I must have laughed because my daughter said, "Daddy, you're really happy. Is today your best day ever?"
Without hesitation I said, "Yes." And not because things had worked out for me, but because today is the only day I'll ever have. It's like Ram Dass said, "Be here now." After all, what other choice do you have?
I realized it right then and there, and her words were a kind of koan. And like many koans, her words were challenging me to let go of my usual mental habits and just see (or act or speak, as the case may sometimes be). Not to make anything. Stop confusing my thoughts for reality. I think that's what Linji meant by the Person of No Rank--a person completely free, unencumbered by attachment and delusion.
And at that moment I completely saw.
If today isn't the best day of my life, I'm in big trouble because then I'm living in a fantasy land. From a Zen perspective, everything other than this present moment is imaginary. So how could I ever think that any other moment is better than this one right now? When you really think about it, it's insane to trade the present for any other moment; it really is.
And yet we do it all the time. We chase tomorrow while trying to forget about yesterday. Or the other way around.
What I'm learning from koan and huatou practice--on a deeper than intellectual level--is how not to make anything. The Way is bright and clear before our eyes, and it always has been. All we need to do is stop our delusive thinking and see it clearly. And that means not trading the present moment, wherever we are and whatever we are doing, for some imaginary alternate reality.
Because an uncomfortable reality is better than a mental fantasy any day, for the sheer reason that it's real. That's what Zen means to me at this stage in my practice: waking up to what's real and seeing delusion for what it is.
So I just said "Yes" to my daughter and sipped my Iced Coffee. I didn't explain all this to her, because why spoil it by making something else? That's like trying to hang a picture in the air.
I just enjoyed my free coffee, the drive, my daughter's company, the cool air lapping at my face--the entire moment. I hope you do too.