Tuesday, November 30, 2004

What's your favorite funny-profound piece of literature? For me, I think I'd say episode 17 of Ulysses, which I've been thinking a lot about recently anyway. It is both breathtakingly beautiful and humbly itself in all its, its characters', its language's, its author's, limitations. Appropriately enough, it uses those limitations to make transcendent gestures, but contrapuntally also it uses all its formal innovation for humane (i.e. true-human) tasks, which I also admire. This work does not lament, as Flaubert does, at beating time on a log (sic. Does Flaubert say log? or is it a drum?), at the limitations of its range, though it does make the bear dance like a star (and the stars like a bear). Its showboating is showing how its showboating is necessary, not just on a surface-level, but deep through to whatever it is to be read as. That is, it is grown up and measured. And funny, really funny. And complicated. And readable. It is forever readable.

I guess I could have said Ulysses itself, but that seems too large. And I do dwell on this book, though I don't have too much perspective on whether I do in the blog, write about my dwelling much, or not.

Anyway, I don't know if my explication reads like blurbiation, all general and fluff, or if it makes sense, but I figure you all probably have your own opinions on the section anyway. I remain curious as to what works, in your estimation, best hit that sweet spot of funny and profound?

Monday, November 29, 2004

This is great reading, for keeping the whole colonial thing (you know, the last four hunded years of world history), in perspective. Absolutely should be required reading, maybe, for people to vote. Imagine that? I mean, obviously it (requiring background knowledge of certain important areas deemed pertinent to the election, I mean) would not be constitutional, and it would lend itself to discrimination in all sorts of ugly unwanted ways, but it would be nice to see some of the effects of misleading advertising etc mitigated.

So, I'm familiar with the history of all these exploits, as history and theory, yet seeing them arrayed as example over the course of days is still surprising. It is surprising how in-line with these activities the current activity in Iraq lays. It is surprising what people will do for an idea, money. It is worth being reminded of, and actually breathtaking in its vigor, this idea, colonialism. I have to say, it doesn't seem like such a good idea, but it does have staying power, this idea, colonialism. Not going away anytime soon, too bad.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

New Mipoesias, and a new poem by me-of-little-output within (there's a photo of me with Jonah, too, which is probably the photo I'll put on the blog proper if I ever take the time to figure out how to). Of what I've read so far, the poems by Adam Clay and Patricia Smith are real standouts.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

I just wanted to say thanks regarding this conversation which so many have joined in. Good listening. Thanks also to all who've linked to my thoughts here, as well. Pretty cool medium, sometimes, this blogging.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Here's the first Tate poem I thought of when I thought of the way the dichotomy easy/noteasy is a rule of thumb and not the (only) path to poetry enlightenment.

Goodtime Jesus
by James Tate

Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dream-
ing so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it?
A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled
back, skin falling off. But he wasn't afraid of that. It was a beau-
tiful day. How 'bout some coffee? Don't mind if I do. Take a little
ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody.

This was the Tate poem I first heard, in 1997, by memory from the tongue of one M. Nichole Hefner, which made me say, hmmmm. Up till then, I was willing to dismiss Tate as a buffoon, or a goon, or a whatever just don't bother me. The poem gave me pause, though I had no idea, really, why. I didn't have the intellectual framework to discursively discuss what its impact was. Now I do, and, warning, I'm going to, a little.

Ok, scene, after the temptation of Christ in the desert. Such a momentous event, marked temporally by a slightly later rising, very Miltonic (drama is all inside, severe Protestant sense of representation &c.) Its effect, is an emptying--the worst of nightmares, hell, passes like a dream, and he is not scared even as much as you or I are following those phenomenon (nightmares, I mean). This is perfect holiness, shifting to a Taoist sense of holiness for variety (I could discuss Milton's regard for "those who only stand and wait," as well), where a nonchalant evenness reaching back through one's history without fear, illusion, or fear of illusion, to actual perception of the natural goodness, is the ideal. Hell is, there, not real beyond a manifestation of one's own fears. Blake might agree with this too. Lots of mystics would, I bet.

