if i were . . .


If I were a stone, I would be: opal
If I were a tree, I would be: cypress or willow
If I were a bird, I would be: meadowlark or carrier pigeon
If I were a machine, I would be: engraver’s press
If I were a tool, I would be: a magnifying glass
If I were a flower/plant, I would be: waterlily
If I were a kind of weather, I would be: autumn rain
If I were a mythical creature, I would be: pheonix
If I were a musical instrument, I would be: hurdy gurdy
If I were an animal, I would be a: Fell Pony
If I were a color, I would be: deep violet
If I were an emotion, I would be: where curiousity and adoration meet
If I were a vegetable, I would be: snow peas
If I were a sound, I would be: a sigh of contentment
If I were an Element, I would be: Oxygen
If I were a car, I would be: Vermilion MG (Midget)
If I were a song, I would be: With So Little to be Sure Of (Stephen Sondheim)
If I were to trade places with another person, it would be: I’m not into that, but I would consider Paige Davis. She and her husband met doing musical theatre and now she hosts trading spaces. totally cool by me.
If I were a movie, I would be: Singin’ in the Rain
If I were a food, I would be: blue tortilla chips with fresh tomato salsa
If I were a place, I would be: St. Augustine, Florida
If I were a material, I would be: fleece for cool temps, muslin in the heat
If I were a taste, I would be: caramel
If I were a religion, I would be:Celtic Druidism
If I were a word, I would be: harmony
If I were an object, I would be: a pillow
If I were a body part I would be:right foot
If I were a facial expression I would be: a wink
If I were a subject in school I would be: home ec or art
If I were a cartoon character I would be: Penelope,
the feline object of Pepe Le Pew’s affections
If I were a shape I would be an: spiral
If I were a number I would be: zero
If I were a month I would be:october
If I were a day of the week I would be: wednesday
If I were a time of day I would be: Dawn, but only after being up all night . . .
If I were a direction I would be: North
If I were a piece of furniture I would be: a hammock
If I were a sin I would be: Envy
If I were a historical figure I would be: Sun Bu-er

Immortal Sister Sun Bu-er (Sun Pu-erh) was a 12th century historical figure as well as the subject of many Chinese legends. She married and had three children before completely devoting herself to Taoist practices at the age of fifty-one. Eventually she developed a large following of students. This legendary excerpt is taken from “Seven Taoist Masters: A Folk Novel of China,” written by an anonymous 16th century author and translated by Eva Wong (Shambhala 1990). See especially the story’s theatrical and modern-like conception of “mime dancers.”

Sun Bu-er lived in the city of Loyang for twelve years. She attained the Tao and acquired powerful magical abilities. One day she said to herself, “I have lived in Loyang for a long time. Now I have attained the Tao, I should demonstrate the powers of the Tao to the people.” Sun Bu-er took two withered branches and blew at them softly. Instantly the two branches were transformed into a man and a woman. The woman resembled Sun Bu-er, and the man appeared to be a handsome man in his thirties. The couple went to the busiest streets of the city and started laughing, embracing, and teasing each other. Loyang was the center of high learning and culture in those days, and such shameful behaviors in public between a man and a woman in public was not tolerated. Yet despite reprimands from the city officials and the teachers of the community, the couple continued their jesting and playing day after day. Even after the guards escorted them away from the city they were found back in the busy streets the next day.

When the prominent members of the community saw that their efforts to banish the couple from the city were in vain they took counsel among themselves and approached the mayor saying, “Many years ago, a mad woman took refuge in an abandoned house at the edge of the city. We took pity on her and gave her food when she begged. Now she is not only forgetting our kindness to her but has become a nuissance to public peace and decency. We would like to ask you to arrest this shameless couple and burn them in public. We have come to this last resort because they have ignored our pleas and our threats.” One of the more powerful community leaders added, “Sit, as the leader of this city you are responsible for the good behavior of our citizens. You must do something about this shameless couple.” Not wanting to offend the powerful citizens of the community, the mayor issued a decree and had it posted throughout the city. It read:

    “Madness is the result of losing reason. Without reason all actions become irrational. For a man and a woman to embrace and tease each other in public is to break the rules of propriety. If they exhibit such shameful behavior during the day there is nothing they cannot do at night. The streets of the city are not places for jesting. To display such offensive behavior in public is abominable. We have asked them to leave, but they have refused. We have banished them from the city, but they have returned. There is only one thing left for us to do. We shall arrest them and burn them in public. Thus we can rid ourselves of these evil characters.”

Together with the city guards, community leaders, and a large crowd, the mayor walked toward the abandoned house at the edge of the city where the man and the mad woman were reported to be staying. As they approached the house the mayor said, “Let everyone carry along some dry wood or twigs. We shall pile them around the house and burn the abominable place, together with the mad woman and the shameless man.” The crowds piled dry branches around the building and set them on fire. Flames and smoke engulfed the building.

Suddenly the grey smoke turned into a multicolored haze and the mad woman was seen seated on the canopy of clouds, flanked by the man and woman whom the people had seen jesting in the streets. Sun Bu-er said to the crowds below, “I am a seeker of the Tao. My home is in Shantung Province, and my name is Sun Bu-er. Twelve years ago I arrived in Loyang. I disguised myself as a mad woman so that I might pursue the path of the Tao in peace. I have finally attained the Tao, and today I shall be carried into the heavens by fire and smoke. I transformed two branches into a man and a woman so that circumstances would lead you here to witness the mystery and the powers of the Tao. In return for your kindness and hospitality to me through the years I shall give you this couple. They will be your guardians, and I shall see to it that your harvests will be plentiful and your city protected from plagues and natural disasters.” Sun Bu-er gave the man and woman a push and they fell onto the crowd below. Instantly the couple was transformed back into their original form.

