Jakob Reiter

Entrepreneur, chief nerd and digital humanist

Koans for Developers

What is a koan in Zen?

koan, Japanese Kōan, in Zen Buddhism is a succinct paradoxical statement or question used as a meditation discipline for novices. The effort to “solve” a koan is intended to exhaust the analytic intellect and the egoistic will, readying the mind to entertain an appropriate response on the intuitive level. Each such exercise constitutes both a communication of some aspect of Zen experience and a test of the novice’s competence.

#20: Most intimate

One day Master Foo met a developer on the road and asked, “Where are you going?”
The developer said, “I am on a pilgrimage, following the technology hype.”
Master Foo inquired, “What are you on a pilgrimage for?”
The developer responded, “I don’t know.”
“Ah!” said Master Foo, “not knowing is most intimate.”
The developer suddenly attained great enlightenment.

#6 White and Back

A developer asked the CTO: “Apart from code quality, beyond SCRUM, please tell me directly, the meaning of Software Development.”
The CTO said, “I am tired today, I can’t explain it to you. Go and ask the VP of Engineering.”
The developer asked the VP about it.
The VP said, “Why don’t you ask our CTO?”
The developer said, “I was told to ask you.”
The VP said, “I have a headache today, I can’t explain it to you. Go and ask a senior developer.”
The developer asked a senior developer about it, who said: “I don’t understand nothing about that question.”
The developer told the CTO about it.
The CTO said, “the VP’s head is white, the senior developer’s head is black.”

#39: Write some code

A junior dev told the CTO: ”I have just joined the company. I beg you to teach me.” 
The CTO asked, “Have you setup you IDE?” 
The junior replied, “I have.” 
“Then,” said the CTO, “Go and write some code.” 
At that moment the junior was enlightened.

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