Then the American inflection (via Tom Mix) of breaking beautiful as Tate does is perfect. Talking to himself like very very happy people do, very human. Simple pleasure of the donkey. And then the killer last sentence, Hell, I love everybody.

This touches on where I think I'm going with my Milton paper, to the way there is an ambiguity in the way Satan and all of hell's portrayals mockingly send up heaven and Eden. The way, for example, Satan rigs his decision to go hunt through Hell then Chaos to scout out Eden and see what bad he can do, is a hollow pantomime of when God convenes Heaven to see who will sacrifice himself to save humankind and Christ volunteers. Often, the devils are portrayed as being humorous in their actions, laughable in the eye of god. Because the only people they are fooling in their mockery is themselves (like when Mammon can't tell the difference between the palace he erects from Heaven, because he fashions his out of gold and gems too, just like Heaven is, as if that were other than the facade of heaven), there is an element of humor to it. This is comic. But the same thing which was comic becomes tragic when it takes in Adam and Eve, and eventually their ancestors (us). So the valence involves the perceiver. This is obviously indebted greatly to Fish.

Does that follow? I know it's pretty garbled, I apologize, it is just solidifying and I haven't really sat down to work it out on paper yet with quotes and all. But my point now is that this sense of the comic v. the tragic being not essentially different except for how you take it is at the heart of this poem. In the face of Hell, the worst Satan has to offer, the fact of death, Jesus takes a little ride on his donkey. The little pleasures, cowboy style, pricking out the essentially Protestant nature of America with a nice light touch. The last sentence does it so perfectly, too: Hell offers not the smallest swerve to his good nature. He preserves the unfallen stance whereby the hell which people make of their consciousnesses is funny, like someone pushing a spoon up their nose and not thinking they can stop is funny. Just stop with the spoon, if you want to! Or don't, it's your spoon. The comic and the tragic are in this sense like a staircase; if you're going up, the staircase goes up; if you're going down, the staircase goes down.

So I didn't have the slightest sense of what Milton brought to the comic and tragic modes, I had no idea beyond the broadest sense of what this poem was about--I didn't even know Christ was tempted in the desert, for example. But I did like it (I also trusted Nichole's taste, which helped me be open to the poem). It is a good poem. Tate accomplished a fair bit in a few lines. Is it a difficult poem? No. Is it a wise poem? Yes. Is it the self-equivalent of braying only "Support the troops!"? No, god no. And saying so is, forgive me, asinine.

So my convoluted and unfortunately longwinded and difficult (or just inane) way of saying requiring poetry to be difficult before you accept it as good poetry, and segregating all non-resistive poetry as pandering poetry, is a sure way to miss lots of what's good about poetry. And I would be remiss, as part of this community, to not say so.

Protective caveat: I want to make clear, by the way, I'm a big fan of difficult poetry. Love difficulty, and understand the reasons for it. For the different kinds of difficulty, too (Which different uses are as important as the concept itself of 'difficult', which idea is part of Okokdomodomo's long meditation, here.).

Monday, November 22, 2004

Again, speechless in the face of what we are not. Link. That all things change, and that out of all extremes comes the seed of their opposite until it grows to dominance, this is taiji, but to see it happen to our country, the goodness which we considered American, is . . . hmm. I'm learning. Wow. I am inarticulate again, and I seem to be so often in so many ways these days.

And I'm already used to this way of living, as if it were normal.

Switching tracks: Is anyone else struck by the interchange between Josh Corey and Mike Snider? Lots of interesting and provocative things said. What gets me now, though, is that they are not actually communicating with each other, much, I mean. For example, Mike makes the statement, something to the effect of "some people tend their little flame and don't realize that poetry is guttering." (I'm winging it by a not-so-reliable memory, so humor me) Josh's response? "I never said poetry is guttering!" I mean, didn't Mike just accuse Josh of not being aware of poetry's alleged guttering? And Mike uses some pretty harsh language (in my recollection, arrogant, and pathetic or some synonym of pathetic) describing Josh's p.o.v. on the 'subject' (not that they are even talking about the same thing), and then acts as if he had been the height of measured response when Josh responds.

