Tao Te Ching, Chapter 26 – Mindful Monday

Heavy is the root of light.
Stillness is the ruler of haste.

Therefore:
Although he travels all day,
The sage never loses sight of his luggage carts.
Only when he rests securely inside the walls,
He relaxes his attention.

Why would a ruler with ten thousand chariots
Look lightly on himself or his domain?

In lightness, the root is lost.
In haste, the ruler is lost.

This is one translation. The challenge with ancient texts written in remote languages is the plenitude of room for interpretation. In the second stanza, my translation says something in the meaning of: “Although he is the ruler of luxurious palaces and parks, / he remains humble and calm, above vanity.” Nothing about “relaxing his attention”. To be honest, the version I own on my bookshelves is closer and sounds more natural to me.

Another difference comes in the third stanza, the one with the 10000 chariots. My version reads “Would the ruler of ten thousand chariots / treat his kingdom lightly because of himself”. Online, I found yet another wording: “How, then, should a ruler of ten thousand chariots / Make light of his own person in the eyes of the empire?” See what I mean? Three different nuances. Moreover, they are so different, that I cannot see which one I prefer.

“Stillness is the ruler of haste.” I love this. Haste will always bow before stillness. Because stillness is persistent, it can go on for a long time without getting tired. It is equally intensive at its ending as it is at its beginning. Eventually, it should win. Well, there are situations in life when haste is preferable. Imagine you need to run away from danger or ruin. I can’t deny the usefulness of thinking and acting quickly. At the end of this Chapter, hastiness is mentioned once again to say that it is the ruin of the ruler. So, sages and rulers shouldn’t be hasty.

“Heavy is the root of light.” I have difficulties understanding that. I thought about it, looking at the sentence from several points of view, and I can’t say I reached any clarity. Maybe just like any plant needs roots and can’t survive without them, relying on the nurture and stability coming from them, in the same way, anything light cannot survive without taking energy, food and stability – its life, in short – from the heavy. The ending of the Chapter revisits the idea, stressing that if you have lightness only, the root is lost. That last idea made me think of a balloon. With nothing to hold it down, it flies away.

Let me know what you think, I’d love to read all your views and ideas in the comments.

Flash Fiction Friday – The Key and the Door

Today is Friday, and one of my blog themes for this day of the week is Flash Fiction. Here is a topic I took from a prompt back in September. It was to write a six-word story, but you know limitations and conditions are “more like guidelines than actual rules”, as Captain Barbossa once said. So, here is my

Story about a Found Key

Amshar’s heart burnt. His passionate love of his mother and the determination to find a cure for her illness set his course. He left home at 16. The priest promised to guard his mom from the evil spirits until Amshar’s return.
One night, he couldn’t go further. Dropping to the ground, he hardly had the power to pull his carpet out and lay it down under a great tree. The dark branches whispered ingratiatingly above, so Amshar leaned against its trunk. When he touched the ground, something small and hard poked his left hand. Hardly seeing in the dark, Amshar realised it’s a key!
Every key belongs to a key-hole in a door somewhere. Filled with hope, the boy clutched the cold object and closed his eyes.
When he woke, it was still night. Standing up to move his numb legs, Amshar circled around the tree and saw the door in the bark on its other side. A door! His heart almost stopped stopped and Amshar held his breath fumbling the key until he almost dropped it in the thick grass. It fit and clicked lightly. The door opened. What he saw on the other side made him freeze.
His sick mother lay on a bed near a window, and a fire burned at the far end of the room. The village priest stood up from a low stool in front of the fire and moved towards him with a beastly flame in his eye and agile step.
The air around them stirred and everything dissolved in mist.

Watching a Film: Passengers, 2016

#WebWednesday

Although I didn’t bump into it on the web, it was thanks to the web that I watched Passengers. It can be found on Netflix, and you need an Internet connection for that. That’s how the film found a place on my blog in this particular #web topic.

Don’t read if you haven’t seen it and you want to find everything out for yourself, because I am about to make a synopsis of the plot.

Passengers was released in 2016, and I read that before getting to our screens, it was in some hell of its own. Many works of art nowadays are. That thing aside, the plot is not too complicated. A sleeping ship full of people travelling to a colony planet 120 years away from Earth to start a new life on, malfunctions due to serious asteroid collisions. A passenger is awakened, Jim, starring Chris Pratt from Guardians of the Galaxy. A year later, having done nearly everything there is to do onboard, Jim awakes another passenger, Aurora, not telling her the truth but pretending her awakening was just as accidental as his. For a year both live together on the ship, gradually falling in love and settling in for a happy life. Then suddenly, the truth about how Aurora was brought up resurfaces, and their harmony is shattered.

