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Navy Gansey, Week 3: 1 October

I’ve recently discovered the Chinese writer Lin Yutang (1895-1976), who lived most of his life in the USA. He was known chiefly as a translator of classic Chinese texts, and his books helped popularise Chinese philosophy in the West. He seems to be largely forgotten now, though I feel that anyone who could write, “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone” deserves to be better known. (Lin also invented a toothbrush that dispenses its own toothpaste: honestly, why are there not statues to this man?)

He’s endlessly quotable and you can find many of his quirky sayings online. Some are rather fey (“Human life can be lived like a poem”). But my favourite is this: “Life after all is made up of eating and sleeping, of meeting and saying good-by to friends, of reunions and farewell parties, of tears and laughter, of having a haircut once in two weeks, of watering a potted flower and watching one’s neighbor fall off his roof”. As true today as when it was written.

Autumnal colours by the river

Lin’s attitude to life can be summed up in his observation that, “The world I believe is far too serious, and being far too serious, is it has need of a wise and merry philosophy”—and as soon as I read that I knew I had found my spiritual home. Every time you pick up a book which speaks to you, it’s as if the author him- or herself were sitting in armchair across the fire (as Dickens rather creepily inserts himself into A Christmas Carol: “as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow”). There’s always something new to learn, and new friends to make, especially in the pages of a book.

Top: Frangipani
Bottom: Wendy

In gansey news, I continue to make good progress up the body. Either this ball is less uneven than others in the bag, or I’m just getting used to it, but I hardly notice the variable quality of the yarn now. It’s knitting up at around 7.75 stitches to the inch, so the width (352 stitches in the round) should be about right (22.5 inches across the body). Vertically, I’m averaging around 10 rows to the inch, rather than the 11.25 or so I get using Frangipani. I still haven’t settled on the pattern yet, but it’s going to be one of the simpler ones, I think: there just won’t be enough rows for a fancy one.

Wandered lonely as a cloud . . .

And let’s end with Lin Yutang, as we began. There’s much wisdom to be found in his writings, amid the merriment. For instance, his comment on religion—”All I know is that if God loves me only half as much as my mother does, He will not send me to Hell”—sums up pretty well how I feel about the subject. But it’s another observation of his that I’ve been thinking about recently, especially when applied to the political situation across the globe: “When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set…”

5 comments to Navy Gansey, Week 3: 1 October

  • Lynne

    Love today’s blog!
    . . . . on the other hand, Wendy’s yarn should be advertised as “Boucle” ! Shameful. Oh, well, the rest of us know what a consistent, even knitter you are.
    Beautiful Blip Foto, Margaret, of the rainbow over the hill of sheep, and I also really like the church steeple between the Hawthorns.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne, there are many quotes from Lin that it was hard to narrow them down. Here’s another good one: “Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence”.

      As for Wendy’s yarn, i wouldn’t mind, but a couple of years ago I bought 3 ganseys’ worth of the stuff!

  • =Tamar

    Lin Yutang…that name seems very familiar to me, from a long time ago…. I wonder, was he the translator/writer who wrote a book titled _Monkey_? (Google), no, that was Wu Cheng-En. Huh.

    That yarn is definitely still variable. Regardless, the work so far looks fine.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, the knitted up yarn is a little uneven, with more lumpy bobbles than I’d prefer, but it’s still going to make a pretty good gansey, i think. (I hope it will, anyway!)

      Here’s another Lin Yutang quote: “If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.” (If only I’d known how wise I was through student years!)

  • Kersti

    Ah, thank you so much for reminding me about Lin Yutang, Gordon. We had his ‘The Importance of Living’ on our shelves at home when I was a child. Highly recommended, and still available via Amazon.

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