A man who works in a branch office of a large company is to be promoted soon. He is a man of extraordinary virtue and talent, and the ability that has earned him promotion would serve him well if he were the leader of his country. The man imagines himself, free of the confines of his branch office, in a boundless land, and he starts to see himself in the same way as the Roc, the great bird.
The Roc is a bird from the barren north of China. It is enormous; her back is like a mountain range, and her wings, if spread open, cover the sky. The Roc wants to travel to the south, to the Pool of Heaven.
Just as a pool cannot carry a boat if the water is too shallow, likewise the wind cannot bear up the Roc’s great wings if it is not strong. A bird as vast as the Roc relies not only upon her strength and ability, but also on the right wind of sufficient strength that can bear her weight and allow her to rest upon it while flying. With her strength within, the might of the wind below, and the light of heaven above, the great bird rises in a whirlwind, soars ninety thousand miles and flies with vigour towards her destination – the Pool of Heaven.
A cicada (a large bug with transparent wings) hears about the great bird and sneers. “Light and agile as I am, I can hardly reach to the top of an elm tree, so what chance has the Roc, vast as she is, to rise to the height of ninety thousand miles?”
Like the cicada sneers at the great bird, others sneer at the man. The world comes to admire him in one moment and condemns him in another. A cicada lives only a few weeks of its life above ground and doesn’t know the cycle of the four seasons. A morning mushroom knows nothing about the waxing and waning of the moon. An ancient creature who has lived for thousands of years, and who regards one hundred years as but a season, couldn’t be understood by a short-lived creature. The understanding of the small is not the same as the understanding of the great.
If the man does what he does and is not deflected from his purpose, then he knows the difference between the inner world and the outer world. By trusting his Self and the forces of Nature, he will act with ease and confidence. It is through the naturalness of heaven and earth that he rises. The force and energy of the universe give him opportunities and bears his weight. Up he soars and voyages into the unknown and unlimited.
From the age-old thoughts of Chinese philosophers, I am searching for the meaning and purpose of today – my voyage into the land of the unknown. The story of this post is originally from Book of Wonders by Zhuangzi (369-?286BC) and translated by Martin Palmer.