cover image A Fire Runs Through All Things: Zen Koans for Facing the Climate Crisis

A Fire Runs Through All Things: Zen Koans for Facing the Climate Crisis

Susan Murphy. Shambhala, $21.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-64547-108-0

Readers can use Zen koans to confront the current climate crisis and connect to the natural world, contends Buddhist teacher Murphy (Red Thread Zen) in this thought-provoking outing. Defined by their “paradoxical form” and “unsentimental” language, koans loosen traditional ways of understanding problems and foster an “intimacy” with “not-knowing”—an attitude especially well-suited to moments of crisis, Murphy suggests, because it reveals “unasked questions that can radically open the ground from which we can proceed.” (“Medicine and sickness heal each other. The whole Earth is medicine. Then what is the self?” asks Yunmen Wenyan, a Chinese Zen master of the late ninth and early 10th century.) Murphy adds that embracing crisis can ignite one’s ability “to care deeply,” making the present “a strangely privileged moment to be sharply alive, on call, awake to the Earth.” Murphy’s offering brims with Buddhist wisdom and unexpected, creative linkages (“Like a koan breaking open in a public way, something wonderful can result from civil disobedience,” a practice readers can employ using “playful, symbolic, impassioned, and yet morally impeccable tactics”), even if its poetic sensibility might frustrate those seeking more concrete suggestions for activism. Still, it’s an enlightening look at the evergreen usages of an ancient art. (Nov.)