A few years ago, I was eating lunch with a friend of mine who is a Zen priest and teacher. A group of us sat around after the meal, which had been eaten in silence in the Zen tradition, discussing essence and definition, while drinking cooled green tea (which is very healthy and refreshing).

My friend challenged us to define the tea pot without calling it a tea pot, and without saying what it did.  There were various attempts to describe its shape and function, all without success. I said nothing, being fascinated by the various solutions.

My friend looked at me and said: “Stephen, how would you define this tea pot?” In a sudden flash of insight, I realised what the answer must be …

… and poured myself another cup of tea.

This was, of course, the answer he was looking for: I defined the tea pot, and its function, without a word.

Now I have a challenge for you: define yourself.

Who are you?

I want you to define yourself without describing how you look, what you do (privately, socially or at work), or your relationships.

It’s an interesting task, much more difficult than defining a tea pot. See how far you can get.

I’ve no idea what the right answer is, either. It’s something each of us must answer for him or herself. If you find an answer, write a comment, so that the rest of us can learn.

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