Thus spake the master of charcoal: "Temperature is not the Tao, yet without the Tao, temperature would be like a bird flying aimlessly, lost over the ocean in a rain squall."

The charcoal master moves from cooker to cooker without fear. No change in airflow or temperature disturbs him. He will not be denied the temperature he seeks, even if using different types of charcoal. Why is this?

He is filled with Tao.

A novice was once assigned to keep a simple fire burning for a few hours.

The novice worked furiously, constantly altering vent settings in search of the temperature he desired. But while his master watched his work, he could see the temperature climb and fall, never finding a level of stability.

When the master asked about this, the novice became indignant. "Don't be so impatient," he said, "I'll control the temperature eventually."

The master knew that the novice was fighting Tao.

A well-used pan needs no oil to cook on it.
Swiftly flowing smoke does not grow stagnant.
Sound cannot travel through a vacuum but light flies through it like the wind.
Fires are only hard to control if constantly watched.

These are great mysteries.

A master asked a novice in his care how long it would take him to learn to keep a fire burning overnight. "I will be finished learning tomorrow when I awake and find this fire still burning," the novice promptly replied.

"I think you are being unrealistic," said the master with a smile, "The Tao does not inhabit those who seek it so rapidly. Truthfully, how long will it take?"

The novice thought for a moment. "I have some different techniques that I wish try. This will take at least two weeks," he finally said.

"Even that is too much to expect," insisted the master, "I will be satisfied if you simply tell me when you have learned to keep a fire burning overnight."

The novice agreed to do this and the master walked away.

One morning, several weeks later, the master returned to find the novice asleep next to his cold cooker. He had been making adjustments all night.

Does a good farmer neglect a crop he has planted?
Does a good teacher overlook even the most humble student?
Does a good father allow a single child to starve?

No, for these things are not of the Tao.

Does a good master allow his fire to burn without adjustment?

Yes, for he his filled with the Tao.

The master was approached by a novice who had a puzzled look on his face. When asked about the source of his puzzlement, the novice explained, "I am perplexed. I have spent months mastering temperature control on my large cooker. I have learned to refrain from the constant adjustments which frustrate the efforts of many novices. I now let my fire seek its own level and have achieved constant temperature through the night."

The master observed that indeed the novice had made significant advances in his efforts to embrace the Tao.

"But master, I now use a medium cooker and find that temperature control eludes me. How can this be when I have mastered the control of the fire in a large cooker? Surely they are not that different?" wondered the novice.

The master replied, "Perhaps if you cannot control temperature in the medium cooker, then you have not truly mastered control of temperature in the large cooker."

The novice, realizing his hubris, walked away vowing future humility.

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