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Talking With The Master 1

While preparing a meal, a skill in which, I am proud to say, I am quite masterful. Now, I know this not because my Master tells me, but that he doesn’t. Right on time, when the rice would just be tender, the Master came in, lifted the lid, and tasted the rice. He smiled, turned and looked out the window.

“Master?” The thought I had was disturbing my peace and taking me away from conscious preparation of our meal. My not being in the moment would end up in a long teaching session. The question would perhaps avoid that bit of unpleasantness. “How do we know what we know?”

The Master did not turn from the window. “I am not sure that the question you asked was the question you meant to ask?

I stiffened. I thought I had worded it perfectly. I tried to shake off the defensiveness of my body and mind, but I failed. “It’s a simple question. How do we know what we know?”

He turned and smiled at me. I was in for it now.

“Should you not have asked me, how do I knowledge what I knowledge?”

Now I was confused. Not a rare condition for me. “Master, that is not the question I asked.”

The Master walked over to the stove, dipped in a spoon and sipped my soup.

“What we call knowing is truly only knowledge, an accumulation of facts, figures, assessments of past experiences that sit somewhere in our minds like a stone. It’s only use is to recall and to speak so that others may be impressed or bored, to make ourselves right and others wrong, or attempt the impossible task of filling the vast empty space between our ears. The contemplation of knowledge has been a source of great mischief for mankind.”

I had him. “But Master, does not the amassed knowledge put down in books, gained by honest examination of the natural world, gained by men and women of intelligence and mature spiritual insight, have value?”

He gave his hand a dismissive wave. “All just fun – keeps those folks busy. Something to do with their time, something to keep them busy between getting up in the morning and going to their bed at night.” He laughed hardily, “Some even forgo sleep for that moment of enlightenment.”

Now I was really confused, “Master, you have taught me about good work, integrity, mediation, honesty, humility, compassion, grace – all those things are a function of daily doings, what we do from morning till we retire, how then…”

He touched my sleeve, shaking his head, “Those are fine things and better than the things we would do with life if we are not diligent to those virtues, but we weren’t speaking of life matters, we were speaking about knowing. Am I wrong in that?”

I really hated it when he asked me a question. It made me feel like an idiot.

“In this vast empty space, this reservoir for knowledge that is our mind, there is a pinhole at the bottom. Some of the knowledge is actually necessary and useful; it filters down into another already existent stream that connects to a cosmic reservoir. That reservoir is ‘knowing’. Knowing is the fuel and spirit of life. The ‘machine’ human works perfectly except when it doesn’t trust it’s ‘knowing’ and looks into ‘knowledge’, to do life.”

“Master? We have to learn and retain knowledge. How could I cook if I didn’t retain what I had learned about cooking?”

“That is useful knowledge.” He turned to the window. “Do you know, have the knowledge, as to how the wind blows and the clouds move?”

“No. But some very smart people do.”

“And they are very busy figuring it out – a worthy occupation. Is your life adversely affected by the fact that you don’t know how the wind blows and the clouds move?”

“Of course not.” I turned, trying to avoid the work the conversation had become and ladled up our soup. The Master spooned out the rice into bowls.

He sat and smiled at me. “We trust what we see in the reservoir and call it truth. But the waters there are fluid and flexible although we don’t live as if it is. The reservoir will take corrections and amendments easily. The mechanism that is the human mind is the barrier and resists any change. Is the world flat? Is the Earth the center of the universe? Are the stars only lanterns in the sky?”

“Okay I get that.”

“Do you have knowledge of how the light switch works or how the light comes on? Yet you know that it will. If the light did not work would your life cease? We don’t trust the reservoir called ‘knowing’, or the mysterious stream that feeds it. That stream is from God. The stream is ‘insight’. The knowledge that trickles down to feed the stream that runs into ‘knowing’ and makes an impact on life. The stream is God’s gift. Do you want to ask the question again?

“Never mind.” I sat and looked down at my soup.

The Master bowed his head as if to say grace, looked up and winked at me. “Exactly!”


