Two Stories About Pearls

In Chuang Tzu's writings, translated by Thomas Merton, there is this interesting poem/parable I read and re-read a few times, pondering its meaning. It resonated with me and reminded me of a parable that Jesus taught (more on that in a bit).  

Here's the poem in its entirety: 
The Yellow Emperor went wandering 
To the north of the Red Water
To the Kwun Lun mountain. He looked around
Over the edge of the world.  On the way home
He lost his night-colored pearl. 
He sent out Science to seek his pearl, and got nothing. 
He sent Analysis to look for his pearl, and got nothing. 
He sent  out Logic to seek his pearl, and got nothing. 
Then he asked Nothingness, and Nothingness had it!

The Yellow Emperor said: 
"Strange, indeed: Nothingness 
Who was not sent 
Who did no work to find it
Had the night-colored pearl!"  
You might wonder what this has to do with anything Devo-related, and I get that. Stick with me, though; there's so much good stuff in this. 

First, you must suspend disbelief momentarily and realize this is a poem/parable, enabling you to use your imagination.  While there may be no Yellow King in our reality, there is such a thing as a "night-colored" or black pearl, and it's still expensive.  

The King's journey to the mountain represents his life's search for meaning and truth. It ultimately leads him to look over the world's edge and then simply return home. 

But something gets lost on the way, his valuable pearl.  

The pearl in this story represents the most valuable thing to the Yellow King. We don't know what it might be, but the King is desperate to find it, so he employs all the means at his disposal, emissaries of Science, Logic, and Analysis.  

Finally, when there are no results, he decides to ask Nothingness, who, of course, had the pearl---perhaps all along.  

You might ask, "What is 'Nothingness'?" 

This parable has to do with surrender, a letting go of all the effort to seek understanding on your own terms, to find truth and beauty by your exertions. 

This is "No-thing-ness," which means there is nothing except surrender that will help you find peace with God and yourself, which is most likely the best explanation of the pearl in the parable. 

Jesus told a similar story about a merchant who discovered a "pearl of great price" that was so incredible that he sold everything he had to own it.  In other words, he traded everything he'd thought he wanted for what he truly desired. 

Jesus began that story with these words: "For the kingdom of God is like..."  

His point was that when you finally discover the kingdom of God, or the peace of God all around you, it surprises you and changes you.  So much so that you would be willing to surrender everything to attain it. 
As Fr. Francis X. Clooney puts it:  
"In Jesus' teaching, the kingdom is not somewhere else, not an extraordinary show that can’t be missed or that will never come. Instead, the kingdom is right where we are now, as close as our five senses if only we know how to see."
May we all learn what it means to surrender our efforts to try to glimpse our own "pearl of great price" as we search for God's kingdom of peace here on earth.  

May we all discover the truth that No-thing-ness will help us see more clearly that our own efforts on our terms will never get us what we long for.  It's only when we surrender that we'll know the truth, which will set us free. 

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.  


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