Nameless Creek (Tai Po Kau 大埔滘)

2018-09-20 Carrs Road Clouds 3

Mountain water unclouded as crystal
always stills me in my tracks
and I just have to squat beside the anonymous downflow,
watching
with all my nerve
the nuances of what to the eyes is essentially supremely invisible,
while enjoying the endless soothe
of low motion-voices.
The mid-air blur of dragonflies
pinpoints
depth’s liquid action: where an insect skims,
vision registers the ripple delibly made,
just as it does
the flick of a fish the colour of tan sand
against stone’s sawdust-gravel,
a flicker
human instants at a quarter of thought
barely manage to catch hold of.
It’s like feeling the rush of blood in a jungle butterfly’s veins
just by placing
the pace of the breath of the lungs
in an open, sober altering
at the fringe of attention’s outermost
utmost care.

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•《發明家,發暗家》

Evette KWOK_Bus Shelter in Rain TWO_30 AUG 2018

Hong Kong Night Rain (Photograph by Evette Kwok, 2018)

Simon Patton 著

近排 2018 年香港小姐由陳曉華奪得,當佢接受記者訪問嘅時候,就透露自己嘅志願係將來成為發明家,跟住又進一步解釋希望有一日可以為香港長者發明一啲特用設備令到佢哋生活質素能夠有所提升。聽到佢呢段話嘅時後,我覺得陳小姐嘅志願十分值得大家佩服,但係同時又深深意識到自己內心所懷抱嘅志願同佢嘅啱啱相反。
Just recently, Miss Hong Kong 2018 was won by Hera Chan and, when she was interviewed by a TV reporter, she revealed that her aspiration was to become an inventor (in Cantonese, a faat ming gaa or “one who gives out light”). She went on to explain that one day she hoped to invent various kinds of equipment especially to help Hong Kong’s old people and improve their quality of life. When I heard her comments, I felt that they were worthy of everyone’s admiration, but at the same time I was forcefully struck by the recognition that my own goal was exactly the opposite of hers.

對於唔少人嚟講,二十一世紀無疑係一個光明嘅時代,普遍強調嘅係發展、進步、改善、科技、富裕、豪華、方便、舒服、健康、無死。大自然過去曾經帶嚟各種各樣災難性嘅痛苦俾人類,但係而家喺經濟、技術、醫學等方面驚人迅速發達嘅情況之下,反而俾機會我哋終於擺脫嗰啲「黑暗」因素,達到嗰種夢寐以求嘅人間天堂。難道嗰位著名而可憐矇矓派詩人顧城寫“黑夜給了我黑色的眼睛/我卻用它尋找光明”係包含呢一層意思?
For many people, the twenty-first century is undoubtedly an age of brightness, and the emphasis is commonly on development, progress, improvement, technology, wealth, luxury, convenience, comfort, health, and no death. In the past, Nature had brought various kinds of catastrophic pain to the human race, but now ― with the surprisingly rapid advances in the economy, technology and medicine ― we finally had the chance to break free of those “dark forces” and to reach the Heaven on Earth that we had dreamed of day and night. Surely the lines “The dark night gave me dark eyes / But I use them to search for the light” by the famous but pitiable “obscure” poet Gu Cheng contain something of this meaning, do they not?

不過,只要太陽而取消月亮真係完全合理呀?太陽同其喺人間中有嘅「代表」(電力、激光、電腦屏幕、螢光燈、霓虹燈等等)目前已經戰勝咗世界,而且同時將之前嘅幽暗勢力統統開除嗮。不過,崇拜太陽而忽略「太陰」(記得有一次我雲南朋友于堅話我知昆明方言普遍用「太陰」指廣東話嘅月亮一詞)明顯違背咗道家有關陰陽相生嘅基本原則。如果過分強調「發明」而徹底漠視「發暗」會唔會導致一啲可怕後果?
However, is it perfectly reasonable to hold on to the sun and get rid of the moon? The sun, together with its “representatives” on this Earth (electricity, laser beams, computer screens, fluorescent tubes, neon lighting, and so on) have, at the present time, conquered the world and, simultaneously, they have expelled those old forces of the dark for good. Nevertheless, if we worship the Great Yang (taai yeung or “sun”) at the expense of the Great Yin (I remember my friend from Yunnan province the poet Yu Jian telling me that the word for “moon” in Kunming dialect was taai yin [the Great Yin] and not yut, as it is in Cantonese), then we clearly go against a basic principle of Taoism, the principle that darkness and light give rise to one another. If we put too much emphasis on faat ming (“giving out light”) and completely overlook faat am (“giving out darkness”), could this not lead to some terrible consequences?

我近排偶然讀到一篇文,其中提到台灣有個學者叫杜而未,敘述佢對道家嘅「道」字有種新奇睇法,認為嗰個字裡邊個「首」本來係指月亮塊「面部」。呢一塊「月面」喺夜空上由西向東嘅緩慢運行亦都可以解釋道字如何最後獲得「道路」嘅意思。因此,文章嘅作者總結,認為我哋可以由老子人生觀學到唔同嘅道理,例如黑暗總會漸漸趨向變成光明;朦朧不清亦意味著有發展嘅潛力。另外,月相(盈虧)呢種自然現象亦都可以提醒我哋,世界並冇永恆嘅光明,興衰係理所當然嘅,能夠欣賞所謂「衰」所包含嘅正面因素,係屬於人生智慧嘅重要部分。
Recently, I came across an article about a Taiwanese scholar by the name of Tu Erh-Wei who had a novel view of the Chinese character 道 tao that gives its name to Taoism. It was his belief that the part of this character sau 首 (that means “head” in its own right), originally referred to the face of the moon. This “moon face”, which slowly travels across the night sky from east to west, can also explain why the character for tao later came to take on the meaning of “way” or “road”. For this reason, the writer of the article sums up his view by saying that we could learn something from Laozi’s view of human life that darkness will always tend to become brighter, and the connection between obscurity and the potential for growth. In addition, the natural phenomenon of the phases that the moon passes through may also serve as a reminder to us that there is no permanent brightness in this world and that the natural course or rise and decline makes perfect sense ― being able to appreciate the positive aspects of so-called “decline” is also an important element of a wise approach to life.

咁啱得咁橋,陳曉華嘅英文名 Hera 就係希臘神話裡面嘅「天后」,而我每次嚟香港都一定會去拜訪幾座天后古廟。雖然呢類廟宇嘅外面一般裝修好靚,但係內部設計同外貌好唔一樣。由東涌市中心向南邊行三十分鐘路程就可以到達赤鱲角新村,而位於呢條鄉村嘅山門內,有一座規模細小嘅石制天后廟。根據資料,呢座廟宇於 1823 年喺赤鱲角島北亞媽灣興建嘅,但係當新國際機場開始施工嘅時候,就被搬遷至東涌附近嘅新位置。或者因為呢座古廟係以花崗石而造成,所以晦暗嘅內部不期然令人聯想到一個淒涼嘅穴洞,而且由於呢度曾經燒過大量蠟燭線香,天后元君嘅面孔已經徹底薰黑到幾乎認唔出五官嘅地步。不過,雖然廟宇內光線部非常之暗淡,但係天后嗰種獨特靈感真係加倍感覺到。
By coincidence, Miss Hong Kong’s English name is Hera, Queen of Heaven in Greek mythology. Every time a make a trip to Hong Kong, I make sure I visit a few Tin Hou (or Queen of Heaven) temples. Although such temples are generally very beautiful to look at from the outside, their design within is utterly different. Walk 30 minutes in a southerly direction from the Tung Chung town centre, and you will come to Chek Lap Kok New Village. Located within the entrance gate to this village there is small Tin Hou temple made of stone. According to historical records, this temple was built in Ama Bay in the northern part of Chek Lap Kok in 1823, but when work began on the new international airport, it was moved to its present position near to Tung Chung. Perhaps because this temple is made out of granite, the dim interior really does tend to put one in mind of a gloomy cave, and owing to the fact that so much incense and so many candles have been burnt here in the past, the face of the Goddess is so blackened that you can hardly distinguish her features. However, despite the fact that the interior of the temple is so dark, Her special presence can be sensed all the more strongly.

