Thursday, December 22, 2011
The wind rattles a tall blade of grass. The life of the grass permits its dance, its roots keep it from blowing away. Thus, moving grass is a sign of both freedom and constraint. The contradiction is not unique to grass: everything is so. Nothing is completely free or entirely anchored. If nothing else, the decay of time will erode a boulder and blow it away. It is the bothness – freedom and constraint, repetition and creativity, mimesis and alterity – that seems important, worth trying to wrap our mind around. What is the range of freedom? Where the hold of constraint? In the end, they’re the same question. That realization reminds me of an early lesson in some long ago English class that the tight, limiting formula of a sonnet was its source of freedom. Gary Snyder similarly speaks of the freedom of the Zen monk, dressed all in black like his fellows, marching to a rigorous schedule from before sunup until long after, and then confined to a square of tatami. Despite his confinement, he is freer than us, who bow to the winds of fashion. Freedom and constraint are not really opposed but conditions for each other, enablers of what happens in the space between. The grass must have its anchor to rise and yield to the breeze.