Wednesday, June 09, 2010

When There Is No Flow: Haruki Murakami

I felt decidedly out of the flow of life last Sunday.  Parking the car my friend so lovingly loaned me, I griped and grumbled at people who couldn't park perfectly, leaving three feet on each side of their car, and no room for mine. For making me walk an extra three blocks to Larchmont Avenue, which on a farmer's market Sunday morning is packed with people who have the gall to stop mid-sidewalk, kissing the air hello, clustering in groups of strollers, stray kids and dogs. Side walk people. Walk. I'm truly surprised they didn't scatter at the sight of the dark thundercloud that must have been brewing above my furrowed brow, or run from the Wicked Witch of the East soundtrack that surely accompanied my angry, determined, weaving walk up the cafe-lined street.

The smell of ripe peaches and flowers filled the air as I neared the open-air farmer's market, mingling with the faint smell of puppy dander and pee from the makeshift, mobile pet adoption park.  Pushing past strollers of babies giggling and clapping at playful puppies and tumbly kittens, I was caught off guard by the gaze of an older girl with Down syndrome.  She sat quietly on the bench, completely still in the midst of the madness, her legs crossed like a Yogi. 

Her serene look made me pause, to take in the orange tabby kittens (but not take them home), little toddlers wagging their whole bodies in time with the puppies' tails, begging. To take in both the hopeful faces as well as the sad reality that most of the animals would not find homes.  She reminded me of what I'd just read in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, when Mr. Honda tells Toru about being in the flow.

"The law presides over things of this world, finally. The world where shadow is shadow and light is light, yin is yin and yang is yang, I'm me and he's him. 'I am me and / He is him: / Autumn eve.' But you don't belong to that world, sonny. The world you belong to is above that or below that."

"Which is better? I asked, out of simple curiosity. "Above or below?"

"It's not that either one is better," he said ... "It's not a question of better or worse. The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you're supposed to go up, and find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you're supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there's no flow, stay still. If you resist the flow, everything dries up, the world is darkness. 'I am he and / He is me: / Spring nightfall.' Abandon the self, and there you are."

(From The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami)

"When there's no flow, stay still." That might be the hardest thing to do, especially in our society. I wish I could draw better than I do, to capture the stillness of the girl I saw, to remind myself to stay still, to pay attention to the flow of the present moment.

Old wooden boat!, originally uploaded by CyrusMafi.

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