Thursday, February 12, 2009


Our possibilities in this world are circumscribed and provided by the fact that, as is asserted in both Buddhist and Shambhala tradition, the human realm is formed as a realm of desire. Our lives are conditioned by our desires and an unending effort to find happiness by giving them perceptible form. Language carries us from the silence of unspecified longings and wants into the articulation of specific passions (as both subjects and objects). In our arts, we explore this condition, and we evolve techniques to share our discoveries. This is true whether the field of endeavor be in sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, or understanding.

Out of this set of circumstances, we extend our hearts far beyond the constraints of our time and place and individuality. Out of solitude and love, the deep bond of our sheer humanness allows us to share in worlds that might otherwise be inaccessible.

Here for instance is a poem by Su Tung Po who was one of the great exemplary scholar-poet-officials of the Song Dynasty. His life was subject to the rigors of political instability and his accomplishments were scholarly, artistic, and administrative which last include re-designing the system of dams and channels in the West Lake district. He wrote this poem:

‘On a Boat, Awake at Night’

Faint wind rustles reeds and cattails;
I open the hatch, expecting rain – moon floods the lake.
Boatmen and water-birds dream the same dream;
A big fish splashes off like a frightened fox.
It’s late – men and creatures forget each other
While my shadow and I amuse ourselves alone.
Dark tides creep over the flats – I pity the cold mud-worms;
The setting moon, caught in a willow, lights a dangling spider.
Life passes swiftly, hedged by sorrow;
How long before you’ve lost it – a scene like this?
Cocks crow, bells ring, a hundred birds scatter;
Drums pound from the bow, shout answers shout.

(line 12, the drums indicate the boat is under way.)
(-tr.Burton Watson, Su Tung-p’o Copper Canyon Press, 1994, p.77)

Moon, water, sleep here have a presence, a mystery and are pregnant in a way that it might be difficult for a contemporary man or woman to contact within this modern world.

This moment has disappeared more irrevocably than perhaps even the poet could have imagined. And yet, here it is, so true, so poignantly alive that our hearts are bound together in that one moment across time.

As in this:
Little Jimmy Scott audio : Day by Day

No comments: