit for their ground-dwelling predators.
But at some point, something made the ground more appealing to some of them. Whatever the reason, the ground opened up the entire surface of the world to them – the opportunity and unforeseen dangers of all paths.
We stood up on our hind limbs for a higher view of the landscape. We used our freed fore limbs to make things that we used to shape the environment and to carry supplies on extended journeys.
For the Sake of Curiosity
I’ve been working for well over forty years now. Over those decades, I’ve had the occasional privilege of having a boss who let me to work on a project based on yet untrodden ideas. Not a project based on a “repeatable process” and “best practices”, but in fact, just the opposite. Why?
The cynical reason is because the business was caught in a wasteland where all the low-hanging fruit had been picked. That is reason enough to pack up the wagon and move to new frontiers. But there are usually options less risky to try before swinging for the fences.
In fact, that’s usually what happens when I’ve been in a situation where we need to do something else. The chosen path ends up being a safe “balance of visionary yet pragmatic”. Yes, that same road chosen by all of our competitors. Upon “success”, we soon enough end up in another barren wasteland.
So what enabled those occasional bosses of mine, as well as me for that matter, to let me continue on those crackpot ideas that were visionary but certainly not pragmatic? What fueled us beyond the endless series of roadblocks and the perpetual doubt?
The answer from them was surprisingly simple. It was just curiosity about what would happen. Animal instincts of fear and death are enough to get on a road to a high-probability of comfort. But curiosity is what drives us beyond that, to crack open the vugs of the Universe to see what’s inside.
In a commercial orchard, all fruit is easily accessible. There really isn’t much difference between low-hanging and high-hanging-fruit. It’s because people throughout the ages have developed innovations that compressed the height of the trees to a non-factor. For example, pruning techniques for keeping trees shorter while maintaining yield, and developing machines that reach high up with minimal damage to the fruit at any height.
All of these innovations were developed by those who intimately knew the folly of low-hanging fruit.
For 10-dimensonal beings such as the Eternal Fishnu, they float across most dimensions as freely as we four-dimensional space-time creatures traverse the two-dimensional ground. Our intellect has opened up the realm of height via airplanes, even though not to the level of ease with which we scramble about the ground. We can even travel through time with our deductive reasoning used to reconstruct the past.
Show the Universe What Happens!
Good times, when no one we know is dying, when we’re more worried about getting fat than starving, will not last. Good times are low-hanging fruit. This post is not about stressful vigilance. It’s about making the most of the short life of your sapience on this planet. It’s about finding joy in discovering what happens when a sentience with your unique qualities mixes with a juicy obstacle in your path.
Show the Universe what happens when there is no answer on Google. It’s relatively easy to see what happens when one can sing to perfect pitch, is beautiful, funny, inherently wealthy, born in a place and time of relative peace, etc. etc.
But what could happen when one is average or less in the categories society has chosen to judge as relevant but happens to build some previously unknown set of capabilities? What was the surprising outcome? But more importantly, how did it change the course of the river of time? That river Heraclitus told us we never step into twice.
Those surprising shifts shine throughout all dimensions. Show the Universe what happens! Maybe somebody will notice. Whatever the outcome of your experiment, the Universe now knows what happens.
Zen isn’t simply about being calm. Yes, it is about “going with the flow”, but not like a leaf 100% given to the flow of a river. A leaf is a leaf, doing what leaves in water do. We are beings with the gift of sapience. Do what sapient creatures do in the flow of time. Immerse your awareness in the unique place in space and time that only you will ever experience.
The Zen samurai is lead by their curiosity and cultivates their sword of sapience.
Happy Bodhi Day!
Faith and Patience to you,
Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku