Wednesday, September 2, 2009

From the Story of the Stone

Are you a poet? Then write down your poem. A novelist? Write your novel.

Our poems and novels live inside of us. Why are we trying to effect things? We only need to begin . . .

I am a slave to anticipation. I anticipate every hour of the day from the moment I wake up. And for as much as my anticipation consumes me, I am always seeking distraction. Secretly I want to be free from my anticipation.

I need my friends to tell me to write. Because I will languish in my creativity, I will busy myself with things but not the thing.

A small fear grows into procrastination. It becomes like a patch of thorns and soon I'll do anything but enter that overgrown hedge--

I set out to write one blog post a day. A simple enough task. But my mind being clever came up with a way to make posts that didn't require me to write. You'll see four excellent lists I created in the last two weeks: the best online art galleries, best art and design sites, best illustration art sites, and best found image sites.

All of this marvelous list-making. I was lucky enough to have a friend who brazenly remarked, "So are you going to go the David Letterman/Peter Greenaway route again tonight, or are you going to WRITE something?"

I am full of anticipation and avoidance. I anticipate what I must do and then I avoid it.

And now, I recall a famous passage from The Story of the Stone by Cao Xuequin (1715-63) . . .

But first some background on the story. An unambitious scholar leads an uneventful life until he encounters a Taoist and a Buddhist in a dream. He asks the two immortals to enlighten him about the workings of karma. They instead allow him to glimpse the "Stone" on which is written the experience leading to his enlightenment.(1)

He doesn't "get it" however until much later. He forgets the dream and the inscription on the Stone. After his daughter is kidnapped and a number of terrible events befall him, he comes across a limping Taoist on the street, chanting verses. Only then is he ready to listen to the wisdom . . .

I won't recount the verses of the Taoist, for that you'll have to read the novel. But I will quote what the Taoist says after he chants the verses:
If you can make out 'won' and 'done' . . . you may be said to have understood; for in all the affairs of the world what is won is done, and what is done is won; for whoever has not yet done has not yet won, and in order to have won, one must first have done. I shall call my song the 'Won-done Song.'

1. Ideal and Actual in The Story of the Stone, Dore J. Levy

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Kate Sherrod said...

Another marvelous post. Reminded me of The Cult of Done (of which I am a novice acolyte)...

There are three states of being: Not knowing, action and completion.

Laugh at perfection. It is boring and keeps things from being done.

This wisdom and more from The Cult of Done Manifesto:

gingatao said...

"he does nothing, but nothing remains undone.
To conquer the world, accomplish nothing;
If you must accomplish something,
The world remains beyond conquest."
Tao Te Ching

Ben Gage said...

Thanks for the reminder, I needed that.

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