I found the following story on the blog Nuts Zen Bolts. The whole post is worth a read in my opinion, as it takes up some of the same issues I took up in yesterday's post about weather-related disasters.
I heard this story from a carpenter friend. He was walking with a fully robed Thai Buddhist monk through downtown Vancouver. Hasting Street, poorest neighbourhood in Canada. It was late at night. As the carpenter and the monk were passing a bar, a rather large, hairy, tattooed man, wearing a torn and studded blue jean jacket, draped with chains, lurched intoxicated out of the bar. When the man saw the monk, he started yelling, threatening to wipe the road with the monk. “I’ll teach you,” he kept saying. The monk, a tiny man, placed his hands together and said, “You are magnificent. I have never seen a man with such wonderful power.” A few simple words. The hairy man paused, said, “Well, you better watch it next time,” and wandered off.
The monk's response startled me. I can imagine it startled the drunk guy as well. It leapt completely past the ground level of the situation, and pointed directly to the inherent buddha within. Pretty cool.
I took a step in this direction a few weeks ago. A car was waiting to cross an intersection. The driver had decided to wait partly because she thought I was going to keep going straight, and pass her. Instead, I was turning on the same street she was waiting on.
As I turned next to her, she yelled at me "Where's your turn signal?" Funny how things work. If another car had been going along and suddenly decided to turn at the last minute, there probably wouldn't have been a comment. Yet, somehow us bikers are held to the same standards as drivers by drivers, but also treated differently.
Anyway, I felt a wave of anger fling through me, but instead of shouting something nasty back at the driver, or offered the bird, I paused, and then out of my mouth came "Where's you face?!"
Where's your face? I still have no idea exactly where that came from, but the oddness of it diffused the situation completely.
Later on, it occurred to me that this goofy question isn't that far off from another, more famous Zen question.
Hui-neng (638-713) once asked “Without making good or bad in that moment, what is your original face before your parents were born?”
There may be no connection whatsoever, but I find the liberated quality of spontaneous action to be very connected to one's original face.