A case study of misprision, in a sense, using what there is not as something to respond to for what it is, but to repond to as if it were only a bridge to what one wants to project. Sigh. I'm probably doing it, now, too. (and isn't it curious that Mike basically holds the comic position, that all at least potentially can fit and be whole (like his subscription to Wilbur's 'comely &' position), while Josh takes the tragic pose ("this vale of fucking tears.")?)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

This week's NYTBR (New York Times Book Review) is all poetry. And Ashbery has some words regarding James Tate, which is certainly timely.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Yet another question: is publishing a chapbook (of "under 24 pages", usually), and then using those poems in an ms for a full-length book, really ok? If I was a publisher, I might not like that so much. But I'm not a publisher, so I don't really know. The only book I know of which used poems from a previous chapbook ms is "Walking Liberty" by James Haug (via the Morse prize, I think), who had previously won the Center for Book Arts chapbook contest with some of those poems. Good book, though uneven, though it's been years, so I only remember impressions now.

Which brings me to the next topic at mind. James Tate. I've said previously I think the man's poetic is obsessed with renunciation of one thing in search of something else. The object of renunciation? I'm not sure what exactly but it has something to do with being a social man, or maybe just a man. And he is interested in social truths. In personal, social truths. His work does get schticky, but is always very enjoyable, often striking, and I think it's interesting that people feel that that is a slight quality--I'm not talking about a quality such as Billy Collins evidences, whereby he is acclaimed, by popular opinion, as an "accessible" "enjoyable" if a "bit light in the complexity, but hey, that goes with the first two qualities" poet. B.C. is boring, and a lot of us mostly think so. Not always, and going by the 'judge a poet by his/her best' rule-of-thumb, he has poems I am grateful for, so he's earned name-recognition as far as I'm concerned. But, in general, his poems do nothing for me, and I don't feel drawn to reading new ones. This is not the case with me or, I gather, with many other poets, for James Tate. For me that alone is enough for me to consider him an interesting poet, even if I am not able to express the nature of this interest in intellectual terms, in a worked-out and localizable framework.

I can say, as far as Tate's relationship to Ashbery goes (and now I'm back to where I started the previous paragraph), that he reveres the man, as far as I could tell, from the poetics class I took with Tate during my year at UMass-Amherst (in which class he assigned a bunch of books by friends and former students, one of which was the Haug, I began discussing above). And I think why at least partially answers the question Jonathan Mayhew raises, about how Tate came to be something of an Ashbery-lite even after demonstrating poetic maturity/viability before Ashbery overwhelmed the scene. Pertaining to the qualities of Tate's I perceive as outlined in the previous paragraph, I think Tate sees Ashbery as having both more successfully renounced those qualities and not been overwhelmed/defined by such renunciation--as having a deeper-consciousness, so to speak. I do not personally think Ashbery's 'project' is the same as Tate's--I think Ashbery's has more to do with death, but that's for another time, I guess--but I can say that Tate, when talking about his friendship with Ashbery, sounded like a 16-year-old who just met his sports star. He thinks that highly of Ashbery. And I admire him for it.

And yes, my sense of Tate's 'renunciation' is based at least partially on interacting personally with the man.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Makes me feel like crying. That's all. I understand the factors which have led this country I've developed in to develop as it has (and no, I'm not referring specifically to the current political situation, but to the past hundreds of years), but to think oneself beyond the propaganda is to see some ugly stuff each time you do it, no matter how used to it you think you are. I suppose Europe has seen enough to have internalized, politically, certain lessons. Can't we accept that our size and natural resources are at least partially responsible for that which we claim as national greatness? And share a little better? You know, that idea which is so antithetical to capitalism, sharing? Give a little universal health care, up the minimum wage, etc, would follow, but we are greedy, that just has to go. Let's outlaw greed. Immoderate greed that is; it's a great thing to want, even to want badly. But it is a bad religion. It is bad as law, be it socially or governmentally legislated.

