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Wick (Cordova): Week 6 – 26 April

It’s my birthday, and I’ve treated myself to some cds of Bob Dylan performing live during his born-again Christian phase (because nothing says “happy birthday” like two and a half hours of hellfire and damnation set to a jaunty rhythm and blues). My only regret is that they’ve edited out the sermons he used to deliver between songs—sermons apparently so excoriating they made Savonarola, and I quote, look like a big girl’s blouse. Dylan once said that music attracts the angels in the universe, but after listening to these tracks I assume they turned up here to ask him to play the likes of “Blowing in the Wind” instead of “Gotta Serve Somebody”.

Daffodils by the Old Library

Actually, as I get older, of all the religions I don’t believe in it’s probably Taoism that appeals to me most. Tao—alternatively spelled Dao and pronounced as though it should have the words “Jones Index” after it, which opens up an intriguing parallel universe where America embraced meditation rather than capitalism—means “the Way”. And while I like to pretend I admire it for its message of humility and compassion, and its principle of wu wei, or doing through not-doing, I suspect the real reason is that it’s the only major religion founded by an archivist: the “old master” Lao Tzu, keeper of the archives of the royal court of Zhou. (Did he keep them in a Zhou box? History, alas, is silent.)

Nets on the harbour quay

Meanwhile in gansey news, I’ve almost finished the front and reached the joining-the-shoulder stage. This is an important psychological moment, with the jumper two-thirds done. But as Robert Frost said, or would have done if he’d been a knitter, which he wasn’t, instead of the traveller stopping by woods on a snowy evening which he claimed to be, I still have many rows before I sleep. Next comes a brief flirtation with the collar, and then it’s on to the sleeves.

St Fergus & Hawthorn

Lao Tzu is of course credited with the Tao Te Ching, the classic Book of Virtue and of the Way. Its famous opening is, “The Dao that can be spoken of is not the true Dao”, which at least means no one can tell you you’re doing it wrong. And after years of struggling with the tangled philosophies of Wittgenstein and Kant, as soon as I read, “That which is, is, and that which is not, is not” in the Book of Chuang Tzu I knew I’d found my personal spirit level. But is any of this stuff actually true? Ah, the answer to that, my friend, is blowing in the wind…

8 comments to Wick (Cordova): Week 6 – 26 April

  • Meg Macleod

    Stick with Tao…. definitely the Way. Designed for the knitter specially….one who has learned patience

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, many years ago Chinese sages would go out into the world. If they met a ruffian or a person obsessed with material things, they would say to each other that he had no Tao; this has come down to us in translation as the expression, “No Way!”…

      Ok, I just made that up. But wouldn’t it be great if it were true?

      • Meg Macleod

        Just ordered a book comparing the way of Tao with Sufism…
        I love your interpretation of ..no way…..x

        • Gordon

          Hi Meg, I am sympathetic to Sufism, partly because one of my artistic heroes, Richard Thompson, follows it. As they say, Sufism is a mystical form of Islam and is very receptive to artists and musicians. I gravitate naturally to mysticism, if not to Islam.

          I’m not an expert in any of this, but one of the things I like about Taoism – as a philosophy if not a religion – is acceptance of life as it is, in all its sorrows and joys, and of finding the right action in any situation through reflection and going with what arises naturally. Actually, that’s two things! Hope it’s a good book.

  • =Tamar

    One might assume that a Daoist knitter follows a way of peace and never gets into rows. One might be wrong.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, ha, very good 😀. Though I didn’t exactly follow the way of peace this morning when I was casting off the shoulder, reached the last few stitches and found I had one stitch left over on one needle… and discovered that I’d dropped a stitch right at the very start of the cast-off. (More proof, if any were needed, that knitting wasn’t invented when the major religions of the world came into being…)

  • Caroline

    On the subject of Tao/Dao there are hours and hours of Alan Watts lectures on YT which I find especially relaxing while knitting. He has a great Shakespearean voice perfectly suited to the subject

    • Gordon

      Hi Caroline, thanks for the heads-up. I’ve spent a happy hour or two this week listening to those – very interesting!

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