9 Oct
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on Guanyin Again

Guanyin Again

I went back to look again at Guanyin on Sunday. This was my 7th of the 13 visits I plan to make, each time writing a page or two in my “Now I See” journal. Here’s what I wrote:

Now I see soot on the tips of her fingers. Has she been in a fire? Was it candles? Smoking incense? She is made of wood, so right away I sense danger. Those tender fingers seem impossibly long, eminently vulnerable. They rest, yet seem to ripple, like waves on the ocean, or grass, but more alive, serpent-like almost, but without menace. Her hand, like the rest of her pose, is relaxed, yet reaches out. Not moving, it is the embodiment of potential motion.

But that soot! Surely this was not intended. It suggests age. Fragility. Wear. And use. She was not kept away from life. Protected. There is roughness. And a worn quality that adds its own patina.

I imagine the artist, sanding those fingers. Rubbing, caressing, stroking. How intimate! Now I see the sensuality of those curves, the tender spaces between the fingers, the exposed openness of the palm. And now the possibility of holding hands with this — goddess? — has suddenly appeared with such visceral awareness! The act of her creation must have been, quite literally, an act of making love.

Now I see that her fingers, so alive, seem to be reaching out, responding, ready at any moment to return the caress. And now the fact that her hand is soiled makes that potential seem all the more vivid. I can look at her closely like this from the side, but when I step to the front, I feel too bold. She seems to watch me, with eyes almost closed, and I feel impertinent. Out of bounds. She lets me look. But she sees that I see. And this causes me step away.

How sentient she seems, and yet I know that she is not. It’s a projection of my own mind, of course. A story made up from the arrangements of features, the shape of limbs, the form of hands. She is carved from wood. Which, in fact, was once living…in the form of a tree. Not conscious. But alive. Then the tree became wood. And the wood became what I see in this moment. Which eventually will decay, turn back into carbon and oxygen. Which will then be taken up again, into another form. Perhaps human. Perhaps not.

But now I do not see a piece of wood. And certainly not a tree. I see a human-like form. One that my mind responds to by making associations and projections. Which is not to say that there is anything wrong. When I look at her, I am seeing the workings/habits/skills (even) of my mind. Of this midstream…if you want to get all Buddhist about it.

Looking at her, I see myself. This particular human incarnation. The causes and conditions that have brought “me” here, that have resulted in my seeing what it is that I see when I look at her.  

So she is me. And I am her.

Together we respond to the world, with eyes half-open. And fingers, dark with soot. 

Comments are closed.