C'mon, congress, just do what you need to do. It'll be ok, you're voters will understand. So will your poets. Actually, we'll swoon. I promise we will, we'll swoon. At least I will.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Thinking of emigrating to any country not bushland? I was, I think I was serious, but I seem to have settled down. Funny, because exile always appealed to me (how many American young artists want to follow Joyce in denouncing their country as a "sow eating her own farrow?" I did!) as an artistic stance. I guess if I had anywhere else to call home, I might. But I can't really say that things are so bad I'm willing to try and get citizenship etc elsewhere (plus I'm not really employable as yet, so I imagine I'd face additional difficulties), though in the long run Vancouver looks good (and has, honestly, since the first Gulf War). But having a kid and being near family is not a small thing.

And then, if civic worth and nobility is your pursuit, then this is worth reading, too.

"A finger pointing at the moon"

is "pointing directly at one's mind," . . . . . not dust

"The Readie and Easie Way" will follow . . . . . "dust settles"

what can stop it? . . . . . "the motion of carnall lust"

moves evenly, heavenly . . . . . dust leaves itself behind

the self-willed will . . . . . the pointed pointless

"cogitare" . . . . . say shape, mean see

"The mirror has no stand," is

"perfet, not immutable"

Those spaced periods which look like ellipses, represent what should be white space.

question: is it possible to make multiple spaces appear in posts?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Very interesting article on the long-term relationship between China and India at NYRB. Though, the hinge between the first half and the second half, leading into what the author 'really' wants to talk about is largely rhetorical. That is, the first half is intelligent and interested, the second half is moral and prescriptive; and they are mismatched. So it seems to me.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Where have I lived? Until 2, in Elizabeth, NJ, and from there to 18, in Highland Park, NJ (for those who don’t know, that’s where most of the liberal profs. from Rutgers live); after high school, moved across the river to Rutgers itself, spending a semester abroad in Haifa. Graduated, stayed living in New Brunswick with Dara (now my wife, also a graduate of the HPHS class of ’89) while she finished college (yep, Rutgers), and commuted to SoHo to work as a science textbook editor for a couple of years. We then moved to Seattle for a year, and then off the coast to Vashon Island (home of Berkeley Breathed, and inspiration for Bloom County (hey, look, is this the first new Bloom County since the 80's?)). Came back the NYC for graduate school. Then moved to Massachusetts for further graduate school. Then moved to Salt Lake City for a few months for further graduate school but unfortunately became ill beyond belief and moved back to Highland Park, for family and familiarity. Now own a house here. On our cute one-block street, there were 8 Kerry/Edwards signs and none of the other kind. Dara has lived, besides those places, in Boulder.

So what do I know about “Red America”? I mean know, the way I know the logic of land sloping here? Not much. Even our time in Salt Lake City was surreal, I had contact almost only with the usual kinds of CW people and SLC has a very strong, if not quite so confident, counterculture (like a weed growing between two bricks of a wall, maybe).

So, the pertinent question: if this divide is cultural, red & blue, within a unifying culture, who will write the poem which encompasses both? I know this sounds stupid, but really, if we are a nation (and whatever a nation is, we are), what is the poem? I just don’t know, does Whitman cut it still? Right now, I’m thinking it would take a ‘red stater’ the way it took a Joyce to do what Yeats couldn’t even understand was needed, Ireland way. Or maybe it’s the other way around. It doesn’t have to be (how could it be?) nice, but what would it be? What poetic motions appeal to the ‘Bush voter’ (I mean, besides Henry Gould, who is eloquent as to his taste), on artistic, not moral, grounds? Is that distinction too ‘modern’ for the topic at hand, even though it’s been around as, at least a possibility, for a lot longer than the USA has been?

