images of the crossing over

The sinew and muscle

Words form the sinew and muscle that hold societies upright, he [Abdel Kader Haidara, one of Timbuktu’s “preeminent historians”] argued…Thousands upon thousands of words infused with the full spectrum of emotions fill in the nooks and corner of human life.

National Geographic, January 2011, “The Telltale Scribes of Timbuktu,” by Peter Gwin

This is the small-but-ever-growing library in my room “at home”;  it began with a handful of Korean language text-books and a few sutras six years ago and has expanded to include not only a majority of Buddhist materials, but poetry, Korean literature, and Christian literature as well. Although my home temple has a number of personal libraries, notably the Abbess’ collection, I’m almost ashamed to say this one is the largest. And I haven’t even graduated seminary yet…

This shot was for exposure practice. Originally, I’d thought of trying to put myself in the frame–hence the deliberately long exposure–but nothing came out right. Eventually, this shot was the only one even usable; if it’s any token of my great affection for books, I wanted to try and take a portrait of the library. Part of my homework for vacation is to beginning learning Photoshop–there’s a textbook for the program in the lower left of the bookcase, just for reference–because the lack of sharp blacks and especially whites is really buggy. Not to mention I need to work on cropping.


4 responses

  1. I groan under the weight of my library. All that knowledge on my head!

    February 5, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    • *laugh* I ride on the wings of mine.

      At some point this past fall, when we were studying the Diamond Sutra, my attitude(s) toward books changed radically. I’d been knowledge-oriented for a long time (most of my life), with a fair amount of entertainment thrown in, since I was a sci-fi/fantasy buff before ordination. As I walked through and with the text of the Diamond Sutra, however, two things happened. First, a text, sutra or otherwise, became not something to learn, memorize, and regurgitate, but the structure and vessel for a living meaning beyond the words themselves: a “more than the sum of its parts” feeling. I got a “big question,” as the Kwan Um School often puts it, from reading a text, something that so related to every-day life that the text was literally alive moment to moment for me. Wow! Texts are more than knowledge; they’re roadmaps for the here-and-now.

      Second, one of my younger brothers in the Dharma, another foreign monk attending a novice monks’ seminary, asked me for a list of translations and supplementary materials for our seminary curriculum. I can’t describe the feeling of satisfaction and pure joy that arose (because I’m a geek through and through) knowing that I have the resources to help others navigate both our curriculum–and because the curriculum is designed to help us navigate the Ocean of Dharma and realize true nature–and our practice sitting right in front of me, at least when I’m at home. The flow of teachings, inspiration, connections; poetry, scripture, and yes, learning; I should’ve been a librarian. Maybe I was! *grin* Korea has a great tradition of scholar-monks (학승), including the modern Zen master Seong Cheol Kun Sunim, whose library dwarfed this one.

      And, of course, if all that knowledge gets too heavy…we can always just put it down.

      February 6, 2011 at 5:37 am

      • Laughing loudly, here! Yes, we can just put it down. Over and over again, in my case.

        You give a wonderful description of how a text can be digested, a process that converts dead words to living words. Of course, it’s not the words that are dead or alive, but the wonderful energy you bring to them. Thank you, Sunim.

        February 6, 2011 at 8:02 pm

  2. Pingback: Morning walk, 3.14.2011 « Blog Archive « from this shore

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