online: 17 december 2010
modified: 8, 17 december 2010

8 december 2010 reading in bed

in a world expanded by literature

...two weeks in bed with a nose and chest cold... unable to do much... but well enough to read several books (selected by chance from a collection of books that i like)...

Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen
translated from the Japanese by Megan Backus
Faber and Faber, London 1993.

Wu Ch'eng-en, Monkey
translated from the Chinese by Arthur Waley
George Allen and Unwin, London 1942.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Scientific Studies
edited and translated from the German by Douglas Miller
Princeton University Press, Princeton 1995.

John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings
Maryon Boyars, London 1995.

...just now i tried to describe these very different books and perhaps see what they may have in common:

(the quotations were added afterwards)

i guess this is a partly-invented story... of how a young and perceptive Japanese woman experiences the joy and sadness of everyday life... and how she interacts with others... while particularly aware of things emotional and supernatural...
When was it I realized that, on this truly dark and solitary path we all walk, the only way we can light is our own? Although I was raised with love, I was always lonely.

Someday, without fail, everyone will disappear, scattered into the blackness of time. I've always lived with that knowledge rooted in my being.
(page 21)

human life and the extremes to which it might be driven if imaginary and real people and animals were able to re-enact religion and politics and everything as a sublime and yet disorderly fantasy... of good and evil in conjunction...
There was a rock that since the creation of the world had been worked upon by the pure essences of Heaven and the fine savours of Earth, the vigour of sunshine and the grace of moonlight, till at last it became magically pregnant and one day split open, giving birth to a stone egg, about as big as a playing ball. Fructified by the wind it developed into a stone monkey... (page 11)

Scientific Studies:
a wider (less materialistic) view than ours... of science seen as part of life... not life reduced to an object of study... (nor disregarding the student)
Every act of looking turns into observation, every observation into reflection, every act of reflection into the making of associations; thus it is evident that we theorize every time we look carefully at the world. The ability to do this ... is a skill we need in order to avoid the pitfalls of abstraction... (page 159)

a modest yet complete view of music and existence as connected parts of reality... some of it understandable... but the whole beyond comprehension... and marvellous when not bounded by self-interest...
Our intention is to affirm this life, not to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply to wake up to the very life we're living, which is so excellent once one gets one's mind and one's desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord. (page 95)

summarising and simplifying these grand impressions to a single description, i see each book as expanding our narrow or mundane view of things... to an expanded view of individual people... of religion-and-politics... of science-and-reality... and of music-and-silence...

or in other words: each book is seen here as an example of what is alarming but encouraging at this perhaps pivotal moment in the history of everything... a universal and surely unstoppable change from the narrow-and-effective (in the short run) to the widening-and-comprehensive... as in literature (whatever its topic)

and now i feel better... thanks to herbal medicines and natural recovery... to one who looked after me... and perhaps to these readings in bed...

for comfortable line length please set the window to about half of the screen width


© 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 john chris jones

You may transmit this text to anyone for any non-commercial purpose if you include the copyright line and this notice and if you respect the copyright of quotations.

If you wish to reproduce any of this text commercially please send a copyright permission request to jcj 'at' (replace 'at' and spaces by the @ sign)