online: 12 august 2002

12 august 2002 keeping still

19:13 Pale blue sky and little wind. The ponds as I passed were almost like mirrors.

I am sitting before a large tree - its upper leaves shimmer in the wind and in the sunlight while those near to the ground are almost still.

Today I've been resting and re-attending to my wishes after forgetting them while busy yesterday with externals.

Two women walking slowly while both are talking - they actually stop to speak directly to each other - and then they walk on. I prefer to avoid talk that interferes with looking about as I walk, but these two are finding that their walk interferes with their talking! Something rarer perhaps. I wonder what they were saying?

As I wrote that I half-noticed smoke drifting over East London. Now it's dissolving into the air. The things we half-notice - are they less important than the thoughts we pay attention to? I doubt it.

'Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!'
wrote Henry James in his advice to novices*. I imagine he was thinking more of conversation than the movements of leaves, and such things that one half-notices, but I like his remark. I would like to be able to notice everything - but that would require a different kind of brain, a different evolution.

I can see a man playing with a dog while the woman he is with sits on a seat. Before that he was caressing her but she seemed rather still. The dog is more responsive and obedient. Now it's wagging its tail.

I walked on, not knowing where I'm going, and I've just passed a young man standing perfectly still beneath trees. And now a man with a guitar stops to examine a strangely shaped tree and then he walks on. As I look around I notice many trees standing perfectly still, not a leaf is moving. What is it like, I wonder, to be fixed to one spot all one's life? But many of us hardly use our power to move about - and many, like me, enjoy stillness. It gives time for thoughts and perceptions and actions to unite.

Keeping Still is the name of hexagram 52 in The I Ching**. Here is some of the text:

True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward. In this way rest and movement are in agreement with the demands of the time, and thus there is light in life.

*Henry James, 'The Art of Fiction', in Longman's Magazine, September 1884, and in Henry James: The Critical Muse, selected literary criticism, edited and with an introduction by Roger Gard, Penguin Books, London 1987, page 195.

**The I Ching, or Book of Changes, the Richard Wilhelm translation, rendered into English by Cary F Baynes, Bollingen Series XIX, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey 1997, page 201.

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© 2002 john chris jones

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