tender surrender

In Desire Armed, Landstreicher proposed desire as a creative impulse to follow one’s own inclinations, independent from the spooks of society,1 in relation with the specific other people around oneself. I feel, an important distinction then, is to realise the situations where I can do something (where I can participate and influence something), and where there is nothing I can do.

I wish you could take yourself less seriously. I wish you could love me. But I am not you.

Here, I surrender:
letting go
letting be

allowing whatever happens to happen by itself. All I can do is to prepare the atmosphere for it.

Instead, I direct my attention to what I can do (same reason why I don’t read the news): being kind to myself, explore my own pleasures, find peace and spaciousness in solitude…

In Wabi-sabi, there is a particular appreciation of the desolated, discovering beauty in imperfection. 苦盡甘甜. It’s the bitterness, 2 that helps one taste the sweetness of life.

Are we living in a disorientating society of increasing loneliness epidemic? Is solitude seen as ‘suffering’, something to be ashamed of? How about, instead of shaming solitude or elevating being together, we take the attitude of many co-existing, flourishing micro-cosmoses?

tender surrender

In the afternoon he went to the market while I lazed around in the sun. ‘Would you like something? Some local fruit perhaps?’

When I returned, on the kitchen table, there was a punnet of jewel-like translucent bright red globulets hanging off delicate green stalks. Amazing! As I packed my bag and prepared to leave on the midnight train, he asked, ‘Shall I wash these for you?‘ Carefully he tipped the berry clusters into a salad bowl, letting them swim in fresh water. Three rinses. Then the berries floated into a salad spinner, where he gently swirled them, the centrifuge causing the water to spread out to the side. After that, he laid down a clean tea-towel on the table, and placed the clusters on it one by one, beautifully ordered like delicate sculptures. My heart was filled with warmth and delight, as I relished his tender actions and the exquisiteness of this simple arrangement. Casually he popped the loose goblets into his mouth, squinting as the flavours bursted inside. ‘I used to pick them from my parents’ garden as a child – they taste like childhood summers.‘

What happens when you pay close attention to anything, especially routine behaviour, is that it changes. Attention alters what is attended.
(The Meaning of Life, 1990, Allan Kaprow, p236)

Ochikakaru tsuki o mite iru ni hitori.
Alone I watch the moon / Sink behind the mountains.
(Santōka Taneda)

I once tasted some strawberries with a friend while sitting on a balcony bathed in a summery sunset. She took great care slicing them as thinly as she could. ‘Why do you do this?’ ‘Because when you eat the strawberries, the flavour comes through its surface, from your tongue touching the surface of the fruit. By slicing them thinly, I can taste more of it.’
(From one of Christopher Alexander’s books)

Emotionally, life is not measured by the month as is rental income. The most profound experiences of happiness and love are instantaneous, sparked in brief fractions of time. The brief second when we open a door into the scented air of early spring, or early morning […] may count in a deeper sense for our lasting exhilaration than many hours measured by the cold mechanical hands of a clock […] the short days of spring bloom sustain souls happily over long periods of memory and anticipation.
(Richard Neutra, I think)

While washing dishes, I told him one of my shipwreck stories. Suddenly he came over and gave me a long, warm hug. I was taken by surprise. A piece of ice started to melt inside.

We had not see each other for a decade, since sixth form. I asked, what is love? He said, It’s like, when I’ve missed the last bus and got stranded somewhere, I call up my brother in the middle of the night and ask ‘Hey bro, could you come and pick me up?’ And he does.

’Meaning’ here is not only variable and unfixed but also inventive. It is what we add, by imagination and interpretation, to what we do.
(Kaprow, 239)

When we went tramping south of the Bombay Hills, we used to drive past a house by the side of the highway, where on the roof someone had painted by hand, in bold letters: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than to have not loved at all.’3 I used to ask him, ‘What does this mean? Why would someone have done this?’ I cannot recall what he said, but I have my answer now.

‘Lean on the other, but remain standing on your own feet.’
(My first contact improvisation teacher in Geneva said that.)

Black holes in the bottom of my heart, suffering from withdrawal, like my limbs had been cut off. This lack, craving, more-than-emptiness, more negative than zero. Go to the workshop to chip away at the lumps of wood, could not stop the tears from streaming down my face. Do not know how to answer ‘how are you?’ anymore.

Who knows what the future holds?

Over tea, I told her of my pain. After listening, she said with a poker face, ‘This is all a part of being in love.’

You can only arrive with the love and patience you possess, there are no spare reserves.

