China by Bicycle :: April -- October '98

Subject: The spark of life...
Date: Sat, 26 Sep 1998 16:05:05 -0700


15:48 Kuche Hotel, Kuqa; Xinjiang--China :: SA 26 SEP 98

I was recently reminded of some old email: a passage from the novel of a favourite writer. Originally I'd sent it, in appreciation, to the woman who'd given me the book. It's since been on other journeys and, as with all things shared, has again found its way back. The novel is A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin. Alessandro is a wisened old man, the titular soldier of the Great War. Nicolo is on the cusp of manhood. Enjoy.

"I don't want to walk all the way to Sant' Angelo with a . . . with someone who defeats himself before he's begun," Alessandro said. "I'm going to tell you something that you may or may not understand, and I want you to memorize it and say it to yourself now and then, until, someday, you do understand."

"Is it long?"

"No."

"Go ahead."

"Nicolo," Alessandro said.

"Nicolo," Nicolo repeated.

"The spark of life is not gain."

"The spark of life is not gain."

"Nor is it luxury."

"Nor is it luxury."

"The spark of life is movement."

"Movement."

"Color."

"Color."

"Love."

"Love."

"And furthermore . . ."

"And furthermore . . ."

"If you really want to enjoy life, you must work quietly and humbly to realize your delusions of grandeur."

"But I don't have them."

"Start to have them."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In the beginning was the Tao.
All things issue from it;
all things return to it.

To find the origin,
trace back the manifestations.
When you recognize the children
and find the mother,
you will be free of sorrow.

If you close your mind in judgements
and traffic with desires,
your heart will be troubled.
If you keep your mind from judging
and aren't led by the senses,
your heart will find peace.

Seeing into darkness is clarity.
Knowing how to yield is strength.
Use your own light
and return to the source of light.
This is called practicing eternity.
  graphical element Attributed to Lao Tse
The Tao Te Ching
Chapter 52
trans. Stephen Mitchell

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