Living in the Tao
I take delight in Mai Mai Sze’s Tao of Painting, a deep and contemplative book. I am reading it slowly with great profit.
Early mist. Trees of St. Anne’s wood barely visible across the valley. A flycatcher, on a fence post, appears in momentary flight, describes a sudden, indecipherable ideogram against the void of mist, and vanishes. On both sides of the house, the gossip of tanagers. The tow lizards that operate on the porch scuttle away when I arrive, however quietly, from outside. But when I come from inside the house, even though I might move brusquely, they are not afraid and stay where they are. To be conscious of both extremes in my solitary life. Consolation and desolation, understanding and obscurity, obedience and protest, freedom and imprisonment.
In one sense I am transcending the community; in another, banned from it. In one sense I am “rewarded,” in another punished, kept under restraint. For instance, I cannot go to Asia to seek at the sources some of the things I see to be so vitally important (all the discussions of expression and mystery in brushwork of Chinese calligraphy, painting, poetry, etc.). An “imprisonment” which I accept with total freedom (what I need could be brought to me here!) but nonetheless a confinement. A perfecting of monastic life and a final disillusionment with monastic life! Renunciation of meaningful action and protest in contemporary affairs, awareness that the action itself my(sic) be ambiguous, the renunciation of it more clear, a better defined protest.
June 12, 1965, V.255-56