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Friday, 1 April 2011

Empty Boat (Purple Swamphen)


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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/77/Porphyrio_porphyrio_poliocephalus_-_Bueng_Boraphet.jpg

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), subsp. poliocephalus, Bueng Boraphet, Nakhon Sawan, Thailand: photo by J.J.Harrison, 4 February 2011



If you can empty your own boat crossing the river of the world,
no one will oppose you, no one will seek to harm you....

Who can free himself from achievement, and from fame, descend and be lost amid the masses of men?
He will flow like Tao, unseen, he will go about like Life itself with no name and no home.
Simple is he, without distinction. To all appearances he is a fool.
His steps leave no trace. He has no power. He achieves nothing, has no reputation.

Since he judges no one, no one judges him.
Such is the perfect man:
His boat is empty.



File:Purple Moore Hen.jpg

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), Singallanur Tank, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India:: photo by K. Mohan Raj, 2009

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8d/Purple_Swamphen_%28Porphyrio_porphyrio%29_near_Hodal_W_IMG_6626.jpg

Purple Swamphens (Porphyrio porphyrio), near Hodal, Faridabad, Haryana, India: photo by J.M. Garg, 2009

File:Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) near Hyderabad W IMG 4788.jpg

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), near Hyderabad, India: photo by J.M. Garg, 2009

File:Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) near Hodal W IMG 6559.jpg

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), near Hodal, Faridabad, Haryana, India: photo by J.M. Garg, 2009

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/db/Purple_Swamphen_%28Porphyrio_porphyrio%29_near_Hodal_W3_IMG_6606.jpg

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), near Hodal, Faridabad, Haryana, India: photo by J.M. Garg, 2009

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/Purpurhuhn_%28Pophyrio_porphyrio%29.jpg

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), Mallorca: photo by J.Dietrich, 2009

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fd/Purplemoorhen.jpg

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), Thol Sanctuary, Gujarat: photo by Ravi Vaidyanathan, 2007J

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2f/Purple_Swamphen_Porphyrio_porphyrio_National_Aviary_1600px.jpg

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), National Aviary, Pittsburgh: photo by Derek Ramsey, 2007

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Purple_Swamphen_Porphyrio_porphyrio.jpg

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), in flight: photo by Dhuvaraj S, 2009

The Book of Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi), c. 4th c. BC, xx.2,4 (excerpt), translated by Thomas Merton as The Empty Boat in The Way of Chuang Tzu, 1965

11 comments:

Julia said...

This is the most beautiful blue I have ever seen!

TC said...

Yes, that was my thought too, a blue beyond all blues -- a mere term like "cobalt" cannot encompass it.

Julia said...

¡Exacto!

Tom... would you tell me in which way you thought the connection between these birds and those verses?

I like them both. I'm very interested.

sandra said...

I am also interested Tom....are those your words...?

curtisroberts said...

Seeing the way that Purple Swamphen crosses the road in Mallorca (presumably to get to the other side) with that purposive look on his face is quite uplifting. The photographs are all extremely beautiful. I had never heard the expression "if you can empty your own boat crossing the river of the world" before, but it really hits home.

TC said...

The Book of Chuang Tzu is a classic foundational text of Taoism.

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk/poet, fashioned his versions of this text from two prior Chinese translations.

This passage --

"He will flow like Tao, unseen, he will go about like Life itself with no name and no home.
Simple is he, without distinction. To all appearances he is a fool.
His steps leave no trace. He has no power. He achieves nothing, has no reputation."

-- presents itself to me with a luminous clarity, in relation to these images, from the natural world, of a creature of phenomenal beauty and "no name to come"; that is, no fame, no reputation, no historical identity, no wish to be remembered as an individual, indeed no concern whatsoever with any of these issues so important to humans.

This from the perspective of one who is himself, conversely, while possessed of no natural beauty whatsoever, remains laden with a noisome boatful of entanglements, accumulations, agitations, and other unnecessary baggages of a sort that will soon enough end up under the waves anyway... so (the text and photos silently asked), why not now?

sandra said...

I see Tom....thanks so much for telling!

Julia said...

Como dijo Sandra, ya veo, yo también.
Thank you, Tom!

abadguide said...

Enormous legs and feet, and why red? So you don't miss them?

I think you'd have to be quite old to be able to appreciate the thinking behind that. If I were an anything, I think I would be a Taoist.

Artur.

abadguide said...

Swampfen - shouldn't it be two words: swamp hen? I suppose swamphen is more exotic, like the bird.

Artur.

TC said...

The red shoes... possibly "reflecting" the widespread success of Michael Powell's film in the swamps?

Being indeed old, I think I do understand the thinking, but as to the doing (or is it the not-doing?), well...

Now you mention it, Artur, "Swamphen" (while correct) does begin to have a strange ring, once one begins to conjure in the imagination large muddy zombielike things arising amid the mists and ignis fatui of the swamps and fens... or phens?