Original Mind: Tree with Roots

There is a fishing technique, a kind of jigging, that uses a special wooden stick to disturb the water and lazy perch that testily venture out to see what is going on. Bait is thrown and in confusion at the commotion, the fish bites. This is just like in those increasingly common situations, which should proceed unnoticed, that become provocations of one's better sense. One is best forewarned not to take the bait.
A friend was telling me how cobblers are now above even their trade and are reluctant to practice their craft of restoration. She had taken to the cobbler's three pairs of sandals, already prepared to charm the cantankerous soul who works there into doing his job. Despite her smile and clever tactic of using the sandals in best shape as bait, the cobbler proceeded to criticise them, huffing and hawing at how much work needed to be done. When he saw pair number three, he said, now these, these should go straight to the rubbish dump! She explained to him that of course they needed work, that was why she had brought them to him, the expert. But to no avail. She said smilingly, as she was thinking of the perch, I don't know how you expect to take that attitude and remain for much longer in this line of work. Disturbance met a task meant to go swimmingly.
She wore her smile all the way onto the bus, where everyone was scowling except her. A man complimented her for her bright demeanour, saying the only other person he'd seen smiling that morning was his neighbour, who, on questioning, said he was smiling out of hardship. When she told him why she was smiling, he said, that, too, is hardly funny.
There is a passage in Mencius, or Mengzi (6A10), where he compares desiring a fish to desiring a bear's paw. He would choose the paw. He desires life, but there are things more than life he desires; he hates death, but there are things worse than death that he hates. It is up to man to retain his heart of hearts (本心) , one's conscience. means fundamental, origin, source: it is the character for tree, with roots on it. Charles Muller translates it as "original mind."
Part of the passage reads, "there are some things that people will not do to save their lives and some things that people will not do to avoid death. This means that there are things more important to them than life, and more hateful to them than death. It is not only the worthy who have this capacity. All people have it, but the worthy are able to be consistent in it ... a man will accept a huge sum of money without any consideration of propriety. What can the money add to his person? I can beautify my house, gain the favors of wives and concubines, or gain the attention of greedy acquaintances ...Was it also not possible to decline this? This is called 'losing one's original mind.'"
We can be conditioned out of our natural state but can help each other return. Thence the helping stick of humour, which may remind us of our dust in our bones, and help us detach from appearance, including the way we appear to ourselves, sometimes deracinated from where we'd like to be.




Brush. Yellow walls now fully painted and yellows muted to match. Friend mentioned above came to help with the 12-hour cleaning, saying, "It's not so bad, we're almost done!"

2 comments:

  1. Ha ha, I love the story of your friend, the cobbler, and the man on the bus. I thought that was only the way things worked in France. We had that same battle so many times while we lived there!
    And, as always, you've brought lots of good things to think about into this post about an otherwise somewhat aggravating event.

    I meant to comment on your post about matters of home a little while ago. My husband is writing his phd on matters of immigration and home,so it was especially interesting for me to read!

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  2. Hi Jodi, I am still not quite clear on the etiquette of comments: where to reply to posts, whether it makes more sense to reply on the commenter's blog, etc... but have decided to respond here.
    Thank you and it can be refreshing for life to not unfold mechanically, despite the bumps in the road!
    As for the rest, your comment was interesting for me to read - I think that the concept of 'home' is particularly interesting at this time in history. May I wish your husband all the very best with his dissertation.

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