To see a world in a grain of sand,There is something humerously ironic about so much of contemporary life; in how true both of these statements from Blake can be (one of simple and profound unity, one of a child's endless desires). Today we had a beautiful picnic, Margaret and Bruce and I, in a protected little cove on the Northwest side of Gozo. There we had just the sound of the sea and the wind, the occasional flower or bit of sand, but mostly we just basked in the sun until the clouds rolled in. It was fantastic, filled with plenty of moments of "eternity in an hour"(the downside being that an eternity in the Mediterranean sun can really knock you out, but anyway).
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
The irony is in just how much work it took to find this blissful simplicity: a train, a plane, a mini-bus, a ferry, and a car. So maybe I'm a bit like that little child, too - only now waving down with a big grin from the moon.
~On a not so Blakey but related theme (Buddhism), I had a chat with one of my housemates before I left last Tuesday: a Korean woman named Soyoung, an artist and Taoist. She observed that people here [London] talk a lot about fixing things in the world, the problems out there. But nobody seems to look at themselves. I agreed.
Our little college seems to be cause-central, but it is all (how to put this kindly?) superficial. One example is the Burma protests last fall. They threw together some people to join the London march, but half bailed out, and those who made it just seemed to be there to take pictures (you can see them all in my photos - ha!). A discussion on the topic I attended wound up being led by a socialist reporter who ranted about the "Western Imperialists' hand" behind all of this. I brought up China (the country most funding the oppressive military junta) and was shot down with the response that we can't really look at the big countries on this one - we must organize the student movement!
Mentioning "the movement" seemed to push a button in many of the students because they began buzzing and nodding in agreement. The idea of blaming "Western Imperialists" but not looking at the big countries pushed some of my logical consistency buttons and I kept quiet for the rest of the rally, or discussion.
Anyway, back to the story. So, Soyoung, the Korean woman, tells me this and I say, "Yes, but for me at least I can empathise. I need quiet and time to really look within - when I do get that, I get very introspective and I become creative and thoughtful and all those wonderful things. But when the world is a cacophony as it is here, the body seems to be on high alert and every sense organ (including the mind, which for us Buddhists is a sense organ) is turned outward."
She thought for a moment, and then said two very profound words:
"lotus flower."For those who haven't had "Buddhist similes 101" the lotus flower is a symbol of the purity of perfect awakening emerging from the muck (they like to grow in gross muddy ponds) of ordinary life. Sort of like the Western idea of "every rose has its thorn" or something like that.
So, me being "smart" and not wanting to be one-upped spiritually, I came back with, "well, even a lotus needs decent conditions, right? It can't grow in rock." All of which I thought was very clever - yes we need to see ourselves as overcoming the muck of daily life, but we do need proper conditions to do our spiritual work...
She didn't have to think much this time. She just rolled her eyes and said:
"philosophy!" and laughed...