Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Blue Ribbon Corn
For years, one particular farmer had dominated the competition. Somehow, he always managed to win. Each summer his corn was voted the best by all of the judges, and it was always a unanimous decision. His crop was always a beautiful, bright yellow, and so sweet and tender it would melt in your mouth after it was prepared.
After each competition, and after the farmer had received his blue ribbon for first place, he would hand out bags of his best seed corn to all of the other farmers at the fair. He had done this, without fail, following each victory.
One of the judges had noticed the old farmer giving away his best seed corn, and decided to inquire.
“Why do you hand out your winning crop to the other farmers each year?” asked the judge. “Surely you know you're just helping the competition.”
"Not at all,” said the farmer, “it is actually a matter of self-interest.”
“Whatever do you mean?” asked the judge.
The farmer explained, “As you know, the winds are strong all year in this region. They pick up the pollen and carry it from field to field. Therefore, if my neighbors grow inferior corn, the cross-pollination brings down the quality of my own corn. That is why I ensure they plant only the very best."
Is our farmer a giver or a taker? Is he sharing, or is he just being greedy for another blue ribbon?
He explains that he gives away his best seed corn because it helps the other farmers keep their crop at a higher standard. The old farmer didn't say he did it for the blue ribbon, only that he wants the best corn he can grow. Should we take him at his word?
A farmer's job is to grow food, enough food to feed his family, his neighbors, and if need be, the entire world. The blue ribbon is nice, but we can't eat ribbons.
Our lead character in this story follows the Tao. He knows something very deep. He knows he doesn't own the corn; he's just using it to the best of his ability. Our farmer has dropped the idea of possession. A man cannot possess corn any more than a fish can posses the ocean, or a bird can possess the sky.
Verse 2 of the Tao Te Ching says:
"The sage acts without doing
and teaches without saying.
Things arise and she lets them come,
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has, but doesn't possess.
She acts, but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever."
Our farmer gives away the best that he has, in order to keep the best that he has.
Enjoy the ride.