On Lambton Quay

two violins by Danny Andreini

two violins by Danny Andreini

On Lambton Quay, Bach
for two violins; small boy
stands captivated.

(16 May 2016)


On an autumn afternoon, unexpectedly, a vivacious counterpoint crosses Lambton Quay and stirs up in me both joy and nostalgia.

The very bearable lightness of being

skateboard wallpaper - royal

skateboard wallpaper – royal

A day or two ago, I saw something I’d never expected to see: a young man riding a skateboard … using his crutches to propel himself along. And it instantly put me back in touch with something I’d scribbled down the day before, whilst reading a novel called Ru:

“He had stopped time by continuing to enjoy himself, to live until the end in the lightness of a young man.” (Kim Thúy)

I am not a young man … and thus no longer immortal. Whenever the pain from the osteoarthritis gets bad, I have a mantra: “My feet kiss the earth.” It helps.

But I’ve taught myself something that helps even more: whenever I find myself bracing my knees and hobbling along stiff-legged, I have learned to relax my joints and saunter instead. I’m not saying every step is pain-free, but it sure feels better. And I whisper my mantra. And I smile.

__________

NOTES:

Thúy, Kim. 2009 [Copyright © 2009 Éditions Libre Expression]. English translation Copyright © 2012 Sheila Fischman. Ru. New York: Bloomsbury.

The skateboard wallpaper image comes from: http://www.wallpaper4me.com/wallpaper/Royal/

My title is a parody of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a 1984 postmodern novel by Milan Kundera. The story takes place mainly in Prague in the late 1960s and 1970s. It explores the artistic and intellectual life of Czech society during the Communist period, from the Prague Spring to the Soviet Union’s August 1968 invasion and its aftermath.” (adapted from the Wikipedia article)

Happy happy joy joy

Happiness is the light shining on the water. The water is cold and dark and deep … (William Keepers Maxwell, Jr, in Over by the River and Other Stories (1977)).

Joy (cover)

Joy (cover)

If you read my post, “Happiness is …” (07 Nov 2012), you might recall that I’d intended to write about the novel to which Maxwell’s words were a foreword/pre-text – but had been unable to find which book I’d copied it out of.

Back in the Wellington City Library again a day or two ago, my gaze lit on the cover pictured here … and at once I knew that was it.

The truth is, I hadn’t got very far into the book before it was due to be returned … Need I say more?

Reviewing Joy for The Observer (17 June 2012), Alexander Larman suggests that “Jonathan Lee’s highly accomplished second novel might be called Joy, but real happiness is lacking from the lives of its characters.”

Amazon.com describes Joy as “a hugely inventive, ambitious and absorbing novel about pleasure, love, loss, and work by ‘a major new voice in British fiction’ (Guardian).”

There’s already a pile of library books beside the table at home, so I didn’t get Joy out again … but I’m likely to give it another go again soon.

True freedom

True freedom and the end of suffering is living in such a way as if you had completely chosen whatever you feel or experience at this moment. (Eckhart Tolle)

Do anything, but let it produce joy. Do anything, but let it yield ecstasy. (Henry Miller)

Laughing at the sky

When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky. ([fake] Buddha)

Sky over Washington Monument

Sky over Washington Monument

Bodhipaksa, a Buddhist teacher and author living in New Hampshire, considers that this now widely-known and popular saying “bears no resemblance to anything the Buddha’s recorded as having said.”

Bodhipaksa subsequently remarks that “Gautama doesn’t seem to have been big on laughter!”

To me, this fake Buddha quote certainly sounds like authentic Zen!

Commenting on the quote, Choying Lhundrap writes about the Tibetan teacher Minling Khandro Rinpoche, who, in her 2012 New Year address, combined it with words from Jean Houston:

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back
and laugh at the sky. At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of possibilities.”

Which, for me, gets right to the heart of the matter.

But let’s give the last word to Albert Einstein: “Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one.”

__________

George Draffan, responding to Bodhipaksa’s remarks, says it sounds like a stanza from a Tibetan Dzoghcen text that translates as:

Since everything is but an illusion,
Perfect in being what it is,
Having nothing to do with good or bad,
Acceptance or rejection,
One might as well burst out laughing!

(from chapter 1 of The Great Perfection’s Self-Liberation in the Nature of Mind, by Longchenpa, 1308-1364)