To Move Freely, Again

I have a memory of doing this before, but apparently not for blogging. One of my current readings is Victor Mair’s 1994 translation of Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi, 莊子, 庄子), Wandering On The Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu. I have a memory also of not reading this ten years ago, and opting for David Hinton’s 1998 translation, Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters, possibly influenced by The Useless Tree in that decision. Hinton’s is far more poetic, and takes liberties with translation; Mair’s, regular contributor on Language Log and professor at University of Pennsylvania, is a deeply academic work, striving to make sense of multiple conflicting requirements, which results in some odd choices, like the neologism, tricent, for li, a third of a mile. Mair, though, is one of my long-term favourite writers on Chinese and East-Asian languages, so, obviously I was eventually going to read this.

There’s a passage in Hinton’s translation that I ended up using on my 404 page, which I originally wrote about after a crawl (for me) and enthusiastic spring (for Gala) up Waterfall Gully in Adelaide, ten years ago. This is the comparison I thought I’d blogged. Maybe it was in an email to someone, or notes for a work I was making at the time. Either way, I remember going on a journey down multiple translations of this passage, and comparing to the original (as in the received ‘original’), and doing my own translation. Which I repeated in an abbreviated manner writing this, because there’s nothing like staring at 2400 year old Classic Chinese on a grey Berlin Sunday.

David Hinton’s translation, Ch. II, §12, pp. 23–24:

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 snivelling, 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.

Victor Mair’s translation, Ch 2, §6, p. 16:

Affirmation lies in our affirming; denial lies in our denying. A way comes into being through our walking upon it; a thing is so because people say it is. Why are things so? They are so because we declare them to be so. Why are things not so? They are not so because we declare them to be not so. All things are possessed of that which we may say is so; all things are possessed by that which we may affirm. There is no thing that is not so; there is no thing that is not affirmable.

Thus, whether it be a tiny blade of grass, or a mighty pillar, a hideous leper or beauteous Hsi Shih, no matter how peculiar or fantastic, through the Way they all become one. To split something up is to create something else; to create something is to destroy something else; But for all things in general, there is neither creation nor destruction, for they all revert to join in Unity.

Only the perceptive understand that all things join in Unity. For this reason, they do not use things themselves but lodge in commonality. … It is all a result of their understanding the mutual dependance of “this” and “that.” To have achieved this understanding but not be conscious of why it is so is called “The Way.”

Mair deleted some passages (the ellipsis here), of which he said, “because they are spurious or because they are later commentaries and other types of interpolations that have been mistakenly incorporated into the text.”

In commonality there is use, a kind of use through joining. To join is to attain, and through suitable attainment, they are close to the Way.

And the Chinese text from James Legge translation in The Writings of Chuang Tzu, 1891:





Reading: Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Joaquim Dos Santos — The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series, Book 1: Air

Quickest arrival of a book ever! Quickest first read also! I’m still not over Avatar: The Legend of Korra, and probably will watch it a third time before winter is done. I didn’t really need to buy this (nor do I need to buy the other three, one for each season), but … #korrasami! Also seeing so much art lately I want to start drawing again. And Korra is so hot, especially when she’s punching the shit out of stuff. And Asami also (especially when she’s geared up and driving something fast). And once I got into it (took a couple of episodes), I started looking at all the landscapes, cityscapes, backgrounds, architecture, vehicles, all so beautifully painted—and all the fighting, so beautifully choreographed (and Lin Beifong, Topf, Bolin and Mako, Varrick and Zhu Li, Jinora, Tenzin, Kuvira, Zaheer and all the others)—and kinda fell in love with the whole world.


Korrasami? Yes!

Confirmed by creators Bryan Konietzko & Mike DiMartino! Read what they said? Yes! Korrasami Confirmed & Korrasami is canon.

And now I’m going to binge-watch all four seasons of Legend of Korrasami.


Korra & Asami!

I smiled and laughed and yelped and waved my arms around! Korra & Asami Did The Thing!

And then in the comments on io9 I found a link to zuko is my sugar daddy saying, “people saying that korrasami had no build up and was forced …” followed by 48 images of Korra and Asami over four years of Avatar: The Legend of Korra which leave no other possibility for what happened in the final episode. This is how good short-form animation can be.

Reading: Justin Tiwald, Bryan W. Van Norden (eds.) — Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy: Han to the 20th Century

A much easier one to trace why I’m reading it. Published in September, Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy: Han to the 20th Century edited by Justin Tiwald, Bryan W. Van Norden was on Warp, Weft, and Way: Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學, and looked like the kind of thing that would nicely summarise a couple of millennia of Chinese thought, philosophy, and religion.

Besides some Chuang Tzu—I mean Zhuangzi, (and some decidedly awkward teenage messing around with the I Ching) my exposure to Chinese philosophy has been by osmosis. Even communist China in any of its forms is unavoidably aligned with some form of Confucianism. To read the the sources, for all my China reading is something I haven’t done.

I do dislike Confucianism, and everything in the translated selections here only confirms that. The Cosmology section (coming chronologically before Buddhism) alone for me is worth the “Oh why am I paying so much again for a book?” price. Not the least for the notes on that favourite pop-spiritual object of Western culture: Yin and Yang, which can only be understood as unmistakably misogynist and generally hegemonically normative.

For me, the dogmatic aspects of Confucianism in Chinese history and culture seem to be balanced—or at least resisted from achieving complete dominance—by Daoism, Buddhism, and Mohism (this latter I’ve read effectively nothing on). Perhaps experiencing confirmation bias while reading.

It could do with a couple more female translators, especially as it suffers from that “women in the kitchen” problem of them represented in the Women and Gender section but a distinct minority elsewhere. Anyway, it’s my go-to book for the subject.

