Two Zen monks were on a journey when they came to a riverbed. At the edge of the river was an elderly woman who was unable to cross the river by herself. The older monk put her on his shoulders and across the river they all went. On the other side, the monk put her down and she went on her way and the monks their way. Several miles later the older monk noticed that the younger monk was obviously troubled by something and so he asked him about it. The younger monk stated that according to the tenets of their beliefs, they were not permitted to touch women and yet the elder monk had carried the old woman across the river. The younger monk could not let it go and was angry and upset for several hours. To this, the elder monk replied. “I left the woman at the riverside. Why are you still carrying her with you?”
Many of us are like the younger monk. We find it difficult (if not impossible) to set “baggage” down and leave it behind.
This situation reminds me of a scene in Bridge of Spies when Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) and his court-appointed attorney James Donovan (Tom Hanks) first meet:
Donovan: I have a mandate to serve you. Nobody else does. Quite frankly, everybody else has an interest in sending you to the electric chair.
Abel: All right…
Donovan: You don’t seem alarmed.
Abel: Would it help?
Life moves on with or without us. The choice is ours.