This Zen master, I've recently learned, often painted the image of an ant circling a grindstone. Round and round the ant goes. Ants will relentlessly follow an ant track. Repeat, repeat. Relentless repetition: call it obsession; call it despair, call it slavery. Slave masters enforce unrelenting repeated motion. Why when the slave master is dead or no longer in power, do we repeat, repeat, exhausting ourselves? Even a wise person like Hakuin cannot give a pat answer. Instead he exhorts:
An ant goes round and round without rest
Like all beings in the six realms of existence,
Born here and dying there without release,
Now becoming a hungry ghost, then an animal.
If you are searching for freedom from this suffering
You must hear the sound of one hand.
(Not "one hand clapping," the way the line has been translated.)
I wonder whether Hakuin drank tea. I did this morning--some green. Not bad!
Yesterday I shot a picture of an empty decaying house in South Beach. The ants and termites are taking it down. Eating it, undermining it. Are you smiling with me? Are you ant-like today? Are you free? Are you both? I can't do it alone. Ants of the World, Unite. We'll wear away the world together. And unlike ants, watch the clouds drift. They're massing southward, cumulus; low, stratus. Mixed: there's even mackerel-mottled. I grew up, a noodle-eating city girl who seldom looked at the sky. Books and mud-pie pleasures. Years later, the window of my Boston room had a view to the sky. With J. I saw the sky over the Allagash--other skies too. The same sky here in South Beach seems endless--more endless, if there is such a thing--endlessissimo. Venus low and bright at 4: AM. My Crocs squeak on the tile floor. Dust blows in. The little metal table rusts. From the trash shoot on our floor, my lithe neighbor runs barefoot, bare-chested back to his apartment, empty handed.