Adult Child and a Zen Koan

2 Min Read

1 Book Rec

2.5 Zen Koan**

Em Dash*

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My adult child–an oxymoron when you consider that there is no single word for grown offspring in a language with 171,476 words of which 47,156 are obsolete, but please write if you have a suggestion because I’d like to hear it so I can introduce my ‘adults’ properly at the next family function–had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Remember that Judith Viorst book? The rhythm in the title helps readers remember it decades later; it also happens to be a good story for children. Alexander is the right age in the book to be called a child. (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day)

The adult in this case is 18 years old and to me that means Screenager, attached as she is to her devices, food and drink be damned. She spilled water on her computer which shorted out, did badly on a test, and the new pup went number two in her room. I’m missing others, but you get the idea.

And, she had a run-in over the weekend, a collision on the lift-line trail, while she was skiing back to the lodge.  I met her with my heart in my hand in the Med Services room. They never stop being your children, 18 or 48.  She has a shiner on her face but otherwise she’s OK, thank goodness. She did get to say, You should see the other kid!

There were two little snowboarders sitting on a hill. It’s the beginning of a bad ski rhyme and the bane of skiers everywhere, those boarders just around the bend, below the crest, smack in the middle of things. They were OK too.

My daughter’s part of the group that carries a gazillion hard classes and stays up late studying, so I thought I’d share a bit of Zen wisdom with her before I head in for the night. I had written it on one of those tiny cards, a happy face and Zen symbol of water drops with ripples in the margins of the note.

Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink.

Shunryu Suzuki

I stood next to her desk and waited for her to read it, which kind of defeats the purpose of a written note, but I wanted to check on her. Readers and writers, consider Suzuki’s artful placement of the last word in his sentence.

Laughter. From both of us. I kissed her goodnight.

Footnotes: the Easter egg of the TreeHouseLetter

*The first sentence uses an em dash, the most versatile punctuation mark according to Jordan Penn and The Punctuation Guide. The em dash may take the place of commas, parentheses, or colons–in each case to slightly different effect. For this letter it appears as two hyphens which is an acceptable equivalent to a dash the length of the letter em (m) and prepares the reader for an aside or break in thought. It can be startling with its abrupt change in the flow or structure of a sentence. Still it’s fun, right? I wanted to highlight the ridiculous oxymoron in common use and this popular, if over-used, punctuation mark after a thoughtful reader’s suggestion.

**A koan is a Zen Buddhist riddle without a solution and attacks the inadequacy of logic, hoping to provoke enlightenment.

***Suzuki’s statement does make sense sort of, but I thought you’d want to learn what a koan is. (His sentence is a paraprosdokian, which is discussed in this THL). Here are two koans.

Without thinking of good or evil, show me your original face before your mother and father were born.

*

Two monks are arguing about a flag. One says, “The flag is moving.” The other, “The wind is moving.” A third walks by and says, “Not the wind, not the flag; the mind is moving.”

(Ten Buddhist Koans,  BIGThink)

Feb 24, 2022

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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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