I look around me

I look around me. I hear the babble of the world.

I try to discern something, a word, anything, that will indicate to me that the world is awake. But most are asleep it seems or keep the awoken part very well hidden.

The news is heartbreaking no matter where it comes from. Violence fueled by narrow ideas of belonging such as nationalism and religion, is on the rise in speech and action. While so-called political correctness actually impedes free speech, the one where humor and laughter are allowed; many are falling pray to an obtuse sense of self, clinging to identity stickers.

Movies are for the most part boring or silly rehash (did you know that they are preparing “Gladiator Two” with Maximus coming back to life through a Christian martyr —is it just me or is stupidity triumphing?).

The latest books seem to follow the same lines with the new Booker Prize recounting a story the very summary of it made me cringe, and not in the intellectual Kafka sense, far from it.

Trying to be original has become so common that it is… you guessed it, no longer original.

School and social conveniences continue to ask all to fit a mold, no matter how original some try to be. At the end, many end up looking like copies of others, and most often uncouth emulations.

I do look around. I do observe and I do try to avoid judgement. But at times, I wish there were less brashness and a dash more of elegance, intellectual elegance I mean, the one that opens up your mind and makes you want to pursue a conversation. The one of knowledge and simple straightforwardness, not the one of vulgar (as in vulgaris) information and complicated pretension.

The world is in dire need of consciousness, of ideas and concepts beyond the confines of the known, of dreams and of those things that are only accessible to the mind. If only mankind would realize that what he can do is far far greater than what he has made and what he thinks he can do.

There are more than 125 trillion synapses in our cerebral cortex, that is more than there are stars in 1’500 milky ways.* And yet, look at the world.


Like Han Shan

The wise Chinese poet Han Shan once wrote that in his secluded dwelling, he could be “a person beyond form.
Away from the “dusty” world, he wrote about mountains peaks and clouds as his neighbors, the echo of the deep river and the flutter of butterflies. He saw trees bloom and turn red, and some die of old age. He felt the mist as it entered his cave, and felt sadness and joy “under his wisteria hat.
He was away from the world but he felt it. He was on the side, alone, yet fully aware of its madness and beauty, enabling him to laugh and shed tears all at the same time.
Don’t you feel sometimes like Han Shan?
I do.


Inspiration: Han Shan 寒山, Chinese Tao and Zen Poet, ca.9th c. Han Shan means “Cold mountain.” I keep a volume of Han Shan’s poetry next to my bed.

An espresso and the Tao

On this early Monday morning, after dropping my son to school, I sit at a café and take the Tao Te King out of my bag. Five hundred characters speaking words of wisdom and serenity.
Around me people come and go. Phones are handled, money is exchanged, conversations oscillate in tones.
I sit alone with an espresso, a pain au chocolat and the book. Lao Tzu is so so far away in time and setting.
There is a slight chill in the air on this autumn morning. I wrap myself more comfortably in a pashmina, and open his millenary book. Serenity arrives.
I feel the flow as I lift the tiny espresso cup. I take in gentleness with the simplicity of my gestures and as I taste the comfort of chocolate. The presence of a few pigeons waiting for bread crumbs brings into my thoughts compassion and humble generosity.
Clouds are high. The sky is a pale shade of blue.
The daily hustle can wait.


I walk in the town’s main square

I walk in the town’s main square and look up at the deep blue sky. White and grey mingle in the clouds, immense as only tropical clouds can be.
Meanwhile people around me are busy talking and taking pictures of themselves.
A child eating sweet bread leaves a mount of crumbs. Joyous birds gather around him, then fly away as the mother starts to gesticulate.
Did anyone notice the majesty of the clouds? Did anyone notice the joy of the birds?
Enthralled by the sights of autumn, I walk unmindful of the crowd.


Ryōkan’s hut


Often, I think I am in Ryōkan’s hut.
I see the sky through the window,
the wall next to it hiding the house across the street.
Birds come on the window sill chirping away
enthralled by the morning glory overflowing its small pot.
Cars pass intermittently
and I try to muffle their sound.
Rain falls gently on the roof
and I pretend it is thatched.
I sit like he did.
I push aside the woes of the world,
my mind at peace
and yet…
I am not in Ryōkan’s hut.
I have to deal with the everyday:
the market and talking to strangers,
walking through filled streets,
thinking of tomorrow,
having a house in order and a wallet also.
I cannot create Ryōkan’s hut,
I can at most pretend that I am in it.
Some of you may not understand,
and as Ryōkan said
“Who can indeed content himself with this manner of life,
Unless he has seen himself altogether lost in the world.”


– Quote from one of Ryōkan’s (Japan, 1758-1831) Chinese poems.
Art: self-portrait by Ryōkan.