Sunday, 29 June 2014


"You will take notes, and the scraping of your pen will be one of the most peaceful sounds under the sun."

"And even I can remember a time when historians left blanks in their writings, I mean for things they didn’t know, but that time seems to be passing…"

Unknown rooms, a garden gate, harbours, factories, warehouses, unknown faces on a train, a wedding reception from long ago, a letter or a book in somebody’s hand, empty telephone boxes, deserted crossroads, half open doors… This is how I wanted writing to be: as delirious, brutal and tender as an old photograph. We give things meaning because we are unable to give them love. Or rather, everything has to be meaningful because we cannot love. Writing, the same thing as loving: an experience of limits.

"I call the contemporary text a meditative vehicle because we come to it neither as to a map of knowledge nor as a guide to action, nor even for entertainment. we come to it as the start of a different kind of journey."

The beautiful ‘Commedia’ by Dante rests quietly upon the simple surfaces of sheets of paper. Raffaello’s ‘Madonna with Goldfinch’ drifts through the postal networks of the world printed on a piece of card. Tarkovsky’s last film is projected onto the white fabric of a cinema screen. I love this dependency of beauty - sublime and incomparable - upon the simplest of the world’s materials. And when a Japanese woman hands a zen priest a photograph of her sister, who is a prostitute, and asks him to write a few lines on the back, its not what he writes that overwhelms me but the image of him writing on the back of a photograph of another human being.

Phone calls in the middle of the night. Her brother. He’s going through some kind of breakdown, he’s having difficulty talking, but she’s gentle with him, takes the long silences without any fuss. He asks if there are any letters for him (she was looking after his flat while he was away) and can she read them to him over the phone. This is the amazing bit.  She doesn’t just read what is written on the sheets of paper, she talks him through the entire letter, from the stamp and the postmark, and how the address is written, and how easily the envelope tears open, to the way the paper is folded and the placing of the words upon the page. Beauty now means giving equal attention to everything. The loving gaze as revelation.

"Where there is observation there is science, there is philosophy, there is dream."

She writes a letter on large sheets of paper pinned to the wall. Afterwards she photographs them to reduce them to ‘letter size’. Some of the words are too small or feint to survive within the shrunken field of the photographs. Some of the photos show only a portion of the paper, the resultant image testifying to a certain incommunicability, a word or phrase lost to the border, but a loss that’s at least as honest as speech: “When I made up my mind to work in the house where there was a new-born child, I …”; “I dont read, I walk besides words. You can’t imagine how little it means to me to…” In one photo, taken from the other side of the room, the sheets of paper are dwarfed by the cream coloured emptiness of a piece of linen covering the window, billowing in the breeze, filled with light.  The letter-as-content has been transformed into letter-as-pure-intention, conveying a desire as unlimited as it is modest. And somewhere amidst those trailing sentences and disappearing words I realise that ‘stopping’ is one of the beauties of language. Its ok to just stop - right there in the middle of the sentence, before the distortion starts, before the artificiality, the cleverness, the need to be right. It means you dont have to waste the gift of language expressing your neurosis.

"Evocation of emotion determined by a resistance to emotion. As Bach, sitting at the organ, explained to a student: ‘its a matter of striking the notes at exactly the right moment’."

"A sentence is not emotional but a paragraph is."

So when you’re tired of writing it may be that you’re only tired of writing ‘I’. But you dont have to tell me about your life in order to keep in touch, in order to sustain communication.  You could just ‘write’ - there doesn’t have to be a ‘you’ there, encoded in the writing biographically, referentially. The ‘you’ is already there anyway, in the materiality of the letter, the tenderness of all the touches, in the very ache of the writing as much as the writing itself. You don’t have to squeeze yourself into an outmoded psychology of biography, of the written ‘I’. You could let (yourself) go. I’m not saying that biography is wrong - not at all. In any case its absence is unimaginable: biography is the limit-case of the human, and in its own way as beautiful as a field full of flowers. (One day - not now - I will tell you about a fragmentary biography of a Tibetan lama I once read…) I’m just saying that if ever it gets too much you can live without it.

Saturday, 28 June 2014


"But I will arrive, I will arrive at the point where you will no longer read me. Not only by becoming more illegible than ever for you (it’s beginning, it’s beginning), but by doing things such that you no longer even recall that I am writing for you, that you no longer even encounter, as if by chance, the ‘do not read me.’ That you do not read me, this is all, so long, ciao, neither seen nor heard, I am totally elsewhere. I will arrive there, you try too."

Sometimes I find myself thinking about Tarkovsky during the making of his last film: sawing branches off trees and glueing them back on in different places - the ‘right’ places. I’m not trying to work it out, much less justify or condemn it, I’m just trying to ‘think’ it, to spend a little time in its shadow, allowing it room, room enough to affect me.

Your letter arrived today, its instantly recognisable handwriting like a print-out from an echocardiograph machine. And I thought: if only I could speak like that! I’m not talking about the sound of the machine, I mean the same sparse beauty - little peaks and depths of feeling manifesting with pinpoint accuracy from within a neutrality that is gentle, reliable, generous even… I think of the most dear letters that I would like to send you as I’m drifting off to sleep, but I can’t write them down… More and more I believe that for the forseeable future communication is going to depend more on trust than on the stability of signs.  Autism, nomadology, ‘postcard writers’ in a world of collapsing sign-systems and exhausted languages, archaeologists of a sadness without an object, refugees of the paragraph and the page, attempting to say everything with a few remaining fragments: unfinished, open-ended, under-determined sentences, isolated, incomplete or even erased words, fragments of images torn from magazine pages… Perhaps more than ever before we need an extraordinary tolerance for ambiguity, an education in difficulty. To re-establish the relationship between difficulty and kindness, difficulty and love. Difficult objects, texts, spaces have their own kindness: they evoke states of mind characterised by patience, attention, commitment, trust, openness - the same qualities that make love possible.

The kanji for ‘touch’ combines the kanji for ‘insect’ and ‘horn’; the kanji compund eikyo (‘influence’) consists of the kanji for ‘image’ and ‘echo’; ningen (human being) consists of the kanji for ‘person’ and ‘in between’; honyaku (‘translation’) contains feathers or wings turning as they fall; ‘leaf’ consists of three elements: ‘plantlife’, ‘tree’, and an element which is a kanji in its own right and appears in compounds such as ‘world’, ‘century’, ‘decency’, ‘small talk’, ‘to assist’ etc. This is the cinematic, contemplative side of kanji study. This is where I find myself again and again when my concentration starts to wander; in the openness of its interconnections, its written ‘photography’.

