Sunday, August 11, 2019

looking out/ looking in (part III): notes from the ordinary

The previous post was an homage to the question about gazing outward to look inward. The third and final assignment was to look at how this question shows up in the day-to-day. Here is what I wrote.

I The pulse of ordinary life: 
Half asleep, I could hear a steady sound: ksshhhhhhhhhh 
(air conditioning? cars whizzing somewhere?). 
I thought of John Cage, in an anechoic chamber, realising there is no such thing 
as real silence.*

II Extraordinary ordinariness: 
The evening light on the dining table was liquid gold. Crumbs cast long shadows. 
Andrew Wyeth’s work came to mind: The Blue Door; dark recesses of the shed, radiant light on the door. 
Not a ‘perfect’ beauty, but an imperfect one. 
Wabi sabi.

III Eternity on the wall: 
The sun sets on the same wall each day 
regardless of the season. It’s a big window and a big wall. 
If the house were to live for an eternity, we can safely assume that the evening sun will 
always fall on that wall. 

IV White light flight: 
My eye caught a flock of white birds flying north. 
They seemed to be flying in slow motion; their bodies glistening with each flap of their wings. 
The monumental in the most ordinary of sights. 
Their formation looked like this:
 |> |> |> |> 
    |> |> |> |>  |> |>
|> |> |> |>
      |> |> 

V Chop wood, carry water: 
Most days look like this: 
wake up, shower, breakfast, work, lunch, work, coffee, dinner, sleep. Repeat. 
I wonder what it all means.
Zen masters say chop wood, carry water

VI The fruits of insight: 
C├ęzanne’s fruits vibrate with a palpable energy. 
I look at the fruit in my kitchen; 
the plums have to go. 
Life, even in death, is full of life.


 Kay Larson, Where the Heart Beats, John Cage, Zen Buddhism and the Inner Life of Artists, 2012. Note: In the anechoic chamber (which blocks all external sounds), Cage heard two sounds, a dull roar and a high whine that came his body. The first was blood rushing through veins. The second was the firing of neurons. Larson says, “In the anechoic chamber, Cage sought perfect silence and instead found the pulse of ordinary life.”


  1. Good job Priya! So poetic and insightful. So accesible and elegant.

  2. I wanna see more of those drawings! <3

    1. Oh yes I'm going to think more about it and play.