Choosing Our Life


Image Description: A close-up of two hands cupped together, holding a large number of strawberries. Public domain image.

A story from Zen Buddhism:

A man was walking across a field when he saw a tiger. Fearing for his life, the man fled, but the tiger gave chase. The man reached the edge of a cliff, and just as he thought the tiger would get him, he spotted a vine growing over the edge of the cliff. Grabbing on to it, he swung himself over the edge to safety.

The tiger came to the edge and snarled at him from above. While precariously perched like this, the man saw another tiger growling at him from below. Trembling, he held on to the thin vine that was keeping him from being dinner for the tigers. What could be worse than this, he wondered.

Just then, two mice scampered out and began gnawing at the vine. As they chewed and the man pondered over his fate, he saw a juicy, red strawberry on a ledge next to him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. Ah, how sweet it tasted!

If you Google information about this story, you will quickly learn that there is debate about its meaning. Some hold the interpretation that this story is about living in the present moment and enjoying pleasure right in front of us, even in times of trial. Others, however, say that this a misunderstanding; the story is about the foolishness of getting distracted by pleasure when we have the occasion to remove ourselves from a perilous situation.

With both interpretations, we choose our life.

I will leave the interpretations to communities of Zen Buddhists, as it is their story, and they know it best.

But lately, here is something I’ve been thinking about…

There are times when loss is so great or stress is so high that we are plunged into present moment living because that feels like only way to make it — one day at a time, one moment at a time, one feeling at a time. But as we do this… we discover that present moment living is also the best way to live. It’s freeing and filling.


There are times when loss is so great or stress is so high that we are plunged into choosing our life in order to survive — our bodies, our in-the-moment daily needs, our rhythms, our memories, our values, our loves, and our communities. And as we do this… we often discover that there are still so many gifts in our lives. There are times when we say yes to the broad fullness of it.

With both of these, we choose our life.
And that invitation is always there.

Renee Roederer


2 thoughts on “Choosing Our Life

  1. Absolutely. In Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town,” the character Emily has a chance to go back, after her death in childbirth, and relive one day from her past. She doesn’t last long, as she is overwhelmed by the small things which pass by unnoticed by those around her. She mourns the fact that we don’t appreciate our lives “every, every minute,” and decides to return to the cemetery to wait “for the eternal part of [herself] to come out clear.”

    I have always thought about that concept that we don’t appreciate the moments of our lives. (In college I was – we believed – the last Emily before Wilder’s death… joking that we killed him… but that speech has always stuck with me.) One cannot be immune to the larger frame of our living, but to appreciate each thing as it goes by is a great way to reassure oneself that there are things worthy of that appreciation in who we are and where we are. Blessings to you in this holiday season.


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