Reading: Eugen Herrigel (trans: R. F. C. Hull) — Zen in the Art of Archery

I went on a bit of a philosophical forest experience while staying in Waldsieversdorf. First, while feeling all introspective, I went on a very not sensible bike ride, the result of not paying attention to the topographic contour lines on the map meant what I thought would be a gentle, horizontal-ish amble through Wald and around See was a hellish excursion of muddy verticality, up and down slippery flights of stairs and inclines too steep to cycle, unloading bike from shoulder and mounting only to have to dismount five meters later for the next impasse, all the while darkness creeping in.

I arrived back at the bach in semi-darkness to finish watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is all kinds of buddhist philosophy and struggle which caused me to wonder why I think I’m so clever to take the hard path or think I don’t even need to pay much attention and then find myself in situations where I’m genuinely not having fun. Instead, for example, just going for a gentle ride around the lake.

Later, I was writing an application, and sorting through my scrapbook when I came across a pdf of Eugen Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery. It turned out to be a short 60 pages and as I began reading, it dragged me in. I’ve been finding Chinese philosophy more appealing lately, and more practical, than European, particularly Daoism and Zhuangzi, which of course have strong parallels with Zen (or at least in my mind they do). I find also there is little mysticism or spirituality in the texts—or no more than any European philosopher has of Christianity. It was the practicalness of doing in this book that I had to read, coming off such a horrible cyclocross experience, something in general I have struggled with often as a dancer, climber, doing yoga, cycling, in my thinking of how to get through a task. Yeah, it sounds like I’m going all hippy here.

Early next year I’ll be working with Isabelle Schad, and we were speaking about this. I’d been thinking—as a result of reading Zen that I might take up Kyudo, but it occurred to me that Aikido, which Isabelle practices would be a better fit, given how the form influences her movement. Actually this book should be required reading for me on a monthly basis, if nothing else than to remind me not to do stupid things on my bike.

Lewis’ Blog

Some time last year, the darling Lewis Major, whom I first met in Brussels in 2010 when he came to Dasniya and my Yoga and Shibari workshop, and then arrived shortly after in Vienna where I was working with Hans (and Lewis’ joining in and subsequent lack of departure for New Zealand is a well-funny story), and who fast became one of my dearest friends, asked me to do a website for him. It was to be a blog-ish, dance and choreography documentation site. Funnily enough, despite having supernaut for nearly nine years, and having made a score of sites in the last couple of years, I’ve never really done a blog.

It turned out to be a mad romp through the world of WordPress’ Post Formats, and possibly most complicated site I’ve done. I decided it should be alive and not hidden a few weeks ago, and so undertook a final chaotic run through the code to make it ready, in the process swapping everything over to a new method which caused a little distress when I realised my cherished functions rewrite of a piece of core code handling images was no longer necessary (gnashing of teeth!).

And what else? It was also my first real attempt at Responsive Design, the current Flash of the internet, which means it’s supposed to look well-tasty on any size screen (in practice that’s wishful thinking) – and now I do everything Responsive; it’s like having proper table manners. It was also one of the last sites I did with the amazing WPAlchemy, because I discovered the even more amazing Advanced Custom Fields (I needed nested repeaters, and as well, it’s just much quicker to work with), hence aforementioned chaotic run when I swapped all the code over from former to latter and made dance with the very nice WP Post Formats.

Which is why supernaut has also started Post Formatting with Video and Asides and Statuses, because while doing Lewis’ site I was drooling at how good this stuff is and it made me want to blog more, so I stole some of his code and slipped it into here.

And other things? Gallery Post Formats using the full-screen SuperSized code, video and audio with MediaElement.js, a lot of jQuery to pin everything together – I think often my ideas are way far ahead of what I can actually code and I’m guilty of some horrendous travesties.

Typography! There’s quite a lot. Headings are done in the very “obnoxious as it is loveable” Antechamber; all the meta info is in Logisoso – very ‘Logistics’; and the body text is funnily enough in the seductively calm and sedate Fontin. I find it very readable. Oh, and icons are a mix of Modern Pictograms and Entypo. Yes, sticking to one font and using it well, obviously.

Looking at it now I’m thinking, “Oh, I could change that layout and that typography,” and maybe I shall make some small changes. In the meantime, Lewis is writing like a true blogger, and that makes me very happy.

Lewis’ blog is

And now for some pictures. (Mostly of the test content, as Lewis hasn’t written much yet. Yes, I use Abruptum and Bathory for test content, and my 404 page is always a quote from Chuang Tzu. Really, each and every “404 Not Found” on every site I make is a small moment of Daoist contemplation.)

Guanyin and the Kings of Hell

It’s something like perfect timing, or maybe just the endless wash of information ebbing and flowing. The Met Museum in New York, knowing I’m starting rehearsals again of hell tomorrow wants a piece of the action too, so has put together a fine exhibition, Secular and Sacred: Scholars, Deities, and Immortals in Chinese Art.

This sort of felt, introspective response to the world is the essence of that most rarefied of Taoist pictorial forms, landscape painting. The show has superb examples, each a cross between a mirror and a mood ring. At the same time, Taoist art could be raucously extroverted. That’s certainly one way to describe the 13th-century scroll titled “The Demon-Queller Zhong Kui Giving His Sister Away in Marriage,” with its parade of plug-ugly nature spirits pumping iron and preening.

These creatures may have had origins in Buddhist art, which arrived in China with a developed pantheon of celestial and hellish beings. These ranged from the ethereal savior-deity Guanyin, to the burly, glowering Kings of Hell – depicted in five extraordinary, high-colored hanging scrolls at the Met – who processed the damned in the Buddhist underworld with the cool dispatch of Confucian court judges.

— New York Times

Continue reading