23 November 2020

Charlotte Joko Beck's cookbook for a healthy mind

From a book which I have read and re-read many times over the past twenty years. Its called Everyday Zen and was written by Charlotte Joko Beck who died in 2011 at the age of 94.

"What is time? Is there time? What can we say about our daily life in connection with time, and with no time,  no-self?

Ordinarily we think of a dharma talk or a concert, or any event in life as having a beginning, a middle, and an end. But at any point in this talk. for instance, if I stop right now, where are the words I've already said? They don't exist. They just don't exist. If I stop at any point in the talk, where are the words that have been said up to that point? they don't exist. And when the talk is over, where is the talk? There is no talk. All that's left are memory traces in our brains. And this memory whatever it is, is fragmentary and incomplete: we remember only parts of any actual experience. The same thing could be said of a concert - in fact we can say the same thing about our whole day, and our whole life. At this very point in time, where is our past life? It doesn't exist."

What struck me even the first time I read this passage was that the creation of a painting is a kind of permanent memory, for lack of a better way to describe it. The experience of time is gone but the product of that time is a sort of souvenir born out of that fleeting experience which she may be describing. The painting might be understood as the tangible result of this creative space spent in the present moment.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Music once heard, disappears into sensorial memory. The written word, once read aloud, has the same effect as watching a fireworks display. But a painting can be experienced all at once; continually, forever locked into the present memory of the moment.

More to be revealed...

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