A collision with an empty rowboat

Excerpt from the book, That’s It!?.

In the early 90’s Charlotte Joko Beck wrote an excellent book entitled, Everyday Zen, Love and Work.  In it she creates the image of a man in a row boat fishing on a secluded lake.  It is early morning and there is a thick layer of mist on the water.  The man is there by himself, enjoying the solitude of the early morning, feeling very happy and content.  Then, the blurry outline of another rowboat is seen through the mist.  It appears to be slowly moving toward his boat.  As it does, he becomes increasingly irritated; the sanctity of the morning has been broken by this inconsiderate person guiding their boat toward his.

The thick mist prohibits him from seeing anything more than the front tip of the boat slowly moving closer.  Then, finally, the boat bumps into his.  He immediately yells out, “Hey!  Moron! What is your problem!!  Can’t you see me here!?!”  He hears no response from the other boat.  As the other boat turns to come along side his, he sees there is no one in it.  He saw the rowboat coming and assumed it was occupied.  He became very angry at this other person and was ready to let it loose on them.  But there was no one there.  Who does he get mad at now?  The point of the story is “It isn’t personal!  All of life’s difficulty is a collision with an empty rowboat!”  Our difficulties are only “personal” if we let them be.  Imagine if we could get into that head space where we could view our difficulties in this way.