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2011 Zuccotti Park, David Shankbone

The better we understand together, the smarter we are. We’re facing a “Tragedy of the Commons” right now, and it stands to impact everything we do moving forward.

The Tragedy of the Commons moment we face today is not only about cattle, as it was in 1833 when the term was first introduced. If you are not familiar, it looked at the needs of the individual cattle farmer weighed with the needs of the community on public land. It is also not only about nuclear war, as when Hardin reintroduced the term in the 1970’s. …

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Hakuin Ekaku, “Three blind men crossing”

“When you speak to others,

say only three-quarters of it.

You should never give the remaining part.”

— Wumen Huikai

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in circuit lies”

— Emily Dickinson

In traditional Sumi-e, Japanese ink painting, the artist works mostly in black and white. A painter provides just enough to create a vivid, specific moment, and then stops. Done well, forests, mountains, whole landscapes can be created in a few powerful strokes of the brush. Suddenly, two fish chase a fly in a shallow pond, rippling the surface.

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It’s not until the boat tips over that you see that your swimming lessons paid off. Looking over my whiteboard calendar for 2020, I see how I have needed to erase and rewrite so much. I look at those first two months — pristine, with straight lines, certainty, and events that were scheduled actually happened. Then I look at what was supposed to be the rest of the year, and think, “You had no idea what was coming.” Travel, retreats, programs, speaking engagements, all rubbed out and written over with new things.

Far from a lament about the pandemic, this is a shout out for learning. There are two very different mindsets among swimmers in this uncertain time. Some are fighting the tides, hoping to tread water, and hoping to wait it all out. We hear a lot of talk about a “return to normal.” …

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A wild radish

One of the great surprises of this pandemic is the clarity it brings. The suffering and disruption, while they cause great grief, have also made clear a reality that has been covered over for a long time. This is an important moment. For creators of movements, and movers in business, it is an opportunity to realise new potentials for our future, and not be left behind. It is a time to see the fundamentals of who we are in a new way.

Our wake up has been scary. It is like a wall has come down. Suddenly, we realise the house is on fire, the neighbourhood is on fire. It has been burning for a long time, it seems. …


Kirk Fisher

I’m a teacher in the Diamond Sangha Zen tradition. I speak and write about learning and attention, and I coach and facilitate in private practice.

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