1955 high-back chair designed for John Rayward House (“Tiranna”), New Canaan, CT. Philippine mahogany, vinyl-cloth upholstery.
1955 high-back chair designed for John Rayward House (“Tiranna”), New Canaan, CT. Philippine mahogany, vinyl-cloth upholstery.
Not everyone is interested in reading legal decisions. The one I have pasted in full below this essay says a whole lot about why I loved Mr. Adcock. He taught me to speak up. He taught me to personally, and not just theoretically, value free speech and full self-expression. He risked his career to actually engage fully and completely in his career as a teacher. He did this in largely military San Diego where just telling boys, who were often the sons of Marine and Naval families, and who would soon be draft age, that there were legal and ethical alternatives to military service was more than a little bit poorly received. There were consequences. Still, he stood up when others sat on their rights or kept their mouths shut.
He showed me that being fully myself and doing what was my right as a citizen was GOOD, that my duty toward fully inhabiting my life responsibly and expressing peacefully what I believed was a powerful good that ought not to be suppressed, that it had value in learning to know who I am and what I believe. He, of all teachers, started me on the road to fully realizing who I am. For that I am and have always been eternally grateful.
One day in American History class he drew a chalky version of the above illustration on the green chalkboard and began a conversation about personal liberties that was the most wide-ranging historical & philosophical conversation I had ever experienced in my young life. I was astounded and completely engaged. The one thing that he made clear is that freedom is constrained by a good many things and some of them are our own personal decisions, some of them are the constraints imposed by law and under the U.S. Constitution, and the part that really stuck with me was that the size of the field in which we live is governed by our own choices to defend our rights and to fully take advantage of the opportunties that were available to us as citizens of the United States. For the most part, that box around the stick figure was only so tight as we allowed it to be.
I was an active participant in some of what is described below, but being a member of the Class of 1968, I was no longer living in the area when the legal action took place. I didn’t even learn of this until decades later when in my forties I attended law school. Imagine discovering that ones inspiration had gone fully to the mat for what he had taught you. What an inspiration, what a man! What a teacher!
Adcock v. Board of Education [10 Cal.3d 60]
Adcock v. Board of Education , 10 Cal.3d 60
[L.A. No. 30074. Supreme Court of California. September 13, 1973.]
HALVOR GERALD ADCOCK, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE SAN DIEGO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Defendants and Appellants
In Bank. (Opinion by The Court. Separate concurring opinion by Clark, J. Separate dissenting opinion by McComb, J.) [10 Cal.3d 61]
Thomas A. Shannon and Ralph D. Stern for Defendants and Appellants.
Levy & Van Bourg and Howard L. Berman for Plaintiff and Respondent.
Harold F. Tyvoll as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.
Defendant Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District (hereinafter “board”) and its secretary, Jack Hornback, appeal from a judgment granting a peremptory writ of mandate. The writ directs the board to set aside its administrative decision transferring Halvor Gerald Adcock (hereinafter “Adcock”) from Clairemont High School to another school, and further ordering the board to reinstate Adcock to his former position, that of a tenured teacher of social studies at Clairemont.
For the reasons explained below, we conclude that the trial court was correct not only in making an independent assessment of the record but also in determining that the reason for the transfer was the disapproval by the school administration of Adcock’s exercise of First Amendment rights and in concluding that the subsequent transfer was not justified by any compelling state interest.
Adcock taught social studies at Clairemont from 1958 until June 1969. [10 Cal.3d 63] Clairemont is a senior high school located within the San Diego Unified School District, providing instruction for grades 10 through 12. In June 1969, the principal of the school submitted a written memorandum requesting Adcock’s transfer to another school because of his criticism of certain school policies and regulations and the effects of the criticism on school staff and parents. The criticisms related to the dress and grooming code, the outside speaker policy, and the administration’s refusal to permit publication of a second student newspaper. fn. 1 The request was granted, and Adcock was reassigned to Roosevelt Junior High School where he taught seventh grade classes during the 1969-1970 school year.
On Adcock’s appeal to the board, a hearing was conducted by a state hearing officer of the California Office of Administrative Procedure substantially in accordance with the hearing procedures set forth in the Administrative Procedure Act, section 11500 et seq. of the Government Code. After seven days of hearing which included the testimony of some 30 witnesses, the hearing officer submitted a proposed decision finding the transfer discriminatory and a misuse of delegated authority, and ordering Adcock reinstated at Clairemont High School. fn. 2 The board unanimously declined [10 Cal.3d 64] to adopt the proposed decision. Instead, acting pursuant to section 11517, subdivision (c), of the Government Code, fn. 3 it reviewed the record of the hearing without taking additional evidence and afforded each party the opportunity to submit additional written argument. fn. 4 [10 Cal.3d 65]
The board’s findings can be summarized as follows: Adcock’s open and persistent criticism of rules and policies tended to undermine the authority of teachers, the administration and parents. He spoke out against administrative directives. His attitudes alienated some of his fellow teachers, administrators, and many parents. This divisiveness became a matter of concern to the principal and his administrative staff because it affected faculty morale and community attitudes toward the school. Adcock was never told to desist nor told that if he persisted he would be transferred to another school. The board made no finding concerning the distribution of handbills.
The board concluded that Adcock’s transfer was not discriminatory and did not involve a misuse of delegated authority. It approved the transfer. However, the board ordered Adcock transferred to a position of equivalent rank and grade, found that the transfer to a junior high school was not such a transfer and transferred him to another high school within the district.
Adcock petitioned the superior court for a writ of mandamus. (Gov. Code, ? 11523; Code Civ. Proc., ? 1094.5; Griggs v. Board of Trustees, 61 Cal.2d 93, 96 [37 Cal.Rptr. 194, 389 P.2d 722].) The case was submitted on the record before the hearing officer without additional evidence. The court issued the writ of mandamus concluding that the transfer was made as a means of, and with the effective result of, denying Adcock his First Amendment freedoms.
