Factless

He has a kind of factless, groundless optimism. Either there are only facts or no facts at all and don’t both amount to the same? he asks me. Optimism while the children’s faces burn in Gaza! What brand of optimism is this, I wonder. He accepts the world in its beautiful and terrible variety. He doesn’t cling to facts and he doesn’t cling to suffering: he’s calm and wide-eyed. I don’t think he’s indifferent to the burning children, but if he cares about them it’s in a way I don’t understand. He wants an unlimited horizon. Either there are only truths or no truths at all and don’t both amount to the same? he asks me. What truths do you cling to? Where do they lead you? Facts fall on everyone, like rain, and death is everywhere, it comes for everyone. But so does life. You’re looking for the ultimate facts. Life and Death? Even they can be disputed. You ask too much and you don’t even know what you’re asking for. Then you act as if the facts you find belong to you (until you reject them). Thank God they don’t. The next day I wake up from a past full of certainty and uncertainty and fall into a strange future. My thoughts and movements are dreamlike.

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2 responses to “Factless

  1. ‘Soon after I arrived in Japan, a meeting took place with some colleagues in Tokyo. We were having tea together in a restaurant on the fifth floor of a hotel.

    ‘Suddenly a low rumbling was heard, and we felt a gentle heaving under our feet. The swaying and creaking, and the crash of objects, became more and more pronounced. Alarm and excitement mounted. The numerous guests, Europeans mostly, rushed out into the corridor to the stairs and lifts. An earthquake — and a terrible earthquake a few years before was still fresh in everyone’s memory. I too had jumped up in order to get out into the open. I wanted to tell the colleague with whom I had been talking to hurry up, when I noticed to my astonishment that he was sitting there unmoved, hands folded, eyes nearly closed, as though none of it concerned him. Not like someone who hangs back irresolutely, or who has not made up his mind, but like someone who, without fuss, was doing something — or not doing something — perfectly naturally. The sight of him was so astounding and had such a sobering effect that I remained standing beside him, then sat down and stared at him fixedly, without even asking myself what it could mean and whether it was advisable to remain. I was spell-bound — I didn’t know by what — as though nothing could happen to me. When the earthquake was over — it was said to have lasted a fairly long time — he continued the conversation at the exact point where he had broken off, without wasting a single word on what had happened. For my part I was quite unable to pay attention, and probably gave stupid answers. With the terror still chilling my limbs, I asked myself rather: What prevented me from running away? Why did I not follow an instinctive impulse? I found no satisfactory answer.’

    – Eugen Herrigel, The Method of Zen (trans. R.F.C. Hull)

  2. ‘Soon after I arrived in Japan, a meeting took place with some colleagues in Tokyo. We were having tea together in a restaurant on the fifth floor of a hotel.

    ‘Suddenly a low rumbling was heard, and we felt a gentle heaving under our feet. The swaying and creaking, and the crash of objects, became more and more pronounced. Alarm and excitement mounted. The numerous guests, Europeans mostly, rushed out into the corridor to the stairs and lifts. An earthquake — and a terrible earthquake a few years before was still fresh in everyone’s memory. I too had jumped up in order to get out into the open. I wanted to tell the colleague with whom I had been talking to hurry up, when I noticed to my astonishment that he was sitting there unmoved, hands folded, eyes nearly closed, as though none of it concerned him. Not like someone who hangs back irresolutely, or who has not made up his mind, but like someone who, without fuss, was doing something — or not doing something — perfectly naturally. The sight of him was so astounding and had such a sobering effect that I remained standing beside him, then sat down and stared at him fixedly, without even asking myself what it could mean and whether it was advisable to remain. I was spell-bound — I didn’t know by what — as though nothing could happen to me. When the earthquake was over — it was said to have lasted a fairly long time — he continued the conversation at the exact point where he had broken off, without wasting a single word on what had happened. For my part I was quite unable to pay attention, and probably gave stupid answers. With the terror still chilling my limbs, I asked myself rather: What prevented me from running away? Why did I not follow an instinctive impulse? I found no satisfactory answer.’

    – Eugen Herrigel, The Method of Zen (trans. R.F.C. Hull)

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