An empty bowl

The metaphor of the empty bowl.

An illustration from the original Charles Dickens book of Oliver asking for more.

A picture illustration from the original Charles Dickens book of Oliver asking for more.

If my name is Prosperity, and you come before me with your empty bowl and ask, I shall fill your bowl with health, happiness and abundance.  If you come before me with your bowl full, and never ask, you get nothing, for you neither asked nor was your bowl capable of receiving my blessing, since your bowl was already full.  This is the difference between humility and hubris.  The individual full of hubris is so blinded they forget to ask, and their bowl is so full of prejudices it has no room to contain anything else.  Just as Socrates offered the wise answer that he knows nothing, so his bowl will always be open to new possibilities, whereas the closed-minded scholar will forever be caught in stagnation because in their hubris their bowl is full blocking out opportunities to grow and explore.

Oliver Twist in the Charles Dickens story presented an empty bowl, asking for more food on behalf of his dying starving friend, upon which a painful process unfolded that would eventually lead Oliver to prosperity after many harsh adventures.  The man who denied Oliver his food eventually fell to poverty and ruin, his own metaphorical bowl was full of his own hubristic prejudices.  In real life the Oliver Twist story contributed to the fall of a hubristic court judge such was the public impact of the story.

Nature is a many-faced animal, thus we come before nature with an empty bowl to successfully connect and thus act in harmony with nature.  I am currently staying with a wonderful host, with an unsociable and unattractive cat, which now meows whenever I come near it.  I like to befriend any animal that I am in regular contact with, so I came before this cat with a metaphorical empty bowl, learning the cats likes and dislikes through careful observation and interaction, I successfully befriended this cat.

The Christian religion talks about being like a child, which in the spiritual context means coming before the Christian god with an empty bowl.  The Celtic Mythos talks about the metaphorical fool, and I favour the ideal of being like a student.  Regardless of the context of child, fool or student, staying open to possibilities, a presented empty bowl, opens doors of opportunity, denied to the blind unquestioning hubristic individual.


11 responses to “An empty bowl

  1. I like to approach everything with an empty bowl… even though I’ve spent most my long life studying and watching nature, I still think there is so much to learn. As each animal has it’s own nuances, like humans, we must see each animal or thing in Nature as being a new experience… one can only learn by observation and study, there is no book that can tell you all about one individual specie…

  2. I think we spoken before on this…
    There is an old Zen story on exactly the same subject:
    “A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen.
    The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s overfull! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “You are like this cup,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”

  3. Great post and loved Danny’s Zen story. In essence, we cannot see the world clearly without first seeing ourselves clearly; and the view inwards is frequently dark and misty.

  4. What comes around goes around. I believe we will have returned to us in the same measure what we give. If I had to define myself I too would call myself a student. There is plenty of time for rest when we leave this life, for now I am curious about everything, always have been.

  5. I consider myself a “student of life” and have found there is always something to learn from everyone and every situation. I am blessed to find constant opportunities for learning and am grateful for that especially when cats are involved…. 😉
    I enjoyed article greatly. Thank you.

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