FLIGHT FROM THE SHADOW

“There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps that he determined to get rid of both. The method he hit upon was to run away from them.

“So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step, while his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty.

“He attributed his failure to the fact that he was not running fast enough. So he ran faster and faster, without stopping, until he finally dropped dead.

“He failed to realize that, if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still, there would be no more footsteps.”

Thomas Merton (1965 & 2004) The Way of Chuang Tzu Boston & London: Shambhala, 2004. (First published 1965 by New Directions Publishing Corporation.)

Chuang Tzu, one of the great figures of early Taoism, lived around 300 BCE. The frontispiece of this edition says: “He used parables and anecdotes, allegory and paradox, to illustrate that real happiness and freedom are found only in understanding the Tao or Way of nature, and dwelling in its unity. The respected Trappist monk Thomas Merton spent several years reading and reflecting on four different translations of the Chinese classic that bears Chuang Tzu’s name. The result is this collection of poetic renderings of the great sage’s work.”