Years as a corporate accountant robbed me of my health.When at last I recovered it I realized something else equally precious had been lost, my creativity. I used to tell my students if you are creative in accounting eventually you will go bankrupt or to jail. I realized all those long hours of regimented work and defensive driving while commuting left me too tired to do more than light reading. This is one reason I began to blog and it worked. Ideas began to come as I committed myself to writing. I connected with other wonderfully creative people and this stimulated even faster recovery of my lost creativity.
I returned to some of the things I enjoyed while I worked on my degree at university. I love the Chinese language, its flexibility and the layers of meaning hidden in the written characters. It is a wonderful language for poetry and the Chinese have produced many wonderful poets. Li Po is one of my favorites. When I was trying to sort things out, simplify my life and take things in a direction of my choosing. I went back to Li Po.
I did find some direction through blogging and found that poetry, something I loved from an early age, had disappeared from my life in high school and never returned. Until I reconnected through blogging. When I started a post on my changing life I found myself writing as though it was poetry.
With fingers spread I count the things which do not matter
There are too many
I count the things that never mattered
I am surprised at how many
Again I add those which have ceased to matter which once did
Those are too many also
Better to count the things that matter; much easier with so few,
The books, the garden, the cats.
Better to find a way to live on Green Mountain,
To have a world apart that is not among men.
Better to emulate Li Po
Living in the Dao.
Not Shakespeare, as they say, but the first attempt at poetry in decades. Here’s the real genius, Li Po 李白.
There are so many ways to interpret the characters even the title is variously translated. If you look up the poem you will often find it under the title Green Mountain but if you take each character individually it is 山 mountain, 中 middle, 問 ask, 答 answer. I have read several versions. I like this translation I found on poemhunter.com under the Green Mountain title.
You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;
I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care.
As the peach-blossom flows down stream and is gone into the unknown,
I have a world apart that is not among men.
I care a lot less about matching technicalities in translation than I do about conveying the unspoken background that the reader does not know and cannot easily realize from the words. By this translation it is easy for anyone to understand Li Po has left the cares of the mortal world behind. If you do not know he was in the Chinese court and left, becoming a wanderer and a Daoist, so you can still understand his feeling and answer to the questioner. When the mortal world was weighing me down, I felt kinship with Li Po. I would have loved to emulate him and go off to a hermit existence, in tranquility and the Dao, on the green mountain.