Monday, 23 February 2009

...to be a 'nothingist'

天葬台

宰了

割了

烂捣碎了

燃一柱香

打一声呼哨

来了

就去了

来去都干干净净

Sky Burial

Cut

Scalped

Pounded into pieces

Light an incense

Blow the whistle

Come

Gone

Out and out

- 13 April 1986, Beijing

I discovered the Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian (高行健 ) last week via a reference in a novel I was reading. Sadly it seems that this poem is the only one to have survived his 're-education' during the Cultural Revolution and it does not appear that he has published any poetry since, although he has published 5 novels and many plays.

From an interview in the Guardian:
"Literature can't merely be an expression of self - that would be unbearable," Gao says. "You have to be critical not just of society and others, but of yourself: each subject has three pronouns: 'I', 'you', and 'he' or 'she'." He sees such self-scrutiny as a safeguard: "If you're not perfectly conscious of yourself, that self can be tyrannical; in relationship to others, anyone can become a tyrant. That's why no one can be a Superman. You have to go beyond yourself with a 'third eye' - self-awareness - because the one thing you cannot flee is yourself."

The interview also includes this excerpt from The Case for Literature, translated by Mabel Lee, published by Yale University Press:
"Without Isms is neither nihilism nor eclecticism; nor is it egotism or solipsism. It opposes totalitarian dictatorship but also opposes the inflation of the self to God or Superman. It hates seeing other people trampled on like dog shit. Without Isms detests politics and does not take part in politics, but is not opposed to other people who do. If people want to get involved in politics, let them go right ahead. What Without Isms opposes is the foisting of a particular brand of politics on to the individual by means of abstract collective names such as 'the people', 'the race' or 'the nation'."

All such thinking aside, I posted this because the poem touches me deeply. I read it and feel like weeping for the fragility of a human life, the pain and sadness of impermanence. And yet the simple beauty also. Come. Gone. Out and Out. Indeed! A reminder to let go, always to let go. Sadness? Let go. Pain? Let go. Happiness? Let go. Positive thoughts? Let go. Negative thoughts? Let go. Opinions? Let go. Hopes? Let go. Judgements? Let go. Emotions? Let go. This body? Let go. This mind? Let go. Light an incense.

Let go now, don't waste a precious moment, this life might be over sooner than we expect.

UPDATE: The Artsy website has wonderful page profiling Gao Xingjian and his artwork. Do check it out.


9 comments:

Alice said...

Breathe out - let go. Then breathe out - let go. Moment to moment, breath out - let go. Do it now or wait 'til our very last breath does it for us. Either way, we're going to end up having to let go. So I choose to practice letting go now.

Gassho ~

veggieinlove said...

Not sure if I want to let go NOW. Thought we're supposed to deepen our experience in the NOW...being with NOW. *grin*

AK-47 said...

I'm feeling ... instead of "nothingist"... more like "emptyingist". ;P

@ veggieinlove: not sure if one can truly be in the now while not wanting to let go. Being in the NOW is letting go, moment to moment. How else are we to experience NOW? :D

Alice said...

Oops! AK-47 is me, Alice from NOT2WO.

Didn't realize I was signed onto Google. AK-47 is my offline nickname. That comes to show you how 'in the moment' I was!

Puerhan said...

@Alice Certainly I think "Without Isms" could easily be understood as pointing towards emptiness! Also known as AK-47...? sounds dangerous! :-P

@Veggieinlove Want something? Let go. Don't want something? Let go. Think you're supposed to do something? Let go. Think you're not supposed to do something? Let go. Attached to an idea of Now? Let go! :-)

veggieinlove said...

@Alice & @ Puerhan: "Not sure if I want to let go NOW." was a joke (like a 'pun'), that's why I put *grin*.

Sky never 'let go' of the clouds. It simply IS!

veggieinlove said...

"Want something? Let go." Are you sure? I don't think you can let go of chocolate when you want it! That's for sure! *grin*

Puerhan said...

@veggieinlove yes, I saw you were joking, hence the smiley faces in return! :-)

The sky isn't a sentient being, metaphors only go so far...

Chocolate?! No problem. :-D

Alice said...

@veggieinlove: Ahhh...I get in NOW! Took me a while...but I get it NOW! :D

@Puerhan: You better bet I'm dangerous! But I've long traded in my semi-automatic assault rifle for the flaming sword of Manjushri. Yeah baby!