Death · Religion · Work

The Towers of Anding City

A farmer noticed mist forming over a hill in the distance. Curious, he walked towards it, being careful to avoid the poison ivy and the sharp brambles by the grassy path. A long, sinuous vine had curved out of the ground and wrapped itself around a trunk of a huge tree. Yet this tree had no branches. In fact, it looked upside down. He shook his head and reasoned that he had drunk too much Mei Jiu the night before. The leaves were everywhere over the grounds, shaped like his hands, clawing into the ground. The roots extended upwards into the mist until they could no longer be seen.

According to the Bhagavad Gita, life is like such a tree. Hungry leaves spread like desire over the earth. The branches are the senses, such as touch, sight, smell and hearing. At the end of the branches are hands, eyes, noses and ears. The higher up the tree one climbs, towards the root, the less is one attached to the world of material sensations and illusions.

Then he realized he was looking into a lake and a reflection of an old banyan tree. He wondered where the illusion began, in the lake or out of it.
迢递高城百尺楼,tiáo dì gāo chéng bǎi chǐ;chě lóu,

绿杨枝外尽汀洲。lǜ yáng zhī wài jìn;jǐn tīng zhōu。

贾生年少虚垂泪,gǔ shēng  nián shào xū  chuí lèi,

王粲春来更远游。wáng càn chūn lái  gèng yuǎn yóu。

永忆江湖归白发,yǒng yì  jiāng hú guī  bái fà,

欲回天地入扁舟。yù huí  tiān dì rù  piān zhōu。

不知腐鼠成滋味,bù zhī  fǔ shǔ chéng  zī wèi,

猜意鸳雏竟未休。cāi yì yuān chú jìng wèi xiū。


Above the city wall, the imperial edict reaches towers 100 chi high

Beyond the green branches of the Song trees, sand bars and islets lie

Master Jia shed vain tears in his youthful years[1]

Wang Cai left for distant places when Spring appeared

Forever remembering the lakes and rivers, I will return with my hair white

Before heaven and earth I will go back in the little boat only after a good fight.

Not knowing the odor was of dead rats,

Who would guess the firebird wouldn’t stop and rest? [2]

***

Musical Interlude: Preludes in F# minor and D Minor by Chopin, played by Mark Obama Ndesandjo

These are two of my favorite pieces by Chopin. The first brings to mind an eagle overlooking an abyss,  and a wild journey across a terrifying landscape.

Prelude in F# minor


The second is the last of the Op. 28 preludes, and is in a harmonic key (D minor) associated with death in classical Western romantic culture. I see it as an affirmation of life. Note the ending, which seems to close the door on death with three slams.

Preludes in D minor

In a sense, both preludes are a refutation of the Buddhist and Hindu concepts of abnegation. Let us consider…what is more beautiful in life than a beating heart?

Notes:
[1]  Jia Yi (201-169BC) a scholar of the Han Dynasty. Wang Cai (177-217AD), a poet whose work often expressed homesickness.

[2]  Referring to a phoenix who recognised corruption, and flew on instead without stopping.

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