In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.
There’s just something about a stream cutting through rocks. Patient. Insistent. Effective.
“Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health.”
~Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
I have no idea what they are called, that is, how they are labeled; I don’t need to know that to enjoy them, only that they are right outside of my front door, a few steps away.
Picking chrysanthemums along the eastern fence,
gazing in silence at the southern hills,
the birds fly home in pairs,
through the soft mountain air of dusk.
In all these things there is a deep meaning,
but when we’re about to express it,
we suddenly forget the words.
I ran into this poem in the book, What is Tao, by Alan Watts and thought it fit perfectly in line with a couple of posts that I read, one from Ken, one from Cedric. Frequently, words, serial devices, cannot express the complexities of the universe. We can know, intuit, but never put that understanding, the wholeness, the richness into words, after all, how do you describe a color to someone who’s never seen it, or taste, or even a smell. Perhaps it is not translatable. Words are insufficient, only the experience suffices.
I’ve heard some say that the notes make the music, while others say it’s the spaces. I would think that it is a balance, like yin and yang. You need both. Today was a very busy day. Just a few minutes ago, I was sitting quietly, thinking about all that I had accomplished for the day, feeling relaxed and productive. I walked into the bedroom and noticed the late evening sun shining through the slats of the blinds.
Of course, I got out one of my cameras and started photographing them. In this image, I liked the balance, all ways, of light and dark, empty and full. It was an enjoyable few minutes watching the light rays change positions. It was the balance to my busy day, time to simply sit and observe.
Toa Te Ching – Nine
Better to stop short than fill to the brim.
Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt.
Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it.
Claim wealth and titles, and disaster will follow.
Retire when the work is done.
This is the way of heaven.
It’s all about balance.
Humans are a species mired in symbology. It’s part of our collective unconsciousness, I think. I can always count on my brain to have an adventure off into the land of symbols when I’m walking and all is quiet.
To most, this is a fallen tree. To my mind, at least this morning, and yesterday morning, this is a metaphor for life. Taoism says that that which is supple, is living. That which is rigid, is dead. The tree that sways in the breeze, or the storm, is the one that survives. The one that stands strong and refuses to bend, soon is uprooted or broken and dies. Architects build buildings and bridges that sway in the breeze for this very reason.
We, as a country, put a lot of faith and effort into being strong. Just look at this country. The only remaining “super power”. We have our hands in everything. We want our economy to be number one. We want our money to be number one. We want our education to be number one. We put lots and lots of effort into being number one, out front, rarely, if ever, yielding. Yet, with all of this effort, force, and rigidity, we are bound to break. As a citizen of this country, sometimes I adopt that attitude personally.
Lately, I’ve been getting a massage on a monthly basis. Last week, my masseuse said: Wow! Your back muscles are really tight. What’s going on with you? I told her that I had some personal issues that I’d been ‘dealing’ with. She rubbed the knots out and said that I needed to come back in a week and take at least a 90 minute session so that she could spend about an hour on my back alone! It really was tight.
A few days prior, I had been having ‘discussions’ and things were not going my way. I kept forcing the issue, trying to get things to go my way, which made sense to me; Eventually, rather than fighting the wind, I just hoisted my sail and went with the wind and let it carry me where it would. I felt a lot better, even though things didn’t go my way. The pain that had been in my back subsided, but I guess that the muscles remained tense.
Had she seen my on the previous Wednesday, she might have been really alarmed. I was in knots everywhere. She would have probably said that I needed a 3 hour massage!
So, this tree was a reminder of a lesson that I keep learning over and over. Bend. Yield. Be supple and pliant. Live. I hear it Tai Chi all the time. Flow. Redirect force, don’t oppose it. Yield.
At least the intervals of the lessons are further apart now because, sometimes, I really do get it. LOL Yet, sometimes, I have to be reminded, yet again, by a tree that didn’t bend in the wind, but stayed strong and broke.
“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised. ~~Chinua Achebe”
Finally, I am able to share some things that I had not been able to share earlier, or didn’t feel comfortable doing while employed with a defense contractor.
From 1986 until 1992, I worked for Raytheon, a defense contractor. At the time, they were known as E-Systems, Garland Division. When I left there I swore to myself never to return to defense contract work, especially in any capacity that required a secret clearance or above. There were no noble reasons behind it, I just didn’t like the hassle of the clearance and all that it entailed. The invasion of privacy, big brother and all that.
Flash forward to July 2008, 16 years outside of defense. I took another job as an employee of a government contractor. Never say never. I didn’t give it too much of a thought. I needed a job, so I went back in. It was the closest thing that I could get to home. Problem solved … at least for the first 10 months, or so. As part of the job, we had to pay a visit to an Air Force base in Jacksonville, Florida around the June timeframe, I think. Let’s call it June 2009. The four of us were looking forward to going and getting to see the aircraft where our software would be installed.
