The Trappist Monk Thomas Merton is better known for his spiritual prose, but he was an artist and poet, as well. Eastern philosophies, including Buddhism and Taoism, inspired his writing, including his poetry, and his theology.
When we are at ease with our actions and speech, we work with remarkable dexterity. We understand technology as tools, however the etymology includes techne which is art and craft and logos has to do with speaking, discourse, and the rules that guide that speaking. Craftspeople and artists take time, gather their thoughts (become full of thought), and speak with and through their tools in creating artifacts which in turn call us to gather our thoughts in their use.
Merton’s poem speaks of the ease and knowing one’s craft so well that conversations with and through tools feel right as the craftsperson experiences tools and creating intimately. The human and their tools form a mindful and caring relationship. John Dewey proposed that mind was a verb. We mind, care for, appreciate, and attend to our tools and they respond to this mindfulness.
From the Chinese of Chuang Tzu
Ch’ui the draftsman
Could draw more perfect circles freehand
Than with a compass.
His fingers brought forth
Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind
Was meanwhile free and without concern
With what he was doing.
No application was needed
His mind was perfectly simple
And knew no obstacle.
So, when the shoe fits
The foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits
The belly is forgotten,
When the heart is right
“For” and “against” are forgotten.
No drives, no compulsions,
No needs, no attractions:
Then your affairs
Are under control.
You are a free man.
Easy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right. The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.
Great post, Ivan. I’ve been thinking along these lines myself lately that this whole idea that you can “make it happen” needs a few qualifications. I’ve been thinking more along the lines of finding your own path and where you’re meant to be rather than going through all the pain of pushing the proverbial up hill.
Can we make it happen? That presumes we know the future somehow and we are only human. You are so right to say finding where you are meant to be, which is not easy. Paradoxically, when we do that we might be at ease with the effort.
Indeed, when you love something you don’t even notice the effort. I put in hours with my writing but it feels like 5 minutes.
I totally agree. When you are doing something you are passionate about, time loses meaning.
Is this something like “Go with the flow”?
I think it is. As I was reading and writing, I thought of the flow concept; just being in the moment and immersed in what one is experiencing.
“when the shoe fits
The foot is forgotten”
That’s so true. I love the simple observations some people make thst others never see.
Similar to his art, Merton wrote poetry in a simple way filled with observations we find in everyday life.