Bio Note: Not having retired, died, or been found guilty of moral turpitude, I continue teaching happily at Boston University, albeit from a remote location.
Six Mental Exercises
One Think of moving as a way of standing still. Two Think of standing still as a way of moving. Note how the first exercise causes you to concentrate on yourself; the second on the world …and when you think of yourself moving as a mode of not moving you will hear the world panting to catch up with you while, at the same time, you are racing to keep up with the world which, while you are performing the second exercise, becomes as still as you are, and, not batting an eye, stares at you like the dog who has given up chasing his tail and now awaits his necessary walk. Three Pretend you are an ancient Chinese poet in ancient China. Four Pretend you are an ancient Chinese poet when and where you are living now. Note how the first exercise causes you to become sensitive to brooks and bamboo, one might even say to love them; the second to be jarred, displaced, forlorn …and when you pretend the first time the world and your garden become one, the transfiguration of the smallest cloud more telling than a change of emperors who, when all of them are gone, their dusty dynasties preserved only in a few perfect porcelains, a flourish of calligraphy, a map-like landscape, seem not to have been such philistines after all. Five Imagine everyone has died but you. Six Imagine you have died while everyone else still lives. Note how the first exercise makes life feel oppressive, like a blight, while the second bids life so dear that you can think only of being alive …and when you imagine yourself alone—alive alone—what do you see but ragged gray cities over which a sour wind draws itself up like a shroud which, in the second exercise, is over you, and that’s how children picture ghosts; so, you too grow a ghost and moan with envy every Hallowe’en.
Originally published in Orion Headless
©2021 Robert Wexelblatt
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