Mar. 25th, 2009 02:57 pm
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Hook was not his true name. To reveal who he really was would even at this date set the country in a blaze; but as those who read between the lines must already have guessed, he had been at a famous public school; and its traditions still clung to him like garments, with which indeed they are largely concerned. Thus it was offensive to him even now to board a ship in the same dress in which he grappled her, and he still adhered in his walk to the school's distinguished slouch. But above all he retained the passion for good form.

Good form! However much he may have degenerated, he still knew that this is all that really matters.

From far within him he heard a creaking as of rusty portals, and through them came a stern tap-tap-tap, like hammering in the night when one cannot sleep. "Have you been good form to-day?" was their eternal question [...] Most disquieting reflection of all, was it not bad form to think about good form?

[...] To tell poor Smee that [the children] thought him lovable! Hook itched to do it, but it seemed too brutal. Instead, he revolved this mystery in his mind: why do they find Smee lovable? He pursued the problem like the sleuth-hound that he was. If Smee was lovable, what was it that made him so? A terrible answer suddenly presented itself--"Good form?"

Had the bo'sun good form without knowing it, which is the best form of all?
-- J.M. Barrie, Peter and Wendy (or Peter Pan, if you must)

I've read a handful of translations of the Tao te Ching, several commentaries thereon, a few books of koans ... but this passage, right here, by a Scottish author no less, still articulates the central idea in a way that's dearest to my heart.


Nov. 21st, 2005 10:35 am
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As I write this, it's been foggy for three straight days here in Seattle, and I find myself childishly delighted with it. I can't remember the last time this happened -- I'm used to fog being entirely ephemeral, here in the morning or at night, burned away by the heat of the day.

Everything is still and quiet and white and beautiful, the effect of snow without the bitter cold and treacherous footing. It's shrouded and mysterious. Gothic weather.

People say they're "in a fog" when they're confused, distracted. Fog is an obstacle. If I were navigating a ship, cut off from stars and landmarks, I might see the truth of that metaphor. But being out driving, I find that there are no gaudy business signs, no billboards, clamoring for my attention. My world is reduced to what I need to pay attention to, what's right in front of me. I only have to think about how to handle the task at hand in this single moment.

It's a nice state to be in.


May. 1st, 2004 12:13 pm
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Chi Hsing-tzu was raising a fighting cock for his lord. After ten days, the lord asked, "Is he ready?" Chi answered, "No, sir, he is still vain and flushed with rage."

Ten days passed, and the prince asked about the cock. Chi said, "Not yet, sir. He is on the alert whenever he hears another cock crowing."

When the prince's inquiry came again, Chi replied, "Not quite yet, sir. His sense of fighting is still smoldering within him."

When another ten days elapsed, Chi said to the lord: "He is almost ready. Even when he hears another crowing, he shows no excitement. He now resembles one made of wood. His qualities are integrated. No cocks are his match -- they will at once run away from him."

-- Chuang-tzu


Feb. 24th, 2002 03:49 am
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I finally have my proper copy of the Tao Te Ching again. It's a pocket edition of the Stephen Mitchell translation, and I owned a copy of it years and years ago. I lost it and replaced it with the John C.H. Wu translation, and I just simply never warmed to the Wu version -- it's use of language lacks a certain flow and simplicity that the work really requires.

I found the Mitchell translation at East West Bookshop a few months back, and I reluctantly let the friend I was with talk me out of buying it for myself, since I "had a birthday coming up soon," but the implied present never materialized. But I found myself back there tonight and there was still a copy on the shelves.

I don't think I can really explain how much it means to me to have this book back in my life again. I've been reading through it and seeing again the very words that helped shape much of how I look at life and the world.

"Things arise and the Master lets them come; things disappear and he lets them go. He has but doesn't possess, acts but doesn't expect."

Today, wherever I went, I kept hearing the Beatles; on the radio in my truck, in a used CD store in the U-District, in the lobby of the Egyptian while waiting to see The Dark Crystal. Odd, like someone unseen was putting a soundtrack to my life, but not unwelcome: the Beatles have always meant effortlessness and joy to me.

It's time, I think, to remember effortlessness again -- the Tao's "non-being." I've spent the past few weeks at hand and at ready, there by [livejournal.com profile] treebyleaf's side, to support her as she was going in to her surgery and as she's been home recovering from it. I've barely been home myself. It's been relaxed and enjoyable but it's also felt, at some level, like a constant state of crisis. That's not sustainable.

The Dark Crystal was wonderful. I'd never seen it on the big screen. It was a transporting experience; I was twelve years old again. Magical.


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