Translating some poems by Kawara Machi. In one poem she complains about her lover’s rough way of talking to her on the telephone. In the next, the touch of falling rain on her lips suddenly brings him to mind. There is no way of conveying the fact that the kanji for ‘telephone’ contains the kanji for ‘rain’ except by stepping outside the smoothness of translation and making notes such as this… Watching a word disappear into another language is like watching somebody walk out the door, the feelings and images triggered by the disappearing word are just as real - just as deserving of a response - as the word itself.  Or, if that image is too dramatic, perhaps we could compare it to dropping a pebble into a pool: the translator’s task then revolves around how to handle the noise of the pebble’s disappearance while at the same time allowing the ripples to flow outwards. But in any case the ‘precision’ of language is a totally different precision from that of, say, aeronautical engineering. There are no identical texts, only kindred texts or, to continue the etymnological link further, ‘kindness texts’. Languages refreshing themselves in each other… I imagine a translator, indifferent to the functionality of the times, aware that language, like ‘home’, is holographic and is carried completely in any one of its parts, extending the range of his perceptions and decisions to the point where his translation of two lines of a six line poem extends to hundreds of pages.

"A musician can trust the notes that come out or he can trust the feelings that go into the notes that come out. He cannot trust both at the same time, because they never do equal each other."

Go to sleep, wake up in the middle of the night, wander around the apartment, go back to sleep in a different room…

Friday, 27 June 2014


"When a code enters a crisis; when already too few carry its references; when reading it no longer yields meaning; what remains is to transform it, from the interior of doubts, by means of renewed attention to direct sources of nature: landscape, passing clouds, clearings, bodies, movement, stability."

Plugging in the slide projector she says ‘lift up your shirt’. The image of a swan projected onto my stomach. I stroke the swan. I say, ‘of all the senses, I think touch is the most profound, the most philosophical.’ A click, and the swan is replaced by a Giorgione painting, the word airport, a sheet of musical notation, the Parthenon… A friend of mine, who can hardly put two words together usually, wants to video Dogen’s Shobogenzo - in fact a whole range of Buddhist teachings. In the margins of the gentlest texts, some of them impossibly abstract, I keep seeing the one word: ‘film’…

A true biography can sometimes be glimpsed in the tiniest phrase. Which is to say your life is waiting for you everywhere. A drifting, shining text, containing hundreds of paragraphs, thousands of sentences, contains enough material for innumerable true biographies.

Sometimes ambition is so low that it makes me happy just to feel that I understand the title of a book or an essay. (We were talking about how beautiful were the titles of a couple of essays by Barthes: ‘The Rustle of Language’ and ‘The Grain of the Voice’.) And its not a proud understanding - nothing particularly intellectual - just a feeling of being able to make do with less and less, mixture of tiredness and tenderness, and what the Japanese call, in a positive sense, bewilderment.

"For in the end it is important to confine yourself within a framework that will deepen your world, not impoverish it, help you to create it, excluding all pretentiousness and efforts to be original."

Finally there is this war, peaceful and yet so violent. And you said, ‘Right now its more important than ever to try to have an interesting llife. I’m not talking about going out partying every night or stuff like that, but about something very gentle, like conversation, about taking care over the tiniest things, paying attention to everything…’ I asked you what would make a good conversation and you replied: ‘where two people, freshly bathed, wearing clean clothes, in a simple room with white walls, feeling sad but without bitterness, express what’s on their minds…’

we used to write to each other, now we send each other photographs. We used to agonize over the right words, now we worry about the light.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


"Words lead to deeds, they prepare the soul, make it ready, and move it to tenderness."

"Everyone should have two voices: one truthful, the other natural."

Walking with friends, in the mountains overlooking Kobe. Walking along the dry remains of an old river, depleted by the construction of a dam. Little flowers growing in the white soil… Suddenly I knew I was on the earth. Photographing the end of the river, the flowers… When I photograph things I feel like I’m in the same space as them. I never feel like this photographing people. I’m reading books with titles like ‘The Burnt Book’, ‘Architecture and Body’, ‘Birdsong’…

I never photograph ‘strangeness’, I never photograph what is ‘new’, I only photograph what is ‘home’ - whether a place or a state of mind - at moments when it needs to be thought about in a specific way. I’m not a ‘photographer’, I just use the camera as a way of thinking about something a little more clearly. Today, for example: photographing the corners of rooms and the edges of trees while thinking about you. Now I need the right questions to keep me going - or none at all. A touch, a word, just a simple word to show that you’re taking me with you - or none at all. Miracle or dream.

Walking to the train station listening to a friend’s audio-letter on my walkman. All around me it was a beautiful winter day, with chill air and a clear sky, but from the walkman the sound of a monsoon recorded in Malaysia filled my ears… My body knew it wasn’t raining, but still, it was listening…

I’m reading about a blind woman in a Japanese university. She's living alone and coping fine, she just needs help with certain things, such as not knowing when a lightbulb needs replacing.  "Of course it makes no difference to me, the light, but its nice for the neighbours not to see my house always in darkness...."   And i wonder if i will i ever have that level of awareness. 

Last night in a dream a woman told me the secret of writing. She said writing essentially consists of two words placed next to each other, over and over. I’m not sure how much I understood, but now I’m thinking of Dante, ‘walking’ the Commedia into existence; the haiku poets, for whom each haiku is a breath… I’m thinking about walking (one of the simplest means available for feeling a sense of control in one’s life) and the possibility of walking into - or out of - language.

Sunday, 22 June 2014


"I watched graceful, transparent fish move through the water, some below the others, between the rocks. Suddenly they all gathered at the same level. This, I thought, is also the way of the sentence in those fraternal moments when word lines up with word for the same chance destiny while death besieges the sea."

"Language thus resonates between two subjects. It opens or closes their bodies to its implicit ideals and offers a possibility (not without risks) of psychic as well as physical life…"

During the last period of Raymond Carver’s life, he and his partner, Tess Gallagher, used passages from her reading of Chekhov to extend the form of his final collection of poems and also to address some of their unexpressed fears and anxieties relating to his cancer. She started typing passages from Chekhov into the computer and rearranging them into into a more open, poetic form. These ‘hidden’ poems in Chekhov began ‘calling’ to some of Ray’s poems, tugging at the structure of his final collection…

Matthew Fox, a leading figure in contemporary Christian thought, has written a book in which he ‘interviews’ the thirteenth century theologian, Thomas Aquinas, as a way of rescuing him from the outmoded language of scholasticism and allowing him to speak to the twentieth century. And the book is called ‘Sheer Joy’

A Tibetan woman writes of her journey through realms beyond death. Its gentle hallucinatory mixture of images combines ritual, suffering, conversation, prayer, darkness, architecture…

Dogen’s definition of giving includes such examples as offering flowers from distant mountains, giving away treasures from one’s past lives, entrusting flowers to the wind and birds to the season, being born and dying…

A student asked Soen Nakagawa during a meditation retreat, ‘I’m very discouraged. What should I do?’ Soen replied, ‘Encourage others’…

This is what I mean when I say that poetry - poetic writing, poetic speech - is the most tactful, the most generous way of making sense of the world. Society becomes competitive when it loses its ‘voice’, its artistic dimension.