The crowd picked up the two branches , but when they looked up at the sky all they saw was a small black figure growing smaller and smaller as it flew higher and higher. The figure became a black dot, and finally the black dot disappeared. The crowds bowed their heads in respect and dispersed. For the next five years, Loyang enjoyed a prosperity that was unmatched by any town in China. Its countryside yielded bountiful harvests, and livestock was healthy and plentiful. The rains came at the appropriate times, and the city and its surrounding region seemed to be immune to natural disasters. In gratitude to Sun Bu-er the citizens built a shrine to her. In it was a statue of her likeness, and beside her stood statues of the man and the woman she had created from two branches. The shrine was named the Three Immortals’ Shrine. It was said that those who presented offerings with sincerity received blessings from the three immortals.

After Sun Bu-er ascended to th
e heavens she returned to the earthly realm. She wondered about the progress of Ma Tan-yang (her husband) and decided to offer help if needed.

When Sun Bu-er appeared at the Ma mansion the servants could not believe that the lady of the mansion was back. They ran to tell Ma Tan-yang, and he hurried out to greet his wife. “Friend of the Tao, you must have suffered much these years.” Sun Bu-er replied, “We who cultivate the Tao must bear whatever hardships beset us. Otherwise we will not be able to attain the Tao.” That night, Ma Tan-yang invited Sun Bu-er to meditate with him. Sun Bu-er maintained her meditation position through the night, but Ma Tan-yang could not. The next morning Ma Tan-yang said to Sun Bu-er, “Friend of the Tao, your meditation skills are much more advanced than mine.” Sun Bu-er said, “Brother, I can see that your magical powers do not seem to be as strong as they could be.” Ma Tan-yang said, “You are mistaken. My magical powers are strong. I can transform stones into silver pieces. Let me show you.” Sun Bu-er said, “I can transform stones into gold, but I do not wish to do so, for gold and silver are material things that we must leave behind. Therefore it is not important whether they can be turned into silver or gold. Let me tell you a story.” Then Sun Bu-er related to Ma Tan-yang a story about Immortals Lu Tung-pin and Chung-li Ch’uan.

    When Immortal Lu Tung-pin was studying with his teacher Chung-li Ch’uan, Chung li Ch’uan gave him a large and heavy sack to carry. Immortal Lu carried the sack for three years without complaint or resentment. At the end of the three years, Chung-li Ch’uan told Immortal Lu to open the sack.

    He said to Immortal Lu, “While you were carrying the sack these years, did you know what was inside?”

    Immortal Lu replied, “Yes, I knew that the sack was filled with stones.”

    Chung-li Ch’uan then said, “Do you know that the rocks that you’ve been carrying around all these years could be turned into gold? Because you have shown sincerity and humility and have never uttered a word of complaint, I shall teach you how to turn these stones into gold if you wish.

    Immortal Lu asked Chung-li Ch’uan, “When these stones have been transformed into gold, will they be identical to real gold?”

    Chung-li Ch’uan replied, “No, gold that has been transformed from stones or other objects will only last for five hundred years. After that, they will return to their original form.”

    Immortal Lu said, “Then I do not wish to learn the techniques of turning stones into gold. If the gold is not permanent, then what I do now will have harmful effects five hundred years later. I would rather be ignorant of a technique which may potentially harm people.”

    Hearing Lu Tung-pin’s reply, Chung-li Ch’uan said, “Your foundations are stronger than mine. Your level of enlightenment will be higher than mine. As you have enlightened me, I now realize that this technique of turning stones to gold or silver or precious gems is not worth learning and not worth teaching.”

After hearing Sun Bu-er’s story. Ma Tan-yang felt ashamed and said no more. Next day, Sun Bu-er invited Ma Tan-yang to take a bath in a tub of boiling water. Ma Tan-yang looked at the bubbling water, tested it with his finger and exclaimed. “This water is so hot that I almost burned my finger. How can I sit in it and take a bath?” Sun Bu-er jumped into the tub of boiling water as if it had been merely lukewarm. Turning to Ma Tan-yang, she said, “Brother, after all these years you should have cultivated a body that is impervious to heat and cold. How is it that you have not made much progress in your training?” Ma Tan-yang said, “I do not know. We received the same instructions from the same teacher. How come your meditation skill, your magical powers, and your physical development surpass mine by far?” Sun Bu-er dried herself, put on fresh clothes and explained to Ma Tan-yang, “These twelve years I have lived in hardship. My training was done under the most adverse of conditions. Moreover, since I had to beg and live in the most meager shelters, my body and mind were not distracted or dulled by comfortable living. You, on the other hand, lived in a comfortable house, had servants to tend your needs, and did not meet with hardships. Therefore your senses, your mind, and your body became lazy, and you did not train as hard as I did.”

Ma Tan-yang said to Sun Bu-er, “You are right I shall leave this place and travel. I shall seek the Tao in my journeys.” Late that night Ma Tan-yang changed into Taoist robes and slipped out of his mansion. The next morning Sun Bu-er summoned the servants and told them to sell the property and distribute the money and household goods to the needy for she knew that Ma Tan-yang would never return to his mansion and his lands again.

If I were a liquid I would be: ginger ale
If I were a method of death I would be: chinese water torture LOL


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