In the Sea of Ise, 10,000 feet down, lies a single stone.
I want to pick up the stone without getting my hands wet.
Here on the stone is inscribed a signature.
~ Pacific Zen Miscellaneous Koans
We get the stone we are given. It is not someone else’s stone. The beauty in Zen is to see whatever the nature of that stone: dark or light, smooth or rough, chipped or perfect ~ is just the right stone, exactly as it should be.
I recently listened to a talk given by Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit who founded Homeboy Industries, which gives jobs to former gang members in Los Angeles barrios. Boyle, who wrote a well-received memoir, Tatoos of the Heart, gives talks around the country about fighting gang violence, and often brings Homies, as he calls them, to tell their stories. Recently he asked a community member, Jose, whose story Greg was not fully familiar with, to speak.
Jose said, ‘I was six when my mother first told me I should kill myself because I was too much trouble for her.’ At nine, she left him at orphanage in Baja, from which his grandmother retrieved me. His mother beat him on the back every day, and he was teased by the kids in his elementary school for wearing three tee shirts. The first shirt soaked up the blood, and the second two covered the first. Jose became a heroin addict, spent some years in jail, and was for a time homeless, before coming to Homeboy, where he became a manager. For decades, he wore three tee shirts, trying to hide his wounds.
But then he came to some kind of understanding: ‘My wounds are my friends,’ he told Gregory, feeling his back and breaking down in tears. ‘Without my friends, how else can I help the wounded?’