Friday, February 27, 2009

A Hell Of A Life, Pausing On My Way

Here are two poems which seem to be talking about keeping still from different attitudes. These poems were written with 47 hours between them. What happened in between? Thanksgiving day happened in between. Giving thanks happened in between.

So the earlier poem is not as serene as the second poem. This poem may well have the Tarot's Hanged Man in its background. But perhaps it is the pair of gym shoes that is hanging from an overhead wire at the next intersection east of my house that is the model. These shoes were already there in 2001 when I moved in and noticed them.

A Hell Of A Life

I'm all hung up,
Thrown high up over a wire,
The butt of a prank.
I am upside down,
Hanging head down and dangling
And I can't get down.
Come back years from now.
I'll still be here, just grayer,
A hell of a life.


That's an awkward and sad vision of keeping still. Here is another way of keeping still.

Pausing On My Way

I release like this,
Go all loose, all rubbery,
Then begin to float.
All I need is fire.
I would inflate and then rise,
A heart full of grace.

I take all that, and hold it
In loose arms outstretched, rounded.

I forget my feet,
My knees, myself, forget you
And all my true hopes.
I simply stand here.
I wait, breathing in and out
Pulsing as I breathe.


Keeping Still is one translation of the title of the 52nd hexagram of the I Ching. Keeping Still is the Wilhelm/Baynes translation, but Stephen Karcher translated it Bound, or Stilling.

As one might surmise, this hexagram is speaking of the use of meditation, staking the claim of meditation and similar activities or states as one of 64 primary phases of human circumstance on the planet. Attached to these phases of life circumstance are predictions of a sort and each of these circumstances can lead to other circumstances in various combinations of six constituent elements or lines of power. Each of these six lines are expansive or contractive powers, placed in six positions which are also expansive or contractive, and thus enhance the power or tend to neutralize it. As you can see, this system of interaction of 64 primary phases of human circumstance is complex enough for a long and systematic study if you are motivated. What would it mean to pass from this phase to this other phase? How does that change them both? And so on.

That book, I Ching, is one of the five traditional classic books of learning that formed the literate foundation of an educated person in ancient China. In it's basic beginning form it is over five thousand years old. In it's more or less final form it is over two thousand years old. Everyone educated knew these works intimately as well as others. There were schools of thought that grew up around the book, mainly but not only Confucian, Buddhist and intensively Taoist/alchemical, and yet others. Go to the right sort of bookshop and you will find dozens of modern commentaries which have all appeared since the 60's. When I started looking at I Ching there were three for me to look at, Wilhelm/Baynes, Legge, and Blofeld. In my estimation, Ritsema, Karcher, Whincup, Schklovskii, Cleary and the younger Wilhelm are the best of the European moderns, not in any particular order.


  1. Hi Christopher,
    Ice crystals have hexagonal symmetry. I just learned that today.

  2. Yes, as do beehive cells. But actually under the right conditions they have that. In other conditions water freezes in different shapes. If your crystals freeze right they have feathery six sided shapes with an amazing variety. But sometimes they take true hexagonal shape. It matters whether the conditions are higher or lower humidity and higher or lower temperature, and whether the dust is miniscule or slightly larger, and so on.

  3. Have a great weekend. It has been a heck of a week. Now is the time to relax and have some fun. Being the butt of a prank is never fun, I guess it is a sign of rejection. But, does it not make us stronger?

    Enjoy your weekend.

  4. I went to bed last night thinking of hexagonal ice crystals:) And this morning it is freezing here again!

    I like the second way of keeping still better;)I need to practice.

  5. You have inspired me with those shoes. I always pay attention to them, too; there's a pair hung up high in every neighbourhood I've ever lived in.

  6. Ghost, thanks for finding and sharing the murals with us.

    Ms Daily, being hung upside down can be therapeutic as it stretches the spine :) That's one way to make lemonade out of lemons.

    Faith, there has been rather a lot of these spontaneous common themes. It is a signal of community, I think.

    Rachel, I believe creativity is a commons. I believe I can't successfully go off into the hills and do whatever, come back with good work. I instead have to have a community. To not share throughout feels a little bit wrong for me. If I were told I should not post a poem on someone's site, I will refrain. I have done so. But I will never hold back because I am concerned for my own intellectual property rights. I need you people for inspiration. I am however very concerned not to violate our trust.

  7. You indeed have a heart full of grace my love.....


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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