the empty boat

I am always thankful to the patriarchs and Zen masters of the past for their pithy stories that so often illuminate the situations we face in our daily, modern lives. One that comes to mind is the story of a fisherman on a boat in a river. He’s skillfully plying his trade when he notices another boat rushing towards him from upriver. The fisherman yells to the pilot of the boat to slow down, but to no avail. The boat keeps bearing down on him until at the last minute the fisherman has to jump into the river to save himself, only to notice that the boat that was about to kill him was empty. All day yesterday I was thinking of that poor six-year-old boy sailing alone in a homemade balloon thousands of feet above the Colorado desert, frightened out of his mind and half-frozen with hypothermia. And what instead was the reality? Balloon boy, empty boat. Are we also shouting at the invisible captains of empty boats?

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