They say that time goes faster after you pass sixty. No question about it, it’s true. Where are the long, lazy summers of my youth when I sat moping from morning till night unable to think of anything interesting to do? I recollect walking up to a mirror and repeating with greater and greater conviction, “Life is boring.” On such days, the old clock barely budged, just to spite me. You fool, I’m thinking today, that was pure bliss. The mystery of happiness was right there in that cheap clock your mother bought at Woolworth. Time graciously came to a stop in it; eternity threw open its doors and you hesitated or grew wary on its threshold and breathed a sigh of relief when the door shut in your face and the hand of the clock moved on.
When you start to think of the arts as not this thing that is going to get you somewhere in terms of becoming an artist or becoming famous or whatever it is that people do, but rather a way of making being in the world not just bearable, but fascinating, then it starts to get interesting again.
Shiro Kasamatsu (Japan, 1898-1991), Hazy evening at Shinobazu Pond, Ueno Park, Tokyo, 1932. Color woodblock print, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Thank you, arsvitaest.
Saints and bodhisattvas may achieve what Christians call mystical union or Buddhists call satori—a perpetual awareness of the force at the heart of things. For these enlightened few, the world is always lit. For the rest of us, such clarity comes only fitfully, in sudden glimpses or slow revelations. Quakers refer to these insights as ‘openings.’ When I first heard the term … I thought of how, on an overcast day, sunlight pours through a break in the clouds. After the clouds drift on, eclipsing the sun, the sun keeps shining behind the veil, the memory of its light shines on in the mind.
Everywhere transience is plunging into the depths of Being… It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again, “invisibly,” inside us. We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, writing to his Polish translator about writing the Duino Elegies
Painting: Isaac Levitan (Russian, 1860-1900) Water Lilies, Oil on canvas, 1895. With thanks to arsvitaest.
… All this has always been familiar to the theologians, in whose writing Satan is so often referred to simply as “the enemy.” For example, William Law [in The Spirit of Love]: “You are under the power of no other enemy, are held in no other captivity, and want no other deliverance but from the power of your own earthly self. This is the one murderer of the divine life within you. It is your own Cain that murders your own Abel.” And [again, in An Address to the Clergy] “self is the root, the tree, and the branches of all the evils of our fallen state…Satan, or which is the same thing, self exaltation…This is that full-born natural self that must be pulled out of the heart and totally denied, or there can be no disciple of Christ.” If, indeed, “the kingdom of heaven is within you,” then also the “war in heaven” will be there, until Satan has been overcome, that is, until the Man in this man is “master of himself…”
–Ananda K. Coomaraswamy from PARABOLA, Volume 6, Number 4: Demons.
Photograph: Frank Eugene, Adam and Eve, 1900s
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