人間中有啲嘢喺模糊中先至可以有機會清晰接觸到,例如直覺、夢想、天籟、領悟、神秘感、敬畏、詩意等現象。呢啲現象,雖然係人類不可缺少嘅部分,但係無法透過光明掌握到。我曾經聽到有人指望空中話:“你哋睇吓,天上有兩個新月!”我一聽到就零舍驚訝,心裡諗嚟諗去,最終意識到,係呀,嗰人講得啱!其實,所謂新月係由兩個部分構成,一個好似眉毛咁細幼嘅明亮部分,同埋另一個幾乎冇法子睇清楚烏卒卒嘅陰影部分,通常被我哋視而不見,真係好得意!
There are some things in this human world of ours that we only have the opportunity to sense in a vague light, for instance the phenomena of intuition, dreams, music, insight, mystery, awe and poetry.  Although such things are indispensable to us as human beings, we cannot grasp them by means of bright light. I once heard someone point to the sky and say: “Look, there are two new moons in the sky!” This surprised me when I first heard it, but after thinking it over I came to the realization that, yes, that’s absolutely right! Actually, what we call a “new moon” is made up of two parts, one bright part as think as an eyebrow, and another part an almost invisible dark, shady part that we ignore even if we see it. How fascinating!

唔係每一個人都能夠變成成功嘅發明家,不過我哋應該記得,除咗發明家之外,一個平衡嘅社會仲需要培養一啲優秀發暗家,並且俾空間佢哋喺過度明亮嘅日常生活中,發揮晦暗特有嘅微妙作用。
Not all of us can become successful faat ming gaa, inventors, but we should bear in mind that, apart from such people, a balanced society also needs to nurture its outstanding faat am gaa, those inventors in the dark, and to give them space in which to exercise those uncanny effects of the gloom in an everyday life already overshadowed by too much illumination.

I Remember Shigatse • Yu Jian (2018)

 

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery_17 SEP 2018

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. Photograph from https://bloogs.com/

“I Remember Shigatse”

that day in red Shigatse     when I was young     with a travelling bag and a drinking-flask on my back     and on my feet a pair of Liberation running shoes

I strode across fields of highland qingke barley     a forest combed its hair in the mist     dawn rinsed its face     crows bore the name of a divine being

a snow leopard flew in the Himalayas     some Tibetan’s white house stood poised on a hill-top     prayer-flags

fluttered with a pantheon of gods     a paper lion overcame its altitude sickness     as imps and a fine steed

rolled in its erect body     I strode past villages     fortresses     temples     cream-coloured tents     a Tibetan mastiff

roared against a railing     this mighty collector     took care of a Black Hole from the Middle Ages     I had no way of getting near to

bells tolled from high up in the clouds     the Doors of a Whole Household opened     a crowd of matsutake mushrooms put on their caps

the Doors of a Hundred Rivers opened     a hundred thangkas bloomed riotously on slopes covered in a hundred kinds of flowers     a hundred bronze cauldrons

were brewing a whole day’s yak-butter tea     Baidumu stood in a country fair of weiqi chess-players     bearing Tibetan woollen pulu cloth and a love

very soon to be realized    Sakya Monastery was raining     Mount Qomolangma was chanting scriptures     the Doors of the Galsang Flowers opened     every horse

in a pack of horses had lowered its head to the ground     having found the root     a vermilion monk with one shoulder bare pulled out a key from somewhere at his side

the Doors to the Sun opened wide     its brilliance lighting up the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery lost in thought     Doors of Stone opened

the Doors of Wood opened     Doors of Eggs     Doors of Orchards     fathers and sons

worked on the rooves of Autumn     fifty-one years old, Jiangmu’s mother     had a row of white teeth

in her apple of a face     the Doors of the White Poplars opened     I met people spinning prayer-wheels

made of sheep’s hide     people dancing behind white clouds     people offering their hands in support     people walking along roads     people on their way

to Lhasa     these joyous clocks     crawled along the ground     and moved more slowly than time itself     I met with people

lying stretched out in fields of grass     and I met kings without crowns     the mothers of mothers     riders on horseback     ladies of noble birth

necks encircled with turquoise     beautiful woman cooks     a reincarnated descendant of King Gesar     just like a stupa     I met with young girls

like white cranes     bronzed boys     and at the long-distance bus station I met with butter gilded with gold-leaf     as well as people

carrying scars     fleas and love songs     people come from corn and potato     who led me

and guided me past precipices and streams     with hands scythes had once cut into     o     that day in faraway Shigatse

the Doors of the Choir opened     everywhere lips were singing     Jamyang Gyatso     sang in each and every prayer wheel

sorrowful songs     that day     Shigatse was bathed in an auspicious glow     that day     all the doors opened

the white hair of grandmothers hung down in doorways     the world was so old     Beauty was slow in coming     but how I hoped that this was not

the End of the World     that day, with Shigatse lit up in the light of the setting sun     I found the main gate to an Old Heaven     sheep

making their way back home     trod my footprints into the mud’s oblivion as they passed     there was no electricity in Shigatse that day

no hotels     the Doors of the Stars opened     and together with the motionless yaks on a plain of grass

I was glad to be darkness

Notes:

① 勃起的身体中滚着 / 骏马和精灵
I asked Yu Jian about the horse and the imps and he said that all this was in him: “I had become a steed” [我自己的身体内,我成了一匹骏马].

② 一头藏獒 / 在栅栏旁咆哮  伟大的收藏家  保管着中世纪的黑洞  我无法走近
I am still puzzled about the dog being described as a “mighty collector”. Yu Jian explained that he saw it as a kind of spirit [你可以那么想,藏獒在我看来就是神灵]; perhaps he means the kind that protects house and home from unwanted influences. The phrase “meaner than a junkyard dog” also springs to mind in this context: in a way, the dog is both collector and protector of such a hoard. The image of the black hole may refer to the gaping mouth of the dog and to unmodernised Tibet (one characteristic modernization is perpetual bright lighting and the loss of complete natural darkness) and, taking things a step further, to the difficulty modernized individuals experience in approaching other kinds of societies

③ 白度母站在手谈者的集市
Yu Jian does like to literalize words. The word for “chess” here is 手谈, literally “hand talk”. He could have in mind here the scenario he describes in the prose piece “In Lhasa”: “In a certain spot on Barkhor Street, groups of Khampa men do business by thrusting a hand into the sleeve of their trading-partner and moving it around inside. They look as if they’re putting on some kind of play with hand-puppets. An expert on local affairs told me that this was how they haggled. They bargain with their fingers in their sleeves, communicating prices by means of gesture.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Yu Jian photo SMALL_30 JUL 2018

