The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Monday, May 16, 2011

Less

Walt over at A Plainly Hidden View sent me an article from which there is an excerpt below. The author, Pico Iyer, is a pretty interesting guy. The full article may be read here.

Opinionator - A Gathering of Opinion From Around the Web
June 7, 2009, 10:35 pm
The Joy of Less
By PICO IYER

“The beat of my heart has grown deeper, more active, and yet more peaceful, and it is as if I were all the time storing up inner riches…My [life] is one long sequence of inner miracles.” The young Dutchwoman Etty Hillesum wrote that in a Nazi transit camp in 1943, on her way to her death at Auschwitz two months later. Towards the end of his life, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen,” though by then he had already lost his father when he was 7, his first wife when she was 20 and his first son, aged 5. In Japan, the late 18th-century poet Issa is celebrated for his delighted, almost child-like celebrations of the natural world. Issa saw four children die in infancy, his wife die in childbirth, and his own body partially paralyzed.

I’m not sure I knew the details of all these lives when I was 29, but I did begin to guess that happiness lies less in our circumstances than in what we make of them, in every sense. “There is nothing either good or bad,” I had heard in high school, from Hamlet, “but thinking makes it so.” I had been lucky enough at that point to stumble into the life I might have dreamed of as a boy: a great job writing on world affairs for Time magazine, an apartment (officially at least) on Park Avenue, enough time and money to take vacations in Burma, Morocco, El Salvador. But every time I went to one of those places, I noticed that the people I met there, mired in difficulty and often warfare, seemed to have more energy and even optimism than the friends I’d grown up with in privileged, peaceful Santa Barbara, Calif., many of whom were on their fourth marriages and seeing a therapist every day. Though I knew that poverty certainly didn’t buy happiness, I wasn’t convinced that money did either.

So — as post-1960s cliché decreed — I left my comfortable job and life to live for a year in a temple on the backstreets of Kyoto. My high-minded year lasted all of a week, by which time I’d noticed that the depthless contemplation of the moon and composition of haiku I’d imagined from afar was really more a matter of cleaning, sweeping and then cleaning some more. But today, more than 21 years later, I still live in the vicinity of Kyoto, in a two-room apartment that makes my old monastic cell look almost luxurious by comparison. I have no bicycle, no car, no television I can understand, no media — and the days seem to stretch into eternities, and I can’t think of a single thing I lack.

8 comments:

Howard said...

I've been following your blog for the last couple of weeks after becoming interested in the martial arts and zen koans, and this post is amazing. I mean, that is eye-opening. We are all trying to live the rat-race, accumulate treasures, and make ourselves look important, but the irony is what is important never was gone to begin with. There are few treasures that last as long as a life lived well and true. Thank you for all your time and effort.

Rick said...

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoy what you find here.

walt said...

The urge to reach out, to grasp at, to gobble up life and accumulate "the more", seems wired into us by our physiology.

At the same time, parts of ourselves are capable of in-sight, and wisdom -- and those parts consistently urge us to moderate, to balance, and simplify.

Rick said...

It's easy to acquire things, but harder to let them go. It's much more difficult to not be inclined to acquire them in the first place.

I think a clear mind must help. There's less of anything for "stuff" to stick to.

walt said...

"... the best thing to use is clarity."

So said, well ... you -- but also Chuang Tzu, in his Discussion on Making All Things Equal.

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nunh grader said...

I love the article. I love to "have" things but, I need not ever forget that the material means very little to the real in my life - my wife whom is everything to me and to my Mom who taught me so much and understands me so well and to all of the lovely authors - I live their experiences in this fast-paced, materialistic world.

Rick Matz said...

Welcome to Cook Ding's Kitchen.