The Antique Junk Store

This story is part of the introduction chapter of the Shake Hands With Time: Connecting With Our Legacy book.

Allow me to share a little journey with a story. I recall a number of years back, walking into a place called The Antique Junk Store, owned by an old, marvellously wrinkled Chinese gentleman. Just to sit down and observe his face would have been a journey, for I am certain it contained all the roadmaps of his history. Looking around, I thought he was the best antique in the store because most of what sat around piled on the floors came closer to the junk description than to the antique one.

I can vividly still see the image of how he sauntered over to me with his hands clasped and arms behind his back and said simply, “Look around. Cheap.” He just walked away and I doubted I would find anything of value and was quickly ready to leave. Just when I was reaching for the door knob a Chinese lady, I presumed his wife came into the room from behind the curtain with a tray of tea. All she said was “please for you” with a lovely inviting smile. I felt obligated to respond to her warm generosity and after a couple of sips, she pointed to a corner of the room and said, “For you can find what you want.”
More out of a false sense of respect and obligation than any real desire to scour through old moldy books and squished trinkets, I walked over and appeared as if I was looking with interest. To my amazement, there behind boxes of books and beads was a small, four-inch Buddha statue. It was made with the most exquisite detail and peaceful, loving face. I sat there slightly stunned, staring at this statue for the next ten to fifteen minutes. At some point I just knew that I was finished with the statue.

Under just about any other circumstances, I would have scooped up the relic as a conquest of my treasure hunt. But, on that day and moment, everything was different. As I turned around to leave, again the store owner said, “For you only twenty-five dollars.” Well, I left the statue where I found it and knew that what I had found in those moments of silence could not have been purchased for any dollar amount. I knew that I had found the real Buddha. Not a person, an object or a reality. Where else could the real Buddha have been found other than lying under a pile of debris, covered by what seemed like worthless junk and with an absurd nothing price. The real beauty of the unencumbered truth is that it exists only in the moment of sight. I knew that statue was worth much more to someone else and their thrill of discovery if it stayed in that spot rather than on a mantle soon to be forgotten. The value was in the discovery and not in the possession. I thanked the store owner for his hospitality and went outside.

While I was walking down the street, feeling inspired and with a bounce in my step, I was thinking about what it meant to see the Buddha in everyone. Just like that statue I remember thinking, “Sure, we have plates of armour and are covered over by years of debris, hidden behind a mask of answers but behind our show to the world there is a diamond treasure. I remember in that moment laughing because I knew that even the garbage of my history took on new meaning and importance. If my world were dazzling lights and radiant jewels at each turn, how could I possibly ever discover the treasure. Finding our own inner radiance behind the debris is thrilling. Finding and seeing the treasure in others is also important. Knowing that both have to be let go of is priceless.

When I first had this amazing little journey I told several of my friends of this day of discovery. Without fail, the number one question asked of me was, “What do you think these events mean?” What these questions were all implying is that the truth rested outside of me and that I needed to discover its real meaning. For the meaning to exist there must be meaning that would be the exact same truth for all of us. That is the strongest fallacy that stems from materialistic thinking.

What I took away from this life chapter is that truth is like a hunter; the animal called truth stays alive only during the hunt; it is the inspiration that motivates our striving. Some people go to far-off lands to find truth while others scour the pages of scholarship. Still others would find their truth to be in bigger homes and fancier cars. I believe that truth is a servant that assists us to know our worlds through the fervor of devotion, commitment and inspiration; not through acts of possession. We cannot possess wisdom and we certainly cannot contain the living creature of truth.