So I guess that’s another question I have. Whither poetry in the divide y’all are consumed with?

Dare to ask the dumb questions, too.

Update: ok, it's not just a dumb question but a stupid one, given all the other distinctions which are papered over by the facile red & blue dichotomy. Still, I leave the post undeleted because I want to leave the essential (if awfully clumsily conceived and worded) question, which probably has everything to with the country since before it was one, proper.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Ok, I have a question. If a person knows everything that they know (specifics & generalities), why do they carry on conversations with themselves? Why does knowledge require representation? Isn't the way we all talk in our heads kind of like someone with sock puppets on their hands and having the sock puppets engage in earnest conversation?

I do it, but I just don't get it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Any questions?

Friday, November 05, 2004

Ahem. Ok, I feel better.

Loving the MacCulloch, though it's eating into my Milton reading. And my Grossman reading. I desire to buy and spend countless hours playing Rome: Total War, though in fealty to either reality or poetry-mindedness I am not going to. Looks like fun though. Desires to reread the Faerie Queene, which I am trying to hold off until I finish Fish and then Paradise Lost. Nothing intelligent to say about any of this, though. Intelligence? A story told to a young boy. The myth--the shadow which existence only accentuates that which casts it, reliable mediocrity. Well, I have nothing reliably mediocre to say about any of this, either.

A poem.

The Lost Republic

There were letters, I swear,
though now I see stars more clear
through the night than meaning
ever managed through those letters’ haze,
which pages I burnt
for warmth, for fear of sleep
alone and cold, exposed,
my body sore, lonely, those letters
which rose sparkless, coherent, a flow
to tattoo/inscribe the sky,
to remind me what this journey is, it is
forgetting where you’ve been
long enough you take description for truth.

This is making me sick to my stomach.

For example, Link.

& Not just that he won, but how he won. "Moral values"??? I wonder if that constitutional amendment is going to finally come around: you know, the one regarding flag burning, gay marriage, and (I imagine this will become politically viable only after another terrorist attack) the one repealing the two-term limit on the presidency. For anyone who anticipates schadenfreude, and an eventual return to 'normalcy' as this administration is exposed for what it 'is', well, in general, people who choose to be deceived blame others the worse the terms of the deception become. So expect it to get weirder, is my sense.

Karl Rove is a genius, he plays the field the way a grandmaster chess player does--the onlookers say "what a crappy move, he just screwed up and lost his queen", but before you know it it's checkmate and you have no idea how it happened until you study and learn, in hindsight. Everyone laughed at him about the 4m evangelicals, for example, but jeez, he kind of owned the democrats, even Carville, didn't he? Did he cheat? Maybe. Probably. But look, that has a strange validity too, gamewise, I mean how could the democrats let it happen, they had years to sit on the possibility and establish validation as an important issue. They did nothing, except wait for the media to 'expose' it, at best. Weak. That's what that Suskind article guy meant when he said "we create history, you study it." A willingness--an ability--to articulate, not just verbally but muscularly, with the organs and joints of history, what they want to be. That's why people claim the Republican party is proto-fascist, their ability to move as one is formidable, and increasing. I have no idea what's to come, maybe it won't be worse than Reagan. I'd be happy with that now.

I'm also going to tend my garden, not in a Lord Fairfax way, but in the manner of one who will not eat unless he grows his own sustenance. Such is my life now. What little money we have to give, I think will go to organizations like the International Red Cross or Save the Children; that seems most direct.

And maybe this is a little overwrought. I'd like to end up feeling foolish for posting this.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Ode To The West Wind
Percy Bysshe Shelley

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: 0 thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave,until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!

Thou on whose stream, 'mid the steep sky's commotion,
Loose clouds like Earth's decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,
Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head
Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith's height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre
Vaulted with all thy congregated might
Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: O hear!

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic's level powers
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know
Thy voice, and suddenly grow grey with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear!