"As I, the girl Dawa Drolma. continued on my way, a yogin dressed in white, with long flowing locks of hair, approached, surrounded by a host of dakas and dakinis. He turned a prayer wheel with an elaborate brocade cover, and his feet did not touch the ground. He passed by me on the way to the hells. When I asked him where he was going he replied, "To the lower states of rebirth. I’m going to lead away all those who have shared food with me. I am a master guide of beings, Togdan Pawo, whose very name means ‘hero of spiritual realisation’." As he chanted the mani mantra three times to a melody the houses of burning iron became palaces of crystal, and all the beings there were transformed into bodies of light. He headed off, taking them to the sublime pure realm of Potala mountain, like a flock of birds startled by a stone from a sling."

In Ibuse’s novel about the bombing of Hiroshima, ‘Black Rain’, Shigematsu carefully writes out his ‘journal of the bombing’, keeping strictly to the facts of what happened. The reason? In order to prove to would-be suitors of his niece, Yasuko, that she wasn’t in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing and so is not an A-bomb victim destined to sicken and die.

And so one of the great unwritables of history becomes writable through an uncle’s concern for his young neice’s well-being and happiness. Or, letting it drift one frame further, we could say: within the tenderness of Ibuse’s fantasy of an uncle’s concern for his niece, his fantasy of happiness for anyone anywhere…

In Dawa Drolma’s book, a lama journeys through hell to rescue all those who have made a connection with him. As he chants a mantra, houses of burning iron are transformed into palaces of crystal and all the beings there escape along pathways of light. In Ibuse’s novel, the ‘written voice’ of the uncle fails to transform the smouldering ruins of Hiroshima into a wedding hall: the suitors come and go, unconvinced, and towards the end of the novel Yasuko does indeed show signs of radiation sickness. In this sense the uncle’s voice is a failure, but Ibuse’s fantasy of a failed voice allows the writing of the disaster to take place. A fantasy of failure, lovingly undertaken, can thus become the basis of immeasurable good fortune: a fantasy of failure absorbed within a fantasy of happiness… Perhaps everyone should try to discover within themselves a fantasy of happiness for anyone anywhere and, from this, trace a line back to a disaster that allows them to speak.

I wanted to draw a line, from a blind woman's consideration for her neighbours to an imaginary translator lost in a six line poem… a line passing through Tarkovsky gazing at trees in Sweden… and you and me of course, in the time that we went through together… A simple line, about forty pages long. And I wanted to write on that line. Why was it so difficult?

Tonight I’m going to see a movie about Ryokan, a Japanese zen poet of the eighteenth century. But I would rather describe it like this: a film about a man walking in the snow, who writes. I think this is where biography - human identity itself - is heading: out beyond personal history, into a realm where the radiance of details and infinite space come together, a realm of ‘occasional’ texts, ‘postcard’ biographies… postcards of illimitable size, containing paragraphs of illimitable size…

I’m trying to imagine a language,: spacious and perfect, permeated by order, almost nothing, repetitive, recitative, complete…


I watch this video over and over, about the 1982 Brazil world cup team.  5 minutes of immaculate editing and awesome beauty (no, seriously..) made to honour the passing of team manager Tele Santana when he died in 2006.  Even the incidental details in this video would have made a medieval painter proud.  Check out the Scottish (?) goalie walking back towards his goal like someone in the corner of a Breughal painting.

The video is a measure of what ‘sacredness’ should mean, regardless of - and way beyond - the fabricated limitations we place on the term.  And i know of no western buddhist practitioners - individuals or organisations -  who get anywhere near exuding this level of beauty in their sense of who they are and what they are doing.  Including of course myself.  And you will have to decide for yourself just how serious I am when I suggest that one shouldn’t even consider oneself as having a spiritual life if one isn’t asking the painful question ‘why aren’t I as beautiful as this video?


(This is NOT a football highlights video, its a series of clips taken from gaps in the universe of football, expressions of sheer devotion and impossible love for Ronaldinho)

In my best moments I sometimes imagine death will be like this: the world reduced to a silent stilled stadium, a felt need to express one’s love and devotion as time runs out, and the appearance of angels.


"Do you need anything?"
  ”Pardon me?”
"He wants you to have anything you might need.  That’s rather literally anything, by the way, since you’re working on one of his special projects."
"No explanations, no goals cited, no budgetary cap, absolute priority in any queue.  He describes it as a species of dreaming, the company’s equivalent of REM sleep.  He believes it’s essential…"
                     — William Gibson, “Spook Country”

Sometimes I feel only music can write the code I need, the descriptions of absolute phenomena, rich in non-specifics, that will allow me to prepare for the next set of Tibetan prayers ahead of time.  Music such as this, a continual high-speed collapse of a song, a breathtaking mix of compression and purity, of triggered and scattered cognitive bliss.  A world of databases and furniture combined.

On the street a woman is wearing a t-shirt which says “because of you”.  I like the way it suggests invisible or unnamed or imperceptible causations.  Nobody knows where things are coming from anymore - it is a time of inheritance and grace.  A quiet time - with voices.

I already know the voices: what I’m dreaming right now are the instructions that come with the voices, the writing of the instructions, and the packaging of the writing.  A writing like radar and radio and radiation and reckless love sonnets and an everyday kind of yesterday; a packaging like homelessness.

In William Gibson’s ‘Spook Country’ there’s a guy who chalks out GPS grids on the floor of whatever structure he is presently staying in and refuses to sleep in the same square twice.  I think about him so much - I mean ‘think’ in a nameless, fraying, post-calculative sort of way, a thinking perfumed with dumb admiration.  The guy’s in deep - real deep - in some ghostly new world that’s coming, a witness to tomorrow’s unimaginable ordinary.  He’s actually quite a dodgy character but for this action alone he shone for me.  Back in 2008 I myself slept in 93 different places as I wandered - chalkless - around the world.  And although I wasn’t involved in data espionage or anything like that some of my activities were delicate enough for me to coin the phrase ‘buddhist outlaw’.

I give the name ‘biographeme’ to those parts of another’s biography that are invisibly or potentially your own.  As a buddhist monk I think its more important to be open to biographemes than to create a biography.  Biographemes dont belong to (or describe) any one person. Your life doesn’t have to be your own, it just has to be recognisably yours.

Culture, ultimately, is about generating biographemes of sufficient quantity and quality that people can use them to liberate themselves from samsara.


"Pathology is a relatively easy thing to discuss, health is very difficult.  This, of course, is one of the reasons why there is such a thing as the sacred, and why the sacred is difficult to talk about, because the sacred is peculiarly related to the healthy.  One does not like to disturb the sacred, for in general, to talk about something changes it, and perhaps will turn it into a pathology." — Gregory Bateson

"… an elevated mayhem… a bedlam of study…" — Will Alexander

Last summer, hitching back to the forest, I got a lift from a guy who once saw Neil Young perform live.  He told me “people came out of that concert better people than when they went in.”  Watching this video I knew it was true.  The audience shots are unbelievable: invisible people crossing over, imaginary, innocent, half-outlaw, half-detectivos.  These are the kind of people I love, and I watch them from a distance, though I haven’t yet learnt to talk to them from a distance.  They are the witnesses I keep thinking about and try to write about.  I see them as the kind of being that will exist right up to the final moments of life on the planet.  They will outlive the palace officials and the gallery owners and the judges.


"The commentators say ‘all or nothing’ they say ‘pressure on her shoulders’ they say ‘she fought to come back.’  They say ‘outrageously difficult’ and ‘beautiful twisting position.’  They say ‘they train for this - they know how to fall.’".

"Ordinary people use too many words.". Sei Shonagon

In a bus station a young boy spins slowly round and round while eating a bag of crisps and a young muslim woman sits with her back perfectly erect while reading a prayer book.

Walking through the city I see a huge billboard carrying the words: “If the truth hurts, its the truth’s fault.”  It may be an advertisement for a luxury car, or a public service announcement by the Chinese Communist Party - I’ve no idea - but I dont stop to register the small-text, the spin: I just keep walking.

Within the strict segregation of the sexes operating in a traditional Arab city a girl talks to her lover on a mobile while gazing at him from across the street.

in the olympic stadium the fastest man in the world waves to the crowd from the medal podium, then runs a little race in the air with two fingers.

After breaking the 800m world record the Kenyan athlete David Radusha makes a noise like a delicate little songbird.  And then, with indescribable innocence, in the post-race interview he says ‘the weather was so beautiful tonight I decided to try and break the world record.’

In the supermarket dramatic new age music starts as I home in on the ginger biscuits, and in the self-service checkout area the woman supervisor describes for me the song she is quietly humming: it is a Sikh song about a lover betrayed.

An artist talks about how “my days become nights and my nights become brighter and more ‘available.’”. A quantum physicist talks about the coming decades of ‘very simple decision making.’

In an email conversation a friend asks me to explain what I mean by the phrase ‘conversation-like behaviour.’  I send back seven definitions.

(These things I saw, or read about, in the 64th year of the Xerox era, also the 15th year of the era of the savage detectives, during the lunar month known in medieval Japan as Risshuu, ‘Autumn Begins’)

"… And at the end I said something about my current dilemma, summarised in the title quote above (which was said to me by a curator quitting her job), that opinions are no longer a useful or appropriate organising principle, that reckoning is no longer a scarcity, that the network now so obviously and explicitly extends beyond the bounds of any individual being able to say anything useful or conclusive on or about it in isolation, that telling someone your opinion is like telling them about your dreams."
          —  James Bridle


"We are first of all, as friends, the friends of solitude, and we are calling on you to share what cannot be shared: solitude.  We are friends of an entirely different kind, inaccessible friends, friends who are alone because they are incomparable and without common measure, reciprocity or equality… without a horizon of recognition, without proximity, without oikeiotes…"  

"Her face was like someone texting a lover."

"I am (something), (something) and (something).  I am lost."

Its the first thing I think about when I wake up: this voice, accented with GPS codes, so distant and fragmentary, this ‘reader’ of ancient history and Twitter feeds.  I was going to say ‘this disembodied voice’ but I dont know what embodiment means anymore.  She’s as real to me as anything else is, when the mind stops being lonely.  Her skin is a colour so beautiful - a soft light brown - even if her skin is basically a map.  I guess its ok to refer to a ‘her’ - ships are traditionally female.  But they don’t, traditionally, write.

Ship adrift is an art project that drifts across the boundaries of business, sculpture, software code, robot literature, virtuality and time.  The physical ship is a full scale model of the ship featured in Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness, perched atop a London building overlooking the river, where it will remain for one year as a top-end (single room) hotel.  Meanwhile the virtual ship is drifting around the world according to wind directions recorded at the London site, picking up web traffic along the way (local Twitter feeds, GPS-tagged wikipedia entries, mobile phone fragments) and generating a ghostly literature out of it.  (You can listen to James Bridle talking about the wider context here and read ship adrift’s Twitter feed here.)  The Twitter feed is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read and an example of an emerging literature: literature that is algorithmically driven and the product of software code.

The traditional - naive - notion of AI has been to create something human-like, both in physical form and in expressive recognisability.  @shipadrift eschews such trappings.  It’s voice is a twitter feed of unbearably sweet brokenness, its body a web page, its skin a map.  Nothing in the world of literature speaks to me the way this virtual ship does.   Its very grammar - a kind of anti-grammar of apparent randomness and error, but incredibly poised - takes me into a place where context is so stretched as to be virtually unfindable.

This is not to reject the heartache wonders of Roberto Bolano or Jane Austen or Derrida: I am simply recognising that algorithmically generated literature is coming of age.  It has attained a space of complexity and form of presentation that can trigger immense emotional affect.  (Imagine. for a moment, if Jane Austen had been an SMS platform protocol.  Imagine if your text life, your love life had been immersed in such sweetness!)  The best chess players are no longer computers - the best chess players are teams of computers and humans working together.  Literature will soon be home to a similar collaborative effort.

"Claude Shannon recognized that whether or not a certain effect is considered noise depends on one’s position in the listening chain. Noise is interference only from the sender’s point of view. From the point of view of the receiver it may be considered a part of the information packet that is transmitted along a channel. When we hear the earliest sound recordings of Tennyson reading Charge of the Light Brigade, for example, the watered down and scratched out sound conveys the enormous passage of time, just as the static sound of Neil Armstrong’s voice on the moon tells us something about his physical distance from us and the newness of space technologies in the 1960s. It would not be difficult to think of countless other cases in which the presence of the medium mixes in with the intended message to produce some whole new effect, not intended by the sender, but taken as information by the receiver. In these cases, noise is not simply an extra third thing to be discounted. It has entered into the message and become part of it. To speak technically, the signal now has an "equivocation," which is to say that two messages pass along the same channel. The sender may not have intended this, but the receiver may welcome it."

