10 September 2010

More Paradox

Today I was chatting with a friend and we got onto the subject of paradox. Those who know me also know that this topic fascinates me, and that my own life is filled with paradox. I love the brutality and strain and sweat and conflict of playing rugby, and I also love leisurely preparing a gourmet meal with/for friends with Mozart playing in the background. Don't ask me to explain this, I've given up trying. It's just part of the design. You want reasons, go ask The Maker. More on this in a minute.

At the end of my CODA post a few days ago, I said "Not The End. Because there isn't any end. It goes on forever." Which I truly and sincerely believe down to the bottom of my soul. After I wrote those words, suddenly they seemed familiar, like I'd read something similar elsewhere. But I couldn't place it. When this happens, my subconscious usually takes over while I focus on other things. It goes into back buffer search subroutine mode and usually spits out the missing piece later on, sometimes days later.

As in this case. The answer popped up on (mental) screen just a few minutes ago. And I laughed because it was more evidence of my own paradoxical traits that blend with the rugby and the baseball and the kickboxing and all that.

I like old Korean poetry. Really old, as in centuries old. Since its originals were all written in archaic Korean and Chinese, I normally content myself with the translations. So they don't scan or rhyme like English poetry does. Instead, the aesthetic focuses on the pictures that the words paint. And I realized that the phrase I'd used at the end of my CODA post was similar to one of my favorite Korean poems from the 16th Century. (How many rugby players do you know who obsess about 16th Century Korean poetry? Yeah, weird, I agree.) Nearby in the anthology was another one that I love because of its imagery, and I've been in remote Korean mountain valleys much like it describes so I know that the beauty it describes is truly stunning.

So I thought it'd be nice to share these two little gems with whoever bothers to read my blog, because I'd bet the cost of two tickets to a Padres game (which is dropping since they're playing really bad right now) that not a single one of you has ever seen these before or even heard of them. The secret to enjoying these is to let your mind paint the picture as you read the words, then just savor the picture for a moment afterward.

First one, by Buddhist Grand Master Sosan (1522-1604):

The Dozing Monk

In the deep recess a rain of pink petals,
The long bamboo emit emerald mists.
Frozen white clouds lodge on the peak.
A monk dozes beside a blue crane.

Stop and savor that mental picture for a moment. The "deep recess" of course being a narrow wooded mountain valley. Rich green, pink, icy white, blue all together, and perfectly tranquil. Sosan was a genius.

Now here's the one that my wetware subroutine finally coughed up after being triggered by my CODA post. It's by Korean poet Yi Hwang (1501-1571) and is deeply, profoundly touching in both its imagery and its message. It doesn't have a title. And I won't say anything after it because I want Yi Hwang to have the last word.

The green hills--how can it be
that they are green eternally?
Flowing streams--how can it be
night and day they never stand still?
We also, we can never stop.
We shall grow green eternally.