For the next few Sundays, John Tarrant takes up a series of predicament koans, meaning a small path into the Dao, a class on predicaments.
Predicament koans match the perilous and lunatic quality of life when everything is changing. When you reach the place where you are defeated, a gate opens. That is a predicament. All koans might stop you— predicaments are stories about what the obstacle itself is like.
In the Sea of Ise,
ten thousand feet down,
lies a single stone.
I want to pick up that stone
without getting my hands wet.
—PZI Miscellaneous Koans, Case 27
The koan is from an 8th century C.E. imperial Japanese song, one of the few Japanese koans in our curriculum. The Shrine at Ise is the Japanese indigenous religion Shinto’s most sacred site. It is also sacred to foxes.