Down on the edge of the Thames in evening light to visit an exhibition. Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective. Sitting on a step resting my feet saw the neon sign and then the artists write up (bit blurred). Left me pondering.
London is abuzz and it’s been a good couple of days. Notable was a visit to US Embassy for visa interview this morning. Even pleasant.
Back north tomorrow.
You are not to know
The story behind this
And I do wonder if that actually matters. The story that is. Four images taken at different times and places and all have much to say. Or rather I’ve, potentially much to say.
What they have in common is a path, one that I’ve walked and probably others too. All with their own unique tale to tell, even the sheep! That’s now faded into the past yet the images remain in my mind and they too will fade. Given half the chance.
The path though? The multi dimensional path, on the ground, in ones mind and where that path leads. Up a hill,….and there goes my alarm telling me I have to go and catch a train to London.
Somebody suggested to me the other day that walking was a creative act in that it is making manifest an intention. I’ve been doing quite a bit of creative work recently!
The following is from a chap who has just had a tumor removed from his brain and is now inevitably contemplating mortality and how he approaches the life he has left to live.
The story which seems to make more sense to me than at any time in the past is this one:
A man walking across a field encounters a tiger. He fled, the tiger chasing after him. Coming to a cliff, he caught hold of a wild vine and swung himself over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Terrified, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger had come, waiting to eat him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little began to gnaw away at the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine in one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!
The following is a copy of a Facebook ‘post’ sent to me by the author who wanted me to have the opportunity to choose a book. Publishing here because….well, you can imagine why because.
An Exercise in Letting Go (Or, ‘Let me give you a book.’)
For a long time, I’ve felt like the dozens of books I take with me from place to place, and the hundreds more in various storage locations, are like horcruxes (look up that word). I’ve felt that each is an intimately personal treasure, close to my hand, or locked away safely with the people I trust the most. In reading them, they changed me, and with my highlighting, my underlining, and my exasperated and sarcastic annotations, I returned the favour. Saccharine as it sounds, I took them to form some part of my identity. Not just that they have supported the development of my thinking processes, perspectives on life, and prejudices, but that ‘having a lot of books’ is an important part of who I am. I am a reader. Intelligent. Intellectual. Thoughtful. Reflective. Moreover, owning an amount of books that is hopelessly impractical for my lifestyle choice (fairly low-earning, fairly nomadic) seemed like a sort of promissory note to myself: one day I am going to have the lifestyle that I think is befitting of these books. I suppose what I had in mind by that was being an Oxbridge don, with an office of wall-to-wall bookshelves and living to be made by thinking, reflecting, and generating and discussing ideas. But, in fits and starts, I am beginning to understand that neither attachment to some identity, nor attachment to some outcome, is doing me much good. No moment is ever going to be more worthy of my joy than right now, because right now is all I have. Letting go of an attachment to some identity; letting go of an attachment to some outcome, is letting happiness in. 🙂
Twee Buddhist sentiments aside, I’m getting rid of my books. I’m holding on to a lot of them- the stronger the attachments, the longer it’ll take to feel ready to let go. I’ve catalogued the ones I’m discarding, thanking each for what it’s taught me, and writing a small response to each: part epitaph, part sales pitch. I’m going to put them up for sale in the coming weeks, but before I do that, I want to offer each of you the gift of a book, in the hopes that I might spread a little joy your way. Yours E.
This chap is currently selling his books through the University system however when they become publicly available I’ll post the list. The epitaph/sales pitch he has written for each book is worth a read and speaks volumes.
The quote below by Wendell Berry echoes a recent text conversation with a friend. The texts referenced a decision I’d made while on an early visit to Throssel in around 1979. I’d decided I would take the steps to become ordained as a monk. My decision was set in the context of a life which had hit against a wall. And I was open. To make sure I didn’t go back on the decision I’d written a note with ‘I Know’ confirming what I ‘knew’ and put it with my toothbrush. It would be the first thing I’d see in the morning – the best of us go back on decisions especially ones which are life changing. More than one bride/bridegroom has been left standing at the altar!
The Wendell quote came recently in an email from a chap I’d met at Throssel. He was telling me about developments in his life since coming on an Introductory Retreat. Last year I believe. The words summed up an understanding he had come to.
It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
Friend: Your phrase ‘I know’ has been burning into my brain since I heard you say those words! Incredibly powerful and helpful. 6.20 pm
Me: Errm, in what context did I so impress you with my words ‘I know’? 8:56 pm
Friend: We were talking about the note you left for yourself about deciding to become a monk. It was so powerful and decisive. 10:17 am following day.
Me: Now I remember. In a sense I think one always ‘knows’ and the stuff of life is sifting through ‘the rest’! And allowing that to fall away, recycle etc. My ‘I know’ was life changing and the rest did fall into place. Magic! And still does, given patience. 10:37 am
So, The impeded stream is the one that sings. How amazing is that?