Two Monks, One Person

This Zen parable keeps talking to me:

Two traveling monks reach a town where a young woman waits to step out of her sedan chair. The rains have made deep puddles she can’t step across without spoiling her silken robes. She is very cross and impatient, scolding her attendants who had nowhere to place the packages they hold for her, so they can’t help her across the puddle.

The younger monk notices the woman, says nothing, and walks by. The older monk puts her on his back, transports her across the water, and sets her down on the other side. She doesn’t thank him; just shoves him out of the way and departs.

As they continue on their way, the young monk broods. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he speaks. “That woman was very selfish and rude, but you carried her on your back! She didn’t even thank you!”

“I set the woman down hours ago,” replies the older monk. “Why are you still carrying her?”

I sent in my resignation letter to my old school and am officially out as of 11:59 PM on August 28.

Yet I'm still carrying it.

I checked the school's vacancies list. Most people running the programs and many teachers have been resigned by upper management and no one received tenure. A friend in the program where I toiled shouldn't return in August — the place does him real harm — but that's his call. None of it is my call anymore. I should set it all down.

I struggle still with not being thanked. My efforts were unnoticed and disregarded, so too will my resignation. I was a body filling a space and a new body will fill the space come August. The machine goes on.

The young monk, brooding, shouts, "they didn't even thank me!"

The old monk writes, "You left June 24 and resigned July 16. Keep walking. The trees and sky overhead, the path at your feet, the length of the day stretching before you, and the people you meet, these are all the thanks you need and there are more ahead. Keep walking."

Still I turn to look back. The old monk walking in my tracks smiles at my foolishness which he calls by a gentle name. He waits until I turn and move forward again.