The Seeker and the Sought

A man saw a fat turkey, and he wanted it for dinner. He tied a hook to an invisible long piece of string, baited it with a grain of corn, and threw it towards the fowl.  Once the turkey swallowed the hook, he ran, dragging the creature all the way to the kitchen.

On the dinner table, the man said joyfully to his guests: “I didn’t seek the bird, but the bird sought me.”

“Surely, turkeys are stupid creatures if they can be lured by a small grain of corn,” I hear you sniff. But have you ever, at the sight of an ad popping up on your screen and displaying a whatchamacallit, manoeuvred your mouse and clicked on it, showing the same willingness as the fat turkey swallowing the hook? Jeff Bezos has every right to say the same thing to the fat turkeys who are his customers, “I didn’t seek the birds, but they sought me.”


(Note: The Man and the Turkey story is adapted from Fantastic Fables by Ambrose Bierce)

Fame is Not Reality

Yao, an ancient emperor from Chinese mythology, wanted to give up his throne to his friend, Master Yu. He said to Yu, “There’s no need for torch light when a bright sun shines in the sky; there’s no need to water plants when it’s raining. I’m a torch light, compared with you, the master of the mind. Take over the throne; then all will be well.”

Yu replied, “My lord, as far as I know, you have ruled well. There’s no reason for me to take over unless it’s for fame. But fame is no reality. I am a small being in the world, coming and going as a guest. A bird in a large forest perches only on a branch of a tree; a beast drinking water from a stream only takes what he needs. Forgive me, my lord, I am not interested in ruling the country.”


FAME is the fishbone that is often caught in the throat of modern men. Restive and discontented when we don’t have it; huffy and moody when we have it; embittered and melancholy when we lose it. We move heaven and earth in pursuit of it, only to be dazzled by its radiance and burned by its heat. Minds are distorted and lives shattered because of it.
In a world densely connected by digital devices, with so many channels and tools that readily serve as routes to fame, FAME has never been so accessible. We play silly, we play sick, we risk our lives, and we become ever so inventive in our quest for fame and to grab attention, turning life into a fast-paced roller-coaster ride.

When a man seeks fame only for the sake of seeking it, he suffers the way he suffers from a disease. His ego swells out of proportion; he loses touch with his inner world and is no longer his real self. Fame is not reality. We all but a small being in the world. No matter how famous we are, we are still the man of the same physical appearance. We grow no bigger, eat no more food than we can stomach, and use up no more space than the size of our body. Fame is an illusion. It tempts us with desires for imaginary benefits and cost us contentment and our present blessings. A man like Yu knows his value and follows his intuition, so he stays unruffled in the face of fame. Held in high regard by a great king, Yu is all but unknown. When a man’s deeds speak volumes, fame is at his heels and comes to him without being bidden. Such fame is genuine fame, and only genuine fame bears the force and energy of the universe.

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.


Voyage into the Unknown and Unlimited

Roc the bird

Roc the Bird from the Barren North of China

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.

A Mother’s Night

I woke up in the mid of night to find my daughter standing by the door complaining she couldn’t go to sleep. By unspoken agreement, my young son got up before dawn to give me very fresh morning kisses and cuddles.  One in the late night, one the early morning, what a pair.

Heavy Workloads for UK College Staff

According to a survey carried out by Professor Gail Kinman from the University of Bedfordshire on behalf of the University and College Union (UCU), nine out ten lecturers in further education find their job stressful.

Having been working in high education for many years, I can’t agree more with the survey.

Read more about the survey here.