回忆日喀则

那一天在红色的日喀则  我正年轻  背着行囊和一壶水  穿着解放鞋

大步穿过青稞地  森林在雾中梳头   黎明洗脸  乌鸦有一个神的名字

雪豹在喜马拉雅山中飞  藏族人白色的房子停在山岗   风马旗跟着

诸神飘扬   一头纸狮子在克服它的高原反应   勃起的身体中滚着

骏马和精灵  大步迈过村庄  城堡  寺院  奶油色的帐篷  一头藏獒

在栅栏旁咆哮  伟大的收藏家  保管着中世纪的黑洞  我无法走近

钟声响起在云端  一家人的门打开了  一群松茸戴好了它们的小帽子

一百条河流的门打开了  一百张唐卡盛开在百花山坡  一百只铜锅

在煮着一日的奶茶  白度母站在手谈者的集市  带来氆氇和将至的

爱情  萨迦寺在下雨  珠穆朗玛在颂经  格桑花的门打开了  马群

低着头  它找到了根  朱红色的僧人袒露肩膀从腰间取出了钥匙

太阳的门大大地打开了  光辉照亮沉思的扎伦布寺  石头的门打开了

木头的门打开了  鸡蛋的门打开了 果园的门打开了  丈夫和儿子们

在秋天的屋顶上干活  降姆的妈妈五十一岁  苹果般的脸上含着一排

白牙齿  天空的门打开了  白杨树的门打开了  我遇见摇着羊皮转经筒

的人  尾随白云跳舞的人  彼此搀扶的人  走在路上的人  要去拉萨

的人  这些快乐的表  匍匐在大地上  走得比时间还慢  我遇见躺在

大草原上的人  遇见无冕的国王  母亲的母亲  骑士  戴绿松石项链

的贵妇  美丽的厨娘  格萨尔王的转世后裔  像一座塔  我遇见白鹤

少女  古铜男子  在长途汽车站我遇见镀着黄金的酥油  遇见那些身上

有疤痕  跳蚤和情歌的人  那些来自玉米和土豆的人  他们牵着我

绕过悬崖和溪流  用被镰刀割伤的手  哦呀 那一天在遥远的日喀则

唱诗班的门打开了  所有嘴唇都在歌唱  仓央嘉措在每一只经筒中唱着

伤心之歌  那一天  祥光笼罩日喀则  那一天  所有的门都打开了

门洞里挂着祖母们的白发  世界如此老迈  美姗姗来迟  但愿这不是

末日  那一天在夕光中的日喀则  我找到旧天堂的大门  一只只羊

在归家  我的脚印跟着它们在泥泞中隐去  那一天日喀则没有电

没有旅馆  星星的门打开了  跟着草原上那些一动不动的牦牛

我甘于黑暗

2018年8月1日星期三在理塘

Michelle and the Insider

2017-11-27 Ho Clan Temple RESIZED

She knew the sane feeling
a lithe body in motion can give
just by watching its concentration,
but it felt like a meeting of minds
when she joined her desire
to the face in the perfect mirror.
There was one defect:
the cellular life of her own body
was a butterfly lapsed on a flower,
calm in the jaws of a small spider
smartly acquiring its eyes.
There are no genuine flexions in this world,
she thought. Only reflections, sections
of that delirious, exterior stranger who lives
without us, on our skin
.
Eye is Lord, but Michelle saw reason:
she no longer submits
to the mere thrill of being
another’s amphibious smile.

She turned in.

 

《蛙文》/ Frogscript 11 • 郭少鳳 Evette Kwok

Japanese Frog for Frogscript_Thumbnail_2 FEB 2018

Please scroll down for the English translation!

 《蛙文:雀巢蕨》

郭少鳳著

由細細個開始,對植物嘅感覺不大,只係知道植物係生活喺身邊,冇特別留意佢哋嘅存在、佢哋嘅價值。就算去到嘉道理農場工作,最、最、最有興趣嘅都係動物,曾經被人「洗腦」,錯覺以為嘉道理呢個地方已經有齊晒香港大部分嘅哺乳類動物,當時工作嘅其中一個目標就係要親眼見到所有哺乳類,而家諗返起都覺得有啲攪笑。

但係喺嘉道理有一種好特別植物,叫雀巢蕨,改變了我對植物嘅觀感。名乎其實,雀巢蕨嘅外貌似足一個雀巢:啲葉由「巢」中向外環迴一層層咁生出來,中間嘅「巢」係可以收集同埋分解大量嘅枯葉、鳥糞同埋雨水,轉化為自己嘅能量,真係令我讚嘆不已,認識到植物亦有過人之處!

