I heard this story once: A man asks a woman to marry him. The woman agrees. But there’s a condition. First the man must serenade the woman for a 1,000 nights. As the sun goes down every evening the man arrives and sings to the woman for 999 nights. But on the 1,000th night, the man does not show up and is never seen again.
As I understand it, a koan is a joke to which the punch line is enlightenment.
I’m not enlightened. I don’t know what the meaning of the story is. So I think about it all the time.
I wonder if it’s about dedication, a warning to artists not to give up singing. 999 nights of hard work is still failure if we don’t show up on the 1,000th night.
But maybe it’s a story about self-love and self-worth. The man proved he could complete the task if he wanted. Maybe the man expected the woman to recognize his dedication? Maybe the man took his singing to someone who would appreciate it and come running after just a song or two? How often am I singing to the wrong window?
Or maybe I’m wrong to focus on the man? Maybe I’m like the woman? Maybe enlightenment has been singing to me every night in all sorts of ways, begging me to come and be loved? How much longer am I going to refuse enlightenment, god, friendship, art, and all the other good things that surround me?
It’s also possible that something terrible happened. Maybe there is a simple explanation? The woman died. The man died. This great romantic task was not completed because of some commonplace event. The enemies of love can take any form they choose. We’re under attack constantly by sickness and bills and weariness and parking fees.
All of these thoughts about a story and no enlightenment to show for it. Maybe it’s not a very good koan in the first place. How would I know?
The Method Gun begins at the moment this story ends. The actors in the company have been abandoned by their guru. They stand at the window and listen. They try to remember the things they heard. They try to perform the role of the guru for one another. They carry on without any enlightenment whatsoever. It’s the only story the Rude Mechs know. We learned it after hundreds of nights spent in one another’s company. To date, we keep showing up.