One Teaching in Response
February 28, 2012 by Yugen
If I had to sum up the last couple of weeks in one word, it would be this: snow. A winter up in the mountains is no stranger to the white stuff, but this winter has been pretending for a long while to be something else. We have had glimpses of spring, summer and fall over the past few months, but little that could be clearly labelled as winter. Until now, that is. The week before last, most of the time was taken up by plowing and tractor work to get the many roads and paths of Yokoji passable for the comings and goings that constitute everyday life at the temple. Last week consisted of (for me) catching up on all the office work which needed to be done which I hadn't yet done due to the aforementioned snow-bound activities. This morning I spent another three hours plowing the roads after another snow storm that hit yesterday afternoon.
Now, don't get me wrong. Snow is good, snow is fine, snow is what makes winter up in the mountains special and most importantly, it is what seeps in to the aquifers and allows us to maintain our supply of water. Snow is a gift of the most beautiful sort. Problem is, snow does not book in advance. Snow does not fill out an event application form and mail in a deposit for $50 so we can get the plow gassed up and ready. In short, snow can be a nuisance due to its sheer lack of concern for when and how it comes to us.
I am working on a few projects that I had hoped to have made a certain amount of progress on before the Spring Training Period starts. One of the projects is an online store so that we can make available all the fantastic items we have for sale in our gift store to the public at large. Soon you will be able to buy the latest Yokoji shirt from the comfort of your own home. Imagine. Am I going to have the store up and running by the end of this week? Definitely not. Would the store be up and running if I had not spent a whole week dealing with snow? Possibly. But, does this matter? In the grand scheme of things, beyond the inexhaustible desire to check off items from to-do lists, does this delay have any bearing on life as lived by me, you and all the others in this vast world? In a word, no.
As a fledgling web designer, I spend a lot of my free time working on design projects and learning how to improve my skills via books, blogs etc. One of the popular design ideas that is doing the rounds at the moment is responsive design. Responsive design is a way of approaching web design that is device-agnostic. Ever noticed that a website that looks great on your laptop is very hard to use on your smart phone without a lot of zooming and scanning? Responsive design promotes a series of methods that allows the website to behave differently depending on what size screen you are using to view it. Content is scaled and sometimes rearranged to make the site easy to navigate and view. The site is optimized for a variety of possible conditions. This is a dramatic departure from the overarching design strategy of recent history, in which sites have fixed widths and are completely fixed and static.
Why am I telling you this? Responsive web design is based on not knowing. Not knowing how or on what your website will be viewed. It is a philosophy of future-proofing, of preparedness. It is a method of building in an appropriate response to an as of yet undefined situation.
In case 14 of the Blue Cliff Record, a monk asks Ummon, "What are the whole lifetime's teachings?", to which Ummon replied, "One teaching in response." What is this one teaching? How can it span a whole lifetime? When it snows, whatever my personal agenda may be, I deal with the snow. WE deal with the snow, because we are a community and we work together. When it is training period, we follow the schedule and do the sesshin and we do that together, too. To be responsive, to be able to go with the flow of life, when it is appropriate, is something that can be hard to do. But, trying to go against it is even harder. Let's all go into the next three months of training together and take, and work with, what may come. And the challenge for me, and perhaps for you, is to do it gladly.