There is a story I love, one of those stories that bolsters me up. It's about the Korean monk who founded the school of Zen where I meditate (the Kwan Um School of Zen).
Dae Soen Sa Nim, as his students called him, decided that world peace would come if all the religious leaders of the world got together and had a good, human conversation.
The way to do that, Dae Soen Sa Nim believed, was to get all the world’s religious leaders to have a hot tub together.
In order to get all the religious leaders into the same hot tub, Dae Soen Sa Nim thought it was important that the invitation came from the most senior religious leader in the world--the Pope. He wanted the Pope to send out a letter that said, essentially, “Dear Fellow Religious Leader, How about we get a hot tub and figure out how to get world peace?”
So without invitation, Dae Soen Sa Nim got on a plane, flew to Italy, marched up to the gates of the Vatican and asked to see the Pope. No, he told the guard, he did not have an appointment. The guard sent Dae Soen Sa Nim to see one of the priests. A day or two later, the priest sent him to see a bishop. A couple of days after that the bishop got him an appointment to see a cardinal.
As the story goes, the cardinal in question did not see the value in Dae Soen Sa Nim’s approach. The Pope, presumably, was too busy with other, non-hot-tub-oriented approaches to world peace. There, the effort died.
But why this story gets told again and again in the Zen school is because of the sheer “just try, try, try, for ten thousand years only try” energy of Dae Soen Sa Nim’s approach. He started from where he was and just did the best he could, given the particular person he was. He had an idea that he thought might help, and instead of questioning himself, he trusted himself. He tried.
This story suggests that, instead of sitting around figuring out the best way to save the world, we should just start saving the world. It's too late for more think tanks. We need do tanks. Thirsty people need water. Hungry people need food. It's not any more complicated unless we make it so.
You may say, wait, this is a story with no pay off. The kooky guy tried and it didn't work. Except that's not the reason the world has not been saved. The reason the world has not been saved is because not enough other people have yet joined in with their own kooky attempts. Not enough other people have yet vowed to "just try, try, try, for ten thousand years only try."
So just try. It might not be your effort that gets the Pope in the hot tub or saves the world. It may not be mine. But if we all just start trying from where we are, one of us, or a couple of thousand of us, will soon cross the finish line and get the job done.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.