He wrapped the dust-covered secondhand cup carefully and thoroughly, moulding the newspaper to each curve and crevice of the cup, then tightly stuffing the ends of the paper to the inside of the cup. Caressing almost. He handed it to me. It felt like something very precious, very delicate in my hands. For years, I could not bring myself to take out the cup from its cocoon.

…these ordinary events are inherently compelling once you start paying attention to them.
(Kaprow, p236)

On a highway on the East Coast, hitching a ride in a long-distance truck. The driver told us: I spend many long, lonely hours here, on the road, away from my family. But you know what? Our minds are like the TV, there are many channels, and you can switch between them at will. So, whenever I miss my family, I just have to think of them, and they are right here with me.

The practice of flower arrangement is a practice of tenderness, just like meditating: tenderness with oneself.
(a man at a meditation centre told me this)

One of the first things I learnt in Aikido and contact improvisation is how to fall. To land softly, to have my hands and feet as soft antennae, to feel the surface I am approaching, and to correspond accordingly.

Back to square zero
(Chögyam Trungpa, Dharma Art)

Relishing the richness of nothing

Unlike Yvonne Rainer, I feel: feelings are feelings. They come and go, like the clouds.


…to rediscover the meaning of life again and again in something else.
(Kaprow, 239)

Long emails of wretched confusion, written out of impulse, a desire to be understood with someone I had woven grandoise dreams with. Blinded by those dreams, we did not see what was right in front of us.

Misunderstanding is the normality.

My problem with these stories, is that they construe life as not worth living alone – ‘I can’t live without you’ – of living alone as a form of ‘lack’. Actually, I have lived without you before I had met you, therefore, I can go on living once you are gone – albeit in a different way to before. I can live without you – there is richness in nothing.

If we would follow Danger of the single story, or Gene Youngblood on how the media controls our ways of being and desires, then I would much prefer there to be more stories like Gertrude (Carl Theodor Dryer), more stories that tells of the appreciation of solitude, of living alone as a spacious lightness, and the practices of being kind to oneself.

In a garden, smoke rising up from the flames: hand-written letters, dried roses, photographs of frozen time… (Thanks to Marie Kondo)

I felt light, and free.

You got me singing.

The gardener is an inquisitive mind, cunning but confused, constantly trying to find a way of relating with the ground that he or she is living on. The garden is the basic nature where the birth and death of impulses and consciousness take place. Also, it is fertile energy. Its self-destructive nature is also creative.
(The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa, Volume 9, Chögyam Trungpa, page 710)

An understanding, empathy and hope that only came because I had been there myself and lived through it. I know there is hope, because I am here.

Walking around that lake with you blew away a whole autumn of feelings of alienation.

One of the things she gave me at the end of her visit was a stone that she had found on one of her walks. It fits in the hand perfectly. ‘Get the walnut in their shells from the market. The are fresher and better that way. All you have to do is to crush the ends of the shell.’

Ume (Japanese green plums) sleeps in the brine… He sleeps… and wakes up to become something else (pickled plum).

retreat to your nest, and using your own unique language – that is, your own architectural techniques – proceed to repair and expand your nest
your thought is a space formed by your unique perceptions and awareness
sharing between individuals can occur
the homebrewed space inside of you, this handcrafted space – this nest- is the real space and true space of reality is an optical illusion
(from Kyohei Sakaguchi, ‘Theory for Escaping Reality’)

A warm shelter from the harshness outside.

‘Life is spacious enough to dance in.’

I am listening to Moskus, Live @ Utsira. Sitting by the kitchen window, I can see sunshine on the tree branches outside. Slivers of blue sky. Both comes and goes. Living in the city of mostly ‘sky grey as clay’ has sharpened my appreciation for these. A few days ago I noticed little shoots of green out of the dark brown leaf-litter downstairs. Slowly they are unfurling into snowdrops.

If there are mountains, I look at the mountains;
On rainy days I listen to the rain.
Spring, summer, autumn, winter.
Tomorrow too will be good.
Tonight too is good.
(Santōka Taneda)

The moon is so bright behind the clouds!

Dedicated to everyone I am relating and have related with, with special thanks to Chris Kraus, C, H and J.

1 Spooks refers to anything that haunts our heads, which prevents us from making our lives, activities and worlds our own: ‘…ultimately, it is the individual proletarian himself who maintains this reverence by remaining a slave to the spooks in his head, to morality, to respect for abstract ownership, to society, to humanity. To rid herself of this reverence, she needs to become her own and devour these spooks.’ Landstreicher

2 blandness, as François Jullien wrote about in In Praise of Blandness–Proceeding from Chinese Thought and Aesthetics, 2007

3 Alfred Lord Tennyson

Leave a comment