love stories: a #zen sample

this is sample of love stories: three #zen tales, a short ebook available for on amazon for only 99¢.

the two tortoises first bonded over their shared love of lettuce.

“this lettuce is the Goddess’s goose!” one would say.

“this green is mean!” the other would reply.

“the only thing i like more than lettuce is eating it.”

“two heads are better than one, especially two heads of lettuce.”

after many days of this, and many heads of lettuce, one of the tortoises — they still disagree about which — finally asked the other on a date.

they got dinner. lettuce.

and over dinner the two tortoises discussed, for the first time, topics other than lettuce.

she asked, “how do you feel about #zen?”

he nibbled, not just because he loved lettuce, but also because he needed time to think.

finally, he answered, “i do not think much about #zen, but the guru is a good friend.”

the other tortoise was horrified. she said, “i think that the guru says whatever he feels in the moment, with no regard for what he has previously said, much less the truth. and i think that #zen is merely a new kind of scam and that anyone who associates with the guru is at best a deluded soul and at worst a co-conspirator.”

the tortoise almost let a piece of lettuce fall from his mouth. almost.

instead, he moved the conversation to something on which they both agreed, how shells were great, and at the end of the night, he walked her home. it was a long walk of a couple of feet, and it took several hours, but for the tortoise it felt like a instant.

but when he dropped off his date, worry swept through his mind. he knew only two things: the first was that he was in love with this tortoise, and the second was that if he remained true to his friend, he would lose this love.

in this tortoise, he had found someone with whom he could share his life. she had everything he wanted in a companion: green skin, a shell, and an abiding love for lettuce. he was unlikely to ever find someone so perfect again.

since he could not ask the guru for advice, he asked the sunflower.

“follow your sun,” she said, “but not if it means losing your roots.”

that advice seemed too sunflower-specific, so he asked the banker.

“calculate the costs and rewards of each particular option and discover which is economically most beneficial, then do that.”

while almost certainly correct, this advice seemed to miss the heart of the matter.

so he asked the moon, and the moon shared with him a kōan:

“i did not always orbit this world. i used to travel the void, a free rock, able to go where i pleased. and while i was free, i saw many good and fantastical things. i conversed with stars. i danced to the beat of pulsars. i warmed myself in the heat of a supernova and cooled myself in the well of a black hole. i experienced this all, but it did not make me happy. what made me happy was finding this world to orbit.”

before the tortoise could ask what that meant, the moon had spun off into the night.

and so the tortoise chewed his lettuce and thought about his problem. and when the sun rose the next day, the tortoise knew what he had to do: he had to ask the guru.

so he went to the guru’s philosophy school, where #zen was taught, and he found the guru meditating on a pillow at the front of an empty classroom. the tortoise said, “guru?”

without opening his eyes, the guru said, “please wait until the end of class.”

the tortoise looked around the empty room and then said, “guru, there’s nobody here.”

the guru opened his eyes, sighed, and said, “this has been happening a lot lately.” then he stood up from his pillow and stretched and then patted the tortoise on his shell and asked, “what is on your mind?”

the tortoise explained his situation. he explained the nights of worry-free chewing with his tortoise love, how they had connected so deeply, and then, with great pain, he told the guru what the other tortoise had said about #zen.

the guru was silent for a few moments before he said, “tortoise, you and i have shared many moments of #zen. you are a treasured friend i will never forget. and yet, love is a great thing, perhaps the greatest thing, and when you describe this tortoise, i see your eyes alight with the fire of love. you must not let this love slide off your shell. you must chase it like a leaf of lettuce blowing away in the wind.”

the tortoise said, “but guru—”

the guru cut him off: “no. if what she had said was wrong or unjust, then i would defend myself. but she spoke the the truth, and though she might not respect me, i respect her. tortoise, i urge you to go to her, regardless of what you must leave behind.”

the tortoise nodded, and he left the guru’s school with a tear in his eye.

and he walked all the way to the lettuce patch where he had first met his tortoise.

she was there, chewing lettuce.

the tortoise was struck by how beautiful she was with a leaf in her mouth. she was the most beautiful creature the tortoise had ever seen, and this made his heart sink in sadness for what he was about to do.

he told her, “tortoise, my tortoise, i adore you like lettuce. around you, it is as if i have no shell. but the guru is a good friend of mine, my best friend, and i cannot turn my back on him. even if #zen is a lie. even if it means i cannot be with you. because if i betrayed a friend for love, that love would wilt like day-old lettuce. i know that i will regret this decision, dear tortoise, with each step and every bite, for as long as i walk and chew. but if i did not stand by my friend, i would regret that even more.”

when he said this, he could not even look his tortoise in her eyes. he had to stare down at the ground to prevent him from bursting into tears.

and because he was staring down, he did not see her lean toward him, did not know what she was doing until he felt her lips upon his cheek.

he looked up at her and saw her smile.

“dear tortoise,” she said, “though i do not like the guru nor #zen, i dislike even more those who would abandon their friends. i did not know if i loved you before, dear tortoise, but i do now.”

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the next two stories cover the tortoises’ wedding and their long marriage. it is a story of love and laughter, guaranteed to move anyone who reads it.

if you liked this sample, pick up a copy of love stories: three #zen tales. in addition to two other stories, it contains three haiku and two guides to tortoise meditation, all for only 99¢, less than the price of a head of lettuce.

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