Riding within summer’s breeze with nothing to do, nothing to realize, no program, no goal to achieve…aimlessness.
To be human was to be a sentient being who remembers.*
“The third-century classic Jinshu summarized the paradox of memory: ‘Qing you yi sheng, bu yi ze wu qing.’ No words in English can capture the condensed reservations expressed in nine simple characters. The first four summarize ancient psychology: emotion is born out of remembrance. The next five advise the wise to stem this process of arousal altogether: where there is no remembrance, emotion will dissolve as well. The point, simply put, is that distress causes memory. To be sure, it is human to have feelings, but this can be curbed by a willful quieting of the emotional upheaval caused by remembrance.
“Simcha, the Hebrew word for ‘joy,’ has as its root macha, meaning ‘to remove’ or ‘wipe away.’ To be joyful, in this sense, is to be free of the tearful weight of the past.
“In the end, however, neither Chinese or Jewish rememberers settled for the peace of a memoryless world.
“The opposite of quietude can be found in the story of Lot’s wife… Here, a woman who refuses to walk away from history is turned into salt–a concrete symbol of endless weeping. Lot’s wife captures the need to remain connected to the past and dares to stand still when the known world is about to crumble. Although some might argue that Lot’s wife looked back with nostalgic regret for past pleasures, Anna Akhmatova, in the poem, ‘Lot’s Wife,’ suggest she did so out of her refusal to become deaf to the grief embedded in the past.”*
*Vera Schwarcz, Bridge Across Broken Time
in their fading,
this moment soon to follow —
shadows on the snow ~bckofford
within the present is the past and the future
Thank you for joining me as I wandered through the photographs posted on this blog throughout 2018 and shared the contemplations that accompanied them.
May each of your steps throughout the new year be accompanied with love-filled companions and joyous moments.
Should I leave this burning house
of ceaseless thoughts
and taste the pure rain’s
falling upon my skin?
Izumi Shikibu (J Hirshfield & M Aratani, The Ink Dark Moon)
Before its so-called birth, this goats beard already existed in other forms – clouds, sunshine, seeds, soil, and many other elements. Rather than birth and rebirth it is more accurate to say, “manifestation and re-manifestation”. It’s so-called birthday is really a day of its re-manifestation. It has already been here in various forms, and now it has made an effort to re-manifest.
When conditions are no longer sufficient and a plant ceases to manifest, we say it has died, but that is not correct either. Its constituents have merely transformed themselves into other elements.
A raindrop resting upon the fragile lace of goats beard, a pesky weed, an amazing umbrella for Thumbelina. It has been told that an old widowed woman planted a seed given to her from a good witch and within the flower that grew from that seed was a little girl no bigger than the old woman’s thumb. Fairy tales can be somewhat dark, but not the story of Thumbelina.
When it comes–just so!
When it goes–just so!
Both coming and going occur each day.
The words I am speaking now–just so!
~Musho Josho (Y Hoffmann: Japanese Death Poems)
Won’t you sing?
I will get up and dance.
How can I sleep
with the timeless
moon this evening?
~Ryokan (K Tanahashi: Sky Above, Great Wind)
In the mountain shade,
water in the moss
drips between rocks.
I feel a glimmer of clarity.
~Ryokan (K Tanahashi: Sky Above, Great Wind)
“My mother was remarkably slight, under five feet I should say, and I do not think that she was unusual for her time. I can put the matter strongly: women in those days had almost no flesh. I remember my mother’s face and hands, I can clearly remember her feet, but I can remember nothing about her body. She reminds me of the statue of Kannon in the Chuguji, whose body must be typical of most Japanese women of the past. The chest as flat as a board, breasts paper-thin, back, hips, and buttocks forming an undeviating straight line, the whole body so lean and gaunt as to seem out of proportion with the face, hands, and feet, so lacking in substance as to give the impression not of flesh but of a stick–must not the traditional Japanese woman have had just a physique? A few are still about–the aged lady in an old-fashioned household, some few geisha. They remind me of stick dolls, for in fact they are nothing more than poles upon which to hang clothes. As with the dolls their substance is made up of layer of clothing, bereft of which only an ungainly pole remains. But in the past this was sufficient. For a woman who lived in the dark it was enough if she had a faint, while face–a full body was unnecessary. …we…create a kind of beauty of the shadows we made in out-of-the-way places…we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.”
~Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, (In Praise of Shadows, pp.29-30)