雖然如此,雀巢蕨也有天歒箝制佢哋,我記得有一次同兩位上司一齊行去上山區嘅蕨類植小徑,我嘅部門主管叫我望一望眼前細細樖嘅雀巢蕨,問我有咩嘢特別,我注視了一陣子,終於發現喺「巢」邊新長出嘅嫩葉有被咬過嘅痕跡,原來係被香港嘅一種鹿仔 – 赤麂食咗 。

後來係機緣巧合下,我都食過一次:去台灣旅行時,我最鐘意走入啲小店食嘢,嗰次應該喺係台中,菜單上將素菜分為兩大類,蔬菜類和野菜類,嗰時想試下有台灣特色嘅嘢食,見到有一味叫豆豉炒山蘇,覺得好特別,又未曾聽過,所以就叫咗佢。一上菜,見到個樣我就認得佢啦,台灣嘅野菜山蘇,就係香港人叫嘅雀巢蕨。口感爽爽脆脆,味道甘甘甜甜嘅,唔怪得赤麂都鐘意食啦!

食完山蘇後,當時其實有點罪疚感,因為喺嘉道理時成日教人要保護野生動植物,但自己又走咗去台灣食嘉道理受歡迎嘅野生植物。返到嚟香港,就睇睇網上資料,發覺原來台灣已經有農場專門種植山蘇,有啲種來食用,甚至乎有啲用來當家居植物,個心即時好過一點點!但嗰次之後,去啲唔熟識嘅餐廳,都會盡量小心啲叫嘢,避免食咗啲唔應該食嘅嘢。

雀巢蕨係附生植物,喺香港嘅原生樹林都可以見到,但我又唔可以話佢哋係常見嘅植物,行10次山都未必見到一次,不過最特別嘅係,當你見到佢時,通常都可以連續見到好幾樖。佢哋係蕨類植物,即係唔會開花、唔會結果,咁點樣繁殖下一代呢?我哋可以留意一下佢哋嘅葉,佢哋嘅葉都係同其他植物一樣,透過光合作用產生糖分,但係有啲葉叫孢子葉,喺葉底會有一條條橙黃色嘅孢子囊,䆁放孢子出來,啲孢子就好似種子咁隨風飄去其他地方,只要條件適合,佢哋會附係其他植物上繁殖下一代,所以喺同一環境下,通常都會有一大堆同時出現。而濕濕暗暗暖暖嘅樹林就係雀巢蕨嘅理想嘅生境,反而太光太乾嘅地方會令佢哋嘅葉變黃、太凍又變棕啡色。

雀巢蕨同我哋人類有小小相似嘅地方,都習慣咗喺一個所謂嘅舒適區 comfort zone 生活,未必適應到環境同氣候嘅轉變。其實有時我都會諗:我細細個時,屋企根本冇冷氣機,當時都可以生活得到,亦冇埋怨過;但係如果而家冇冷氣機,係夏天最熱嘅時候,老實講,我都未必可以忍受得到。我哋呢一代人,因科技越來越越好,生活越來越舒適,我哋嘅舒適區可能越來越收窄,人亦變得越來越冇適應力,噉,究竟係咪一件好事呢?我哋應該何去何從呢?

Evette Kwok_Bird-nest Fern for Frogscript

Bird-nest Fern. Photograph by Evette Kwok (2018)

Continue reading “《蛙文》/ Frogscript 11 • 郭少鳳 Evette Kwok”

Giving Oneself to Place • Intimacy and Hong Kong Temples (Part I)

2017-11-17 Little Temple Tsz Tin Tuen Mun II

Temple at Tsz Tin Tsuen, Tuen Mun (2017)

 

The Shrine of the Earth

Tsz Tin Tsuen 紫田邨 is a small village in the north-western part of Tuen Mun. Its name means “purple fields” in Cantonese. Like virtually everywhere else in Hong Kong’s New Territories, Purple Fields is undergoing intensive “development” and has virtually completely lost its former identity as a farming community. As I made my way up a gentle slope to the entrance, I got a clearer view of new housing estates towering pristine over squat local buildings: the first one I encounter is called Luk Tin Lau 綠田邨 or “Green Fields Estate”, the name a painfully ironic reminder of what once existed where now only a geometrical conglomerate of concrete, glass, and metal stands.

