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The Donkey and the Taoist: The Secret of Dealing With Obstacles

August 12, 2009

Donkey in an Egyptian painting c. 1298-1235 BCE, from Wikipedia

Donkey in an Egyptian painting c. 1298-1235 BCE, from Wikipedia

There was once a very small town with a narrow cobblestone lane that ran north to south through the town. In the center of the town, the lane was lined on both sides with many small kiosks for food, tea, and all the other items needed for living. There were numerous other lanes and paths that ran both parallel and perpendicular to the main lane that went through the center of town. One of the rules of this town was that all donkeys, which most of the town people used to carry their goods, had to be tethered just outside the town center in a special area designed just for them.

Unfortunately, one day one of the townspeople forgot to tether his donkey securely and it got loose, wandered down into the center of town, and settled several yards before the tea kiosk on the north end of the lane blocking access to anyone attempting to walk south down the lane. Now this particular donkey, who was very big and very stubborn and was used to getting his own way, refused to move as people tried to talk him or even shove him out of the way. Since no one could get by the donkey, a crowd began to gather. Those brave souls who tried to slip in front of or behind the donkey to get to their favorite shop would most often receive a swift kick. Since the owner was nowhere to be found, the townspeople became exasperated. The donkey was ruining their day.

As they were discussing what to do, one of them looked north up the lane and noticed a famous Taoist master, who often came to town for some tea, watching their activities from some distance away. “Ah, he will know what to do one of them said to the others. Let’s watch and learn from him.” The Taoist master continued walking toward them until he reached one of the perpendicular lanes, where he turned and disappeared. The townspeople stared in disbelief. “He always walks this way to get his tea,” one of them said. “Where has he gone?” In confusion, they then returned to figuring out how to get past the donkey. A few minutes later the Taoist master suddenly appeared at the south end of the lane, on the other side of the donkey, walking north toward the tea kiosk. With a smile on his face, he waved to the townspeople as he entered the kiosk to get his tea. It didn’t take the townspeople long to realize that he had simply bypassed the donkey by making an extra effort to walk around the block.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Salvador Gurani-Atayde permalink
    August 19, 2009 12:22 pm

    This tale kept me smiling and reminded me of the Chinese adage which says: “That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.”

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