Three Friends by Chuang-tzu

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:

"Hey, Sung Hu!
Where'd you go?
You have gone
Where you were before.
And we are here--
Damn 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!"

Freely adapted from Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang-Tzu
(New York: New Directions, 1965), pp.54-55.

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