Many thanks to Tristan Morris for creating a beautiful illustrated hardcover print edition of the site


Master Bawan came upon a monk struggling with the photocopy machine. The monk was jabbing buttons in frustration, but the copier sat silent.

Bawan shooed the boy away, saying: “Machines can sense desperation. It unsettles them.” The master calmly pressed buttons one by one, pausing to breathe between each. The machine chugged to life, and the desired copies began to appear.

The monk asked, “How is it that so simple a thing can sense the subtleties of emotion?”

Bawan replied, “The lake knows when the wind is angry, for she wrinkles her face and slaps the shore.”

The monk considered this.

At length he said, “When the physician senses my distress, she attends to my needs. The designers of this machine’s user interface would do well to follow her example.”

Bawan raised a finger. “Even the finest physician will give you no relief if you only howl in pain and rend your garments. Instead, draw a deep breath and try the Four Words of Distress.”

The monk asked, “What are these ‘Four Words’?”

The master said, “From least to greatest comfort given, they are: Help, Cancel, and Undo. Offer them all to users of your own interfaces, and when they have departed they will say, ‘Here labors a physician of supreme compassion, who understands our fallibilities and spares us from self-harm!’”

The monk said, “You spoke of but three words. What is the fourth?”

Bawan hit the Off button and went out.