Opposite, overcast in its deep shadow, sits a modest residence probably dating back to the 1950s and bearing the name of Chau Yun 秋園 (Autumn Garden). In this case, however, the name remains true to substance: some of the trees planted around the one-storey dwelling are beginning to shed their leaves, although on this particular day it still feels intensely like Summer. The contrast in design, in scale, in aspiration is simply overwhelming. I had come to Purple Fields primarily to track down a few rough paths (marked on my map with dotted lines) so as to get off the beaten track out to some remoter places, but with all the construction work in progress and the complete transformation of the terrain, finding any of them proved to be impossible.

I bowed my head, partly in resignation to progress, as I passed under the fine formal gate that marks the way in to the village proper, and meandered along the winding main street, lined with unassuming houses and a si do 士多 (“store”) or two which were yet to open for business. Before too long, on a corner block, something caught my eye: a neat, tiled building with couplets engraved in stone on either side of the open ground-floor recess. An altar was just visible through the gloom at the back, and on it were oil-burners, candles, a vase containing the long stems of luxuriant green-leafed lucky bamboo [富貴竹], and dishes piled with cumquats (from the Cantonese gam gat or “golden good luck”). Pink-sticked incense burned in a small bowl of sand just outside the entrance.

I was slightly puzzled by the fact that the temple did not appear to be dedicated to any particular god, but this did not really matter, because the four-character horizontal inscription on the lintel, marked with five pieces of fresh-looking red and gold lucky paper, bore the following remarkable message:

神人共樂
The Divine and the Human, Together in Delight

Without demeaning the supernatural powers, and without at the same time exalting the human beyond the limits of its station, this plain phrase assumes a wonderful intimacy between the two realms. There is undoubtedly reverence implicit in the physical appearance of the shrine — all is spotlessly clean and in perfect order — but there is no trace of the abject piety that so often infects our mortal response to the numinous. I recall to this day my shock and lingering pleasant surprise when I read a passage written by the great modern Chinese translator of Balzac Fu Lei 傅雷 in which he expresses his dislike of the grovelling element in the music of Bach. In this brief Chinese inscription, with its emphasis on mutuality and delight, we are transported to a realm that is so completely unlike that familiar scenario in which a sinful human being kneels in self-abasement before a wrathful deity. There is a hint here at a saner attitude, as well as a much more charming one, in which human pleasure is not necessarily contrary or offensive to the incomprehensible forces that shape this planet.

Continue reading “Giving Oneself to Place • Intimacy and Hong Kong Temples (Part I)”

“I Will Not Let Sadness Possess You”

Omid AZADIBOUGAR_

Wedding Colours. Photograph by Omid Azadibougar (2018)

Chastening to think
even detergent gets its chance to enchant,
wiping wry smiles and misappointment
off heavily adult faces.
(Note: there’s hope for us yet.)
Many kids find a lifetime’s first rainbow
in these transparent, shimmering planets,
lighter than thin air,
but strangely grave with a uranium poetry.
In the end does the rainbow really have to die for us all?
Through the spinning film of their lenses,
our ironic world becomes razor-vivid with renewal,
while the stateliness of their orbits
cannot but direct us
to the hushed intensive care at work
in our only begotten core.
In this atmosphere of convivial weightlessness
chock-a-block with laughter and atypical, unshrewd wonder,
we are invited against smugness —
and against the anti-complacency of wrongheaded zeal —
to sit back and relax
into what the unsung spectacle of these bubbles’ soap-soaring arias
minutely fine-tunes in our birth.