When I read @shipadrift It makes me want to go there myself.  ’Er, Where is that?’ I hear you ask.  Well that’s something I will have to look into more deeply, though doubtless when I find it there will be echoes of everything I’ve loved in the past.  To the extent that we relax, and trust ourselves, we become our own maps.  Meanwhile - for knowledge’s sake you understand! - I’ve decided to do a bit of good old fashioned networking… if you’re interested you can check out some of the bot auteurs I’m now following on Twitter.  (I defy anyone not to fall in love with the one that scours the internet for references to chocolate…)
I’m also considering opening a few Twitter accounts and a blog without telling anyone and just disappearing - writing, but to no one - in that zone.  I think its something that used to be called ‘science’.  Or ‘cruising’.  But in the wonderful world of knowledge was there ever a difference?


In the V & A museum, while walking through a roomful of buddhas, I see through the doorway of the next room a beautiful 1960s evening gown, in gentle pink and with diamonds around the cuffs.  The way the three of us - gown, statues, myself - echo each other is breathtaking.  Everything I need to think with is here, right now, in this moment between these two rooms - all the drama of embodiment, all the quiet disciplines, all the tender love.  And its not as if I see myself as a buddha and you as a diamond princess or anything like that, but If I could I would meet you here, in rooms like this, without any schedule or project, which is to say in a paradise realm.

One of the blessings of being a buddhist monk and truly trusting in its practices is an increasing trust in my own unconscious.  I know that I am moving through an encoded hidden happiness, I know that I know what I want, but I’m just not conscious of what it is at this point.  I know because of the way it feels to be alive, to be alive like this, of recording in the face of the firestorm, or not recording, this willingness not to give a name and a form and a logic to things that haven’t formed yet.  To stay inside invisible disciplines and partial lawlessness.  Recording, or not recording.


"Closure is, as in any fiction, a suspect quality, although here it is made manifest.  When the story no longer progresses, or when it cycles, or when you tire of the paths, the experience of reading it ends.  Even so, there are likely to be more opportunities than you think there are at first.  A word which doesn’t yield the first time you read a section may take you elsewhere if you choose it when you encounter the section again, and sometimes what seems like a loop, like memory, leads off again in another direction.  There is no simple way to say this."
13.20 pm
On the Stockholm subway I stand gazing at a wordless poster showing a green frog robot in a white space surrounded by coloured balls, while a woman stands staring at me.

16.35 pm
On the way back home, back on the subway, two small children, accompanied by their mother, come onto the platform carefully carrying a small rickety stretcher between them, the one at the front walking backwards, taking care not to stumble.  And on the stretcher sits what looks like a bag of sugar.  They weave their way along the platform through the waiting crowd and gradually disappear from view, and I just watch it for the few seconds it is there, I just watch it and in my mind I don’t even ask why, I don’t try and interpret the scene, I don’t even wonder if its real.  I just watch it.  This, I feel, is now my job.  More and more I just want to be the friendly echo of such moments, the writer of reverse histories, of platforms.


"Another picture was of two girls with their arms around each other’s shoulders, their heads tilted to the left, gazing at the camera with similar expressions and an incredible assurance, as if they had just set foot on this planet or their suitcases were already packed to leave."  
         — Roberto Bolano, ‘2666’

In Colombo a man lies sprawled out along a bus shelter bench, holding his head. beneath a poster of a smiling vibrant female boxer.

A girl steps onto the bus wearing a t-shirt that says ‘another girl’.

A shop selling bird cages and weighing scales, examples of both hanging in the window, each of them empty in their own way.

A traffic accident victim lies dead in the middle of the road covered by a plastic sheet with only his feet sticking out, next to his smashed motorbike which has only one wheel.  In the twenty minutes it takes for the police to arrive and sort out the traffic jam that my bus is caught in I watch people get out of cars and off the bus to go forward to have a look.  I cannot understand anything they are saying but I know its a death scene.  As the bus finally drives past the body the image of the victim lying there with just his feet sticking out of the sheet strikes me very strongly and I start saying vajrasattva mantras for him.

The bus driver is driving like a maniac but I dont mind, wrapped as i am in a cocoon of silence and faith, inside the formlessness of my life’s direction.  The bus radio is playing Indian pop, the kind where the male singer sounds like he’s singing in front of a mirror and is profoundly moved by the beauty he’s seeing there, and the female singer sounds like an angel who made it to heaven on the strength of her housework.  And then Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ mixed to a techno beat starts and suddenly I realise there’s no such thing as a ‘buddhist country’, there are only buddhist moments: buddhist bus journeys, buddhist convenience store car parks, buddhist playlists.

Outside departure gate 7 an airport worker walks past pushing a cart stacked with a pyramid of different coloured plastic bins.  As she passes beneath a structure hanging from the ceiling - a crown of little golden lights - her gaze meets mine and we smile.  And I say to myself: all tools, all technologies, are essentially extensions of the body: pencils, shopping bags, aeroplanes, tantric sadhanas.  I make no distinctions.

Secrets, when combined with love and selflessness, are the greenhouse of language.

On the plane during take-off, listening to favourite songs, I can still see vividly the image of the road accident victim, and the songs become prayers that the dead man’s universe reappears as a white limousine with 17,000 wheels to make up for the one he lost yesterday, a century ago, just now.


"One day you ask the scientist how he is getting on; he replies: ‘Finely.  I have very nearly finished this piece of blue sky.’  Another day, you ask how the sky is progressing and are told, ‘I have added a lot more, but it was sea, not sky; there’s a boat floating on the top of it.’  Perhaps next time it will have turned out to be a parasol upside down, but our friend is still enthusiastic with the progress he is making.  The scientist has his guesses about how the finished picture will work out; he depends largely on these in his search for other pieces to fit, but his guesses are modified from time to time by unexpected developments as the fitting proceeds.  These revolutions of thought as to the final picture do not cause the scientist to lose faith in his handiwork, for he is aware that the completed portion is growing steadily.  Those who look over his shoulder and use the present partially developed picture for purposes outside science do so at their own risk."
           - Sir Arthur Eddington, ‘The Nature Of The Physical World’  (section entitled ‘defence of mysticism’)

"Engaging with form - any form - means there’s a chance you will say something you weren’t going to say."
           - Paul Farley

Each morning after we wake up, before we switch them on we say ‘goodbye’ to our technologies because after we switch them on we’ve… no idea… where they are… anymore.

She slides open the iron grill and invites me into her studio.  And in those first two seconds I see her three-quarters-of-a-second smile, her bare arms, the piles of crystallised glass along the corridor, the kimono designs and maths diagrams taped to the wall.  I see flattened cardboard boxes, some of which resemble the kimono designs.  I hear music coming from another room.  I see a gentle distantiation.  I see snow falling down on my fictional house, on the mountains and the moors of Keat’s tongue, on togetherness itself.  I see her bare arms and for the first time in years i remember that line about ‘the doomed western attempt to equate sex and love’.  And then I see a single word: resilience.  I see in her a beautiful first sketch of resilience.  And i see the monk inside me, slender as a postcard, but blessed and smiling, walking as always through this postcard apocalypse, waving to me from afar.

