[ by Charles Cameron — a koan for our western world ]
This description of a patient with an aneurysm is from British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh‘s book, Do No Evil, excerpted here:
If we did nothing the patient might eventually suffer a haemorrhage which would probably cause a catastrophic stroke or kill her. But then she might die years away from something else without the aneurysm ever having burst. She was perfectly well at the moment, the headaches for which she had had the scan were irrelevant and had got better. The aneurysm had been discovered by chance. If I operated I could cause a stroke and wreck her – the risk of that would probably be about four or ?ve per cent. So the acute risk of operating was roughly similar to the lifetime risk of doing nothing. Yet if we did nothing she would have to live with the knowledge that the aneurysm was sitting there in her brain and might kill her any moment.
The trolley problem: should you pull the lever to divert the runaway trolley onto the side track?
What would Jesus do?
What would Bodhidharma do?
What would Solomon do?
Can we really transport ourselves that far back in time and that far across in culture?
What would the outcome be if Somerset Maugham were telling this tale?
What would you do?
I am so thankful I am not a neurosurgeon.
Zen (ie dhyana, ch’an, not Mark!) is supposed, somehow — via koan practice — to prepare you for situations like the neurosurgical one described above.
That brings salvation vividly into the here and now.