Zen and the Shopkeeper’s Enigma

In which a business owner learns to see his shop in a new light.

A flock of swallows circling above a Buddhist temple
A flock of swallows circling above a temple. Image generated with AI by DALL-E.

A shopkeeper came to pay a Master a visit.

He said: “Master, since I am working with this developer, language does not seem to make sense anymore.”

“What are the two of you working on?”, the Master asked.

“We are designing a nice basket in which customers can collect the things that they want to buy from my shop.”

“That sounds useful,” said the Master.

“It certainly is. But here is the problem. The developer and I are in disagreement about how we name things. For instance, whereas we agree that my shop has articles, she uses a different name for an article that a customer has put in a shopping basket. She calls it an ‘item’.”

“I see,” said the Master. “So it seems that the developer believes that our relationship with the article has changed.”

“It certainly seems so. But why?”

The Master looked up to the sky. The shopkeeper curiously followed his gaze.

They saw two barn swallows chasing each other. A third swallow joined them, then a fourth, then several more, until they formed a large flock, flying in circles and swooping up and down around the temple.

At that moment, the shopkeeper was Enlightened.

Further reading

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