 It is settled that a teacher’s right to speak is constitutionally protected as long as it does not result in any disruption, or impairment of discipline or materially interfere with school activities. (Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 [21 L.Ed.2d 731, 89 S.Ct. 733]; Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563 [20 L.Ed.2d 811, 88 S.Ct. 1731]; Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589 [17 L.Ed.2d 629, 87 S.Ct. 675]; Bekiaris v. Board of Education, 6 Cal.3d 575 [100 Cal. Rptr. 16, 493 P.2d 480]; L. A. Teachers Union v. L.A. City Bd. of Ed., 71 Cal.2d 551 [78 Cal.Rptr. 723, 455 P.2d 827]; Board of Trustees v. Owens, 206 Cal.App.2d 147 [23 Cal.Rptr. 710]; see also Note, Developments in the Law — Academic Freedom (1968) 81 Harv.L.Rev. 1045, 1071-1075; Van Alstyne, Constitutional Rights of Teachers and Professors (1970) Duke L.J. 841.)
 Although the “substantial evidence” rule has been held to be applicable to determinations of local administrative boards, it has been essential to adopt a special rule or standard to review administrative decisions [10 Cal.3d 66] when constitutional rights are assertedly limited. (Bekiaris v. Board of Education, supra, 6 Cal.3d 575, 586-587; Bixby v. Pierno, 4 Cal.3d 130, 140-141 [93 Cal.Rptr. 234, 481 P.2d 242].) As no party to this action has challenged the continued vitality of the “substantial evidence” standard of review in most determinations of local administrative boards, we have no occasion herein to reexamine the same.
In order to retain the ultimate responsibility for insuring that constitutional rights not be abridged in the absence of a sufficient compelling public interest, the special rule referred to above requires that the trial court must make an independent assessment of the established factual elements to determine whether the true reason for the board’s action was the exercise of constitutional rights and, if so, whether the resulting limitation on the exercise of these rights can be justified by any compelling state interest. On appeal from the decision of the trial court, the appellate court must uphold the trial court’s determination as to the basis of the administrative action if supported by substantial evidence. (Bekiaris v. Board of Education, supra, 6 Cal.3d 575, 590 et seq.; L. A. Teachers Union v. L. A. City Bd. of Ed., supra, 71 Cal.2d 551, 557.)
In Bekiaris we held that the special standard applies when it is claimed that the administrative action in dismissing an employee was based on official dissatisfaction with the exercise of constitutional rights. This rule is not designed to protect the employee’s employment rights but is intended to protect the employee’s freedom to exercise First Amendment rights. Accordingly, it has been applied in cases where the employee had no tenure or civil service rights and where the employee could have been dismissed for no reason whatsoever. (Rosenfield v. Malcolm, 65 Cal.2d 559, 564 [55 Cal.Rptr. 505, 421 P.2d 697]; Bagley v. Washington Township Hospital Dist., 65 Cal.2d 499, 504 [55 Cal.Rptr. 401, 421 P.2d 409]; Stanton v. Dumke, 64 Cal.2d 199, 207 [49 Cal.Rptr. 380, 411 P.2d 108]; see also Hollon v. Pierce, 257 Cal.App.2d 468, 476-478 [64 Cal.Rptr. 808].) Because the rule was established in order to protect constitutional rights and not employment rights, it must apply not only to dismissals but also to all administrative sanctions based on conduct protected by the First Amendment.
Any sanction imposed for the exercise of protected First Amendment conduct must be viewed as having a chilling effect on speech and on the right of teachers to engage in those activities which are protected by the First Amendment. Lesser penalties than dismissal can effectively silence teachers and compel them to forego exercise of the rights guaranteed them by our Constitution. [10 Cal.3d 67]
Thus in Finot v. Pasadena City Bd. of Education, 250 Cal.App.2d 189 [58 Cal.Rptr. 520], a transfer was invalidated because it had been based upon activity of a teacher related to exercise of First Amendment rights. There, a high school teacher was transferred from his classroom assignment to home teaching though his pay and rank remained the same. The court held that even though he could have been assigned to any teaching duty for which he was qualified and for which he was needed (Ed. Code, ?? 931, 939, subd. (c)), his right to engage in such activity was constitutionally protected, and that his transfer from one assignment to another because of the exercise of his constitutional rights violated those rights and constituted a legally remediable detriment.
We concede that the superintendent obviously has and must have very broad discretion in transferring teachers from one school to another, i.e., when it in fact “is in the best interest of the district” (Ed. Code, ? 939, subd. (c)), and his discretion ordinarily will not be reviewed or interfered with by the trial court. It is only when it is asserted that the motivation for transfer is based on a teacher’s exercise of constitutionally protected rights that the trial court will conduct an independent review of the record to determine whether the assertion is true.
The United States Supreme Court has emphasized that “The vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools” (Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479, 487 [5 L.Ed.2d 231, 236, 81 S.Ct. 247]). It is the classroom and academic institutions which are the marketplace of ideas and where the exchange of ideas and arguments are to be fostered, not curtailed (Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist., supra, 393 U.S. 503, 512 [21 L.Ed.2d 731, 740-741]).
In Tinker the court also stated: “in our system, undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression. Any departure from absolute regimentation may cause trouble. Any variation from the majority’s opinion may inspire fear. Any word spoken, in class, in the lunchroom, or on the campus, that deviates from the views of another person may start an argument or cause a disturbance. But our Constitution says we must take this risk [citation]; and our history says that it is this sort of hazardous freedom — this kind of openness — that is the basis of our national strength and of the independence and vigor of Americans who grow up and live in this relatively permissive, often disputatious, society.
“In order for the State in the person of school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, it must be able to show that its action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the [10 Cal.3d 68] discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint.” (Tinker v. Des Moines Schol Dist., supra, 393 U.S. 503, 508-509 [21 L.Ed.2d 731, 739].)
