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The Bird, the Student and the Teacher

August 10, 2006

She holds it in her hand,
the tiny bird, its heart
fluttering, snatched from the nest
unsuspecting, its vital
role on this clear spring day.

He sits, lotus position,
hands in an open pose
folding in on himself,
like an onion, layer
on layer, she approaches.

“Teacher,” she says, “A lesson
I have for you. Wonder
what it is I carry
in my hands?” She pauses
knowing she has stumped him.

The Master pauses, smiles
knowing on his shoulders
lies the weight of the world.
She will crush the bird, kill
it if he says it lives

but open her hands, free
the bird if he answers
that it is dead there, so
he gives her the answer
that still haunts me today

“You, my child, are the
master of your own future.
You have life and death in
your hands, choose wisely, child.”
She opens her hands, ashamed.

Have I chosen wisely
Teacher? Have I chosen life
when I had the power
to wound small creatures who
looked to me for safety?

Am I the student or
the teacher now? Can I
understand his smile
in the face of the bird’s death?
His faith and utter

certainty that she would
choose the wiser path, and
not abandon life. Can
anyone know what it was
to be the bird, praying

hoping, calling for life,
your heart fluttering as
your world, cavalierly,
decided your fate? We
are our own architects,

we write with footprints on
the shores of ancient seas,
but still we don’t recall
the ancient lesson, help us
remember to choose life.


Some of you may recognize this legend as one told of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the Master of God’s Great Name, a Chassidic Rabbi who was a great teacher and a mystic. I have taken some liberties with the story, but the fundamental message is the same. In this crazy time, why don’t we learn our lessons from the past? We do hold the power of life and death in our hands and the choices we make daily show our impact. I continue to pray for peace.

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One comment

  1. I love the line, ‘we write with footprints on the shores of ancient seas.’

    There are those who will always want chaos, to distract them from the darkness and the chaos within. God help us all!



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