The fact that the ship is in critical condition and their attempts to prevent its destruction finally brings them together for a happy ever after. Perhaps they didn’t have children, or maybe they did, but that’s not part of my story.

I enjoyed the film mostly because of Jim’s character. He is a mechanic who left Earth where “when something breaks, we don’t fix it, we replace it”. He wants to go to a new world where he can help build it. All the time we saw him on the screen, if he wasn’t at the bar or with Aurora, he was making something. Making, fixing, changing, adapting – never stopping. When Arthur, the android bartender, asked him what he had been doing to get so soiled, Jim said simply: “Improvements.”

He found the bio area where they carried the plants and succeeded in planting a tree in the middle of the Concourse – the ship’s spacious lounge. Not only did he accept his fate – that he will die on the ship before it reaches the colony, but he also did all he could in cool mind and intention to make his life there count… for him, at least. It seems to me, Jim had the meaning of life figured out very clearly and neatly. He was fine with being quietly happy in a small family and house. He didn’t put an equation sign between happiness and popularity. His astonishing and extraordinary deeds may seem too everyday, but in the universe of his soul, they were huge.

Aurora’s character evolved from a girl who thought that only extraordinariness can make her happy to someone who realised that being part of the perfect couple is all you need to feel accomplished.
At the final difficulty, when Jim had to stay out of the ship in order to hold the door open for the reactor to vent, my husband said: “Here’s how one should never give up.” My husband likes pointing such signs to me, just so as I don’t forget.

Passengers was one of the few films I really enjoyed since a long time ago. I have been getting lazy and used to series lately, so I don’t often sit down for over 1 h to see one full-length piece. I liked the film much more than The Martian, that was widely-acclaimed as another never-give-up survivor story. To me, The Martian was boring, I don’t know why. Maybe due to the lack of an Aurora in it.

Cheers to all the unrelenting mechanics who never stop improving their surroundings, and to all the Auroras who inspire them with their starlight and faltering enthusiasm!

Sunday Whirl 372 – My Bruised Vision

The matches light the room
at least a tiny portion where I can use my bruised vision

I love my nails although my hand is numb and aches
A match goes off and I strike another one

There is a rusty mail close to the door
Like a knight, a guard of honour to secure the place
and make sure all splendour is safe – princes, princesses and all

That reminds me
of my blossomed rich garden, where every flower is caged in safety
surrounded by metal edges and love.

The door is unhinged and falls on my aching hand
raising stars before my eyes and voices in my head

I listen close and savour the voices.
I exert my eyes and savour the gleams.
I think all I can and savour the ideas rumbling in my brain.
~~~

When Your Teacher Doesn’t Believe in You

#SaturdaySatisfaction
Since my family is my best companion and environment, I decided to dedicate a separate topic and hashtag on my blog to family matters.

SupportToday’s is a bitter post.
I heard the worst possible thing a teacher can say about a student. Our daughter’s singing teacher doesn’t believe in her. What’s the deal? Our daughter, says the teacher, is very musical, and sings very well, being able to sing without getting influenced by others. In other words, she is very “stable”. Nice!

At the same time, the teacher decided to tell me and the other parents honestly what she thinks of our children’s chances of singing solo songs. She said things about how some children have the “charisma” and the “skill to overcome stage fright”. Then she told us who had those. The youngest ones and the beginners didn’t have them. The rest were OK. Our daughter was put in the beginners’ group. She doesn’t have what it takes. She gets nervous when she needs to sing on the stage. This is what the teacher said.

She saw I wasn’t too happy to hear that, so she went on to give us examples of two of her students with magnificent voices. One of them never won anything at contests, not because she wasn’t any good, but because, you know “some people just don’t have it, they are too slow, and things don’t happen well for them”. The other one never sang solo because she didn’t want to. The only time she did was at her graduation, and she did it just to please her mom. I didn’t feel these examples mattered really. I didn’t see how I can relate to them, especially the second one.

What I heard was that the teacher didn’t believe in our girl.

On the way from there, I started thinking about advice to give my daughter for the coming classes. Believe me, I don’t care for the singing group if my child is miserable. And last year, she showed on many occasions that she was miserable because she didn’t get enough stage time, because she didn’t get a mike and because others had solo songs. The truth is that this child burns for the stage.

Getting back to the advice, I thought, maybe she needs to put some extra efforts and show the teacher that she can sing solo, that she isn’t nervous etc. But then I thought again… I didn’t hear the teacher say that we can overcome the problem with more effort. She didn’t give any assurance like: “We’ll find a way out of this.” or “She will get there with time.” No. Her verdict was final. She doesn’t believe this child has it.

Before I ramble away, let me say one thing. Teachers who didn’t believe in me were just people who worked for the school where I went. I don’t remember them. Maybe they were good, maybe changed the life for some of my classmates. I don’t know. I remember the teachers who believed in me.

I think we’ll cancel singing there.

Satellite Haiku – Two for Tuesday


