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A Self-Test With No Answer

Sidebar: Zen and The Art of Managerial Maintenance

Zen Masters use the study of Koans to prod students along the path to enlightenment. Take a stab at this classic example to see where you rank in the school of satori.


Q. A man is hanging from a tree branch by his mouth. His hands can’t grasp the bough above, his feet won’t reach one below. Under the tree there is another man who asks him the meaning of life. If he doesn’t answer, he evades his duty. If he does answer, he will lose his life. What should he do?

A. Go to the head of the class if you heard the sound of one hand clapping. But if you had to look here first, it’s time for remedial meditation. Zen offers no answers to the essential human dilemma. As Low says, “Compromise is bad faith.”