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On the other hand, although I have a regular work schedule, I take time to go for long walks on the beach so that I can listen to what is going on inside my head. If my work isn’t going well, I lie down in the middle of a workday and gaze at the ceiling while I listen and visualize what goes on in my imagination.
I walked slowly out on the beach. A few yards below high-water mark I stopped and read the words again: WRITE YOUR WORRIES ON THE SAND. I let the paper blow away, reached down and picked up a fragment of shell. Kneeling there under the vault of the sky, I wrote several words, one above the other. Then I walked away, and I did not look back. I had written my troubles on the sand. The tide was coming in.
Turbulent childhood, adolescent daydreams in the drone of the bus’s motor, mornings, unspoiled girls, beaches, young muscles always at the peak of their effort, evening’s slight anxiety in a sixteen-year-old-heart, lust for life, fame, and ever the same sky through the years, unfailing in strength and light, itself insatiable, consuming one by one over a period of months the victims stretched out in the form of crosses on the beach at the deathlike hour of noon.
The anthropologist must relinquish his comfortable position in the long chair on the veranda of the missionary compound, Government station, or planter’s bungalow, where, armed with pencil and notebook and at times with a whisky and soda, he has been accustomed to collect statements from informants…. He must go out into the villages, and see the natives at work in gardens, on the beach, in the jungle; he must sail with them to distant sandbanks and to foreign tribes.
We went to a church that had missionaries who’d come back once a year from Fiji & give talks. I remember one of them saying it was very hard work telling people they were going to lose their everlasting souls if they didn’t shape up. I pictured people sitting on the beach listening to this sweaty man all dressed in black telling them they were going to burn in hell & them thinking this was good fun, these scary stories this guy was telling them & afterwards, they’d all go home & eat mango & fish & they’d play Monopoly & laugh & laugh & they’d go to bed & wake up the next day & do it all again.
Do not think I do not realise what I am doing. I am making a composition using the following elements: the winter beach; the winter moon; the ocean; the women; the pine trees; the riders; the driftwood; the shells; the shapes of darkness and the shapes of water; and the refuse. These are all inimical to my loneliness because of their indifference to it. Out of these pieces of inimical indifference, I intend to represent the desolate smile of winter which, as you must have gathered, is the smile I wear.
The Chinese word Li may therefore be understood as organic order, as distinct from mechanical or legal order, both of which go by the book. Li is the asymmetrical, nonrepetitive, and unregimented order which we find in the patterns of moving water, the form of trees and clouds, of frost crystals on the window, or the scattering of pebbles on beach sand.
We are here to witness the creation and to abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.
I think teenagers just don’t have the persistence to pretend to like something they don’t anymore. I used to do that – make myself like stuff that didn’t immediately appeal to me. When you’re 17 and checking out John Cage records from the library. It’s not like it’s got the hooks of a Ramones record, or a Beach Boys record. But at the same time, you’re like, I know there’s something in here that I’m supposed to understand. And then eventually you find it.
My friend George and I were walking on the beach in Norfolk, and there were thousands of [razor-clam] shells. They were so beautiful, I thought I had to do something with them. So, we decided to make [a dress] out of them. . . . The shells had outlived their usefulness on the beach, so we put them to another use on a dress. Then Erin [O’Conner] came out and trashed the dress, so their usefulness was over once again. Kind of like fashion, really.