A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Breath Of The Greater Life

Just as a white summer cloud in harmony with heaven and earth freely floats in the blue sky from horizon to horizon following the breath of the atmosphere — in the same way the pilgrim abandons himself to the breath of the greater life that . . .  leads him beyond the farthest horizons to an aim which is already present within him, though yet hidden from his sight.

LAMA GOVINDA The Way of the White Clouds (Quoted in Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard)

I've just noticed that I'll soon be writing my 1500th post — probably sometime in February. As usual with me, this observation gives rise to all sorts of questions. Is this an achievement or not? If so, what kind of an achievement is it? What is an achievement, anyhow? Actually, come to think of it, I don't much like the word 'achievement'. I don't think I've ever written that word on this blog before. And why I am writing it now is anyone's guess. Because I don't particularly warm to those who write glowingly about what they've 'achieved' — even if it's de rigueur to do this these days. (Facebook, God help us.) I prefer a more modest, subtle approach. Oh, so English.

Am I writing for myself or for an empathic readership? (Both, I think. I write to get my own thoughts in order, to give some sense and structure to my life, to share this at-times lonely process with others and to hope for some common ground.)

It has been a blessing to give and receive, to share with a nucleus of others (you know who you are) the joys and travails of an individual yet common path. Thank you for everything.

And it's not even the 1500th yet! (Good God, I hope sentimentality isn't going to strike me now I'm 60.)

19 comments:

sackerson said...

I know what you mean. Not only is achievement problematic but also it can distract from the immediate present. And when one looks back on what one has done, sometimes one has achieved things without actually setting out with a goal. Sometimes goals are indispensable, sometimes they're the kiss of death.

The Weaver of Grass said...

What it proves is staying power Robert. I passed my two thousandth a few weeks ago - and what it proves to me is that I have a load of virtual friends out there with whom I share posts - and it enhances my life greatly.

George said...

Looking forward to the next 1,500 posts, Robert. To your credit, I would say your writing is just another form of pilgrimage, where the goal is not achievement, but openness to transformation through exploration and discovery.

Ruth said...

I really love this quote, and the idea that an aim is present within all of us from birth. It is best not to resist it, and for our parents and guardians to foster it, although how we float on that breath of greater life is often shaped by obstacles. I need to read this book, I think.

It's good to pause and mark milestones like this. If you didn't do this along your pilgrimage, you might lose heart. Of course this is different than that, and you don't have a goal of a certain number of posts. What it tells me is that you appreciate the space to write, to share what resonates with you and you enjoy it when others find that it resonates with them too. This is pleasure!

For me, I appreciate that you share what you do, because I learn about myself as well as you.

Sabine said...

Having dropped in maybe sometime after your first 1000 posts, I would not want to miss a single one. So, keep it up, please. There are blogs that open doors to new vistas, amazing and challenging, and yours is one of them.

As for sentimentality, what's wrong with it? Too female maybe? I could/would not get by without it.

Gerry Snape said...

I love following your pilgrimages....keep going!

John O said...

In a previous post you wrote, "ambulo ergo sum". After reading today's post, it occurred to me that the pilgrim might well say, "sum ergo ambulo". And isn't writing some kind of walking, some kind of path, some kind of journey? John

Vagabonde said...

Congratulation on 1500 posts! My gosh, that is certainly an achievement. I don’t think I’ll ever write so many – but mine are so long that people would die of boredom first…

I did find the Snow Leopard last night and started reading it. It was on the shelf next to “The Tree where Man was Born” by Peter too – have you read it? You know most of the books I read on Tibet were written by Alexandra David-Neel – in French, at least 10 to 12 books of her. I did read one in English called “The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects” that she wrote with Lama Yongden. I bought it at City Light bookstore in San Francisco in the late 1960s. I went through my time with Alexandra David-Neel reading everything I could by her or on her as she was such an extraordinary woman. One book has many of her other little texts – I have it and it is over 1100 pages long! I was so taken by her that I traveled to Digne-les-Bains in the Alpes de Haute Provence where she had her house and where she retired because the scenery there reminded her of Tibet. That was a long time ago and I took photographs but before the digital camera. If I ever find them I’ll make a post on her. Have you read any of her books? She did travel to Tibet way before Peter Matthiessen as I think she traveled there, on foot, in 1924 and again in 1937 I believe.

Vagabonde said...

I am back because something extraordinary happened. So I was back looking at bookshelf no. 11 (we have books in every rooms, thousands of them) I was looking at the Tibet section. For example I have the original book 7 Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer (in English) and also his photo book Lost In Lhasa. That was next to A Journey in Ladakh by Andrew Harvey and Journey Across Tibet by Sorrel Wilby and next to Trespassers on the Roof of the World by Peter Hopkirk, books and books on Tibet and Nepal– too long to list. So, my husband, who has Alzheimer and has no short term memory – but still a lot of his long term, came and asked me what I was doing. I told him and had a Peter Matthiessen book in hand. He said “Oh I remember him well” so I said “you mean you read his books?” no, he said – I remember talking and smoking with him. So I asked him more questions and I said smoked what? Well it was not clear I think it was smoking something or other and could have also have been LSD (don’t know if Peter ever did that.) My husband knew many environmentalists since that was his field and came in contact with many radicals, then he was (is still somehow) a Buddhist. So I thought I would tell you.

The Solitary Walker said...

I agree, Dominic. Often the crooked, misty path is more fulfilling than the direct road!

The Solitary Walker said...

2000, Pat! That's awesome.

The Solitary Walker said...

George — It means a lot to me that you've been following and getting something from my ramblings for all this time. Also, it led to our meeting up, didn't it, on Hadrian's Wall.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Ruth, for this response. As usual, you are empathically on the nail (ouch!) about what's happening on this blog.

The Solitary Walker said...

Hi, Gerry... and thanks for your enthusiasm!

The Solitary Walker said...

Sabine, that was so nice — thank you.

The Solitary Walker said...

John O — yes, absolutely, as George also points out. We journey in many ways. Scribo ergo sum/sum ergo scribo.

The Solitary Walker said...

I think we all enjoyed this enormously, Vagabonde — your comments are so often packed with delicious personal anecdote. I loved imagining your bookshelves and all those books on Buddhism and Tibet. I remember seeing the movie of 'Seven Years in Tibet' years ago. Re. Matthiessen: I was intrigued your husband had met him. I know that he experimented with LSD in the '60s with his young wife, the poet and writer Deborah Love. Matthiessen was a fascinating and complex character, a real man of action as well as intellect and imagination. And he writes beautifully.

Strangely enough, I mentioned Digne-les-Bains in another context a few posts ago: http://solitary-walker.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/ambulo-ergo-sum.html Another one of those ubiquitous blog- synchronicities!

dritanje said...

I particularly enjoy the humour in your posts though sometimes I'm not sure it is intentional:) I fall about laughing when you start questioning yourself & ask is it an achievement and do I even like the concept etc. because I recognize it as the kind of strand-unravelling thinking I do myself. I am I assure you, laughing WITH you - at the human condition really. And yes I read Vagabonde's superb posts & thanked her. And thank you!!

The Solitary Walker said...

I think it's normally intentional, Morelle, but it all depends on one's own sense of humour! Humour can be a very individual thing. Though I think we both may have a similar off-beat outlook on life. Often you have to laugh else you'd cry. I recognise that kind of worry-bead thinking, of course — and, yes, I sometimes find it beneficial (and amusing!) to verbalise it on the blog — in a stream-of-consciouness kind of way.

Vagabonde's post was important, wasn't it? I've now discovered her equally fascinating previous post on 'Voltaire and Tolerance', and linked to it from this one.