to move freely

Approaching a return to Melbourne, back to airports on Saturday and to … see if I can make sense of what this new piece is. I’ve had a wonderful couple of weeks in Adelaide, certainly for now my home, days with Gala and Daniel and Alison that I suppose to say make apparent it is friendship that makes life. Yesterday then, a day with Gala walking up Waterfall Gully.

On the way up I discovered how unfit I am, and felt like the Witch of the Waste in Howl’s Moving Castle, all red-nosed and quivering jowls and gerontic feebleness. Gala who seems to feel hills not at all hauled me up the last bump. So much for trekking along the Nü River later this year, I thought, and you can also relieve yourself of fantasies of climbing mountains.

On the return, an easy skip down an easy path we talked, and … somewhere I was thinking of a passage from Chuang Tze, and … well it was another passage altogether, but I was also thinking about this one, which is one of Sam Crane at The Useless Tree’s favourite passages, and he even mentioned it in regard to Wittgenstein’s final proposition in the Tractatus, that was also floating around during all the people …

I also like it quite a bit, and feel an affinity for this passage for the mention of Hsi Shih or Xi Shi, 西施, one of the four beauties of classical China. Shortly after I arrived in Guangzhou, I asked my translator to give me a Chinese name. After a couple of days she returned with 方希石, a phonetic play on Frances, but also with multiple meanings, people would say, it’s not a name a Chinese person would have, but it’s a very good name, 希有, rare or uncommon, 希望, to wish for or desire, and the play on tones 希石, my name is a first and second tone, 西施, Xi Shi is two first tones.

I suppose this is all to say … what?

I came to Adelaide because I had friends here who mean so much to me, and being here found new friends who have given me much inspiration and happiness and this is something I can’t live without. Also to say I had a rare and very special day yesterday I will remember until I am old and feeble.

Sufficient because sufficient. Insufficient because insufficient. Traveling the Way makes it Tao. Naming things makes them real. Why real? Real because real. Why nonreal? Nonreal because nonreal. So the real is originally there in things, and the sufficient is originally there in things. There’s nothing that is not real, and nothing that is not sufficient.

Hence, the blade of grass and the pillar, the leper and the ravishing [beauty] Hsi Shih, the noble, the sniveling, the disingenuous, the strange – in Tao they all move as one and the same. In difference is the whole, in wholeness is the broken. Once they are neither whole nor broken, all things move freely as one and the same again.

Only one who has seen through things understands moving freely as one and the same. In this way, rather than relying on you own distinctions, you dwell in the ordinary. To be ordinary is to be self-reliant; to be self-reliant is to move freely; and to move freely is to arrive. That’s almost it, because to arrive is to be complete. But to be complete without understanding how – that is called Tao. (23-24)

— chuang tzu – david hinton trans.