Senryū #002: On the wheel

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What shape might this be?
forming itself from what clay?
spinning on what wheel?

(Friday 20 February 2015)

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NOTES:

There are notions which, unbidden, emerge from the subconscious … sometimes, fully formed. This senryū started out somewhat amorphous and malleable, but quickly conformed to the seventeen-syllable pattern, although it did not seem to be a haiku.

I now know what it is.

 

Senryū #001: Mystery of grace

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Mystery of
grace: the dirty truth is
irrelevant.

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NOTES:

The words of this poem were on my lips as I awoke this morning. I wrote them down, thinking of them as being in the haiku form. I did not know about senryū until I happened to read a post on another blog that included the word in its title. I am happy to have learned the distinction between the two forms.

“Senryū tend to be about human foibles while haiku tend to be about nature, and senryū are often cynical or darkly humorous while haiku are more serious. Unlike haiku, senryū do not include a kireji (cutting word), and do not generally include a kigo, or season word” (Wikipedia: Senryū).

 

Ancestral lanterns

lanterns (12 February 2015)

Ancestral lanterns (12 February 2015)

A week before this year’s Chinese New Year (19 February 2015), I noticed these red lanterns hanging outside the Ancestral restaurant in Courtenay Place, Wellington. I was glad I stopped to photograph them: they were gone again following day.

“Although some people decorate their houses several days before the festival, most people do it at New Year’s Eve. Houses are decorated with red lanterns, red couplets, New Year paintings, and red lanterns. 2015 is the year of the goat, so goat images will appear” (China Highlights: Activities for New Year’s Eve).

“Six is the number of strokes that comprise the character 羊, the forthcoming [Chinese] lunar year’s name. Pronounced yang, the character can mean either sheep or goat” (The Guardian).

In late May 2011, Wellington’s grandest Chinese restaurant emerged “in all its sinister elegance”. Ancestral is aptly located at the heart of Courtenay Place, the capital’s erstwhile Chinatown.

“Allistar Cox, designer of Matterhorn, has brought his characteristic style to this multi-million-dollar extravaganza – restaurant, garden bar, whisky bar, private dining room and takeaway outlet – using satin-finished dark wood to good effect with hard, thinly padded Chinese-style banquettes,” wrote David Burton in Cuisine issue #149 | Wednesday, 30 November, 2011

“If the opium poppy logo, gold leaf letterhead, doormen and heavy curtains partly screening out the dark interior all convey the impression of a triad-owned outpost from 1930s Shanghai, then this is fully intended,” explains Burton, who goes on to describe the garden bar out the back: “old brick walls also exude the ambience of the era.”

Harbinger

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Dawn. A south wind. Leaves
tap the glass. The rain drops in
monosyllables.

(15 February 2015)

 


Two mornings in a row, the leaves of the Cordyline banksii outside my window have awakened me early. Wellington’s summer has been fine and warm, so these few cool days, with their southerly air flow, seem like a harbinger of autumn.

The basis of optimism

Grammarly shared this on Facebook, on 24 January 2015

Grammarly shared this meme on Facebook, on 24 January 2015

The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid of ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror. (The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde)

“Oscar! I don’t get it. Please explain!” That was my reaction when I recently encountered again these words, spoken by Lord Henry Wotton in Wilde’s famous novel. But with time to think, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t do optimism. I’d say I’m a realist. Life is tough enough without setting myself up for disappointment.

You know the old saying referred to in the Grammarly meme: an optimist sees the glass as half full whilst a pessimist considers it half empty. I don’t think that’s the kind of optimism Wilde had in mind: his words (in the mouth of Lord Henry) align optimism with something akin to hope − but a hope predicated on a terrifyingly low self-esteem.

For many of us, optimism is about making the best of a bad situation – it is what we opt for when our circumstances are far from optimal. But hoping for the best is tantamount to fearing the worst. That’s why the words “think positive” so often jar with me: they invariably send the signal, “There’s something wrong here” … or, “They won’t like me” … or, “I’m not good enough”.

“Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed,” was, according to Alexander Pope, the ninth Beatitude (see note below).

All too few of us can meet every situation with equanimity – acknowledging feelings, but not involving them in the decision-making process. So now I’m pondering what Marianne Williamson means when she declares:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

Feeling insecure is hardly unusual among human beings. We’re generally not so much scared of other people, per se, as afraid of not fitting in. But, as Williamson explains, “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”

On the other hand, St Paul warns his readers “not to have exaggerated ideas about your own importance. Instead, develop a sober estimate of yourself based on the standard which God has given to each of you, namely, trust” (Romans 12:3, Complete Jewish Bible).

