Stichomancy

Is there not a tension that occurs if one persists in reading, day after day, while people in the vicinity prefer to puzzle up their day differently, with talkative and tactile pieces? Surely it is the invalidation of bookish ways that provokes the prideful defense typical of the especially cosmopolitan bibliophile, so eager to brand people as "philistine."
Pesky pride: it shows that person with their head in the books was not content at failing to convey the beauty of all the contours and elevations among words. It's like true love: one can't always have a ready defense of it, it already being so much and enough, not looking to prove itself. So the wounded pride stutters: you are a philistine or pharisee if you don't see it.
Immaturity tarnishes the quest for mastery with zeal. A zeal for reading. Some people never get over it. Maybe some people need such things their whole lives because they are filling deep holes that cannot be seen. G.K. Chesterton once wrote that he didn't understand monastic life, but was sure it existed for a good reason. We are all so different, for some, abstinence comes naturally; they must find something else that is difficult. But then that is not zeal, but being in the one place that brings peace and makes sense. Zeal is jumping up and getting upset over a difference in values. Being in the right place lets things go.
Zeal is like speeding in a really fast car, believing it possible to get somewhere faster, all the while forgetting that accidents happen even on the road to mastery. The only way to hold on to clocked miles is to be sorry for the pride. This is why many who read books and travel lose the merit of distance by becoming peremptory.
"An empty mirror and your worst destructive habits, when they are held up to each other, that's when the real making begins. That's what art and crafting are. A tailor needs a torn garment to practice his expertise..."
That's Rumi, who I turned to from the uncertainty of the present, as if through stichomancy (reading passages of books, taken at hazard, technically a form of divination, but I once learned that difficult books can be read out of order, and articles read bottom to top, to be more engaging and ultimately intelligible). That's what art and crafting are.


I cut up my story again into many pieces. I let the words of the days and the years and the dreams float swingingly into a new heap.
"True seekers keep riding straight through, whereas big, lazy, self-worshipping geese unload their pack animals in a farmyard, and say, 'This is far enough.'"
Sometimes, it is enough to remember the word "seeking" to be released from any tyranny of words, thoughts, invalidation. All of the problems of this life cannot stand up to just passing through. Some find solace where they have found it since childhood days, in books. It is because of those hours of laying on the carpet beneath teak bookshelves and finding already in print one's loneliest secrets that some people feel moved to write. The idea that through sharing, a joint effort can be made to break free from the cast that would otherwise bind us.
"Be patient. Respond to every call that excites your spirit. Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back toward disease and death." Is excitement not in the promise of education, the humanist "liberty," ancient Greek "φιλοσοφία" - the pursuit of truth? These are the ideas that stand behind things: it is a materialist idea that casts the thing in heavy iron.
Thought and books that direct and cultivate thought are the Rousseauean canvas. And some words can clear out other words, like seek. Just like reading about history, of the mercury in the hats of yesteryear and the disease of cross-oceanic exposure, can clear the mind of worries over the current age, of unhealthy clothes and worries of disease. An integral part of life has often been constituted by these issues.
If imperfection is the beginning of art and craft, there must be relief for the writer and the reader alike. Some words are but crouching in their rows, awaiting the flight of freedom in eyes that recognise their potential. How many more choices the reader has. I wonder too how much of reading is actually stichomancy performed by memory.



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