Spoiling the skein

Saturday June 18, 2005

So today I went a’surfing. From one thing to another, with pauses for thought, and breaks for more coffee. I often spend a few hours like this, not so much following links as searching them out as thought leads to source and source to thought. I sometimes wish I were a more organized surfer and often wish I were a more organized thinker. Or perhaps not, in either case for if I were to record, annotate and cross reference all the trains of thought and avenues of exploration I follow in the course of a day, a week, a month… I’d need an entire wiki of my own and the maintenance of it would soon replace thought and exploration itself.

It’s fun sometimes, though, to keep notes. And sometimes to work them up into a record of a traverse across the wilder faces of the landscape of my days.

This is how my surfing session went today. All the links open in new windows, so you’ll be able to get back here. If you want to, that is…

It started when I found this on whiskey river:

“But I’d better say: I have no religion. I don’t need any, don’t practice any, I don’t pray, don’t meditate, don’t confess and don’t atone, I am no sinner and no saint, no eremite and no philosopher. I just live, amidst this colourful world, again and again enjoying the experience of the immediate nearness and the deep community with every thing existing, and based on the insight that everything belongs to one all embracing totality which becomes manifest in me like in all other things, and so gives me the security to live in the present, to enjoy day by day whatever they may bring.”

That got me to thinking about the way people I’ve never heard of—and I’ve no recollection of meeting with Yun-Men before—say or have said things that relate precisely to me, to the way I am today, and I shall never know their words. So I went looking for Yun-Men, who he was… I sort of guessed he was a Zen master or something similar, but an exceptional one if he actually put as many words as this together without hitting a student over the head, or burping, or doing something deeply and incorrigibly human to add mystery to the statement.

First off, I didn’t find a biographical note on Yun-Men. I got diverted instead by a quote from Walt Whitman, on a page from the Zen Mountain Monastery, containing a transcription of a “Dharma Talk” given by by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei. This contained the following quote from a poem by Walt Whitman:

Oh me, man of slack faith so long,
Standing aloof, denying portions so long,
Only aware today of compact all-diffused truth,
Discovering today there is no lie or form of lie, and can be none,
but grows as inevitably upon itself as the truth does upon itself,
Or as any law of the earth or any natural production of the earth does.
This is curious and may not be realized immediately, but it must be realized.
I feel in myself that I represent falsehoods equally with the rest,
And that the universe does.
from Walt Whitman’s ‘All is Truth’

Truth eh? That’s a stony path to follow. Oh, lawks, but this could take me off into either Yun-Men, Zen Masters, or Walt Whitman, or Truth. Not a bad combination that, when I come to think of it. But I want to fasten down in one direction or I shall get completely lost. Time for a coffee…

Right, first thing is to get Yun-Men tracked down and tidied away. Seems he’s an elusive chappie, and a whole line of research would be needed to find him out entirely. Haven’t the inclination to do that. Suffice to say that Yunmen, or Wenyen (also known as Yun-men Wen-yen, Ummon Bun’en), lived from 864-949 and said some awful clever things that’d be well worth the research some time. Loads and loads of references to him all over the web but if there’s a straight chronological account I can’t find it. Mind you, I do know that straight chronological accounts and Zen Masters aren’t usually concepts that live too happily together.

Walt Whitman is of course, another matter. Documented fully all over the place and while I know I’d find out something new, I don’t feel inclined to retrace old paths, not today, anyway. So I’ll leave that.

Truth however, seems as elusive as Yun-Men, as intangible as the teachings of Zen Masters. I’ll leave that for another day, too.

So I had another cup of coffee, closed a lot of windows, and got back to whiskey river, looking for another interesting blog, from a list containing many references I’ve not seen before.

It’s a good list, with lots of intriguing links to interesting people and faraway places, and munchy things on the way. Like this wonderful snack of a Raymond Chandler quote, found on eudaemonist:

I was sitting on the side of my bed in my pyjamas, thinking about getting up, but not yet committed. I didn’t feel very well, but I didn’t feel as sick as I ought to, not as sick as I would feel if I had a salaried job. My head hurt and felt large and hot and my tongue was dry and had gravel on it and my throat was stiff and my jaw was not untender. But I had had worse mornings.
from ‘Farewell, My Lovely’

That so perfectly describes the way I feel on a lot of mornings, but… I didn’t feel like chasing after Raymond Chandler, though. Another days perhaps.

So, back to whiskey river and on to ego logical, where I found a small poem that’s greater than the sum of its words:

that is one ugly poem
you have written
it’s gonna take a lot more
scratch on your part
to put that in the ground
and have it blossom

Oh, how well I know the need to do a lot of scratching before something will blossom. I’ll probably get into trouble for saying this, but I reckon there’s a bit of Frost in there, somewhere. But then, when you’re cultivating something, seeking to make it blossom, a good stiff frost helps prepare the ground.

Anyway, having got here, I thought I’d have a wander through ego logical’s list of links. Another good list, too…

And then, real life claimed me, so I closed all the open windows, splashed cold water over my face, and we went off to Tesco’s for weekend provisioning before the day got too hot.

But it did get hot. It got very hot. It got so hot my t-shirt was wet and, when I took it off, I was glistening. Now I have to tell ya, when you’re young and your body has something of the virile about it, glistening is good. It’s sexy, even. When you get older and a bit on the portly side, well, instead of sexy, it’s something best not put into words. Unless you’re into damp, albino slugs, that is.

So I made lunch, had a nap, woke in a Chandler state, showered, came back to my computer hoping to pick up my surf session where I’d left it and… I’d lost it.

Hey ho. I used to have the determination to find the end in a tangle of wool, and spend hours doing it. Now, I just scoop the whole thing up, drop it in the bin, and pull out a new skein, all clean, unused, and ready for action.

I shall spoil that skein tomorrow.



One response to “Spoiling the skein

  1. Pingback: It doesn’t really matter any more « journal of a writing man

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