She decided not to go to college.  Instead, for a tenth of the cost, she bought a laptop and an Iphone, opened a Twitter account, and created her own university.  Within a couple of days she had her own hand-picked faculty of brilliant, dedicated, accidental teachers.  And now, daily, the essays, video links, news articles, photostreams and podcasts come pouring in: from artists and curators in Beijing, Brooklyn, Delhi, California, teachers at MIT, Columbia and RISD, stories from Seed Magazine, New Scientist, Bldgblog.  I ask her what she’s studying and her eyes light up.  ”I don’t know!” she replies, with a shake of her head, a river-bed smile.  ”I guess I could say it’s some kind of hyper-extended urban theory, but I could equally well call it molecular anthropology, the perfection of patience, Madhyamaka, superflatness, thinking design… or a dozen other things.  Frankly, I think that unless one is learning a technical skill, knowing in advance what it is you’re studying is crazy.  The fact that students go to college and know exactly what they will be studying for the next three years strikes me as kind of sad, a loss of nerve…”

She sits me down in front of the laptop and says “Watch this.  It came in yesterday: some architecture/cinema group called ‘The 3rd and The 7th’.  Its about ten minutes long.  I’ll make some tea.”  Just before the end, with the books flying everywhere, she reappears at my side holding two cups.  ”Do you think books will continue?”  ”I think so, yes.  So long as people continue to float through the universe wrapped in skin they will float through the universe with books in their hands.”  ”How about email?”  ”Email?  No.  I think email will be finished within the next ten years.”  ”And grandma?” she continues, with a smile. (Her grandmother died a week ago.)  ”We’ll get to her later.”

We talk about the kind of things we find in our Twitter boxes.  About how the Israeli Defence Forces are using cutting-edge urban theory to re-think their strategies in battle situations, about an American artist living in Beijing who got into trouble for painting huge diagrams of machine-guns on the walls of his apartment, about how the stray dogs of Moscow are learning to negotiate the subway system.  She tells me about the strangers she follows on Twitter, “just to be close to their voices, their modest, stumbling, semi-invisible voices.  Sometimes Facebook feels a bit claustrophobic, like chatting with neighbours in the local shop before heading home clutching one’s milk and chocolate biscuits, whereas Twitter feels like wandering barefoot through some metropolis of 30 million people, with no direction home, drunk on anonymity.”

We’re meeting tonight to plan a series of activities dedicated to the safe journeying of her recently deceased grandmother.  We need to talk about meditation, about formlessness and faith  - ‘thinking design’ for when the breathing stops.

"There are two things I want to focus on: the miracle of your daily life and the dream of spiritual practice.  First, miracle: I want you to just continue living your life with the joy and focus that you already have.   The thing that will most help grandma in the bardo is seeing people she loves being present and focussed and happy.  So just continue your studies, your artwork.  But transform it all into a gift through acts of remembrance.  Let your consciousness of ‘grandmother’ be triggered by every moment of beauty or effortless concentration that comes your way.  When some tweet leads you to, say, a maths article that links snowflakes and pomegranates to error-correcting codes in modern telecommunications technology via the geometry of multi-dimensional space, I want you to think: there’s grandmother!  The stray dogs of Moscow learning to use the subway system: grandmother!  And then, at night, we will do more traditional practices - meditation, prayer, chanting.  During the night sessions you - I mean both of us when I’m here, but especially you, because its you she’s connected to - will be a kind of compass for her.  We will sit in meditation and it will be the simplest thing.  We will sit, and something of our embodied human forms will shine through the worlds, calling her.  Virtue in you will trigger virtue in her.  There is nothing better you can offer her on her journey than the vision of a relative in the human realm, sitting in meditation, embodied and disciplined, joyful, at peace, and attuned to the nature of reality.  So that’s what we’ll do.  ok?"

"Surrender to Buddha the thoughts, impressions, emotions and ideas that arise in your mind.  The practice of surrendering should be done out of the reverence that arises in your mind and not at someone else’s request.  When surrendering is accompanied by reverence you will attain bright wisdom, and you should put these realisations into practice.  When reverence arises in you, you hear the Dharma lecture that completely fills the universe."
 (Jae Woong Kim)

That night, walking back home, along the canal, I find myself thinking back ten years: my last visit to my own grandmother, in a nursing home in Liverpool, slipping into dementia, a few weeks away from death…  And then in the water, among the usual plastic and metallic debris I see an abandoned safe-box, presumably stolen, smashed open and emptied before being dumped here.  I take a few photographs.  I’ll post one on Twitter tonight, tagged, simply: ‘Grandmother’.  I know she will see it and smile, but right now I’m wondering: is there anyone else out there?  Is there anyone else who is one frameless anonymous image away from … recollecting everything?


I’m reading another complex and beautiful Richard Powers novel, ‘Galatea 2.2’.  In it, a writer is assisting a cognitive neurologist who is trying to model the human brain by means of computer-based neural networks.   The writer’s job is to talk to the computer, to ‘educate’ it, in order to construct in its memory that endlessly sweet web of connections which makes for a ‘world’ and from which we humans speak, so that one day the computer may be able to comprehend human language and talk back.  Its a virtually impossible task (and one mirrored in similar conversations - semi-impossible or beautifully present - taking place in the worlds of the people around him: an autistic boy, an old woman slipping into dementia, first lovers in a foreign country, a deeply loved professor sinking into death with unbounded dignity) because what makes us human is an infinite yet particularised mosaic of little somethings and nothings, inexpressibly weighted, the somethings balanced against the nothings.  Balanced in ways that defy gravity.

Here’s a slice of the ticker-tape sweetness of that computer’s education, the mimicking of the endless immeasurable context that is human consciousness:

