The Allegory of the Dumpster


“Yes, Sensei?”

“Follow me.”

Wheel leads the student around the common area and halts behind the kitchen. Pans clank within.

“Sit on that stone wall and meditate,” he says.

Magpie hops up on the wall and assumes the lotus position.

* * *

Wheel plashes his feet in the river. “What did you observe?”

Magpie reflects. “Trees. Monks coming and going. A rat.”

“Is that all?”

“Well, there’s the dumpster.”

“Describe it,” says Wheel.

“The dumpster? Not really something you meditate on, is it?”

“Humor me.”

Dramatic sigh. “Okay. Let’s see, it’s four or five feet long. Blue, a little rusty. It’s dented in spots. There are some cardboard boxes stacked at the end. You know. It’s a dumpster.”

Wheel throws a stone across the water. “Do you recall anything else about it?”

The novice thinks for a few seconds. “On the front it says, ‘EMPTY WHEN FULL.’”

“Thank you, Magpie. You may go.”

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