It is true that the more serious and disturbing allegation against Adcock is the claim that his conduct resulted in disharmony among the faculty and resentment from parents. Yet as Tinker and L. A. Teachers clearly point out disharmony from speech is a natural by-product and any limitation or penalty imposed in the name of prevention of disharmony is an attack on speech. Furthermore, both decisions hold that disharmony is not a sufficient state interest to compel restrictions on First Amendment activity or to penalize a teacher for exercising First Amendment freedoms.  Mere fear of disruption due to the expression of unpopular views will not justify interference with the free expression of opinion. (Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist., supra, 393 U.S. 503, 508-509.)
 In the absence of actual disruption, any kind of administrative discipline for the content of speech is improper, where, as here, the unpopular views are uttered in forums designed for the airing of different views on controversial issues and where, as here, the views are uttered in a polite but forceful manner.
In balancing the important right of school authorities to administer the system efficiently, effectively and without internal antagonistic factors, the court must look carefully into both the dynamics of why the administrative action was taken and the inherent effect of taking it if that effect is also a part of the cause. Priorities place constitutional rights above unlimited administrative authority to act in their derogation. Disharmony and friction are the healthy but natural results of a society which cherishes the right to speak freely on a subject and these resultant by-products should never prevent an individual from speaking or cause that individual to be penalized for such speech. Any attempt to do so abrogates the protections that the First Amendment affords to all.
It should be pointed out that the penalty invoked against Adcock arose in part out of his speeches at the Open Forum at Clairemont. To help meet the growing unrest at Clairemont, school officials created an Open Forum as an outlet for expression of ideas of pressing interest which students, teachers, parents or the administration, felt needed resolution and which would be exposed to open discussion from all sides.
To create a forum for free and open discussion of the problems vitally affecting the institution and its members and then to penalize a participant who assumes the sincerity of purpose in its creation and therefore freely [10 Cal.3d 69] participates, particularly in the absence of any objection to the nature of his participation at the time, is akin to entrapment.  To invite teachers to openly discuss with parents, students and the administration the subjects logically before the forum and then to charge them with being uncooperative, obstructive and offensive to the administration, to other teachers and to parents because they argue their positions with vigor and at length is arbitrary and capricious administrative conduct, even in the absence of constitutional considerations. The dilemma is further exacerbated when no showing is made that such speeches disrupted classrooms, teaching efficiency, or in any way led to a potentially dangerous situation at the school.
 Adcock’s speech did not pose a threat to interests of the school district which would justify a speech limitation. So far as appears from the record, all of his criticisms were made at a proper time and in an appropriate place and manner. His speech which resulted in friction was not speech that occurred in the classroom or that affected or interfered with his teaching. On the contrary, it is undisputed that Adcock was an unusually effective teacher. He obeyed the rules he was working to change, his criticism was directed toward accomplishing change, and he encouraged utilizing existing means for effecting change.
We conclude that the reason for the transfer in question was the exercise of protected First Amendment activity. That conclusion can be reached either by using traditional guidelines regarding judicial review of administrative decisions or by the application of independent review accorded those decisions which place an individual’s constitutional rights in jeopardy or which as in the instant case impose sanctions upon the individual for the exercise of those rights. The record clearly sustains the findings of the trial court.
The judgment is affirmed.
I concur, though reluctantly.
True, while a public employee serving at the pleasure of his employer may be dismissed for slight cause, he may not be discharged or demoted for exercise of a constitutional right absent a compelling governmental interest. (Bogacki v. Board of Supervisors (1971) 5 Cal.3d 771 [97 Cal. Rptr. 657, 489 P.2d 537]; Finot v. Pasadena City Bd. of Education (1967) 250 Cal.App.2d 189 [58 Cal.Rptr. 520].) Likewise, since substantial evidence supports the trial court’s finding that Adcock’s transfer occurred in large part because of his exercise of First Amendment rights, we are bound by that finding under Bekiaris v. Board of Education (1972) 6 Cal.3d 575 [100 Cal.Rptr. 16, 493 P.2d 480]. [10 Cal.3d 70]
My reluctance stems from the majority’s subsilentio extension of the first premise to this case.
All the cases of which I am aware resting on the principle for which Bogacki and Finot are cited above involve dismissal from public employment (see, e.g., Bekiaris v. Board of Education, supra, 6 Cal.3d 575; Rosenfield v. Malcolm (1967) 65 Cal.2d 559 [55 Cal.Rptr. 505, 421 P.2d 697]; Bagley v. Washington Township Hospital Dist. (1966) 65 Cal.2d 499 [55 Cal.Rptr. 401, 421 P.2d 409]; Ball v. City Council (1967) 252 Cal.App.2d 136 [60 Cal.Rptr. 139]; see also Fort v. Civil Service Commission (1964) 61 Cal.2d 331 [38 Cal.Rptr. 625, 392 P.2d 385]) or transfer tantamount to demotion (Finot v. Pasadena City Bd. of Education, supra, 250 Cal.App.2d 189). The majority’s apparent dependence on that rule imports into this case the assumption, perhaps warranted where dismissal or demotion is concerned but not fully warranted here, that the challenged administrative action is essentially punitive. However, where as here a transfer involves no demotion, loss of status, or diminution in pay, it is at least as reasonable to conclude, absent evidence to the contrary, it was made for some legitimate managerial reason as for an impermissible punitive one. While I concede the record discloses sufficient evidence to justify a finding of punitive motive, it also reveals evidence the board was motivated by several sound reasons for effecting a transfer.
Reassuring upset parents is a time-consuming and taxing duty for school administrators. Dissension among the faculty poses serious problems affecting efficient operation of the schools. The possibility of student disorders was particularly threatening when this case arose; anything which might undermine already shaken respect for the authority of parents and teachers could reasonably be feared as encouraging such a result. Were it less clear the board harbored an improper purpose (and more clear the dangers feared by the board had materialized, a point I touch on below), these reasons would, in my view, have justified Adcock’s transfer.
A second difference between dismissal and transfer warrants comment. Termination of an employee constitutes radical surgery. Demotion is likewise a drastic measure. In contrast, lateral transfer without loss of rights, status, or pay is a far more moderate action, with far less impact on the exercise of protected rights. Indeed, the spirit of restraint shown here should be encouraged.
