On the Monday after the first budding of spring, the
entire Temple was called to assembly in the Great Hall by
old Madame Jinyu, the Abbess Over All Clans And Concerns.
Not a single person was excused—indeed, two desperately ill
monks were carried in on stretchers and hoisted upright
against the back wall, next to the propped-up corpse of a
senior nun who had died the previous Thursday without giving
the mandatory two weeks’ notice.
Directly in front of old Jinyu’s podium sat the diligent
monks of the Elephant’s Footprint Clan, who together had
mastered the arcane arts of database design and a hundred
persistence libraries. The monks had arrayed themselves in
perfect rows and columns atop low ceremonial look-up tables
that had been joined together for the occasion.
Behind the Elephant’s Footprint sat the knowledgable
monks of the Laughing Monkey Clan, who implemented the
business logic of the Temple’s many customers. So frightfully
intelligent was the behavior of their rule engines that
their codebase was rumored to be possessed by the spirits of
long-dead business analysts.
Behind the Laughing Monkey sat the prolific monks of the
Spider Clan, who built the web interfaces and services
of every Temple application. Because web technology stacks
came and went so frequently, their novices were trained to
instinctively forget everything that was no longer relevant,
lest they go mad. Curiously, though, when asked how this
Art of Forgetting worked, the monks invariably laughed and
said that there was no such Art; for if there were, they
would surely have remembered learning it.
Proud were these, the Three Great Clans of the Temple. So
it was with great dismay that they learned of Jinyu’s plans
for their future.
“In autumn, the abbot Ruh Cheen convinced us to taste
the nectar of the Agile methodology,” said old
Jinyu to her audience. “Through the winter we nibbled its
fruit and found it sweet. Now spring has arrived, and we
wish to plant the seeds of a great harvest.
“No longer will we haphazardly select monks from the Three
Clans to work on tasks as they arise. Instead, each product
will have a Tiny Clan of its own, whose members will not
“Some of you will belong to a single Tiny Clan; some to two
or three. Each Tiny Clan will have its own rules, set its own
standards, establish its own traditions. The monks of your
Tiny Clans will be your new brethren. You will work with
them, eat with them, do chores with them, and share a
hall with them.
“Tonight I will post your new assignments. Tomorrow the
Three Clans will be no more. Now, go: prepare yourselves.”
Thus did old Jinyu depart the Great Hall, to a chorus of
worried murmuring. Even the dead senior nun seemed
a trifle unhappier.
Young master Zjing turned to old Banzen
with a look that was equal parts dread and disbelief.
Said Zjing, “When the Spider learns her craft from the
Monkey and the Elephant, what manner of webs shall we see in
“Creative ones,” replied Banzen.
“And how shall we manage such ‘creativity’?” continued the
nun. “How shall we review code? How shall we mentor? How
shall we plan?”
“Differently,” said Banzen.
“You are infuriatingly calm!” scowled Zjing. “I thought
that Banzen of all people would share my concerns.”
Banzen chuckled. “When Ruh Cheen was brought into the
temple by Jinyu, you told your fellows that
the abbess is no fool. And though you were lying,
you spoke true. Jinyu sees that the new Way of the World
is not the Temple’s Way. She has chosen to follow the World.”
“She is following it over the edge of cliff,” grumbled
“Indeed!” said Banzen with a smile. “Yet what is the
Temple: a stone, or a bird?” The old master took Zjing’s
arm in his own and started for the doors, nodding his head
respectfully as they passed the dead senior nun. “I have
lived through such times before. The initial plunge is
always unsettling to the stomach, but we have yet to crash
into the rocks below.”
“So, how long must I wait before I see the Temple
sprout feathers?” asked Zjing.
“My dear young master,” said Banzen. “Did you not understand
the terms of your own promotion? We are the feathers.”