Sunday, November 14, 2010


Ducklings are so soft and noisy and full of life. They are assured as they follow in a parent's footsteps. I wonder: When do they become full-fledged ducks? They follow and follow and follow and mimic and mimic and mimic and then, somehow, they are no longer mimics.

When do the thoughts and deeds of others become thoughts and deeds of their own? I never have seen a full-fledged duck following dutifully in the wake of another adult duck so there seems to be a point at which they relinquish their copy-cat behavior and are known as ducks rather than ducklings.

If it were otherwise, if they could do no better than to follow and mimic, they would become quacks, wouldn't they?

I imagine the same is true for academics and carpenters and doctors and spiritual seekers: Follow and mimic and parade your abilities noisily and with confidence. It's convincing in its own way, but it is not yet a duck. If a full-grown duck performed in this way, it would be a strange, perverted quackery. How can you pretend to be a duck when you already are a duck? Other ducks would give an understandable wide berth to a duck pretending to be a duck, always mimicking another's wisdom.

In Zen Buddhism, there is an ever-present encouragement: Rely on nothing whatsoever.

Don't be a quack. It annoys others and it lets you down in the deepest possible way. Don't be a quack ... be a duck.

It's ducky.

1 comment:

  1. I imagine, when the mother duck feels more crowded by than responsible for, her behavior turns towards her own needs; at about the same time the ducklings feel their own needs are cramped by the crowd.

    When I was young, I once complained about wanting to quit smoking and finding it difficult. In one of the earliest references to zen in my life, a friend suggested I should try to be zen about it. I asked what that meant, and was told that when it was more of a hassle to smoke than to not smoke, quitting would happen.

    I'm inclined to think that things do run to capacity, need vs. ability, etc. And not to diminish responsibility, but I must consider, shouldering responsibility for something you're not ready to handle, is a failure to accept, a grasping for something imagined.

    Rather than noodling, I'm thinking ricing or potatoing?