The Diligence in the Snow: Tales of the Koanan #10
Arimas reached and found an image they could not decipher. Too many places in them thought different things. There was too much to know before any concept could be formed, although they could see what was seen by the General—a travel vessel floundering in weather made manifest.
Only beyond the immediacy of feeling and external objects is genuine actuality to be found. For the truly actual is only that which has being in and for itself, the substance of nature and spirit, which indeed gives itself presence and existence, but in this existence remains in and for itself and only so is truly actual.
– G. W. F. Hegel(1)
Whiteness of weather made manifest. Whiteness was something the General perceived as a quality attached to a thing. Arimas thought Whiteness a thing too because it was said. If detached from the weather would it move or be utterly still. In the soft cold stalled weather it did both. Light made it rise and fall and swish and sleep. The maker made Light do that to Whiteness. The maker made things and moved them. When things moved, the General believed they had a mind. It was natural for the General to seek a mind. They were diligent in that.
Without Whiteness Weather was cold and soft and whisperish and obstructive. Without Whiteness Weather was not entirely itself. But Weather was experienced by some of the General who couldn’t sense Whiteness so it must have been itself outside of experience.
diligere “single out, value highly, esteem, prize, love; aspire to, be content with, appreciate,” originally “to pick out, select,” from dis- “apart” + legere “choose, gather,” from PIE root leg- “to collect, gather,” with derivatives meaning “to speak (to “pick out words”).”
From the secondary French sense comes the old usage of diligence for “public stage coach” (1742; dilly for short), from a French shortening of carrosse de diligence.
– Online Etymology Dictionary
The General were always thinking to establish thingness. This Thinking was itself a thing like Whiteness. It rose and fell and swished and slept. But General’s Thinking was different from Whiteness because it could be diligent. It would sift through Whiteness endlessly and identify its many modes. It would find what it considered flaws.
Arimas now held two conflicting concepts. They themselves were a function of Thinking but the substance of their Thinking was both flow and stance. There was no real diligence because there was no flaw because there was no purpose. So there was no floundering, although Arimas could understand the difficulty of the carriage with its struggling horses. Arimas struggled with metaphors because they did not have any senses, only the memory of them; struggled with the General’s view because Arimas’s thought was also experience. Arimas could bring Whiteness or Weather into them and feel them as things in one part, while the dark travel vessel lived its own mind in another part. Arimas began to ponder the mind of wood.
The weathers, like a girl and a boy, moved through the tossing world, the sea storm dragging under them, the clouds divided in many rages of movement as they stared on the raw wall of wind.
– Dylan Thomas(2)
They slept then, a complicated brown sleep until it was only sleep and then only. When they woke Whiteness moved in them and they could name no quality to describe it although qualities were there.
But, thought Arimas, we are here in the thought of our selves. And although here we don’t essentially matter. There was a smile from the matrix as though it agreed. (This is the koanan mode of decision.) Freedom, Arimas gathered, is travel. Not that freedom is any more important than anything else. But to travel is to discern, to separate one thing from another—a destination from a source, a road from a ravine.
Language is not reality. It is the finger pointing at the moon, not the moon.
What we perceive are the qualities, not the things.
– Daisetz T. Suzuki(3)
So they disagreed with themselves. Only in the immediacy of feeling and external objects is the actual to be found. Reality is the struggle in the white weather, the pitting of body against body, Thinking and Whiteness becoming concrete, muscle engaging with them, the haptic hand using itself.
The smile in the matrix faded under a rush of perhaps Weather. Arimas for the first time felt a hardness in them and a reaching that constructed itself as separate, palmate, willed.
Ils pensent. . . ils pensent. . .ils n’arrêtent pas de penser
Ils ne peuvent plus aimer les véritables fleurs vivantes
[They think. . . they think. . . they never stop thinking
They can’t love real living flowers anymore.]
– Jacques Prévert(4)
[The Diligence in the Snow / La Diligence dans la neige is a painting by Gustave Courbet (1860). Hugh Lane Gallery]
(1) G. W. F. Hegel. Hegel’s Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art. Volume I. Transl. T. M. Knox. Oxford University Press, 1988.
(2) Dylan Thomas. “The Map of Love” (1939). In Collected Stories. Ed. Walford Davies. London: Phoenix, 2000, 111.
(3) The Essentials of Zen Buddhism: An Anthology of the Writings of Daisetz T. Suzuki, ed. Bernard Phillips, London: Rider & Company, 1963, p. 43.
(4) Jacques Prévert. “Fleurs et Coronnes” / “Flowers and Wreaths.” Paroles: Selected Poems. Transl. Lawrence Ferlinghetti. San Francisco: City Lights, 1990.