Finally, if school administrators are to be charged with efficient management of their schools, they should be given authority commensurate with that responsibility. If they are not allowed to meet potential problems (as [10 Cal.3d 71] apparently they are not; see Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist. (1969) 393 U.S. 503 [21 L.Ed.2d 731, 89 S.Ct. 733]), they should at least be permitted to remedy the consequences of exercise of protected rights by the Adcocks of this world once those consequences have occurred. As I have suggested, the evidence that the anticipated effects of Adcock’s outspokenness had actually begun to make themselves felt is not particularly strong and probably not sufficient to distinguish this case from Tinker. But the rule apparently relied on by the majority fails to make allowance for even minimal remedial powers and, for that reason, its wisdom is open to question.
In short, I would soften the impact of the Bogacki principle in circumstances such as those presented here. Where the public employer acts for legitimate managerial reasons, where it acts with restraint and in response to actual rather than anticipated problems, and where the impact of its action on protected freedoms is both indirect and slight, something less than a compelling governmental interest should be required in justification of the action. My comments above indicate this suggested rule was probably not met here; hence this concurrence. But the majority opinion appears unwisely to extend a rule developed in far more serious cases to one so different in degree as to be different in kind.
I dissent. I would reverse the judgment for the reasons expressed by Mr. Justice Ault in the opinion prepared by him for the Court of Appeal in Adcock v. Board of Education of San Diego U. Sch. Dist. (Cal.App.) 103 Cal.Rptr. 633.
?FN 1. In an inter-office memorandum to the assistant superintendent of schools, the principal gave the following five reasons for the transfer:
“1. In contacts with students and parents he has been openly critical of certain school and district rules and regulations such as the dress and grooming code and the outside speaker policy. This has tended to undermine the authority of teachers, administrators and parents.
“2. He has demonstrated an unwillingness to accept administrative directives. For example, following a decision of the Superintendent not to permit publication of the ‘Open Mind’ newspaper, Mr. Adcock and some of the students continued to pursue the issue on campus, in the press and on television rather than to work toward the alternative proposals suggested.
“3. At the weekly Open Forum meetings involving parents, students, and staff members, Mr. Adcock has utilized a considerable portion of the time to criticize school policies related to dress and grooming standards, outside speakers and the ‘Open Mind’ publication. This has resulted in a number of complaints from parents.
“4. An increasing number of parents have requested the school not to enroll their children in Mr. Adcock’s classes or to have them withdrawn from class. The reasons given represent considerable disagreement with the social and political points of view advocated by Mr. Adcock and the lack of balance and fairness in the handling of controversial issues in the classroom.
“5. Mr. Adcock’s actions and attitudes have caused dissent and unrest among a growing percentage of staff members and parents. As a result a disproportionate amount of the counselors’ time and the principal’s time must be devoted to the issues and the problems raised.”
?FN 2. The hearing officer’s findings include a summary of the evidence in the record. They may be summarized as follows: 1. Adcock’s criticism: Adcock was openly critical of the outside speaker policy, the dress and grooming code, and the administration’s refusal to permit publication of a second student newspaper to be called the “Open Mind.” He sincerely believed that the position taken by the district and school authorities should be changed. He was never abusive. He was not overly loud or offensive. Above all, he was never ordered to desist. Furthermore, most of his criticism was made at convocations of parents, teachers, and students, sponsored by the school, which were called “Open Forums” and existed for the purpose of open discussion of subjects in which the school was concerned. It is not true that the open criticism tended to undermine the authority of teachers, the administration or parents. On the contrary, the debates led by Adcock tended to add to the educational maturity of the students.
2. Unwillingness to accept administrative directives: At no time did he actually violate any policy, rule or regulation of the school or of the district, nor at any time did he invite, advocate or tolerate their infraction by any student. He was never ordered or even requested to cease pursuing the subjects, nor was he threatened with transfer or discipline if he did not cease.
3. Utilization of time at open forum meetings: The chair was authorized to rule on any motion to suppress a speaker, but no one ever protested his right to speak in these meetings, or requested him to desist.
4. Parental request to remove children from his classes: Two or three parents withdrew their children from his classes during the 1968-1969 school year. Twenty-one other parents of students who might have been assigned to his class wrote the principal expressing the desire to have some other teacher instruct their children. The complaints of these parents stemmed predominantly from political and philosophical beliefs at poles opposite to those held by Adcock. There is no proof that Adcock dealt with controversial issues in a distorted manner in the classroom or in other than a fair and reasonable approach.
5. Dissidence: Differing views in the school, and division of opinion on the staff was undoubtedly of concern to the principal and his administrative staff, yet there was insufficient proof that it consumed a disproportionate amount of his or his staff’s time.
The hearing officer also found that an important incident underlying the transfer was an incident which apparently was not mentioned in the principal’s memorandum. In the spring of 1968 Adcock and another teacher from Clairemont High School distributed handbills in the vicinity of other high schools in the district. These handbills listed the legally acceptable alternatives to the draft, and other means which could have been used to avoid the draft. The handbill mentioned the criminal penalties involved in the use of any illegal means but in no way advocated either legal or illegal activity.
The hearing officer found that the distribution of these handbills created a storm of objection among certain parents and teachers of Clairemont High School, and that the school’s principal in requesting Adcock’s transfer, was actuated significantly, if not principally, by the more vociferous of this group of teachers and parents.
?FN 3. Section 11517, subdivision (c), provides in part: “If the proposed decision is not adopted as provided in subdivision (b), the agency itself may decide the case upon the record, including the transcript, with or without taking additional evidence, … The agency itself shall decide no case provided for in this subdivision without affording the parties the opportunity to present either oral or written argument before the agency itself.”
?FN 4. The additional argument submitted by the school district’s counsel essentially maintained that the First Amendment should not be extended to the instant case, and that the transfer was made entirely in good faith.
May all beings be filled with joy and peace.
