Yesterday Sarah took the boys the San Francisco Mycological Society fungus fair. I had to work and was bummed. Oh well. Michael has been casually studying mushrooms for a while now and knows quite a bit. It seemed to me he might not have gotten as much out of the event because he thought he already knew so much.
The thing is, he already does know a lot. He probably knows more about mushrooms and fungus than 90% of adults in this country. I remarked to him that he had learned a ton over the past year, just imagine how much those guys at the fair knew. Heck, they have been learning for decades. I told him a summary version of the old koan about having a full cup:
- Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
- Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.
- The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"
- "Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"
I told him it was amazing how much he had learned and asked him how much he thought he could learn if he would just empty his cup. I said this as I was walking out of the room. From just inside the next room I heard this: "So, how do I empty my cup?"
Let me tell you, that question will slingshot you right back into the room and into a conversation. So we talked for a few minutes about listening to reply versus listening to learn and how even in every day average conversations there are little things that pass by that you could learn from if only you were really listening. I also told him about how his daddy sometimes had problems with wanting to show how smart he was by talking and talking and not listening as much as I should. It is a constant effort to just sit, be present and listen to learn, but it is almost always worth it.
Those moments are great. Teaching your kid the value of listening in a moment where they are actually listening.
If this is the only lesson he learns today, but he really learns it, today will be a huge success.