• Tag Archives romance of the three kingdoms
  • Monkey. Still. But, Making Progress.

    Beltane                                                                     Waning Last Frost Moon

    Whoa.  84.  Sometimes I think of the seasons as if we were on a moveable patch of earth.  On a day like today our patch got shifted on the seasonal moving belt to about Georgia.  Last week we were parked above the Canadian border for a while.  Who knows where we’ll go next.

    I have passed the 50% mark in reading Monkey:  Journey to the West.   That means I’m somewhere around 1,000+ pages in.  Hard to tell on the Kindle, though I know precisely how far I am in percentages.  This book is funny, wise, rollicking, supernatural and just a bit cynical.  Well, maybe a lot.  Yesterday I bought a book that features English works on the Chinese classics.  It has a lot to say about these favorites, but I’ve still found no commentary that helps me get, say, the wood, water, earth, fire, metal sequence or the names of some characters or the works referenced as if everyone knew them.  Next up, probably next year, is The Dream of the Red Chamber, the best of the six, in the opinion of several writers.

    While hunting for a picture to go with this post, I discovered that Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman graphic novels and several fantasy novels started, back in March, on a screenplay for a trilogy based on Monkey.  Should be interesting.

    If you feel like you have the time, both Monkey and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms will more than repay the effort.  There’s a different culture at work here, sometimes a radically different one, but, at other times, radically similar.  That’s the power of reading works from other cultures, insights you can’t get any other way.

    A slow day.  Business meeting in the morning.  We scheduled a couple of days in July, post Kate’s second hip surgery, to go over our expenditures in the first six months of retirement, check them against our budget, see where we need to adjust.  Big fun.

  • Be Patient With Yourself

    Beltane                                               Waning Last Frost Moon

    An afternoon of thunder, swirling clouds, torrential rains.  Another episode in the missing spring of 2011.  We sat huddled in the basement amongst our workout equipment, watching the downstairs tvs with green rectangles and red rectangles.  Occasionally, the EAS, Emergency Alert System, would blare its attention getting noise giving us notice that the national weather service had released a tornado warning for our area.

    As we sat down here, I reconsidered my smug comments about those people that live near:  the ocean (sea level rise), in earthquake zones, beneath volcanoes, where hurricanes play.  Someone out there, watching the TV and pictures of damage in north Minneapolis, just said, “God.  How can those people live there when they know tornadoes come along all summer?”  Good question.

    The first 12 Tai Chi classes have ended.  Next time, starting June 5th, I can go to the 6:00 pm class and practice the first few moves, then move on to the 7:00 pm class and learn the next moves in the form.  My learning curve here remains steep though I have seen progress.  I read it in Monkey’s Journey to the West, and our Tai Chi instructors have said many times, “Be patient with yourself while training.”  Very useful to me.  Very.

    On Monkey’s Journey to the West.  This is a delightful story.  I’m a bit over 30% through it, I imagine it will be June before I’m done, maybe into July.  It’s so different from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  Romance is a military and political epic; Journey is part fantasy, part religious and cultural instruction manual, part adventure.  I see Ai Weiwei as a Monkey King figure.

  • Fulcrum Books

    Lughnasa                                   Waning Grandchildren Moon

    Fulcrum books.  An idea I’ve been playing with for the last couple of weeks or so.  A fulcrum book (my definition) changed the course of your life, altered a point of view or opened a new world for you.  I have several that fit that definition, among them:  War and Peace, The Trial, The Glass-Bead Game, Steppenwolf, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Mists of Avalon.  There are more, too, many more I imagine if I go back through my reading history with some care and I intend to do just that.

    A fulcrum book has found a place to set that lever that can move a world.  In The Trial, for example, the givenness of bureaucracy began to shift for me.  It was as if the earth had moved.  Not only was bureaucracy inhuman whether at the high school or college, the social security office or the corporate offices of industry, it was also silly.  Absurd.  Poor K, trying forever to get through the doors into the house of justice as Kafka’s fable, Before the Law, suggests.  Then, K, dying, in his own words, “Like a dog.” without a trial or mercy.  Never again would I assume that the force of a bureaucracy was unquestioned and unquestionable.  The Trial also pushed me, along with The Stranger, another fulcrum book for me, to search for my own meaning, make my own path.

    More on fulcrum books later.

  • One Cute Ruth

    Summer                                      Waxing Grandchildren Moon

    ruthThree out of three grandparents agree.  This is one cute Ruth.  She’s four and smart as a whip.  Athletic, artistic and stubborn, too.  Watch out boys.

    I’m still exhausted from the last week and a half.  Spent today getting to 95% in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  This is an amazing work of art and one I will reread for sure.

    Tried Latin but my eyes wouldn’t focus.  Tomorrow.  If I can’t get far enough, I’ll just cancel class.  When you’re paying by the hour–literally, you can do that.

