Wednesday, July 25, 2007


This is a repost from my old AOL Journal which I left after AOL put Ads on the journals of its paying members. That's why, by the way, this blog is called "exile edition."

Cynthia recently posted something about having a "calling" and I thought I remembered doing an entry at the AOL Journal about "the call." I wanted to repost it for her. But I couldn't find it. However, I did find this one. I wrote it back in 2004, not long after I started the journal. It seems to me to be relevant to a good number of things in my life right now:
The word "seek" is etymologically related, not to "see," as might appear to be the case, but to "sagacious." What is needed is not simply seeing but a quality of discernment regarding what is seen, a piercing insight that looks deeper than mere surface appearances. --Natalie Baan

Being a writer also means being a seeker. This means finding the clear path to my creativity, which is the same as finding a clear path to my "self."

Life's troubles, like the devil, can waylay you as you try to walk the path. The path is the way, in other words, freedom. The Chinese call this concept tao. They were well aware how easy it is to lose one's path. Lao-tzu wrote, "Heaven and earth are ruthless. To them the ten thousand things are but strawdogs. Life imposes its troubles on us and is indifferent to our longings and fears."

As a writer I want to aspire to be a sage, one who understands the tao of things and is not unduly disturbed. I don't want to become entangled with everything I meet and become untrue to myself. Chuang-tzu says of people who are untrue to themselves: "Day after day they use their minds in strife. Their little fears are mean and trembly; their great fears are stunned and overwhelming."

I want to become a person true to myself, my path. "The 'True Person'of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu lives fully in the world without being overwhelmed by its frenzy and muddle. He is impervious to the social pressures bearing down on him. 'He can commit an error and not regret it, meet with success and not make a show.'"

Lao-tzu says the way of the sage is like water, which "benefits the ten thousand creatures; yet itself does not scramble, but is content with the places that all men disdain."

Can the way of the writer, then, be like water? A flowing and nourishing act? That is how I would like writing to be for me.

Everything is a pitfall for the unwary and the faithless. And nothing is a pitfall for the courageous seeker who just shakes it off like a bear. --Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari

Ideas about tao taken from Stephen Batchelor's "The Devil in the Way."


Erin said...

I especially love the final quote by Rajagopalachari. "...shakes it off like a bear." I'll save this one and post it on my bulletin board by my writing desk.

I thought it was interesting that you said as a writer, you want to be a sage, one who understands but is not disturbed. This reminds me of an entry you wrote a week or so ago about the writer's distance and how when you're in the midst of a work (like those who filmed suicides from the bridge), you take a step back. I wonder if that is wrapped up in the tao.

Theresa Williams said...

I wonder if that is wrapped up in the tao.
Erin, What a wonderful observation. I had not made that connection. This gives me something to think about. Maybe I am getting closer to naming that necessary "detachment." Thank you!

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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

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