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Emerson on the human condition

Feeling blah and still aching from the shoulder where I crashed down, quite incorrectly, during a speedy Aikido roll on Monday, I was surprised and encouraged by these lines discovered during my morning reading, and so I share them for you.

“Every man beholds his human condition with a degree of melancholy. As a ship aground is battered by the waves, so man, imprisoned in mortal life, lies open to the mercy of coming events.”

“God enters by a private door into every individual.”

“Our spontaneous action is always the best.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Intellect” in The Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Modern Library edition, p. 293-94.

Hang in there. You are not alone.

And some pretty pictures to remind us of what lovely things we can hold and create and appreciate, with our hands and simply by walking outside in nature, despite being shipwrecked in morality!

Featured is Alice in Wonderland Quilt No. 4, photographed yesterday at Green Lake in Seattle, WA.

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Zen philosophy

ten days left: a Zen rebuff of Bachelard?

Shi Wuling Path to Peace

Today’s thought from Path to Peace seems at first glance to¬†present a sound rebuff of the sentimentalism of Gaston Bachelard that I quoted yesterday. In her reflections, Venerable Wuling stresses facts we must admit, such as: to be alive is already to be dying a little every day, every action is ephemeral, and all love will end.

Grim realities.

Or are they really that grim? And do they truly rebuff Bachelard’s perspective? I think rather that they are complementary. They describe human realities at different levels of magnification–from the laser-like focus on the subtle perceptions of individual thinkers living with the material world in Bachelard to the Olympian scope of a Zen sage, who from a distant and dispassionate perspective looks over eons of growth, blossoming, and death in endless cycles. Both may be right, depending on how you look at things.

Although the Zen writings seem depressing, perhaps they are rather to be read as incitements to resist the inevitable! to enjoy every minute or at least accept it, out of mischief if for no other reason. Just to spite the fates, like a trickster in your own life.

June 17

four things are constant:

no world lasts forever

but will be swept away;

it is no shelter

and protects not;

one will leave everything behind

in passing to the next life;

life is incomplete

and unsatisfying.

¬†Shuling Wu, Path to Peace, “June 17.”

I prefer the entry for June 16 instead:

one who is free

from desire and sorrow

leaves all fetters behind

to pass beyond birth and death.

like a swan rising from a lake,

he moves on in peace

never looking back.

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