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O Uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be
The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne'er have striven
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!
A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened Earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

This week, those times I've been online, I've just spent too much time reading the political stuff and then have had no time for blogging. After today (or whenever the election process is over), either outcome, I'm simply deleting many of my political links and kicking the habit. It's too time consuming, enjoyable though it is.

Interesting post a few days back on Jay Thomas' blog, Bad with Titles, about a Somatics class he's taking. It brought to mind this description of a meditation retreat two years ago. Well, it is also on my mind because the annual retreat this year went to southern China, and I didn't, and it's happening now. Today they are at Luofu Shan, I think, where Master He is the "guardian-master" (I'm not sure of the translation, I've also heard it as "chairman of the board") of a Daoist temple though he himself is not a Daoist in the religious sense. Maybe next year I'll be able to go.

The context is that the bulk of the people at this retreat are basically trying to will calm for their bodies, and heal themselves, the majority of them of cancer. And that the will is not the agent of healing itself, but the motor for what is (qi, and clear qi flow, which is the result of a clear unconscious, and an uncompromised immune system). Just as will is not the agent for winning (let alone completing) a marathon, but without it you never will access what will win you that marathon, or even get across the finish line. So. I haven't read it in two years, and it is not what I'd write now, but it still is expressive of something important and I don't think it is too far to see how it is also me talking about poetry. I think.

"I've never meditated with 79 people in a room before. Even in the intensive classes (never less than intimate), I've found it difficult to relax completely in unfamiliar company. At the same time, the strong chi field is undeniable, both in sensation and healing power. Following trainings, it usually takes me a few weeks to really relax again while meditating, to reacclimate myself to the less-strong, more-personal, chi field. I always learn where I've, unguided, wandered into a misperception or indulged an illusion which actually interfered with my practice (does anyone else have difficulty reliably feeling out the difference between “following the natural” and indulging onproductive/misleading lines of action?). Each time, also, I've learned some new attention I can bring to my practice which I do not think I would have come to on my own, some form I am grateful for, in that it deepens my understanding of what cultivation means. I found surprising not only my tolerance for sitting hours on end in deep meditation, but that the whole group took to such discipline so easily. The amount of attention in that room was enormous--and in the course of our healing it grew, at times, stifling. Powerful healing, I think, in which the old bad ways are flooded with energy and returned, almost against our wills, to their healthy forms, often gives rise to uneasy feelings. This, I think, is because often we have held to the old bad postures not just out of habit but out of fear: that once we learned, on our own or from someone we trusted, that such ways of being were good, necessary, or comforting in the face of a pain we could in no other way control. Without these habits/postures, vulnerable, perhaps less than perfectly ourselves, we are unsure of how to be and, in that void of intention they start reasserting themselves. Another way to say this is that, having removed the Yang aspect of an illness, the Yin aspect, which remains, will convert in part to Yang, to maintain the balance which is the natural law. We all know we must change our consciousness to dampen this effect, but it is not always easy to know what change to effect, nor to trust ourselves to pick, among the myriad choices which seem possible, the true and simple self we know we are. That we all know such momentary confusion (and its eventual melting away) is part of the qigong process can, of course, lessen its difficulty by giving us a reason to be brave and placid when we otherwise would be turbulent and timid. This is, I suppose, why Master He made the “Virtues” and the “Don’ts,” so prominent in our meditation room, to help us guide ourselves as strongly as possible through the difficult task of remembering ourselves. It is why, I suppose, Master He has stressed so consistently the importance of selflessness to cultivation. No matter how much chi one manages to gather, if you are overly forceful, passive, pleading or resigned, you have not given it a suitable home or form, and it will return to where it came from, for that will have been the deeper and stronger intention than what you have offered it. I imagine there are other reasons why Master He has stressed the importance of selflessness to cultivation, reasons which will no longer be mysterious once I reach a certain level of cultivation, and while I look forward to learning them, I am now grateful to have seen to this reason, and satisfied."

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