May all beings everywhere,
The strong and the weak,
The great and the small,
The mean and the powerful,
The short and the long,
the subtle and the gross:
May all beings everywhere,
Seen and unseen,
Dwelling far off or nearby,
Being or waiting to become:
May all be filled with lasting joy.
Let no one deceive another,
Let no one anywhere despise another,
Let no one out of anger or resentment
Wish suffering on anyone at all.
Just as a mother with her own life
Protects her child, her only child, from harm,
So within yourself let grow
A boundless love for all creatures.
Let your love flow outward through the universe,
To its height, its depth, its broad extent,
A limitless love, without hatred or enmity.
Then as you stand or walk,
Sit or lie down,
As long as you are awake,
Strive for this with a one-pointed mind;
Your life will bring heaven to earth.
Buddha’s Discourse on Good Will (Metta)
This is my favorite Buddhist passage and one that I use to focus and center myself in times of great difficulty.
Here are some Zen Stories, and one by the Sufi Mulla Nasruddin, that shed some light on what we call good or bad.
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.
“Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“We’ll see,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.
“How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“We’ll see,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“We’ll see,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“We’ll see” said the farmer.
It Will Pass
A student went to his meditation teacher and said, “My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible!”
“It will pass,” the teacher said matter-of-factly.
A week later, the student came back to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It’s just wonderful!’
“It will pass,” the teacher replied matter-of-factly.
Anyone walking about Chinatowns in America will observe statues of a stout fellow carrying a linen sack. Chinese merchants call him Happy Chinaman or Laughing Buddha.
This Hotei lived in the T’ang dynasty. He had no desire to call himself a Zen master or to gather many disciples about him. Instead he walked the streets with a big sack into which he put gifts of fruit, candy or doughnuts. These he would give to children who gathered around him in play. He established a kindergarten of the streets.
Whenever he met a Zen devotee he would extend his hand and say: “Give me one penny.” And if anyone asked him to return to a temple to teach others, again he would reply: “Give me one penny.”
Once as he was about his play-work another Zen master happened along and inquired: “What is the significance of Zen?”
Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer.
“Then,” asked the other, “what is the actualization of Zen?”
At once Hotei swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his way.
…This reminds me of a Zen story. There was a Zen Master who was very pure, very illumined. Near the place where he lived there happened to be a food store. The owner of the food store had a beautiful unmarried daughter. One day she was found with child. Her parents flew into a rage. They wanted to know the father, but she would not give them the name. After repeated scolding and harassment, she gave up and told them it was the Zen Master. The parents believed her. When the child was born they ran to the Zen Master, scolding him with foul tongue, and they left the infant with him. The Zen Master said, “Is that so.” This was his only comment.
He accepted the child. He started nourishing and taking care of the child. By this time his reputation had come to an end, and he was an object of mockery. Days ran into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. But there is something called conscience in our human life, and the young girl was tortured by her conscience. One day she finally disclosed to her parents the name of the child’s real father, a man who worked in a fish market. The parents again flew into a rage. At the same time, sorrow and humiliation tortured the household. They came running to the spiritual Master, begged his pardon, narrated the whole story and then took the child back. His only comment: “Is that so.”
By: Sri Chinmoy
From: The Oneness of the Eastern Heart and the Western Mind
Web Source: Yoga of Sri Chinmoy
Note: The Zen Master in this story is believed to be Hakuin.
When I was no longer needed as a Mulla in the village, I moved to another region and found a convenient place outside a small town, on a hill. The view was fine, and the hill was as thick with thorns and burdock as a peace-loving soul could want.
I was very happy with the thorns, because they discouraged agriculture. In fact, they discouraged just about everything. No one bothered me.
Eventually, however, my beloveds, this changed. After a certain time, the townsfolk became curious. They wondered what I was doing up on that hill, coming down only for a few groceries once in a while, or maybe only to charge my cell phone. No, that was a different time.
Anyway, the people began to come up the hill, through the thorns, until they had made a path. That made it easier for me to get down to the town, which was convenient. It also made it easier for them to get up to me, which was not so convenient.
Somehow, the townsfolk came to view my silence and seclusion as marks of wisdom. And of course, whenever we admire something, we want to possess it. I once saw a small knoll covered with wild blueberries close by a pond. The blueberry plants turned red in the fall, and the glorious color was reflected in the pond. A family from a nearby town loved that blueberry field so much they decided to build a house there. They brought in excavators and heavy equipment, and tore out a large area on the top of the hill. The runoff washed away many of the berries, and they piled building debris on a particularly beautiful patch, so that by the time their house was finished, they wondered where their idyllic little scene had gone.
That was how I was afraid I would be. They would consider my seclusion to be admirable, so they would troop up to share it with me, until none of us was secluded any more. One day, something happened that let me know I could preserve my seclusion in the long run.
A group came to me, much distressed.
“All our roosters have died!” they cried. “What are we to do? We won’t wake up on time in the morning, and we won’t be able to raise broods of chicks to grow more chickens. How will we live?”
Knowing the old saying that not a leaf turns except by the will of Allah, I looked at them for a long time. Finally they demanded an answer.
“God’s will,” I said.
“God’s will?! Is that all you have to say? What good does that do us?” and they stalked down the hill, very dissatisfied. However, my peace didn’t last for long. Up they came again with a fresh calamity.
“All our fires have gone out!” they cried. “What will we do?”
“I suppose it wouldn’t help if I pointed out you have no roosters to cook anyway?” It didn’t help.
“What shall we do? We haven’t a live coal in the village, and the next village is far away.”
I looked at them and shrugged. “God’s will,” I said.
“We thought you’d say that,” they muttered, and stalked off down the hill, very annoyed. They were back sooner than I thought they would be.
“All our dogs have died!” they cried. “What other town is more unfortunate than ours? First our roosters, then our fires, now our dogs! Who will keep away wild animals, who will warn us of thieves?”
“Do you really have so many thieves?” I asked. They admitted nothing had ever been stolen in the town.
