Hui Tzu’s Rat

“Have you heard about the bird

That lives in the south

The phoenix that never grows old?

This undying Phoenix

Rises out of the South Sea

And flies to the Sea of the North

Never alighting

Except on certain sacred trees.

He will touch no food

But the most exquisite

Rare fruit,

Drinks only

From clearest springs.

Once an owl

Chewing a dead rat

Already half-decayed

Saw the Phoenix fly over,

Looked up,

And screeched with alarm,

Clutching the rat to himself

In fear and dismay

Why are you so frantic

Clinging to your ministry

And screeching at me

In dismay?”

Chuang Tzu, “Owl and Phoenix” (via Thomas Merton)

 

 

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