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There’s an interesting story about a Christian missionary in China.
No doubt he was sincere enough in what he was trying to achieve but, as often happens, he was finding it difficult to come to terms with the niceties of an ancient civilization. Out on a contemplative stroll, he comes across a Chinese priest chanting in a temple. Curious as to know what exactly this was all about, when the chanting stops the missionary approaches the priest.
‘To whom were you praying just now?’ he asks. The Chinese priest is puzzled. Strange questions these missionaries ask, he thinks.
‘To whom was I praying? To no one at all,’ comes the honest reply.
The missionary is stumped. To no one at all? How can this be?
‘Well then, tell me please,’ he enquires, ‘for what were you praying?’
Again, the Chinese priest is taken aback. He answers plainly:
‘For what was I praying? For nothing.’
The missionary looks at him. Is this fathomable? For nothing? He purses his lips. There’s nothing much to be gained here, he says to himself, and makes to leave. The priest calls after him. The missionary turns, thinking to himself, ‘What next?’ The Chinese priest smiles.
‘And there was no one praying, you know.’
From 'Disappearing' by Gabriel Rosenstock (being a manual on making one's self disappear through haiku poetry):
the alchemist bee
nothing on its mind
but liquid gold