Why is doing what you love the hardest thing to do? Is it because failing what you thought defined you would be too devastating a thing from which to recover? If so, we stay where mere accident has left us.

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The following comments are for "Talking To The Master 1"
by jonpenny

reminds me

a little of the philosophical meditations of Jorge Luis Borges, especially in his short stories. like yourself he writes addressing a fiction of ideas and of thoughts, giving the reader much to dwell on. hope you will be developing this, fascinated to see where it leads.

( Posted by: AuldMiseryGuts [Member] On: August 7, 2009 )

Captivating write, JonPenny
Really, that's all I can say, this was absolutely captivating and right up my reading alley, loved it!


( Posted by: TheRealKarmaTseringLhamo [Member] On: August 7, 2009 )

You must realize you have opened a pandora's box with this, since the master now has to define the difference between knowledge, information, and perception. It is fun to ponder these things, and the pupil's reply at the end, "Never mind," was the best part of all. It seems to signal his growing awareness of all that is. Like George Harrison said, "The farther one travels, the less one knows."

I look forward to more installments. You write lucidly.

( Posted by: brickhouse [Member] On: August 8, 2009 )

clever dialogue
Hi, I enjoyed this story because of the cleverness and cat and mouse dialogue between the master and the student. I found humour in that the master caught him out at every turn.

I had a minor problem with the first sentence though. 'While preparing a meal' is a dependent clause because it starts with a subordinating conjunction 'while.' The rest of the sentence refers to the skill of preparing the meal. Would it be better to say 'Preparing a meal is a skill in which, I am proud to say, I am quite masterful.'

Entertaining story! It shows your talent of weaving words and creating tension through dialogue.


( Posted by: sandra [Member] On: August 8, 2009 )

Thank you for letting one such as I sip from the fountain of your wisdom.

( Posted by: kmrdgrs326 [Member] On: August 8, 2009 )

Shannon: Thank you for the comment. It has friends but whether or not the Master in my head will grant me any wisdom - we shall see. I am honored, but I think I am unworthy of the comparison.

TRKTL: So glad you liked it. Thank you for the big number.

Brickhouse: Thank you. If you find it lucid then I have done a journeymans job. More to come.

Sandra: Thank you for your kindness. I know - the first line was a bit stilted - a little disjointed. I left it unedited for misguided cleverness. I often write as I speak - stilted , hesitant, and clumsy. Apparently there is more of the student in me than the master. Thank you for catching that. I will be more dilligent.

kmrdgrs326: When he stops back in , I'll let him know you enjoyed his work. For myself I think he can be a pain in the ass. ;)
Thank you for the kind thought. I'm honored.

Bless you all!

( Posted by: jonpenny [Member] On: August 8, 2009 )

Better late than never......
I think I came a little late to this story, however, I wanted to add my "voice" to the others by saying that I really enjoyed this. Its not usually my type of reading, and I confess to a mental sigh at the begining thinking that this was going to be a dry philosophical piece. To my surprise, by the time I got to this line:

"He turned and smiled at me. I was in for it now."

I found myself identifying with the student and you had me hooked. Kudos for taking me outside my normal reading, its not easy to do. I especially identified with the way that the master, instead of just telling the student the answer to his question, gave him insight into what he was trying to find out by asking questions of his own and making him think about it. I've had teachers in my life that were the same way and although I found it frustrating at times, I usually walked away with more "knowing" than I had before. I'm looking forward to the next installment.


( Posted by: HeRoCoMpLeX [Member] On: August 15, 2009 )

I'm so sorry i missed your kind comment. Thank you for reading my little offering and I so appreciated your personal connection to the story. We will see where this takes us!
Bless you!

( Posted by: jonpenny [Member] On: August 18, 2009 )

a query for jonpenny....
I wonder if I could trouble you for a moment of your time to look at an offering of poetry that I made recently. Shannon has already given me some wonderful insights, several of which I've put to use. (a bow to shannon for sharing with me) However I would be honored with your opinions and critque's as well. If you get a second to look it over and share, it would be much appreceated. Thank you.

( Posted by: HeRoCoMpLeX [Member] On: August 18, 2009 )

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