Wednesday, January 16, 2008

sounds kind of awful

the one thing that's been bugging me as i grow older is the desire for completion, a feeling of having succeeded. so far every taste of it has proved momentary.

for example, i felt exhilerated going up to accept a prize for a winning play, applauded by fellow theater folk. definitely could use more of that!

or making it to india. now, i thought, i've tested my travel mettle. of course, i'm dissatisfied cause i feel i could have seen and done so much more. (but the taj mahal was very grand!)

or even surgery this past week. i feel like i've done something adult, submitted to fate, accepted help (lots of it). instead of taking more pills i've headed off disaster and can pee like a two-year-old. oops, maybe that's an example of regression.

still, the nagging continues. i just read this in robert henri's book 'the art spirit':

"Today must not be a souvenir of yesterday, and the struggle is everlasting. Who am I today? What do I see today? How shall I use what I know, and how shall I avoid being a victim of what I know? Life is not repetition."

gadzooks, now that's a challenge. and a particularly american one: you can never rest on your laurels. production is a must. and you have to top what you've done before or be considered a failure. yet i've experienced people's personalities as unchanging, unless there's brain damage. we're unique, despite our desire to conform and be ordinary.

so, there is another way (and it may merely be a redefinition of henri's terms). at the very beginning of 'the tao of photography' by tom ang, the author quotes 'the tao te ching': "To follow the Way removes the need for fulfillment."


now, i've listened to the whole text of the tao at least a dozen times while on the road (stephen mitchell trans.) and yet never heard this line. even in the sixties, visiting the united nations, i wrote down taoism as my religion. how did i miss this quote? perhaps i had to be old enough to hear it.

what does it mean? that's another matter. the way i take it the great sage means that prizes, india, and surgery are simply part of the Way, that the journey is the goal. of course, if i were enlightened, every day would be different!!! i'd experience and recognize the fact no two leaves and no two snowflakes are exactly alike.

alas, i'm not enlightened and don't hope to be. the wheel keeps turning. yet, maybe, just maybe, i'll escape the nagging suspicion i've done nothing of what i wanted to do, though that's what i thought i was doing all along. for pictures of the journey. (i did invent string theory in my 20's, thinking 'everything is actually happening at once. only our consciousness is linear. but never published this, unfortunately, another escape from fame.)