“I have only one thing to say, and I know you don’t want to hear it,” I said.
“We know…God’s will. That’s the last time we’ll ever ask YOU for advice,” they said, and stalked off down the hill, very annoyed. I hoped it was true.
But that very night, something occurred which I had been expecting. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I expected something. It was a little too much to have roosters, fires and dogs all die, all at once in the whole town. So I sat up and listened. Around midnight, when all was quiet in the town below, I heard the sound of a large number of armed men approaching. I crept to the top of the next hill for a better view. It’s a good thing I’m very stealthy, because their scout crept to the top of the same hill, and we almost bumped into one another. He gave a hand signal, and an army of several hundred men with shields and spears, bows and arrows, and walkie talkies…no that was another time. Anyway, this army poured up the hill and their general gave the signal for silence. He stood listening carefully, looking down at the town. After a little time he spoke.
“Well, men, we have had a good run of it, going from town to town, pillaging and burning, and gathering such treasures as we found.” There was a quiet clatter of spears and shields and shuffling of feet.
“But it looks as if our luck has run out. Where is the smoke from the fires? Where are the dogs barking? It’s almost daylight. Where are the roosters crowing? This village is abandoned. Let us move on.”
So they turned back down the hill, and went on their way. The next day a few villagers came to see me.
“Have you thought of any solutions to our problems?” they asked, “or are you going to say the same thing over and over?”
“You mean, God’s will?” They nodded. “Oh, I still believe it’s God’s will, but I have something to add. No matter how bad you think your problems are, they could always be worse. Be content with what befalls you. It is truly sent from Heaven.”
To this day, they don’t believe me.
What comes to mind after taking in these perspectives?
“Although you may spend your life killing, you will not exhaust all your foes. But if you quell your own anger, your real enemy will be slain.”
More can be learned about Nagarjuna at http://www.iep.utm.edu/n/nagarjun.htm
Mohandas K. Gandhi: To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.
Bronson Alcott: Who loves a garden still his Eden keeps,
Perennial pleasures plants, and wholesome harvest reaps.
Henry David Thoreau: Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: Presently we pass to some other object which rounds itself into a whole as did the first; for example, a well-laid garden; and nothing seems worth doing but the laying-out of gardens.
Thomas Jefferson: Though an old man I am but a young gardener.
Vita Sackville-West: Every garden-maker should be an artist along his own lines. That is the only possible way to create a garden, irespective of size or wealth.
The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before.
William Wordsworth: Laying out grounds may be considered a liberal art, in some sort like poetry and painting.
May Sarton: A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.
Luis Barragán: In the creation of a garden, the architect invites the partnership of the Kingdom of Nature. In a beautiful garden the majesty of nature is ever present, but it is nature reduced to human proportions and thus transformed into the most efficient haven against the aggressiveness of contemporary life.
Colin Neenan : Life just seems so full of connections. Most of the time we don’t even pay attention to the depth of life. We only see flat surfaces.
Herman Melville: The eyes are the gateway to the soul.
Benjamin Disraeli: How fair is a garden amid the toils and passions of existence.
Henry David Thoreau: Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself.
David S. Slawson: Poets and novelists are often moved to put into words the subtle qualities of the landscape, sometime purely for the beauty of it, and sometimes as a way of alluding to certain human feelings. Landscape design can translate such literary landscapes into three-dimensional form in the garden. Like the poet, the garden designer may allude to human feelings in his portrayals of nature.
Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens, 1987, p. 131
Ruth R. Blodgett: We have learned that more of the “earth-earthiness” would solve our social problems, remove many isms from our vocabulary, and purify our art. And so we often wish that those who interpret life for us by pen or brush would buy a trowel and pack of seeds.
The House Beautiful (March 1918)
Marcel Proust: The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking
new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Rosemary Verey: Colours change: in the morning light, red shines out bright and clear and the blues merge into heir surroundings, melting into the greens; but by the evening the reds loose their piquancy,
embracing a quieter tone and shifting toward the blues in the rainbow. Yellow flowers remain right, and white ones become luminous, shining like ghostly figures against a darkening green background.
The Scented Garden, 1981
Let me arise and open the gate,
to breathe the wild warm air of the heath,
And to let in Love, and to let out Hate,
And anger at living and scorn of Fate,
To let in Life, and to let out Death.
– Violet Fane
Epictitus: He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.
The creation and sustaining of this garden says something about the conditions and possibilities that exist within our marriage more than any words. I take this garden as Dan the Man’s declaration of love. He doesn’t talk much about his feelings, he does demonstrate them powerfully.
Frederich Nietzsche: Precisely the least, the softest, lightest, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a flash, a moment – a little makes the way of the best happiness.
Thus Spake Zarathustra
For Dan, who gave me the one thing that I could hang on to, two versions:
If there is anything in my life I feel grateful for, its my garden and my chief shoveler, stump puller, rock hauler, digger, planter & builder extraordinaire, Dan the Man, who makes all things gardeney possible. Here is what he deserves a great deal more of, but hasn’t gotten since May 2003 outside Cortona, Italy:
I dedicate this post to him and his lovely, stubborn gardeney curmudgeonliness.
When we first moved to our home it was January 2005, in the middle of Winter. The ground was hard, it was cold. There was mossy grass and lots of trees and a funny little red Japanese maple tree. There were two trees planted right in front of the front deck. When Spring came, we planned to cut them down. Then the Robins built their nests and there was a natural delay in our plans. Here are some of the babies.
The funny part of this delay is that I got a chance to see what other folks in my new neighborhood had in their gardens that grew well and that I liked. Since I had moved from Northern California 1000+/- miles north, I was unfamiliar and could use the input. But I was so anxious to get going that I am sure I would have planted things that I didn’t have enough sunlight to grow successfully. Mine is not a rose garden kind of yard. It is not warm or sunny enough for anything but certain old wild types, or decendants of Rugosa roses, like this one, called Hansa. Fragrant and magenta in color, but I don’t really want that as the dominant color in my yard, so I planted just the one. It’s huge. Thank you little robin babies for making me take my time and look around more before I got crazy in the yard planting all the wrong things.
