If a man is awed by what he sees in his surroundings,
he should be far more impressed
by what lies within the sanctuary of his own being.
where are the crumbs that lead us back to the road? where are the signs that reassure our calling? and where is the divine heart of our being?
Tranquility belongs to a long list of shadowy essentials to which our culture pays lip service, but to which we are mostly oblivious, among them rest, sleep, silence, stillness, solitude. What I am describing is a certain vibrant emptiness, what the Japanese call ma. Ma is found in the silences between words, in the white space on a page, int he tacit understanding between two close friends. The Japanese school of Sumi painting says, “If you depict a bird, give it space to fly.” That ease, that spaciousness, is ma. As Lao-tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching:
We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.
How can man know himself? It is a dark, mysterious business: if a hare has seven skins, a man may skin himself seventy times seven times without being able to say, “Now that is truly you; that is no longer your outside.” It is also an agonizing, hazardous undertaking thus to dig into oneself, to climb down toughly and directly into the tunnels of one’s being. How easy it is thereby to give oneself such injuries as no doctor can heal. Moreover, why should it even be necessary given that everything bears witness to our being – our friendships and animosities, our glances and handshakes, our memories and all that we forget, our books as well as our pens. For the most important inquiry, however, there is a method. Let the young soul survey its own life with a view of the following question: “What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time?” Assemble these revered objects in a row before you and perhaps they will reveal a law by their nature and their order: the fundamental law of your very self. Compare these objects, see how they complement, enlarge, outdo, transfigure one another; how they form a ladder on whose steps you have been climbing up to yourself so far; for your true self does not lie buried deep within you, but rather rises immeasurably high above you, or at least above what you commonly take to be your I. ~Nietzsche