by Hanshan, Tang Dynasty poet
This poem speaks to me, and has done so since I came upon it in a small book of Zen poems I purchased in Santa Cruz several years ago. I was at the onset of a divorce, and full of anxiety about my future. Hanshan’s poem was a reminder to me that all that striving and worrying was pointless. I also had spent years playing “roles”: mother, wife, community leader, daughter, etc.. Recognizing this, I vowed to no longer block whatever feelings I experienced, but rather to be truthful with myself about who I really am.
Age 53, Poet
Man, living in the dust,
Is like a bug trapped in a bowl.
Alll day he scrabbles round and round,
But never escapes from the bowl that holds him.
The immortals are beyond his reach,
His cravings have no end,
While months and years flow by like a river
Until, in an instant, he has grown old.
(translated from the Chinese by Burton Watson)