Last February, the English photographer Giles Duley stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan while covering an American infantry patrol.
Via the New York Times:
“I remember looking up and seeing bits of me and my clothes in the tree, which I knew wasn’t a good sign,” he said. “I saw my left arm. It was just obviously shredded to pieces, and smoldering. I couldn’t feel my legs, so straightaway and from what I could see in the tree, I figured they were gone.”
Mr. Duley had become, in that flash, a triple amputee. Now he risked swiftly bleeding to death. He recalled uttering a single word: “bollocks.”
As the American soldiers he had been walking with rushed toward him and began tightening the tourniquets that would save his life, a fuller line of thought took flight. Rather than tally what was missing, Mr. Duley counted what remained.
“I thought, ‘Right hand? Eyes?’ ” — he realized that all of these were intact — “and I thought, ‘I can work.’”
CJ Chivers, The New York Times. Bomb Took 3 Limbs but not Photographer’s Can-Do Spirit.
I didn’t get up immediately. My family rushed over to check on me, but at that moment I didn’t care if I was hurt or not – my only thought was for the violin. I’d landed with all my weight on the case, which I’d bought because it was lightweight and comfortable, rather than robust. Even as I opened it, I knew the violin couldn’t have survived, but seeing the damage was horrifying – the body was cracked all over.
Once there ruled in the distant city of Wirani a king who was both mighty and wise. And he was feared for his might and loved for his wisdom.
Now, in the heart of that city was a well, whose water was cool and crystalline, from which all the inhabitants drank, even the king and his courtiers; for there was no other well.
One night when all were asleep, a witch entered the city, and poured seven drops of strange liquid into the well, and said, “From this hour he who drinks this water shall become mad.”
Next morning all the inhabitants, save the king and his lord chamberlain, drank from the well and became mad, even as the witch had foretold.
And during that day the people in the narrow streets and in the market places did naught but whisper to one another, “The king is mad. Our king and his lord chamberlain have lost their reason. Surely we cannot be ruled by a mad king. We must dethrone him.”
That evening the king ordered a golden goblet to be filled from the well. And when it was brought to him he drank deeply, and gave it to his lord chamberlain to drink.
And there was great rejoicing in that distant city of Wirani, because its king and its lord chamberlain had regained their reason.
- Khalil Gibran, The Madman
It was very early in the morning, the streets clean and deserted, I was on my way to the station. As I compared the tower clock with my watch I realized it was much later than I had thought and that I had to hurry; the shock of this discovery made me feel uncertain of the way, I wasn’t very well acquainted with the town as yet; fortunately, there was a policeman at hand, I ran to him and breathlessly asked him the way. He smiled and said: “You asking me the way?” “Yes,” I said, “since I can’t find it myself.” “Give it up! Give it up!” said he, and turned with a sudden jerk, like someone who wants to be alone with his laughter.
A nun who was searching for enlightenment made a statue of Buddha and covered it with gold leaf. Wherever she went she carried this golden Buddha with her.
Years passed and, still carrying her Buddha, the nun came to live in a small temple in a country where there were many Buddhas, each one with its own particular shrine.
The nun wished to burn incense before her golden Buddha. Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.
[For me, the short story generally conveys an existential situation, rather than a fully-fledged narrative plot. … With the best short story, you come to the end but your mind races forward, propelled by all the story has expertly suggested but not overtly stated. It’s magic.]
Photo by John ‘K’
[When one goes to Obaku temple in Kyoto he sees carved over the gate the words “The First Principle.” The letters are unusually large, and those who appreciate calligraphy always admire them as being a masterpiece. They were drawn by Kosen two hundred years ago.
When the master drew them he did so on paper, from which workmen made the larger carving in wood. As Kosen sketched the letters a bold pupil was with him who had made several gallons of ink for the calligraphy and who never failed to criticize his master’s work.
“That is not good,” he told Kosen after the first effort.
“How is that one?”
“Poor. Worse than before,” pronounced the pupil.
Kosen patiently wrote one sheet after another until eighty-four First Principles had been accumulated, still without the approval of the pupil.
Then, when the young man stepped outside for a few moments, Kosen thought: “Now is my chance to escape his keen eye,” and he wrote hurriedly, with a mind free from distraction. “The First Principle.”
“A masterpiece,” pronounced the pupil.]
[Tanzan and Ekido were once travelling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.
“Come on, girl,” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.
Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”
“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”]
[Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing in it to steal.
Ryokan returned and caught him. “You may have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”
The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.
Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow, ” he mused, “I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.”]
[Twenty monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practicing meditation with a certain Zen master.
Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her. One of them wrote her a love letter, insisting upon a private meeting.
Eshun did not reply. The following day the master gave a lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written her, she said: “If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now.”]