All Is Well in the Great Mess

"That which I have said is only like the few leaves in my hand. And that which I have not said is like the dry leaves in this forest."

When your bow is broken

Interestingly, "The Book of Mu" cites the following as a waka poem written by an old Japanese Zen Master.

When your bow is broken and your arrows are exhausted,
There, shoot!
Shoot with your whole being!

-- The Book of Mu

While an internet search has the following line written by Roger Zelazny, an American writer of fantasy and science fiction short stories and novels.

When your bow is broken and your last arrow spent,
then shoot,
shoot with your whole heart.

-- Roger Joseph Zelazny

The best revenge against your enemy is not to become like your enemy.

-- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.6

Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.

-- Seneca

I wonder what feelings inspire a man to complain of 'having nothing to do.' I am happiest when I have nothing to distract me and I am completely alone. . . . Even if a man has not yet discovered the path of enlightenment, as long as he removes himself from his worldly ties, leads a quiet life, and maintains his peace of mind by avoiding entanglements, he may be said to be happy, at least for the time being.

Kenkō (translated by Donald Keene), Tsurezuregusa, Chapter 75, in Donald Keene, Essays in Idleness: The Tsurezuregusa of Kenkō, pages 66-67.


The prisoners of infinite choice
Have built their house
In a field below the wood
And are at peace.

It is autumn, and dead leaves
On their way to the river
Scratch like birds at the windows
Or tick on the road.

Somewhere there is an afterlife
Of dead leaves,
A stadium filled with an infinite
Rustling and sighing.

Somewhere in the heaven
Of lost futures
The lives we might have led
Have found their own fulfilment.

Derek Mahon, The Snow Party (Oxford University Press 1975).

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not believe in anything

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not
believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do
not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your
religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of
your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have
been handed down for many generations. But after observation and
analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is
conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and
live up to it.

-- Sayagyi U Ba Khin

A Cloud Never Dies

Since I came to Cold Mountain
how many thousand years have passed
accepting my fate I fled to the woods
to dwell and gaze in freedom
no one visits the cliffs
forever hidden by clouds
soft grass serves as a mattress
my quilt is the dark blue sky
a boulder makes a fine pillow
Heaven and Earth can crumble and change

-- Red Pine (translator), The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain

"Stop Chasing After So Many Things" - Ryokan and Wang Wei

When I am in need of a sense of perspective, I often turn to the poetry of Ryokan (1758-1831) or Wang Wei (c. 701-761). Ryokan was a Zen monk who lived much of his life in a hut in the wooded hills near the coast of the Sea of Japan. (Present-day Niigata Prefecture.) He is one of the most beloved of Japanese poets, valued for his humility, his simplicity, and his integrity.

My hut lies in the middle of a dense forest;
Every year the green ivy grows longer.
No news of the affairs of men,
Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
The sun shines and I mend my robe;
When the moon comes out I read Buddhist poems.
I have nothing to report, my friends.
If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things.

-- John Stevens (translator), One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan (1977)

If you change the way you look at things,
the things you look at change.

-- Wayne Dyer

Having no destination
I am never lost.

-- Ikkyu 1394-1481


(n.) (v. phr.) "to repair with gold"; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that piece is more beautiful for having been broken

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.

Barbara Bloom

In Japan, broken objects are often repaired with gold. The flaw is seens as a unique piece of the object's history, which adds to its beauty.

Consider this, when you feel broken.

Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of men's desires, but by the removal of desire.

-- Epictetus, The Discourses

Look closer

You can't save time.
You can only spend it.
But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.

-- Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh