“Michael! There’s a bear outside!”
Nu? Is this some opening line? The book, is Zen Shorts, by Jon J Muth. The bear, Stillwater, a giant panda that has appeared in the backyard of Karl, Michael, and Addy, much to Karl’s surprise. Stillwater (very Gatsby-esque) is wise, kind, and what I envision as an animal equivalent to the great Buddha. As the mensch (filled with wisdom and always takes the high road) of a Panda relates with each of kinder (children), a different and appropriate Zen tale is shared.
The first thing I love so much about this particular book is the illustrations. Beautifully simple, yet exquisite watercolor illustrations accompany each interaction of Stillwater and the kinder. The lighting and transparency of the moment in time displayed perfectly paints the puzzles and problems that we all, as humans on this very planet, face daily. Each Zen narrative Stillwater shares is shown with the stunning, yet elegant strokes of Japanese ink paintings. Re-examine your thoughts, habits, longings, ideas, and fears as this giant bear divvies out the possibility of new insight.
As Stillwater gifts each kinder (child) with an ancient anecdote (Zen meditation), I believe he strikes a chord that will resonate with all of us, and certainly touches me with every read.
To be clear, as I know it, Zen (literally, a Japanese word for meditation) is not a religion, faith or doctrine. It comes free of dogma and one need not believe in anything (kind of like this Yiddisheh mama) to practice, or even read this enchanting tale. It is so simple, that it is excruciatingly difficult for me to explain. One must throw away all thoughts of intellect to experience Zen. Sit quietly, free your mind and allow for your own self-discovery to begin. Zen is not at all about moral teachings; it is filled with how to think, and even more so, how not to think (turn off that cruel, inner voice. What voice? Exactly!).
Many a night I offer to read this book to my shana madalehs (sweet girls) in the hopes of passing along these freeing ism’s, especially today, in this world we inhabit. And just as often, I place this book in my backpack as I head off to work, to read again during a quiet nosh (nibbles of food) at lunchtime. It greatly helps me in resetting the disturbances of daily news alerts and chaotic headlines that incorporate ‘life as we now know it.’
I love and treasure this book. I have gifted it to children of all ages.
Stillwater brings me solace, entertains my Little and my Big, and hopefully provides a foundation in ‘thought process’ that will help guide them through the mundane, the shock-filled stories, and everything in between that composes the many stories of our lives.
As a disclaimer, no one has asked me to review this book. I was not paid or given a thing for this post. However, Stillwater has proven time and again, to be priceless. I simply wanted to share him with all of you.
Even for bad luck, one needs luck. Tsum shlimazel muz men oich mazel hoben.
This review is my own, I just wanted to share this very special book with you. If you have something you would like me to review, just reach out! I am happy to help always.