Thursday, May 21, 2015

From ‘The Myth of Wu Tao-Tzu’ by Sven Lindqvist

Few deserts are so well taken care of as the Australian. Every stone, every bush, every waterhole has its specific owner and custodian, its sacred history and religious significance. Every holy place has its own holy picture.
The eternal truths of Aboriginal religion are expressed in the surrounding landscape…..

‘Following the summer of 1902 came a hard winter. Great numbers of the unemployed formed into processions, as many as a dozen at a time, and daily marched through the streets of London crying for bread.’
That I had never seen in Stockholm. I had never seen ‘tottery old men and women searching in the garbage for rotten potatoes, beans, and vegetables.’

……..Hermann Hesse…….. wrote an article on the task of intellectuals in war……..
The first casualty of war is the truth. Does a Japanese drama become worse because the Japanese fleet has shelled Tsingtao? Has a bad German book become superior to an English book because those countries are at war? …..
That is what they want us to think. We must refuse to participate in this deceit.
It is understandable that politicians and soldiers are blinded by hatred of the enemy. But when intellectuals are also seized by warmongering and write battle poems, boycott ‘enemy’ art and defame whole peoples – who will then defend the truth?
Goethe did not write war poems in 1813. He retained his own inner freedom and followed his intellectual conscience. Anyone who has once believed in the idea of humanity, in the universality of science, in art with no national boundaries, must not betray his conviction now that it is being put to the test. If intellectuals betray spiritual values, war will destroy the foundations of Europe. Someone must uphold peace even if the whole world is at war. Someone must attempt to preserve as much peace as possible – that is the task the future poses today.

Each stroke is irretrievable. Alteration is a mortal sin and a child can spot it. So in calligraphy it is often a matter of waiting, but never hesitating.

Calligraphy is not an art for the rebel. It is based on disciplined spontaneity, inconceivable without rules and doctrine. The doctrine is the sum of tradition: a way of performing. Mastery consists of achieving freedom in relation to tradition. And freedom consists of a kind of assimilation of the rules agreed on, so that no decision from above is necessary. Judgement can be left to the hand.

You no longer support the arrow once it has left the bow, runs an old saying.
So write nothing on the first day. Just look at the character and let it sink into your consciousness. Don’t write on the next day either. Just wait and let your desire work until the knowledge has penetrated throughout your entire body.
Wait until your hand knows it.
And nothing else.
Wait until your hand is empty and everything else has fallen out of it.
But when your entire consciousness embraces the character ande nothing else – then grind the ink, pick up the brush and give your hand the freedom of your heart. And with one strong blow, as if from the tail of a fish, your ‘self’ has vanished.
It is in your hand that everything has to be. At every moment it chooses between a thousand possibilities. It is too late to issue orders. It is not the time to explain. Whatever does not exist stored as experience in your hand is useless. What at that moment does not go up into the movement is irrelevant. Your will can only block. It is useless to draw in air and pump yourself up. It can happen only by itself. We want to draw inside what is beyond our control and thus force it. But what is best will never allow itself to be forced. That can be achieved only in the way the calligrapher achieves it.

Although my arms, legs, head and body still obeyed me, at the same time they added something extra, something quite unnecessary. I wanted to place my hands and feet naturally, but they made certain flourishes of their own, and that resulted in a pose – like at a photographer’s.
Strange! Although I am an ordinary, natural person, I simply couldn’t sit still, and behaved like a bad actor. Theatrical falseness was closer to me than genuine naturalness. They said afterwards that my expression turned stupid and I looked guilty.
‘Lets go on now’, said Tortsov, after I had been tormented enough. ‘But we’ll eventually come back to these exercises and learn to sit still.’
‘Teach us to sit?’ the pupils said in wonder. ‘Wasn’t that what we were doing?’
‘No,’ replied Tortsov firmly. ‘You weren’t content just to sit still.’
‘What should we have done, then?’
Instead of answering, Tortsov quickly got up and walked in a businesslike manner over to the chair, then sank into it as if he were back at home.

Afghanistan – an old tribal society where man is still not subdued. Everyone I meet considers himself to be just as much a human being as I am. After India, this is wonderful, refreshing, an almost unbelievable experience.
Is it their religion? Or is it the mountains? Or that they have never been colonized? It is certainly not a high standard of living and modern civilization. The poverty is profound. Here as everywhere the big farmer, the usurer and the merchant form a steadfast trinity. But there is counterbalance.
‘The rich have traditional duties to the village and the family. That has an economically levelling effect.’

It is said that a travelling foreigner can get shot in Afghanistan. No such risk in India, but I would rather be afraid myself than see others cringe.
The British brought peace and order to India. They created a kind of rule of law, but that also entailed the right of the landowner, the usurer, and the merchant to oppress. It made the masses helpless in the hands of those who had the economic and social advantage.
Guns and a wild determination to use them were what saved the Afghans from being civilized by the British Empire. And nothing but guns and determination will, in a pre-democratic, pre-organized society, guarantee that the interests of the people are to some extent satisfied.
I am a pacifist. But after seeing the fear, the mad fright in Indian eyes, that unnatural abasement both ostentatious and ashamed, but most of all cowed, humiliated and broken – after having been in India, I am glad to see armed peasants.

It must be possible. The prospect of a clearer and freer way of living has always been held out to me. It must exist. I’ve seen it in poetry and pictures. I’ve heard it in music. There’s a fearlessness there which makes my life foolish. There are opportunities for happiness there which frighten me more than unhappiness. There’s an abyss in reverse, and one falls upwards.
Why, then, do I live as I do?

……India ……… But if you don’t hang yourself in your hotel room on the very first evening – and what use would that be? – then a creeping dehumanization occurs. The simplest humanity demands that you try to save the life of another person. In a city where the cleansing department collects the bodies of the dead off the streets at dawn and in uncertain cases turns the sleeping over with a foot to see if they are still alive – in a city of that kind, even the simplest humanity demands too much. You lose faith in it.

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