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Full Heart, Empty Head
by Darrell Whitney


"Master, I do not understand. I mean, I think I see, but I cannot quite capture the essence of it. What do you mean, that we must strive to empty ourselves?"

Prior Yu reflected that some things never changed. Each new generation of Dezolian monks took to their studies with the same intensity, the same dreadful earnestness, and the same lack of understanding. It would have been nice to see a few prodigies who understood each lesson the first time out.

On the other hand, had the novice not come to him for aid, Yu would have had to mix the spices into his own wine-flask and set it on the warming-plate over the brazier instead of having his student perform these tasks for him. The goodness of Heaven was manifest in all things, he noted. One merely had to look closely.

"Perhaps an example will set things in your mind, Brother Sho. Let us say that I offered to pour you a cup of deKal." He lifted the flask from the brazier. "But, your cup is full. I can put nothing into it, and so you must reject my offer. It is emptiness that makes a vessel valuable; likewise, you can put nothing into a full mind."

Sho pondered that. Then a light came into his face, the kind Yu had seen many times in the past. The kind that said the student was about to try something clever and ingenious.

"Try" being the operative word.

"Then, Master," Sho stated, "would not the cup be even more valuable were I to do this?" He picked up the cheap clay cup which sat in front of Prior Yu and struck it against the edge of the table. The blow was expertly placed; the clay cracked and the cup's base fell off with a clunk. "There! Now the cup will always possess the fundamental virtue of emptiness, Master!"

Yu clucked his tongue.

"Of course not, boy. The virtue of emptiness is that it can receive and be filled. That cup is not empty, but merely broken. And, on a practical level, since I now have no cup of my own"--he lifted the flask to his lips and drained half its contents in one practiced gulp--"I shall have to make do with this instead. Now you have a small cup, I have a large cup, and there is no flask on the warmer to pour more wine for you when you finish what is before you. But cheer up, for you've gone and had a second lesson when you came here seeking only one."

"What lesson is that, Master?"

"The difference between the wise and the wise-acre."

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