Some books we read for fun, for a mental escape, or as a way to fill the space of an evening when the power is out and all we have is a box of safety candles and a long night ahead of us. Some books come into our lives by way of recommendation, some by association and some because (let’s be honest) we like the cover. But some very special books, we pick up and read for one of the aforementioned reasons and somehow, it ends up changing our perspective just a little bit or, at the very least, gives us something to think about. This book, with the weird cover and funny sounding name, is one of those books.
Why the Chicken Crossed the Road (and Other Hidden Enlightenment Teachings from the Buddha to BeBop to Mother Goose) by Dean Sluyter is quite the mouthful and quite the undertaking of subject matter. This book takes common proverbs, jokes, songs and even nursery rhymes and digs a little deeper—finding the hidden meanings and lessons at the root.
The book takes on classics like: “I’m a Little Teapot,” “Practice Makes Perfect,” “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees,” and yes, “Why the Chicken Crossed the Road.” Think there’s nothing to be learned from a knock-knock joke? Think again.
The beauty of this book is that although the author is a former meditation teacher and the word “Buddha” is in the title, it’s not at all preachy. References are drawn from many sources, from the Bible to the Quran and other religious texts, to well-known philosophers, artists, activists and even politicians. The overarching lesson of this book is that humans of all walks, no matter what our beliefs, backgrounds, locations, opinions or political leanings, have things that are common to us all. There are jokes that we all know, songs that we’re all familiar with and certain moral imperatives that are hardwired into each and every one of us.
Each chapter deals with a single common phrase and at first, the meaning is broken down completely. Take“Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder,” for example:
When we behold the apparent perfection of Garbo’s face, or of the andante movement of Beethoven’s seventh or of Michael Jordan’s turnaround fade jumpshot, we’re looking into a mirror. That face, that sound, that shot is merely reflecting back to us the innate perfection (the Beauty) of the awareness (the eye) that beholds it.
From the springboard of the explanation, the author draws parallel lessons from multiple sources, giving us a new perspective on an utterly familiar saying. At the end of each chapter (which usually last less than five pages each), there are suggested exercises to practice for further development of the chapter’s main point.
In short, Why the Chicken Crossed the Road challenges us to find the hidden meaning, beauty, and teachings in our everyday. It can serve as an introduction to many different schools of thought and offers a fresh perspective on tolerance and acceptance. And it does all of this with a fantastic sense of humor and healthy dose of commonly beloved references. No matter what you think is on the other side, this book is a fun way to learn to read the signs along the road.