The novel cure for resistance to change

Literary prescriptions for modern ailments
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The Independent Culture

Ailment: Resistance to change

Cure: Monkey (Journey to the West) by Wu Ch'eng-en

Some of us like to sit like boulders on a hill, unmoving. Perhaps we have gathered some lichen over the years. Comfortable, safe, confident with who we are, the last thing we want to do is change our place in the world. But then along comes a fluctuation in the climate – or even a serious storm– and before we know it we've been knocked out of alignment, and that carefully cultivated vantage point has gone forever.

To fear change is understandable. But change is not only inevitable; it is also essential for growth and development. By way of example we offer you the joyous Monkey, the cheeky hero captured for us by a Ming Dynasty Chinese hermit. This exhilarating novel will show you that any transformation, be it a murmur or a seismic shift, can deepen your wisdom and enhance your life.

The novel begins with a rock. The rock becomes pregnant with a stone egg, and out of this egg bursts the irrepressible Monkey. Irreverent, powerful, and with a delight in life that soon sees him fearlessly embracing the 72 transmutations taught him by a Taoist immortal, Monkey learns to cloud-trapeze, to transform the hairs on his body into giant weapons, and to travel the universe in seconds. In short, to adapt and create at whim. All this proves such a challenge to the Heavens – the gods themselves preferring the status quo– that the Buddha decides to lock Monkey inside a mountain for 500 years.

Although stasis is Monkey's worst nightmare, inside the mountain he learns enough humility to listen to the monk Tripitaka when he comes asking for help, thus securing an early release. Stop sitting pretty in your fixed and frozen life. Burst open like the boulder. You, too, have wisdom to attain – and perhaps, like Monkey, a pilgrim to assist, or a kingdom to run µ

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