~~~
A satellite dish,
the house – unpopulated
Emptiness broadcast.
~~~

Crocuses, a Shadorma

Recently, I moved to making collages with a mini poem and a photo I myself take. It goes well with haiku as I usually take inspiration from my own surroundings, and it works fine on all the microblogs where I post every now and then.

Here, I can post both the picture and the poem:

Crocuses
Give unscathed smiles,
Withered grass
Coloured with decaying leaves –
Vigour calming down.

Frivolous Friday: Tarot Reading

Today, I’m going to describe and interpret a Tarot reading for you. You know what Tarot is, I’m sure. I own a deck of a design I don’t enjoy too much. That was the reason I’ve wanted to create my own Tarot deck, where an artist will draw the cards and I will decorate each with a brief verse reflecting its core characteristics.

Still, the deck is here, and with it goes a booklet with explanations and instructions. I’ll use that and you’ll follow my reading. While shuffling the cards, we should think of the question. Well, that is difficult. I never know what question to ask. Maybe I should try to be smart and ask: “Which question is the best one?” or something of the sort.

I’ll use just the Great Arcanas because using the whole deck will be tiresome. So, here we go. Shuffle, shuffle, split in two groups, then shuffle more. Take some cards, turn them head down and then repeat the whole thing. I draw 7 cards and put them face down on the table. I have to be careful and not turn them head down while drawing, because their meaning changes when they are head down.

What Can I Expect from the New School Year?

1. Past influences: The Magician
Obviously, in the past, we relied on the spiritual to lead us rather than the material. Is that regarding our daughter’s schooling? Because, as far as I know, she’s in a private school, and the material aspect in the form of annual tuition fee, is quite well presented. The ruling planet of the Magician is, however, Mercury, which gives me some peace, as our girl is very mercurial. Does this word even exist?

2. The Present: The Empress
The present is subject to the relaxed balance between positive mind and love. I have nothing to add here.

3. The Future: The Temperance
First, let me say that the Empress next to the Temperance also indicates that some inheritance is to come, but one which is smaller than the expectations. Well, who had any expectations anyway? Plus, what does this have to do with school?
But, let’s move to the interpretation of our future. If we can wait, the results will be worth the wait. I like this. Moving on.

Before that, I should mention that the above three cards influence one another and intensify their positive effects. So, keep the balance and rational thinking, and we’ll rock it!

4. The Methods of Action: The Judgment
Important changes will come and the influence of our daughter over others will increase. For that to be successful, she needs to have a philosophical mindset and life view.

5. Others’ Attitude: The Hermit
Hm, others will not be very supportive, it seems. Rather, she will have the freedom to listen to her own mind and the opportunity to consider everything without rushing. I can’t say if it’s good or bad. Normally, it’s good, but now we speak about school, and no schoolchild should be alone. We expect support from the teachers. The number of this card is 9, which is also our daughter’s number, so let’s see.

6. Potential Hardships: The Force
A possible difficulty will come from group dynamics. The child needs to listen to her own mind and must overcome her own lack of confidence. The anger from competition should be silenced and defeated. Well, upon my soul, this is difficult.

7. The End Result: The Chariot
Wow! Am I not the luckiest mother alive? Why, the Chariot is one of the best possible cards to come up for an end result. It speaks of success, issues overcoming and triumph. It also says we’ll have a pleasant journey.

So, after this reassuring Tarot reading, I can go shopping and buy some school necessities for the starting year, can’t I?

Monday Mention: Edgar R. Burroughs and Timothy Zahn

Today, I would like to #MondayMention two writers whose birthdays are in September and whose novels I’ve enjoyed.

Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1.09.1875-19.03.1950, USA

When he died at the age of 74, Edgar R. Burroughs was a celebrated adventure and sci-fi novelist. His most prominent characters are Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of the Barsoom Series. I met the latter in a cinema and learned that the story was based on a novel. After I went back home, I checked online and what was my surprise when I learned that I didn’t study of this author in my American Literature classes.

Unfortunately, it was very long since I’d moved out of my parents’ home, so there was no way I could go through my student’s files and notebooks. Maybe we studied, but I wasn’t paying attention. On the other hand, considering who the Professor in American Literature was, it’s no wonder we have skipped a pulp fiction writer. You see, popular fiction isn’t popular with dry scientists. The lady in question is not a scientist of the admirable type, but she abhors authors who can’t make it to the canon and to her favourite post-modernistic esthetic tastes.

