>A Chinese folk tale recounts the story of a man whose axe was missing. He suspected that his neighbor’s son took it. The boy walked like a thief, looked like a thief, and spoke like a thief.
But then, the man found the axe while he was digging in the valley and the next time he saw the neighbor’s son, the boy walked, looked, and spoke like any other child.
We’ve all had an experience similar to this. We build these images of things in our daily environment rather quickly, and these images prevent us from actually seeing those around us. They become our reality.
For example, immediately upon entering a museum we want to know who painted the picture. If we’ve heard of him or her, it’s a “good” picture. If not, we’re not so sure until someone who has heard of the artist sets us straight on the matter.
But is what’s important the fame and reputation of the artist or the actual work in front of our eyes? Yes, our eyes – not someone else’s – not those of a scholar or critic. With our eyes free of labels and judgments, we find new meanings and new ways of seeing and dealing with life. Then our ears will be filled with our own music and our eyes will be colored with our own vision.
Not only the things in our lives, but more importantly, we’re quick to label and judge each other even when we know so little about what another carries in his or her heart. The difficult ones can teach us steadiness and compassion. We’re grist for each other’s mills. When we see the sacredness within all beings, judgments are tempered, labels fall away, and a wise and natural response will emerge.