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03 January 2004 @ 07:52 pm
So few hours in a day.  
One of my all-time favorite scenes in a novel. Which is saying a lot.


He turned the page. "With any form of beauty, there are four levels of ability. This is true of painting, calligraphy, literature, music, dance. The first level is Competent." We were looking at a page that showed two identical renderings of a bamboo grove, a typical painting, well done, realistic, interesting in the detail of double lines, conveying a sense of strength and longevity. "Competence," he went on, "is the ability to draw the same thing over and over in the same strokes, with the same force, the same rhythm, the same trueness. This kind of beauty, however, is ordinary.

"The second level is Magnificent." We looked together at another painting, of several stalks of bamboo. "This one goes beyond skill," he said. "It's beauty is unique. And yet it is simpler, with less emphasis on the stalk and more on the leaves. It conveys both strength and solitude. The lesser painter would be able to capture one quality but not the other."

He turned the page. This painting was of a single stalk of bamboo. "The third level is Divine. The leaves now are shadows blown by an invisible wind, and the stalk is there mostly by suggestion of what is missing. And yet the shadows are more alive than the original leaves that obscured the light. A person seeing this would be wordless to describe how this is done. Try as he might, the same painter could never again capture the feeling of this painting, only a shadow of the shadow."

"How could beauty be more than divine?" I murmured, knowing I would soon learn the answer.

"The fourth level is greater than this, and it is within each mortal's nature to find it. We can sense it only if we do not try to sense it. It occurs without motivation or desire or knowledge of what may result. It is pure. It is what innocent children have. It is what old masters regain once they have lost their minds and become children again."

He turned the page. On the next was an oval. "This painting is called Inside the Middle of a Bamboo Stalk. The oval is what you see if you are inside looking up or looking down. It is the simplicity of being within, no reason or explanation for being there. It is the natural wonder that anything exists in relation to another, an inky oval to a page of white paper, a person to a bamboo stalk, the viewer to the painting."

[He] was quiet for a long time. "This fourth level is called Effortless," he said at last. He put the booklet back in his jacket and looked at me thoughtfully. "Recently I have felt this beauty of Effortlessness in all things," he said. "How about you?"

"It's the same for me," I said, and began to cry.

For we both knew we were speaking about the effortlessness with which one falls in love without intending to, as if we were two stalks of bamboo bent toward each other by the chance of the wind. And then we bent toward each other and kissed, lost in the nowhere of being together.


"The Bonesetter's Daughter"

- Amy Tan
 
 
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The Harvtheharv on January 3rd, 2004 05:20 pm (UTC)
gah thats really long.
Victoria: Read. [bikutoria]bikutoria on January 3rd, 2004 05:21 pm (UTC)
That is your first thought? What's your second?
The Harvtheharv on January 3rd, 2004 05:26 pm (UTC)
quite beautiful at the end...the beginning just makes you think.
Victoria: Lone Duck. [merky]bikutoria on January 3rd, 2004 05:28 pm (UTC)
The end isn't as strong without the beginning.