Symphony for a Sea Bird (Chuang Tzu/Merton)

You cannot put a big load in a small bag
Nor can you, with a short rope,
Draw water from a deep well.
You cannot talk to a power politician
As if he were a wise man.
If he seeks to understand you,
If he looks inside himself
To find the truth you have told him,
He cannot find it there.
Not finding, he doubts.
When man doubts,
He will kill.

Have you not heard how a bird from the sea
Was blown inshore and landed
Outside the capital of Lu?

The prince ordered a solemn reception,
Offered the sea bird wine in the sacred precinct,
Called for musicians
To play the compositions of Shun,
Slaughtered cattle to nourish it:
Dazed with symphonies, the unhappy sea bird
Died of despair.

How should you treat a sea bird?
As yourself
Or as a bird?

Ought not a bird to nest in deep woodland
Or fly over meadow and marsh?
Ought it not to swim on river and pond,
Feed on eels and fish,
Fly in formation with other waterfowl,
And rest in the reeds?

Bad enough for a sea bird
To be surrounded by men
And frightened by their voices!
They killed it with music!

Play all the symphonies you like
On the marshlands of Thung-Ting.
The birds will fly away
In all directions;
The animals will hide;
The fish will dive to the bottom;
But men
Will gather around to listen.

Water is for fish
And air for men.
Natures differ, and needs with them.
Hence the wise men of old
Did not lay down
One measure for all.

Chuang Tzu (Thomas Merton)