I lived in Takoma Park, Maryland for a long time and had a wonderful Azalea garden. So, nostalgically I was more than a little happy to have a yard that was cut out of a forested mountain and perfect for Rhododendrons of infinite varieties…
We also continue to plant Columbine near our largest Azaleas & Rhododendron bed, at the front of the bed. The bushes are growing and becoming taller than the Columbine, but is was a race the first two Springs here.
We intend someday for the entire big bed to be all Rhododendrons & Columbine, but this year some Forget-Me-Nots made their way into the mix and the blue was kind of nice. Now I will probably never get rid of them, either because they will come back naturally, or because I see something I like in it. It’s easier to be flexible and accept a happy accident.
We have another area where we have planted shorter Azaleas, a few different Hydrangeas (Wow, Limelight is gorgeous), Taller Elderberry plants in the back to screen the neighbors yard and more Heuchera varieties in the front. We are also integrating some Spring flowering bulbs here and there. It’s a work in progress and some other interesting things sometimes come up there in the weeds, which we are constantly after. There is something that grows around here that is kind of fern like and has delicate little pink flowers and a root system that will choke the life out of anything nearby. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of delicacy, it too can be a terrible illusion.
We have a wonderful large deck off of our kitchen. I grow herbs right next to the door so I can grab what I want when I am cooking.
I also grow a collection of cocktail tomatoes in a barrel there. I have to plant early to have any success at all. The growing season is short here and I am better off starting with hothouse plants than seedlings. This year, Dan painted the deck in the early fall and extended the pergola to support a sunshade on the far side. I love it out here.
This is a view of an area that Dan cleared with a little help from me. There were trees, abandoned stumps, blackberries that had to be ripped out, and native ferns, which we cut back and kept. We planted a bag of 100 daffodils where we could see them from the windows and companion planted wildflowers, way to thickly it turns out. We got an enormous truckload of 4-way topsoil mix and it was a job spreading that stuff out. We keep doing that as we progress through the yard. Everything in life needs fertilizer and healthy soil or an equivalent. I love my red wheel barrow. It makes me think of Dr. Williams:
so much depends
upona red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
This is my favorite part of the garden. I love how these plants demonstrate seasonality so clearly. The red Bee Balm in the front of this picture I started with a small three inch pot. I planted it the first year I moved here by the walk, and we have since divided it numerous times, planting it in a mixed row with Ribbon Grass and varieties of Lavender: right next to a dusty road that goes down to the lake. It catches the dust and draws lots of buzzing bees and hummingbirds. Behind it here are Irish Eyes Rudbeckia and Black Eyed Susans, next to it Catmint and Day Lilies in a variety of pinks, mauve, peach. Love them! There are also lambs ears. I found one variety I adore that has prehistoric looking huge leaves. I also have a very green type that has gorgeous coral bell like flowers. I have scattered a few of these here and there.
Here are Blue Salvia, Iris, & a closer look at the Irish Eyes. I think these pictures are from 2006, from the looks of the tiny rocks beside the bed above. Those have been somewhat improved with rocks I collect when we go to Lummi Island. All kinds of amazing rocks wash up on the shore there. We also dig some up as we develop our beds. We have found some one and two man sized rocks. We are collecting and sorting the rocks and using them in the landscape where we can.
2006 – A view over the crazy assed Cosmos in the wild flower garden.
The deck was reworked and stained along with the trim on the house this Fall. I love the new color palette. The Huechera along the walk is a gorgeous mix of dark exemplars and looks amazing in bloom and is colorful most of the year.
This Dahlia blew my mind. The blooms were as big as my husband’s noggin! I have to cut them when it begins to rain because the stems can’t support the weight of the flowers wet.
Here are a few more Dahlias with the Cosmos that were on steriods in 2006.
We are gardening away this grass little by little. That is our overall plan. No grass unless decorative in nature. No lawn mowing someday. The apple tree is no longer in the yard. A drunk driver took it out in the middle of the night. It had gorgeous green pie apples. There is always a certain amount of violence involved in gardening, one might say, but this is not the way to go about it!
In September 2006, just after the bottom floor of our house flooded with hot water for four days while we were away, a drunk driver careened through the garden and hits a tree, digging up the onions, murdering acorn squash & cucumbers, & misses the pole beans on the right. We were in the midst of figuring out what we had lost in the flood when this happened. It was stunning, to say the least.
Note the apple tree he took down to the ground on his way over to hit the much larger fir tree. We got $1500 from the insurance company and kept on gardening. If you look at the grass you can see the tracks where the vehicle exited our yard between the trees. We now have a Gala Apple, a grafted Plum tree that includes Satsuma and some kind of pollinator, and an Australian Bartlett Pear. No fruit yet.
by William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
This is my favorite lawn ornament, no not the hummingbird feeder, Dan the Man! The man takes out stumps for God’s sake!
Someday I hope to have meditation garden amidst these trees…in the meantime we keep it clean and natural forest.
This is my grandson standing in front of our shade garden in 2006. This area has been developed quite a bit more since this picture was taken.
We added a Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ Dogwood to the shade garden this year. This is the classic white-flowering dogwood you see in gardens and parks everywhere in the Pacific Northwest in Spring. ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ grows to about 25 feet by about 20 feet wide, so this will give us a bit of privacy in our back yard too. So beautiful, and I can look out of my bathroom window or from the deck to see it. There are a mixed collection of small Azaleas such as impeditum variety, Geraniums, Jacob’s Ladder, native ferns, varieties of Astilbe, varieties of Hosta, and some lime green Winter blooming Helleborus.
I will end this post here because it has gone on so much longer than I ever meant it to go. Life is like that in the garden, time disappears when you work in a garden doing things that you love, the work is challenging and worthwhile, it reveals so much about life, and yet, life still remains a mystery no matter how much you learn. Like some of the things that volunteer in the garden here and there, mysteries. Some are gifts, some are weeds. In the Winter, there are catalogs and so much that can be learned in preparation for the next growing season. I love it all.
