Wednesday, January 16, 2008

stealing ideas

A friend of mine writes, "I stand by the postulate that immature poets imitate; mature poets steal." (Goethe would certainly agree. "Everything that is written," he once said, "is mine!") While I cannot claim that I am cleverly working Anthony's blog entry into my own prose, I am nonetheless stealing a portion of it because I thought it was deceptively simple and thereby deeply true.

As Anthony noted, "Genius is the capacity to see ten things where the ordinary man sees one. Wisdom is the capacity to see one thing where the genius sees ten." Therefore, I leave you with the following koan, which I understand in a christocentric manner, just to spite him:
Ryokan, a zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal. Ryokan returned and caught him.
"You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift."
The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.
Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon."


Anthony said...

the universe forgives you. Actually, I stole the postulate word-for-word from T.S. Elliot; the title is my respose to Ezra Pound's statement that the genius sees ten things where the ordinary man sees one, and "In the end is my beginning," is another T.S. Elliot. (Whew, I was worried no-one would detect my plagaristic zeal.)

P.S. here's a great poem by Ryokan to the nun he fell in love with, though 50 years her elder, and whose arms held him as he met his death.

"You stop to point at the moon in the sky,
but the finger's blind unless the moon is shining.

One moon, one careless finger pointing --
are these two things or one?

The question is a pointer guiding
a novice from ignorance thick as fog.

Look deeper. The mystery calls and calls:
No moon, no finger -- nothing there at all."


Vlad the Impala said...

I wonder if rewarding a person who came to your house to steal from you is a socially responsible thing to do?

In any case, I think you missed the ending of that koan.

"... and then, three months later when the weather turned cold, Ryokan caught pneumonia and died because he had no clothes."