That word, trust, is akin to confidence. And confidence seems to work, even when it’s a con. Coco Chanel put it well: “Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”

But, as is so often the case, it is to Lao-Tzu we can turn to sum it all up for us: “Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”

 


NOTES:

Read the Wikipedia article about The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Alexander Pope (in collaboration with John Gay) wrote his “Blessed is he …” in a letter to William Fortescue (23 September 1725), declaring it “the ninth Beatitude which a man of wit (who, like a man of wit, was a long time in gaol) added to the eighth.” (Wikiquote)

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) Copyright © 1998 by David H Stern. All rights reserved.

The Coco Chanel quote appears in Believing in Ourselves: The Wisdom of Women by Armand Eisen (editor).

Williamson, Marianne. 1992. A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. New York: Harper Collins. [Chapter 7, Section 3 (p190-191)]

Note About Nelson Mandela: The quote from Marianne Williamson is often found on the Internet incorrectly credited as being from Nelson Mandela’s Inauguration Speech, 1994, especially the last sentence, “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Mixed media collage

Two shots here, separated by about six months. A fascination with corrugated iron is the most obvious visual connection, but there are aspects of an aesthetic which some might identify as grunge – although I am not really a fan of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, or other grunge bands. Look at the work of New Zealand sculptor, Jeff Thomson, and you might get some insight into the fascination.

mixed media (29 August 2014)

mixed media (29 August 2014)

mixed media (07 February 2015)

mixed media (07 February 2015)

Fallen frond

fallen nīkau frond (01 February 2015)

fallen nīkau frond (01 February 2015)

There are nīkau palms in a number of locations around Wellington city – as well as the iconic sculptural versions which feature in and around Civic Square.

The fallen nīkau frond shown here is from one of the palms in a paved area on the corner of Victoria and Manners Streets.

“The nīkau (Rhopalostylis sapida) is a palm tree endemic to New Zealand, and the only palm native to New Zealand” (Wikipedia).

Roughed-up road

roughed-up road (16 January 2015)

roughed-up road (16 January 2015)

“Weather conditions are optimal for road works at this time of year,” wrote Katie Chapman in the Dominion Post on 10 January 2015, “with a host of road resurfacing projects planned this month [January]. Boulcott St had been the focus this week with work on a section of Lambton Quay due to begin this weekend.”

The piece of “roughed-up road” shown here was photographed on Lambton Quay, Wellington, on 16 January.

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

painted pole (11 January 2015)

painted pole (11 January 2015)

A year ago – almost to the day – I opened a new document and gave it this name, but did no writing in it. My intention, if I recall correctly, had been to use Samuel Beckett’s words (from Worstward Ho) as the seed of something. Since then, the draft has seen the light of day more than once – but with no demonstrable result.

Along the way, I’ve written and photographed … and, from time to time, published. You might have noticed that this is my first post for the New Year … and that I’ve put nothing up since before Christmas. So Beckett’s text is apt. As ever.

Perhaps, I told myself, today, a new WordPress theme will inspire me. Well, yes … having tried a couple, I concluded that the old stuff looked awful in the new themes. So I’ve reverted to the old Tarski.

“Unchanged? Sudden back unchanged? Yes. Say yes. Each time unchanged. Somehow unchanged. Till no. Till say no. Sudden back changed. Somehow changed. Each time somehow changed.”  (Samuel Beckett, in Worstward Ho)

During the past twenty-four hours, I’ve been considering that |cross-ties| is fundamentally – or, at least, primarily – a photo-blog. And the photos I seem to like best are like this one. So that’s it … for now.

“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (ibid)

“Samuel Beckett is sui generis … He has given a voice to the decrepit and maimed and inarticulate, men and women at the end of their tether, past pose or pretense, past claim of meaningful existence. He seems to say that only there and then, as metabolism lowers, amid God’s paucity, not his plenty, can the core of the human condition be approached … Yet his musical cadences, his wrought and precise sentences, cannot help but stave off the void … Like salamanders we survive in his fire.” (Richard Ellman)


NOTES:

Worstward Ho is a prose piece by Samuel Beckett. Its title is a parody of Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho!. Written in English in 1983, it is the penultimate novella by Beckett. Together with Company and Ill Seen Ill Said, it was collected in the volume Nohow On in 1989 (Wikipedia: Worstward Ho [stub]).

Colin Greenslaw has done an elaborated version of Worstward Ho (interpolated with what he calls ‘expansions’ of the original text), which can be found on the Samuel Beckett On-line Resources and Links Pages.

On the Empire of Lights web-site is a ‘picture series’ which photographer Tobias M Schiel has titled “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett). Very good.