Tag Archives: philosophy

The Kicking Horse River and the Way of Water

The Kicking Horse River and the Way of Water

Last evening (May 27), I attended another performance of the Kitchener Waterloo Teachers Choir. My son and daughter-in-law are members of this amateur choir. Each Christmas and Spring they give a concert. This year’s Spring Concert included the song, “Kicking Horse River”. The lyric of this song is based on a poem of the same name by the Canadian poet Pauline Johnson. The music is composed by Jeff Smallman. This song is strongly evocative of the power and personality of the Kicking Horse River as it cuts its way through the Canadian Rockies.kickinghorsemapKickinghorseRiver

The music and words “grabbed me” and tugged at the heart of a man who loves the mountains of British Columbia and the wild rivers that emanate from their glaciers and a myriad of springs on high. The words of the immortal Pauline Johnson, mated with Smallman’s composition, and the sounds of the human voice, conjured up the Taoist ideas related to the power and qualities of water, sometimes known as the Water Way.

If you go into the natural world and observe water or you experiment with it, water reveals its qualities: [Quoted from Tao and Water – The Real Spiritual Lesson]

– Water is relentless.  It never stops exerting its force.

– Its force is a manifestation of its nature.  It does not try to be something it is not, applying neither morality nor immorality.

– When it is restricted, Water seeks the weakest spot of any obstruction and applies constant force until it is free.

– When it is pressed or attacked, it changes form and repositions itself.  It exerts constant counter force to search for weakness.

– Water is opportunistic.  Given the slightest opening it will pass through.  It will do so while the opening is present.  It will widen the opening if possible.

– Water always seeks to do the easiest thing as long as it can.

-Water does not complain about the path it follows.  It simply follows the path.

– Water has a wide range of energetic expressions but continues to be Water.  It can be still.  It can be sluggish.  It can be swift.  It can be pounding.  It can be vapor.

When you compare the words and feelings expressed in Johnson’s poem to the qualities of water, the similarities are striking. Pauline Johnson was no Taoist, but she was a First Nation’s person who lived in the late 19th Century and on into the beginning of the 20th..PaulineJohnsonThe First Nation traditional view of the natural world is very close to the Taoist concept of the unity of man and nature. The Way of Water and the Unity of Man and Nature, are two significant themes found in Through a Lens of Emptiness: Reflections on Life, Longevity and Contentment.

Water plays an important role in all lives as an essential basic need. Beyond that, when the Way of Water in all its manifestations and qualities, becomes part of one’s way of living, he cannot help but seek the Tao. I look for evidence of the Tao in all peoples, in all cultures, and in all things. Of course, I do not always find it, but that’s not surprising. Sometimes you just cannot see the Tao (which cannot be seen), but one can always feel the Tao when he is on the right path.

There are times when one is so moved by an experience, sharing it with others is the only thing he can do. The rendition of “Kicking Horse River”, and the words of Pauline Johnson created just such an experience for me. Have you had a similar experience. Please share it through the comment section.

As always, your faithful blogger,

L Alan Weiss – Author – “Through a Lens of Emptiness: Reflections on Life, Longevity and Contentment.”

http://www.lalanweiss.com

 

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Filed under Philosophy, The Big Picture, Writing a book

The Intensity of Work

I have been writing with an intensity that I had yet to experience. Since my last post five days ago, every spare minute has been spent working away on my rewrite. My focus has been on clarity, clarity , clarity. The sections of my book that have occupied my time these days are those that set the stage, so to speak. These are very important sections to say the least. You may recall that my book is a work of non-fiction, but I have not said much about it.  The book is comprised of  three main sections that fit within a developmental sequence. While each section is distinctive in character, and could stand on its own as an extended essay, they lead nicely one to the next, from start to finish.

The first section sets the conceptual base and philosophy for the second. The second section is an extended analysis of important elements looked at through the philosophical lens of the first, and is somewhat confession like.  The final section is a synthesis of ideas provoked by the first two sections of the book, which is essentially revelatory. This all sounds a bit heavy, but I am striving for the feel of a series of extended chats between acquaintances that get to know each other better over time. I cannot help but think of a Dickens’ title as I write all this, “Great Expectations” indeed.

The philosophy that initially directed my writing has matured over the last eighteen months in ways I could never have anticipated. I certainly believed in my message from the beginning of my project, but as I became more and more committed to producing the best book I can, my initial philosophical motif grew into a surge of thought that revealed a greater theme than the original.  That original philosophy has developed into the modus operandi for confronting each day and each task. The act of writing has become transformative. At the age of sixty-seven, that was a bit of a surprise. Old dogs do learn new tricks after all.

My writing project was originally just another challenge to be faced in a lifetime of taking on challenge. If you have been following my blog, you may recall that am a mild to moderate dyslexic who has a serious spell check and “Grammarly” addiction ( Grammarly is a commercial grammar checking service available at www.gramarly.com.) The project has evolved and become much more, now driven by an intense desire to communicate my ideas to others. Writing has also become a therapy for the literarily  challenged (me). If I were still a practicing special educator, I would have my students write, write and write some more. Of course they would need support to write correctly, but I am certain that the exercise would cause a few writing and language based neurons to make some new connections.

I took a break from writing to write this blog, but forty-five minutes is all I can spare. I was on a role today, and I want to get back to what I was doing before I lose the thread. I have been thinking a bit more about Yin/Yang relationships so I wouldn’t be surprised if those thoughts show up in my next entry. Until then . . .

L

PS. I am a proud Canadian today. Alice Munro, the great short story master, has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. A great day for Canada. A great day for women. A great day for the art form that is the short story. A great day for literature.

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Why Anselm Kiefer?

Prior to a visit to the SFMOMA, I knew nothing about Kiefer and his work. The museum showcased his work in a special exhibit on display at a time I happened to be in San Francisco. Of all his work on display, a painting titled “Every man stands under his own dome of heaven” captured my attention and my thoughts.

Kiefer is a bit more than a year older than I, so he is one of my contemporaries. He was born in post war Germany (vanquished and diminished in so many ways), and I was born in the USA (one of the victors, and among that group of nations, the least devastated by war). As I learned more about the man, I tried to put myself in his place, growing up in a country so marked by the vestiges of war, that unexploded bombs still turn up as construction crews excavate for new projects or unearthed in a farmer’s field while cultivating. I thought about what it would it be like to grow up hearing of the shame associated with your country, and seeing the results of the physical and economic scares of defeat while you were in your formative years. In the USA, it was not shame, but the glory of helping to rid the world of evil that was the theme. I clearly remember my mother taking me to see Eisenhower’s motorcade down Broad Street in Philadelphia shortly after his election. I was taken to see the great man, the architect of conquest, who on at the end of his eight years in office, warned of the dangers of the mitlitary/industrial complex. I began to think about the impact of early memories and how they shape our future.

As I learned more about Kiefer and his art, it became clear that his creative expression was in part a reflection of his reactions to the influences of his youth. His history shaped his art and his philosophy as expressed in his works. It became apparent that the memories of his youth were integral to his autobiography, and hence his autobiographical memory was integral to his identity.

The concept of each one of us creating our own dome of heaven captured my imagination, and forced me to examine what my dome of heaven looked like, and how it came to be. In the process, the idea that preserving autobiographical memory was critical to preserving a sense of self became a dominating thought. How do you go about preserving memories that have already begun to fade? How does one go about resurrecting their autobiographical memory? How important is the preservation of self to our sense of well-being?

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Filed under The Big Picture