It seems that Mike had lied to his teacher, Sister Beatrice, which sounds like a real 1950’s nun’s name, doesn’t it? As it turns out, Mike was going to have a tough year. Later in the Spring he would come down with encephalitis, which caused him to completely lose both his bearings and his balance. He really didn’t know where he was, up from down or one side from the other. He was lost and senseless and overwhelmed, and he was sure it was because this was, indeed, another incarnation of the spanking machine that the Mother Superior had told him about, and which he had tried as mightily as a little boy can to avoid.
Earlier in the Fall he had failed to bring something back signed from home. He had forgotten to give it to his mother entirely, becoming distracted with play after school, and then, as children sometimes do when caught between trouble at school and the trouble that can cause at home, Mike lied.
He didn’t say the dog ate it, that would be stupid. He didn’t tell Sister Beatrice that his parents were fighting and that his dad had given mommy a black eye and that she had been periodically sobbing in her room all night after Dad had stomped out of the house into the dark to go drinking at the NCO Club. His father had peeled out of the driveway in the Chevy Bel Air, leaving a cloud of burning rubber and the echoes of the rumbling engine sounds reverberating through the mufflers. He just hid under his blankets and he never showed them the permission slip.
So Mike told Sister Beatrice that he lost it on the way home, and was afraid he’d get into trouble. It wasn’t entirely true, and somehow, Sister Beatrice always knew when little boys lied. So Sister Beatrice sent him, with a note, to the Mother Superior’s office to explain himself to her.
It seems that there was a rumor that the Mother Superior had a spanking machine in her office. It was in a closet that no student had ever had the nerve to open and no student who had been subjected to it had ever disclosed the details of their experience. It was just one of those things that all of the children knew and all of the nuns took advantage of for what it lent to peace and order in the school.
Mike got up from his desk as bravely as he knew how and turned toward the classroom door as Sister Beatrice passed him the note. It was folded in half and he was instructed not to look, that it was for the Mother Superior and not for him. He trudged onward and out of the doorway, turning down the hall towards the office. Tears began to leak out of his eyes even as he bit his bottom lip, trying to contain them. He began to quiver and shake.
Little Mike began remembering everything that he had been told about the spanking machine. Apparently, the other kids had said it was like a big washing machine that the Mother Superior put the bad and disobedient children in for punishment. It had big hands with paddles, switches, leather belts and sticks in it that randomly struck the child it was punishing. But the worst thing of all was that once you had been put inside the spanking machine only God could stop it and it wasn’t just for the thing you had been sent to the office about that you would be punished: it was for everything!
Walking towards the office, all of the inadequacies that had already been pointed out to him loomed like terrible sins for which he would be punished. All the ways he had disappointed his recently violent father. All the ways he had made his mother cry. He was pretty sure that he would not live.
He stood before the glass door to the office and the nun who acted as the receptionist saw him and waved him in to the office, taking the note and pointing toward a big, dark wooden bench. He sat on it alone with his feet dangling in the air.
She picked up the telephone and he fainted with the weight of the fear that had been consuming him since last night.
When he awakened he was lying on the bench with a scratchy, grey wool blanket thrown over him and his mother was sitting beside him looking worried. The Mother Superior said she wanted to speak to him for a moment. She took him into the office, and let him know that he had given them all quite a scare, and she handed him a copy of the permission slip for his parents to sign. He walked past a couple of closet doors before being led out of her office. He wondered which one contained the spanking machine, but at least for today, today would not be the day when he found out the secrets behind that closet door.
“In principle and in potential we are immersed in good for we are in the Mind of God. But we have freedom, or volition, to create in our own experience, out of the possibilities of life with which we have been endowed, the prerogative of heaven or hell. So we need to shake ourselves loose from the tyranny of fear and superstition and isolation and the emotional traditions.”
The Spiritual Universe and You
Beginning anew is the key to waking up. If we keep trying to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, even we begin to suspect our mental state as a hellish one, while we may not yet grasp who is at cause in the matter. Of course, we are always at cause in our experience and this is a difficult thing to consider when we are going through a rough patch.
If we start anew, we can begin again to directly experience this environment of good that is our natural home. What if all that other stuff we experience is something we have made of the good opportunity that we are given? One of my early Religious Science teachers, Rev. Dr. Dominic Polifrone, used to tell us that “Everyone goes through hell from time to time, but that’s no reason why you should stop and build your house there!” Each of us lives in alternating states of present awareness broken up by intermittent periods of unconsciousness—not all of them deep sleep! The practice of affirmative prayer, and the supportive practices of contemplation, spiritual study, service and mindfulness in our everyday lives begin to lengthen the experience of present awareness, or consciousness, little by little until those around us actually have easier lives as a result of the spiritual transformation that occurs in us. I believe that we know we are doing well when folks around us begin to have improved lives.
Not long ago, I was talking to someone here locally, and the practice of humility came up. I believe a true, deep, and spiritual humility arises in us when we realize that we are truly made of Divine stuff and we begin to tell the truth of who we are, making no more, and no less, of the lives that we are given. The more we allow God to be God in and as us, the more amazing the things that we are able to do with our lives; the more the people around us reap the benefits of what we (You, God & I) have wrought with the opportunity of life itself.
And, of course, we all screw it up from time to time. We get grumpy, impatient, tired or find an infinite number of other ways that we can block our divinity its full expression. You can fill in the blank for yourself here; you know how it looks when you get off track. From time to time we need renewal and self-forgiveness. I urge you to take a few minutes to release all feelings of failure, frustration, denial, or any form of self-rejection and judgment you may have held against yourself. We cannot begin anew and hold any form of grudge against ourselves or another. Picture yourself releasing it as a small boat on the river of life. Allow it to sail away beyond the horizon, forgiven, released and then allow yourself the respite that only such forgiveness can grant. Let it go. Don’t waste time making yourself wrong.
Wake up. All is well! What you are afraid of is not real.