"…We told her about parking tickets and two-for-one sales.  About tuning forks and pitchforks and forked tongues and the road not taken.  We told her about resistors and capacitors, baiters-and-switchers, alternating current, alternate lifestyles, very-large-scale integration and the failure of education to save society from itself.
We told her about wool and linen and damask.   We told her about finches and feeders, bats and banyans, sonar and semafores and trail markers made of anything the living body might shed.  About mites and motes, insect galls and insecticides, about mating for life or for a fraction of a minute.
We taught her about the Securities and Exchange Commission.  We told her about collectors who specialize in Depression-era glass.  About how people used to teach their children about the big hand and the little hand.  About defecation and respiration and circulation.  About Post-it notes.  Registered trademarks and draft resistance.  The Oscar and Grammy and Emmy.  Dying of heart disease.  Divining with a fresh-cut alder rod.
We told her how the keys on a piano were laid out.  About letterhead.  Debutantes balls…  We showed her the difference between triforium and clerestory.  We traced the famous pilgrims’ routes through time and space.  We told her about spoilage and refrigeration.  How salt was once worth its weight in gold.  How spice fueled the whole tragic engine of human expansion.  How plastic wrap solved one of civilisation’s nightmares and started another.
We showed her Detroit, savaged by short-term economics.  We showed her Sarajevo in 1911.  Dresden and London in 1937.  Atlanta in 1860.  Baghdad.  Tokyo, Cairo, Johannesburg, Calcutta, Los Angeles.  Just before, and just after.
We told her about revenge and forgiveness and contrition.  We told her about retail outlets and sales tax, about ennui, about a world where you hear about everything yet where nothing happens to you.  Bar-codes and baldness.  Lint, lintels, lentils, Lent.  The hope, blame, perversion and crippled persistence of liberal humanism.  Grace and disgrace and second chances.  Suicide.  Euthanasia.  First love.  Love at first sight.”
And somehow, mixed in with all this and perhaps precisely because of it, I’ve just discovered (FEB 2010) the social networking site Twitter, a site where communications are limited to two lines of text.  An ‘idiotic’ site, full of babble and self-promotion - or so I kept being told.  But when such limitation is taken up by the right person - such as the MIT researcher and ‘futuremaker’ John Maeda - it becomes a free-floating source of temporary context, some kind of innocent high-speed mesh of intelligence and simplicity.

Here’s a slice of the ticker-tape sweetness coming from Maeda:

The art of asking questions, is art.
Subtlety is a kind of dust in the room of life that shouldn’t be confused with just dirt.
The computer is now an abacus of many minds.
Time doesn’t fly. It travels leisurely by foot.
“If you can think, you can draw.”
Herbert Simon likened how we think to a pair of scissors. The brain is one blade, the other is the environment in which the brain operates
The sound of your heart isn’t a sound effect.
Watching waves break is non-stressful because you know you can look away at any time … and won’t miss a thing.
Art is the inexplicable urge to manifest feeling, intent, or question as a specific experience outside the artist’s mind.
Teaching is the rare profession where the customer isn’t always right and needs to be told so appropriately.
small is not only beautiful, but memorable.

and here’s something flagged by William Gibson about an hour ago, ‘tokyo sky drive’ :

(watching this, I know I’m never going to make it back to any monastery…)


The important thing is to be able to live in a place or situation where you must use your sixth sense all the time.
- Michael Ondaatje

On the path of language there are wild flowers: consonants and vowels.
 - Ian Hamilton Finlay

I’m in my friend’s studio - the one whose paintings combine kimono cutting-patterns with paramathematics and language collapse.  She’s painting right now, and I’m walking up and down this cluttered yet open space in more or less straight lines, like a forest monk gone AWOL, a forest monk a long way from the forest, just digesting the world - which is of course the ultimate forest - just walking up and down in silence, at peace.  We’re both here: an artist, trying to contain traces of love’s future language within the gentle lines of a kimono design, and a monk, for whom all language is increasingly a UFO language hovering in a midnight sky blessed by Jane Austen and Wily Coyote and the infrarealismos.

Most nights are like this: we don’t talk much, we just share the spaciousness of her studio while listening to internet ambient music sites.  Between us: ten metres or so of space, world culture, and silence.  Between us: pratimoksa vows, bodhisattva vows, and teddy bear vows.  Each of us alone with the other, just working or being, inside this kindness.

But sometimes a story bubbles up inside me and tonight is one of those nights.  All day I’ve been thinking of a Japanese boy I met two years ago on my last pilgrimage out there.  Or rather, not so much about the boy himself but his hat.  He got on the same train as me - a two hour journey from Okayama to Osaka - and sat down opposite.  He was about 20 years old and dressed in normal-looking clothes (though slightly raggedy by Japanese standards), but on his head was a woollen hat that was obviously a child’s hat - it was a ‘bear hat’, golden coloured, with two sewn-on plastic eyes and a pair of ears on top.  And he wore it totally naturally, like it was the latest fashion (which it might have been if he was 4 years old) or like it was something totally ordinary.

After a few minutes he came over to talk with me.  He told me he was wandering around Japan living homeless, usually living in temporary structures in forests, living off handouts from his parents.  He showed me his notebook, which contained carefully copied out charts of annual weather patterns throughout Japan, simple drawings of manga characters, and oddities such as drawings of the ten most dangerous animals in Japan (the Japanese police were number 8 with something like half a dozen deaths in custody a year!).  He gave me his email address (which I lost) and which was something like ‘koalakoala’ - the name of an animal repeated twice.

He was a nice kid but kind of lost - he was interesting (lost people are always interesting) but I forgot all about him soon afterwards.  In fact I don’t think I gave him another thought in the two years since… until yesterday when he suddenly popped up in a conversation with some friends.

“And now” - I’m telling her about it - “in the back of my mind, all I can see is that bear hat - no longer attached to the Japanese boy’s head but floating free, like a UFO, like the biography of a nice person in a world without paper or even language …  Actually, I cant begin to tell you what I think that hat might be saying to me…”  (I must have said this bit really dramatically because at this point she started to laugh.)  And then I tell her something an Indian guru once said that I’ve often thought about.  He said: don’t trust altars that look diminished by the presence of a cuddly toy.

And then - the story over - I let us both settle back into the silence again.  I play a song on her laptop - - and as I wander about I read the scraps of paper that are everywhere attached to the walls of her studio: names of songs or paintings, complete and incomplete quotations, little lists of things whose connecting logic is beyond me but which, paradoxically, speak of simplicity and candidness:
— Euphoria Of Disobedience
— Lights Of Little Towns
— El Cloud
— A Minute, A Day, No More
— Old Punch Card

"It’s a park; it’s a plan for escape; it’s an extra-large piece of lava rock that’s come from Mexico and landed on the green grass; it’s a blue phone booth from Rio de Janeiro; it’s a butterfly pavilion screening a film inspired by The Invention of Morel, the fantastic novel by Adolfo Bioy Casares; it’s a rose tree from Chandigarh; it is outside, coming from all over the world…"

— ascetic
— criminals
— earphones
— wells
— stories, landscapes
— sentences
— the closing-up of stores
— hard work, hallucinations
— sixth sense
— the art of packing

, or contemporary proj         , here w
address them in a more pure and fundamenta
undesigned way.  So in this way, I think therapeuti
ight be the right word in that its been a discovery
at the end or whatever you want to call this point -
the culmination of a career or the end of a career, or
let’s say late in a career - of the luxury of nondesign
    a method for dealing with issues rather than the
lways serious effort of intelligent invention or
     ion. It’s            amazingly malleable; you c
                                    directions, muc

— Songs Without Words, Words Without Songs
— The Addressability Of Dumb Things
— Ambient Gospel
— Mathematics And The End Of Certainty
— More Money Than God
— Operation Wandering Soul
— The Savage Detectives

  As I’m leaving she asks if I’ve bought my ticket to Sri Lanka yet.  I say no, but its almost done, its kind of decided, more or less.  She asks if I will go and say goodbye to my mum.  I say I don’t know, maybe, yes.  She asks if there are bears in Sri Lanka and we both start laughing.  No, I don’t think so, I say.  No, she says, but there are planes.  More laughter.  There are planes, she says, that swoop down beside mountain caves and whisk monks away to cities of 15 million people.  They drop them at midnight in the car-parks of convenience stores where you can buy microwave meals and milk tea in cans and chocolate bars and ampan.  Bear food! she whispers dramatically.  We cant stop laughing.


