Yunmen said, “I’m not asking you about before the full moon. Come and say a word or
two about after the full moon.”
He himself replied, “Every day is a good day.”
~ The Blue Cliff Record, Case 6
As with most koans, we can pick up Yunmen’s Good Day and look at different bits of the narrative, perhaps like holding up a multifaceted jewel to the light of a candle. We might discuss the meaning of “after the full moon” or investigate “good day”. One element of this koan that recently meant a lot to me was the constancy it expresses, the “every day” part. Our lives, after all, are lived every day and every day again, with a greater or lesser measure of devotion to the people and things around us. And we do that whether those days are good ones or bad.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife’s uncle, Mark, put up memorial pictures on FB for his son, who had recently died at 37. A few days before that we had attended Zach’s memorial service in Reno. One picture was of him wearing a Superman outfit on Halloween when he was three or four. I commented, “What a sweetheart!” His father responded, “Looks like Zach was having a good day.”
Zach was a high school football star and scored in the top one percent nationally in his math SATs. But when he went off to college, he began to have difficulties and eventually was diagnosed with schizophrenia disorder. Zach had many bad days. For a period of time he was homeless, wandering along the Truckee River or hanging out in downtown Sacramento. He was on meds, but because they made him feel bad he would often go off them. He also sought out street drugs for comfort.
Yet through those years Mark’s devotion to his son was constant; he never abandoned him and he never gave up. Early on he took his son to clinics around the country trying to find an effective treatment. In recent years, Mark put his son up in an apartment. Every day he called his son. Every day he took Zach out to lunch. And now a deep sadness visits the father daily. “It never goes away,” he said. For me, this koan is about a father loving his son everyday, good days or bad.