Zen Story: Objectivity and Subjectivity

I’m not sure whether this is really a Zen story (okay, it’s a Taoist and Confucian story), but it has continued to grow on me over the years, especially when I’ve questioned, surely foolishly, whether another poet can write authentically about particular subjects that I would have difficulty writing about. This story is a reminder about perspective and the difficulty of defining objectivity and subjectivity. Surely, if nothing else, certain subjects ring clearly with poetic truth.

Chuang Tzu, a popular Taoist, was strolling across a bridge with Hui Tzu, the Confucian, when he

observed, “Look how the minnows dart hither and thither at will. Such is the pleasure fish


“You are not a fish,” responded Hui Tzu. “How do you know what gives pleasure to fish?”

“You are not I,” said Chuang Tzu. “How do you know I do not know what gives pleasure to fish?”