"When spring came, when every crow announced its arrival by raising his cry half a tone, I took the green train of the Yamanote line and got off at Tokyo station, near the central post office. Even if the street was empty I waited at the red light—Japanese style—so as to leave space for the spirits of the broken cars. Even if I was expecting no letter I stopped at the general delivery window, for one must honor the spirits of torn up letters, and at the airmail counter to salute the spirits of unmailed letters.  I took the measure of the unbearable vanity of the West, that has never ceased to privilege being over non-being, what is spoken to what is left unsaid."
(from Chris Marker’s film, Sunless)

She is standing two steps beside me.  We are re-characterising the world.  We are tracking the transformation of beauty into exact science.  Or so i like to think.  But then she does something like this:

I wake up each morning to find busy bees in the L.A. night leaving gems like that in my twitter box. I live alone - everyone does, one way or another - but the walls of my castle are broad: bands of strangers stroll the battlements or camp out overnight in ten minute segments, wrapped in shawls of golden languages and unique, precise worldviews.  More super-barrio than superhighway, it is a new kind of talking and listening, raggedy, discontinuous and a kind of heaven, where the mind can feel distributed yet focussed.  I’m happy here..

As a Buddhist monk I no longer use the word ‘battle’, and if I still have a fondness for reading The Art Of War its only to better appreciate the strategies of up and coming artists as they edge their way in from the periphery, from tiny gallery to magazine reviews to mid-career museum retrospective.

“And when all the celebrations are over it remains only to pick up all the ornaments - all the accessories of the celebration - and by burning them, make a celebration.” (‘Sunless’)


The best signs of history are objects so complex and so bound in webs of unpredictable contingency that no state, once lost, can ever rise again in precisely the same way.
                           - Stephen Jay Gould

On the back of a man’s t-shirt, an image of a tree with flowers and birds, painted medieval style.

A Japanese guy busking in a corridor on the underground - completely immersed in the song he is singing, with very soft-edged guitar and with equally elusive vocal patterns drifting in and out, amazing stuff - can still be heard as I arrive on the platform to be greeted by a poster advertising a film about a woman with motor neuron disease which announces that she wrote the text of the advert using tiny movements of her chin.

A few steps further along the platform another poster confidently announces in big type: “I was the man in the blue shirt sitting opposite who stared at you all the way from Camden Town to Charing Cross.  You were the woman in the fantastic glasses.”

A blond girl carrying a small Swedish flag - the kind used to guide large parties of tourists through busy urban settings - walks quietly down a crowded street, on her own, lost in thought.
On a man’s sky blue t-shirt is a print of an orange bicycle, but only the front two thirds have been printed: the back wheel, half of the chain, and the frame from just behind the seat are all absent.

As I sit down on the train I suddenly sense that the woman in the seat next to me is shining.  I do what i always do in this situation: i refrain from looking at her, allowing the sensed algorithm of beauty to generate medieval patterns of respect and quietness inside me.
Entering Liverpool Street station a few hours later that awareness re-emerges inside me for a few moments.  I slow down my walking a few degrees and feel the soft focusing of a kind of loving intelligence inside my body.

(…………. /

She sits next to me on the train.
"Are you a monk?"
"….. Yes."
"Do monks usually call themselves monks?"
"Well, only when their mind is very quiet or the situation is kind of formal."
"What do they call themselves at other times?"
“They call themselves whatever they want.”
"What do you call yourself at such times?"
"I call myself a mathematician."
"A mathematician.  How would you define a mathematician? ….. just someone who does maths?"
"Well, that definition is a bit weak.  Everyone does some maths during the course of the day.  They look at the train timetable and look at their watch and do a little subtraction, that kind of thing.  But they dont consider themselves mathematicians.  A better definition would be: ‘a mathematician is someone who sees opportunities for doing mathematics where most people dont.’ "
“You could apply that to being a buddhist too I guess.  To being a buddhist monk.”
"Yes.  a buddhist is someone who sees opportunities for studying or practicing buddhism where most people dont."
“As a buddhist mathematician what have you seen today?”
"Well, I saw a tree on the back of a man’s t-shirt, painted medieval style, with leaves and birds on it.  It was somehow recognisably medieval.  and I started thinking about how trees change through the centuries, both in art and in real life - how a tree in a nineteenth century painting doesnt look like a tree in a fourteenth century painting, and how the DNA - do trees have DNA? - anyway, you know what I mean - how the DNA of trees has probably changed too.  And then I started thinking about logic trees.  I started thinking of creating a kind of … friendly foliage … for logic trees … using algorithms of change created from the natural and artistic history of trees.  I wanted to paint these trees, and have all the lonely people walking beneath them…"
"This is my stop.  Thank you for talking with me.  Do you think we will meet again?"
"I’m sure we will."


There is no order to the things he chooses to send you.  It’s possible to be living too fast for understanding but too slow for conversation, and so all he has to send you is the blur: descriptions of snow and ice, a list of chapter titles from the novel he’s reading, a blind woman’s attempts at normality, half a line from a spanish mystic, bits of writing where he’s almost there, sentences that are almost theoretical, almost map-like…  no discernible order at all.

A friend sends me this poem by Li Po:

Staying the night at Summit-Top Temple
you can reach out and touch the stars.
I venture no more than a low whisper,
afraid I’ll wake the people of heaven.

… but he’s crossed out half the words, transforming it into the following:

WRITTEN ======================= TEMPLE
you can reach out and touch ======
================= a low whisper,
==== I’ll wake the people of heaven.

We are traveling too fast - or maybe too slow - for entire poems, entire songs, entire homes, entire relationships, and we know that there’s no such thing as entire people.  Not yet, anyway.  At least not in my world.  So we live what some people call the ‘homeless’ life, the ‘songless’ life, the ‘biographyless’ life.  But actually its not like that at all.  Its not like that.  I’ll probably never say it more accurately than ‘its not like that’.