Spoiler Alert! Please read Part 1 before continuing.
Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.
So… did you do the exercise? Did you hold the riddle, lightly, in your mind and let it percolate? What did you discover? Have you solved it? Have you found a truth at the heart of human experience?
The wisdom I received for this riddle entered through a back door. It came while I was asking something else. I was in my meditation chair, intending to meditate. Yet, my mind was noisy. I had worries and problems that tumbled around incessantly, like socks in a dryer. After some time, I was frustrated, and asked myself, “If it’s true that I create my experience, then why would I create obstacles? Why would I choose to put a mountain in my way?” I didn’t think about it, the answer simply popped into my head: To get to the other side. In an instantaneous download (prajna), I understood the chicken and the road riddle completely.
The chicken is me. A chicken. Not a horse, or a dog, or a lion. Why am I a chicken? What qualities does a chicken have? If I call someone a chicken, I’m calling him or her a coward. Chickens are afraid.
The road is an obstacle. A road to cross, or a mountain to climb, or a problem to solve. If I look at an obstacle from a chicken’s perspective, I’m afraid of it. I want to run away from the obstacle or avoid it completely, but I can’t, because, like the road stretched out infinitely ahead and behind, it now dominates my whole world. If the obstacle can’t be avoided, there’s only one other way to run: cross the road, climb the mountain, or solve the problem.
Like a terrified little chicken, I run for my life across the pavement and into the ditch on the other side. Whew. Made it. I got to the other side. Yippee!
A road, like any division in the mind, always separates the problem from the solution, the question from the answer. The chicken crossed the road to solve the problem, but has the problem really been solved? What happens when the chicken turns around? ACK! The road! It’s still there! An ominous beast of a thing… but now the chicken knows what to do. It can run across the road, and so it does. Whew. Made it. Yippee!
Just like the hamster wheel I’ve talked about in a previous post, the chicken could keep running across the road, infinitely. Tracing the same steps, never really going anywhere. So, fear keeps me running: away from something I think I don’t like, or toward something I think I do like. The ‘other side’ is an illusion, another riddle, and it has to be solved too.
Avoid the problem = no. Attack the problem head on = no. There is a third solution that can’t be seen until division is removed from the mind. Fear and division go hand in hand. If I’m a chicken, is fear intrinsic to my being? Can I become something other than a chicken?
‘Chicken’ is a label, a symbol. It doesn’t mean anything unless I decide it does. Am I really a chicken? No, of course not. I’m ME! I simply decide not to call myself a chicken. Poof!
Now I’m no longer approaching the obstacle with fear. The road has no power over me. My choices are not limited to this side or that side. Now I see the third choice. Something so overwhelmingly obvious, I’m rather disgusted I didn’t see it sooner. I pause, for a moment, to kick myself, and then…
I take my place, boldly, on the centre line and walk, peacefully and happily, along the road.
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