    Night’s quiet cloak has fallen over us.  Again.  A time of serenity, of possibility.  Of vulnerability.  It’s allure is so strong, so winsome.  Easy to create in this time.

  • Still Reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms

    Summer                                              Waning Strawberry Moon

    “if your vision is for a year, plant wheat. If your vision is for ten years, plant trees. If your vision is for a lifetime, plant people.”- Chinese Proverb

    Ever have days that just happen, disappear with little trace?  The last couple have been like that for me.  The ear, the fuzz from the infection and a slow take on things.  That’s the extent of it.

    I’m now in the last quarter of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  I’ve been at it since sometime early June, late May.  Now, I’ve been a little slow, I admit, but it is 2,340 pages long in print.  I’m reading it on the Kindle.  It carries a slow, but steady course in Chinese logic, especially as related to war and politics, Confucian and Taoist influences on Chinese culture in general and the courts and military in particular and a careful rendering of the demise of one of Empire, the Han.  The Han Empire, the Tang, the Song and the Ming have pride of place as golden ages of the Chinese people.

    (this is the entry way to the tomb of Cao Cao, the arch villain of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  Chinese archaeologists discovered it last year and opened it on Chinese television last month.  this stuff is still very relevant.)

    It’s interesting to consider that the Chinese have not one golden age, but four when culture flourished and the nation was at peace.  I don’t know the whole well enough to say for sure, but one of the long lasting appeals of this 14th century (Song dynasty) novel may be the dissolution of the first of those.

    My interest in China will never be more than that of a journeyman’s, perhaps no more than an  apprentice, but it fascinates me.  Part of that fascination is imagining what it would be like to live in a culture with that much depth, where a person in Shanghai today could read the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and recognize not only names, but the culture of this ancient past.

    In one view those of in the United States can look only as far back as 1776, in another 1602.  If we stretch our gaze back further, we can cross into European history and follow it back into the world of ancient Rome and further back yet, ancient Greece, but there, for the most part, it stops.  Yes, you can argue the history of the Jews and the Egyptians are also our history and they are in terms of influences intellectual and artistic, but I don’t have a personal bond even with the ancient Greeks.

    The closest I can get in experience to that of the contemporary Chinese is to follow my Celtic line back into the mists of Celtic myth and legend.

    Anyhow, it’s been an interesting read and I’ll be sorry when I’m finished.  Not sorry enough, however, to pick up another Chinese classic for a few months.

  • Still Reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms

    Summer                                   Waxing Strawberry Moon

    Hot today.  At least by our standards.  85.  Plus a dewpoint of 70.  Not outside weather for this gardener.  I did work outside this morning, weeding in the orchard and checking the trees.  I’m going to need a consultation with Ecological Gardens because some of the stuff they planted, I don’t recognize and I don’t want to remove friendlies out of ignorance.

    Kate’s off getting a pre-op physical, having dental work done and nails and hair.  A sort of clean up, paint up, fix up day for her.  Her surgery is a week from tomorrow and can’t come a day too soon for her.  The pain in her hip gives her fits during the day when she walks and at night when she sleeps.  She looks forward to having more than two sleeping positions.  So would I.

    The Romance of the Three Kingdoms has held me for several weeks now, though I’m not reading in large chunks.  It’s a three-volume work about the end of the Han Dynasty and the emergence of the three kingdoms of Wu, Wei and Shu.  This period only last for about 45 years, but it holds a position of particular importance in Chinese culture, with many of its figures like Liu Bei, Cao Cao, Zhuge Liang and the three brothers:  Guan Yu, Zhang Fei and Liu Bei attaining iconic and archetypal significance.

    (Liu Bei, Zhang Fei and Guan Yu)

    It’s not an exact analogy at all, but it resembles the mythos of the American West, a time when men were men and some men were very good and others were very bad.

    If you enjoy political and military tales or have an interest in the logic of other cultures, then the Three Kingdoms may enthrall you as it has me.  If you’re not sure, I recommend seeing the Red Cliffs, the two disc version.  The movie showcases all the main characters and records a pivotal battle, one that has ongoing importance in Chinese culture.  Not to mention that it’s great fun.  Again, if political and military intrigue fascinate you.

  • Better…And Not

    Beltane                                   Waning Planting Moon

    I’m still deep in the The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, following the exploits of Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei among many, many others.  Still not a third of the way done with it.

    Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll do more weeding. Weeding and pruning.  Those are the main tasks at this point in the gardening year.  That and finding some weedless straw for mulch.  It’s hard to find.

    A week and a half past my colds onset I feel pretty good, back to normal with the exception of  remaining sludge.  I feel like an engine in need of an oil change.  I even went back to the ramped up work outs  today and had no repeat of the dizziness and nausea I experience a couple of weeks ago, the last time I did this workout at the new pace.

    Feeling a bit of a let down, not sure why.  Maybe it’s just the push, push of garden, Latin, dogs, food or, more likely, it’s just a cycling through of a bit of melancholy.  Whatever it is sleep will help.