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Chuang-tzu's

Story of Three Friends


There were three friends discussing life.
One said:
"Can we live together and know nothing of it?
Work together and produce nothing?
Can people fly around in space and still forget to exist world without end?"

The three friends looked at each other and burst out laughing.
They had no explanation.
Thus they were better friends than before.

Then one friend died.
Confucius sent a disciple to help the other two chant the traditional funeral ritual.

His disciple found that one of them had composed a song.
While the other played the lute, they sang:
Spacer"Hey, Sung Hu!
SpacerWhere'd you go?
SpacerYou have gone where you were before.
SpacerAnd we are here--
SpacerDarn it! We are here!"

Then the disciple of Confucius burst in on them and exclaimed:
"May I inquire where in the funeral ritual it allows you to sing so irreverently in the presence of the departed?"

The two friends looked at each other, smiled, and said:
"Well trained in liturgy, but the poor fellow doesn't understand life and death!"

Adapted by Thomas Merton

'The Way of Chuang-Tzu'



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