Friday, March 24, 2006


Every time I glanced at the previous post's title, I read it as 'The Old and the Jackass'. I wrote the thing, and still I am like, what was that again? Oh yeah, "jacketless". Allrighty.

Talk about everything in the world being interconnected. Not long ago I was reading Karen Armstrong's Visions of God: Four Medieval Mystics and Their Writings, where I first learned about The Cloud of Unknowing, which is a manual for contemplative spirituality written by an anonymous Englishman in 1375. The book contains simple, brief advice to prepare oneself to experience the Divine. The overwhelming and recurring theme is love, all written in concise chapters with thoughtful advice.

Just today, I started reading The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism by James Geary. You'll never guess what I came across when the author begins with his first of five points about what makes a true aphorism. Beginning on page 9: "If brevity is the soul of wit, as Shakespeare observed in one of his many aphoristic insights, then concision is the aphorism's heart. Aphorisms must work quickly because they are meant for use in emergencies. We're most in need of aphorisms at times of distress or joy, ecstasy or anguish. And in cases of spiritual or emotional urgency, brevity is the best policy. The author of The Cloud of Unknowing, a spiritual instruction manual written by an anonymous English monk in the latter half of the fourteenth century, knew this when he advised his students: Short prayer penetrates heaven."

It goes on another page and a half about The Cloud of Unknowing. I mean, I had just read about this! What are the odds?

I'm enjoying The World in a Phrase very much, because it's been a nice segway from the historical and religious texts which have captured my interest lately. I'm only on page 34 and it's already discussed Lao Tzu, who I have quoted on this blog; the Tao; and now on to Buddha and Confucius.

It's a surprise to find all of this, because I was expecting more of an English textbook-with-anecdotes kind of book, and instead have encountered references to ancient texts and sources of wisdom which I seek to study. The only problem is these books are so packed with thoughtful, meaningful words that reading them goes quite slowly. I get them from the library and often have had to renew them (or return them before I was finished because they were on hold for someone else) in order to try and finish them, not to mention absorb, what they have to say.

One thing I keep learning over and over again, is that Life is all about transformation. It never stops. Ancient sages knew this, and advised people to stop fighting the change and instead find a way to become stable within that change. It's a tough lesson to learn, one of the most important we need to know but one we keep forgetting.

I most enjoy the connections between people, ideas, and experiences. I experience such delight when I come across something I have a familiarity with, and find out how it further relates to something else. And that's what our existence is, really; a multitude of interconnected beings going about the days, mostly unaware of the powerful connections between one another this thing called Life has created. I love it when I find one of those connections. Life is full of them.

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