the right words

The other day, I was looking at my bookshelf, and noting that some of the books I bought just after writing my MA have been languishing on my shelves. Their content did not bring to me what I thought they would, given their titles and authors' credentials. What had I been looking for? Some kind of answer about journey and cultural identity; something about the lived aspect of ideas.
Ultimately, I found the answers in other books, which I found serendipitously. One, for instance, caught my eye on the French Cultural Library's bookshelf, and I thought, "this looks unrelated, but I want to read it anyway," - and thus found just what I'd been looking for.
What I learned by looking at the titles on my shelves is that my concerns have remained the same through time, but that I reach and work out some of the answers in unexpected, illogical, ways.
I was also thinking about this idea yesterday, when I listened to a radio programme about John Ruskin. It is no secret that I have taken his pen name - though I wish to give it a new meaning.
Ruskin was a very complex character. I am sure that you know about his Wordsworthian writings on cottages, praising those that were "sympathetic" to their surroundings, respecting local materials. But did you know that his writings on political economy inspired Gandhi and Tolstoy? He made grandiose statements such as: "That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the function of his life to the utmost, has always the widest helpful influence." Yet, he had a conflicted personal life, and this is a topic I am not qualified to breach.

Some words, some teaching is so easy to follow. Instead of having to borrow one idea here and there, like selecting chocolates from a box assortment, one can admire the coherence of a life well lived or clear ideals. But to achieve such craftsmanship takes time.
So does the development of larger ideas. Let us take the name of this blog, for instance. The meaning is not explicit. It is related to the Tao passage, to the concept of ex nihilo, and to Rumi's "every craftsman/ searches for what's not there/ to practice his craft." The meaning isn't clear at first glance, but that does not mean it can't be elucidated. Like the books on my shelves show me: I have been working on the same questions without always realising it, so I must press on, and trust in loving time.
What I learn from Rumi is that the repetitious questions are the threads that we bring back into the loom for the next row. "Workers rush toward some hint of emptiness, which they then start to fill. Their hope, though, is for emptiness, so don't think you must avoid it. It contains what you need! Dear soul, if you were not friends with the vast nothing inside, why would you always be casting your net into it, and waiting so patiently? This invisible ocean has given you such abundance, but still you call it 'death'."
It is up to us to know that there will be an end to all the weaving, and to try to make it beautiful. Work is not only about beginnings. Maybe some people are easier to learn from because they work towards a fixed end. Their ideals were never taken literally, but were the shining stars that guided them through the night. The journey is not about perfection, but about having forgiving ideals. Forgiving enough to stand the test of time and culture.
My internet pen pal used to write that it is arrogance to expect oneself to act perfectly. That people often judge themselves, or try to control that which is not theirs to control. These are all examples of pride. Imposing what one thinks. "Forget others and their judgements - they are not about you," someone once wrote to me. "Forget judgements about yourself. Every time you accept a judgement, you are feeding yourself emotional poison, which makes it harder to see the love."
How coherent we are is not for us to judge; all we are asked to do is to make that golden effort, and hold the intent of love in our hearts. How coherent is humility!
April is poetry month, so I will be trying to end each post with a poem. This is another by Dickinson; XXII:

I had no time to hate, because
The grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I
Could finish enmity.

Nor had I time to love; but since
Some industry must be,
The little toil of love, I thought,
Was large enough for me.

Elements: needlework; rose brush; newspaper.

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