The Way of Mrs. Cosmopilite

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The Way of Mrs. Cosmopilite is a collection of wise words from Mrs. Marietta Cosmopilite by Lu-Tze. They are usually announced by the phrase Is it not written...?, though few dare to ask where it actually is written. Most koans come from Thief of Time, some from Night Watch, two books where Lu-Tze has an important role and also the 2008 diary. They are ordered alphabetically.

Is it not written...?

  • A little soap and water never killed anyone
  • A penny saved is a penny earned.
  • A washed pot never boils. (This one was related by way of a Yeti, so it may be garbled by a mild speech impediment)
  • Because.
  • Big events always cast their shadows.
  • Bored! How can you be bored? I was never bored at your age.
  • Close the door! you weren't born in a barn.
  • Do as I say not as I do.
  • Do unto otters as you would have them do unto you. (Koan 97) (Lu-Tze mentions uncertainty about having gotten this one right)
  • Do you think I'm made of money?
  • Do you think this is a hotel? You can't come in here only to sleep.
  • Don't go out with a wet head, you'll catch cold
  • Don't make me come in there!
  • Don't talk with your mouth full.
  • Don't put that in your mouth, you don't know where it's been.
  • Don't you have anything better to do.
  • Eat it up, it'll make your hair curly.
  • Enough is enough.
  • Everything comes to he who waits.
  • Every second counts.
  • Go to your room and think about what you did!
  • Hard work never did anybody any harm.
  • How do you know you don't like it you haven't tasted it.
  • How many times do I have to tell you?
  • I can always tell when you're lying.
  • I can't be having with that kind of thing.
  • I'd forget my own head if it wasn't nailed on.
  • If a single woman sleeps with a piece of wedding cake under her pillow, she will dream of her future husband.
  • If I've told you once I've told you a million times.
  • If it were a dog, it would have bitten you
  • If the wind changes, your face will stay like that.
  • If Om had wanted you to have holes in your ears he would have put them there.
  • If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all
  • If you don't clean your plate, you won't get any dessert
  • If you don't stop crying I'll give you something to cry about.
  • If you have another one you won't have an appetite for your dinner.
  • If you keep goin' all cosmic on me you'll feel the end of my broom and no mistake.
  • If you play with fire you will wet the bed
  • If you want a thing done properly you've got to do it yourself.
  • If you feel a burning in your ears somebody is talking about you.
  • If you're too sick to work you're too sick to go out tonight
  • I haven't got all day, you know.
  • I have only one pair of hands.
  • I was not born yesterday.
  • I'll treat you like an adult when you start acting like one.
  • I'm not as green as I'm cabbage-looking.
  • I'm not always going to be around to do these things for you
  • I'm not going to ask you again
  • It does you good to get out in the fresh air.
  • It never rains but it pours.
  • It's amazing what you see if you keep your eyes open. (Koan 124)
  • It won't get better if you pick at it.
  • I've got a feeling in my water.
  • Learn to eat with a knife and fork
  • Oo, you are so sharp you'll cut yourself one of these days.
  • Say that again and I'll wash your mouth out with soap
  • Seeing is believing.
  • The big sea does not care which way the little fishes swim.
  • There is a time and a place for everything.
  • There is no time like the present.
  • There's a lot goes on we don't get told.
  • There's a lot goes on we don't know about, in my opinion.
  • We live and learn.
  • Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs.
  • When I was you age, I had to walk ten miles through the snow, uphill, by myself, every day, to go to school.
  • When you have got to go, you have got to go.
  • Wrap up warm or you'll catch your death.
  • You can't tell a book by its cover.
  • You could knock me down with a feather.
  • You never know what's going to turn up.
  • You should always wear clean underwear because you never know if you will be knocked down by a cart.
  • You've got to learn to walk before you can run.


On Roundworld, a kōan is a story, dialogue, question, or statement in the history and lore of Chán (Zen) Buddhism, generally containing aspects that are inaccessible to rational understanding, yet may be accessible to intuition. A famous kōan is: "Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?" (oral tradition, attributed to Hakuin Ekaku, 1686-1769, considered a reviver of the kōan tradition in Japan). Lu-Tze's typically irreverent answer is "cl". (Discworld's Death feels that one hand clapping is just a wave.)

Kōans originate in the sayings and doings of sages and legendary figures, usually those authorized to teach in a lineage that regards Bodhidharma (c. 5th-6th century) as its ancestor. Kōans are said to reflect the enlightened or awakened state of such persons, and sometimes said to confound the habit of discursive thought or shock the mind into awareness. Zen teachers often recite and comment on kōans, and some Zen practitioners concentrate on kōans during meditation. Teachers may probe such students about their kōan practice using "checking questions" to validate an experience of insight (kensho) or awakening. Responses by students have included actions or gestures, "capping phrases" (jakugo), and verses inspired by the kōan.

Current Issue

The Way of Mrs Cosmopilite has been released, at least in the UK, as the Discworld diary for 2008, and is currently (Nov 2007) available in British bookshops. More is revealed on the wisdom of the Way as well as the pitfalls (such as Mrs Golightly) that the unwary pilgrim may encounter in his search for wisdom.