Even better, I thought, now I’ll meet a new writer. I found the first 5 of the Barsoom books in the public domain, downloaded and read 3 of them on my Kindle very soon. I won’t even try to be elitist. I love popular fiction so much that my PhD was on that topic. It didn’t turn out successful, as I cancelled writing it after several rather discouraging talks with my supervisor, but the fact remains. Edgar R. Burroughs’ Barsoom stories are in my personal canon.

Timothy Zahn, born 1.09.1951, USA
As most children growing up in the 1980s in Bulgaria, I was enthralled by the Star Wars Trilogy, the original one. When Timothy Zahn’s books appeared on my PC screen one morning while I was examining a nice online bookshop, I decided to spend some money on it. At that time, delivery wasn’t very fast and there weren’t online payment methods. Still, in less than a week, the Heir to the Empire was in my hands. Two days later I ordered the other two books of the trilogy, to save the extra delivery time and charge. A week later I’d read all and was inspired and dreamy, just like in my childhood when all the class would role-play after seeing the film. My friends and I talked and argued about lines and characters, we re-created scenes, fought with lightsabers and spoke like Vader for months on end. And now, I felt the same way. I hurried to go to bed and turn off the light to daydream about the stories written by Timothy Zahn. I was Mara Jade, yes, that’s right, and I could see Talon Karrde before my eyes.

Later on, when Lucas released the prequel, I wasn’t too charmed because Episode I was empty of emotion, Episode II was empty of common sense, and only Episode III clicked with my taste for drama and self-struggle. During that time, I heard news of Lucas’ intention to make the third trilogy, too, and I hoped Zahn’s novels will be made into films.
Needless to say, I was bitterly disappointed by what happened next. Well, business is business, but it doesn’t mean readers should agree. I hope Mr Zahn has lots of loyal fans and enjoys his work as much as we do.

Do you have favourite authors born in September? Tell me about them in the comments.

Savage Saturdays: Introversion, Part 1

In this hashtag, #Savage Saturdays, I plan to focus on things of the mind and soul, mental health, psychology, and self-help. First, I’ll draw your attention to one of my favourite topics: Introversion. To make it proper, I’d like to start by laying the foundation and take it from here. This post is the first of a series that will speak about What Is Introversion and Some Myths about Introversion.

If you are introverted, you probably know it. Extroverted people, on the other hand, often mistake shyness and the lack of social skills for introversion. We need to set the definitions straight, not only because we owe it to introverted people, but also because they make nearly half of the population on Earth. There is no way to count them precisely; there is no “census” for this, and there is no place where you can go and declare yourself by voting or signing up for a list. It seems extroverts are more numerous. That is because they are outgoing, express themselves with ease and are normally quite noticeable. Introverts are simply not there. And yet, we may safely say that at least one-third of the population are introverted, another third are extroverted and there is yet another third – those people whom we call “ambiverts”. Ambiverts alternate acting like extro– or introverts in different areas of life, thus making it hard to put them in one pure category.

“It takes all sorts to make a world.” When we want to share valid opinions and expect others to listen and take our ideas into account, we need to be prepared. That means knowing and understanding.

Introverts and Energy:

  • Extroverts charge through socialising: they like noisy environments and the sensory stimulation of sound, colour, temperature, vibration and people touch.
  • Introverts can do on a lot less of the above. They, like every human being, like company and interaction, but their energy drains fast and they charge through spending time alone and in silence.

Introverts and Shyness:
A frequent mistake is to use “introverted” and “shy” interchangeably. These are not synonyms and as an introvert who is not shy, I remember this was a major difficulty in my self-analysis. Extroverts can also be shy, for all we know. Shy people get nervous and self-conscious when they need to socialise and be part of some social interaction. They blush, stammer, don’t know what to do with their hands, and more often than not, forget what they know. Oral exams at school show the shy boys and girls pretty clearly. Think about it for a moment: Do you remember an outgoing classmate who was very noisy during breaks but couldn’t say a word when examined in front of the blackboard, even when she knows the answer? Do you also remember that no one believed this classmate was nervous, and most people thought she was faking it? That is a good example of a shy extrovert.

Do you know any untypical extroverts or introverts? Tell me in the comments below.
Next time, I’ll go on to the popular myths about introversion and help busting them. In the meantime, be well and have a nice weekend!