Monday, February 12, 2007

Abrupt and Sudden… a Commentary

Defining Boundaries
Originally uploaded by HatHome.
I’ve been asked to explain my understanding of the story of Abrupt and Sudden, which goes like this:

The lord of the south sea was Abrupt; the lord of the north sea was Sudden. From time to time Abrupt and Sudden got together in the territory of Primal Unity, and Primal Unity treated them very well.

Abrupt and Sudden planned to repay Primal Unity’s kindness.

They said, “People all have seven openings, through which they see, hear, eat, and breathe; Primal Unity alone has none. Let us make openings in Primal Unity.”

So every day they gouged out a hole. After seven days, Primal Unity died.

To me, this story is a lesson in not insisting upon poking holes or making divisions in something that by its very nature is Unity. In short, it urges us not to live in ignorance of our own state which is One with the Tao.

Abrupt and Sudden represent humans living only their relative, ever changing natures. Lords of the Seas, their consciousness is localized in the shallow, choppy waves of seas. They seem unaware of the silent depths of the true ocean- the territory of Primal Unity. So they insist upon trying to make Primal Unity appear just like themselves… a big mistake.

So upon first reading, to me, the story is about the interplay between the Absolute and Relative: the Unbounded, never changing and the Bounded, ever changing. So, you could say the story is about boundaries.

And that is why this story probably has its greatest impact emotionally on a more personal level, for “boundary issues” are played out in most personal relationships and are the grist for a lot of painful therapy. The impact of this pain, familiar to us all, is in this short story as boundaries are violated through innocent ignorance.

The story has this sweet feel going and then it says, “So everyday they gouged out a hole.” With that one word, “gouged,” things take on this whole other direction and feel. Gouge is not a nice word. It speaks of violence. It speaks of abuse.

Abrupt and Sudden, out of kindness, thought Primal Unity should be different. And they forced their ideas upon him.

How often have we received similar treatment? How often have we been the perpetrators?

Make no mistake- Everyday we give as surely as we get.

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