The first day was a travel day, nothing doing until the next morning. The next morning, we got up, met in the lobby, and ate breakfast together. A couple of our sponsors were there, so we ate with them. As we ate, somehow the conversation turned to work and the ‘hopes’ for the system. Talk turned to kill ratios, and effective kill zones, and the efficiency of killing. Talk continued about bad guys and how they deserved to be killed and that the system that we were working on would allow the Navy to have a lower cost per kill. Truthfully, I was speechless, almost tearful. I was embarrassed. I sat mute.
The rest of the stay was pretty gray for me. I was in the dumps, but didn’t share my opinions with anyone else. Everyone else, it seemed, was into it and proud of the system. I, on the other hand was seriously conflicted. I thought: I spend all of this time, after work, marveling at the wonder that life is and appreciating all living things, but by day, I lend my abilities to death and destruction. I am a willing participant.
I sat with these feelings for months and months and finally decided to have a discussion with my wife. She told me that if that was how I felt, and she understood, then I should just quit immediately and find a job back home. I started looking, but none were available. Obviously, I kept the job, but the wind had gone out of my sails. The project, though a demo, was a success and lauded by a great many. Certainly, had I not be there to do it, they would have gotten someone else to do it and it might well have been a success.
Eventually, I moved onto another project that was basically administrative in nature. It gathered data, but deep down, it gathered data for the purposes of staging attacks, etc. Sigh. When the the word came down that I had been let go, it was a disappointment in that my ego felt a bit bruised, after all, I had been doing a good job. Later, after a few days, I felt rather elated and didn’t know why. One morning, while meditating, the answer popped up. You are no longer in conflict about your job.
Looking back, I wish that I had had the ability to pull out right as the conflict hit, but as I’m learning, sometimes you just have to sit with things and they will resolve themselves for the betterment of everyone.
Shadows for a while – Ilford HP5+ Rodinal – 1:50 – Leica M6
The other day I posted a question on Paul Maxim’s blog: Why must someone surprise you? Today, he posted a response to that question with this post. It was a very well thought out post, worth the read. I have already posted a response to his post and I will do my best to NOT repeat it here, but instead to go into a different direction.
Monte, here’s another one of those random, pool ball shots that my brain takes. This post has been on my mind for some time. If you’ve read for any time, you know of my affinity for Tao, Zen, and now meditation. These things, together, naturally form a different way of looking at things that is, in my own words, very un-Western. I like quiet. I like sitting. I like solitude. I like exploring things again and again, digging deeper and deeper, trying to get a feeling for “it”. At this time, I don’t feel the smallest need to try new things, photographically. I’m not against it, but I just don’t feel compelled the way that I used to.
I’ve been reading John Daido Loori’s book, The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating your Artistic Life. There is much in the book but it needs to be read slowly, deliberately. But, I shall not delve into “art”, but just the concept of authenticity and what it means to me. However, the one thing that I notice is that his work is not ground breaking, new, or shocking. It is, in a word, simple and, more important to me, authentic.
I don’t mind hopping from subject to subject, trees, sky, water, sand, people, back to sand, whatever. All that I’m doing is exploring. From time to time, when I have a group of photos up, without really looking, I’ll see some themes and wonder about them for a time. I, for example, wondered why, oh why, do I have so many images of small people under big skies? I finally figured it out last week, I think. It’s rather personal, so I’ll keep that one to myself, but the one thing that I can see is that my photographs are authentic. They are truthful. They are mine. When I go out, I usually don’t have anything in mind, other than to shoot.
Lately, the fascination has been shadows and I think that I might know what that’s about, but perhaps not.
Authenticity, I think, is what I’m shooting for, if there is any goal whatsoever. To be truthful, not impressive, nor original. In my travels through the software world over the past 25 years, there’s always some new technology, or at first blush, it appears to be new, but in reality, it is the same old thing with a different coat of paint. It appears to be a different way to solve the same problems. Ultimately, all of software, it seems comes down to CRUD (Create, Retrieve, Update, Delete), there are just different ways of doing it. Nothing original, but many different, authentic ways to provide a solution.
This is certainly NOT a post damning new things. It is a post that is in favor of being willing to go against the grain of ‘newness’ in favor of exploration of what may already be known … partially. To not play to the crowd. Though, in truth, I am affected by the crowd at times by the pictures that I select to go with the post, but I’m working on that.
So, what about challenging yourself, as the mantra goes? Challenging yourself doesn’t necessarily mean moving on to something different, new, unfamiliar. It could mean getting to know, even better, that which is already known. It could mean having the courage to explore deeper.