Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop
I met the Bishop on the road
And much said he and I.
“Those breasts are flat and fallen now,
Those veins must soon be dry;
Live in a heavenly mansion,
Not in some foul sty.”
“Fair and foul are near of kin,
And fair needs foul,” I cried.
“My friends are gone, but that’s a truth
Nor grave nor bed denied,
Learned in bodily lowliness
And in the heart’s pride.
“A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.”
(William Butler Yeats)
Contemporary lay Zen students are frequently troubled by all sorts of thoughts and behaviors that they perceive as standing in the way of their spiritual progress. They complain of being given to bouts of anger, fear, doubt, or error. What students invariably want to do with these traits is get rid of them. In their quest for improvement, it rarely occurs to them to rid themselves of their self-dissatisfaction. They’re convinced that they’re not okay, and won’t be until they rid themselves of their faults. One young woman came to dokusan complaining of how “wimpy” she was. “I lack courage,” she said. “I’m afraid of my own shadow.” When I suggested that perhaps she wasn’t fearful enough, she replied that she could hardly rid herself of fear by indulging it. “You’ve tried to get rid of it,” I pointed out, “and it hasn’t worked. If it keeps hanging around, it might have something to tell you. It might want to be your friend.” She left the session with my encouragement to invite fear into her life. As she did so, she came to realize that she wasn’t such a “fraidy cat” after all. “When I got acquainted with it, fear taught me a lot,” she told me. “I discovered that most of my fears weren’t that scary once I quit resisting them, and some of my fears were warranted, like not walking alone through the student section after dark on a party night.” She sat across from me grinning and pleased with herself. What she said next revealed the depth of her recent insight. “I wanted courage,” she said, “and I found out that there is no courage without fear. You don’t get one without the other.”