Know swamp, high dingzen

“Song Jiang” of the “梁山”(Mountain Liang)  painting by Janney

 The main character in the novel Water Margin, the flag in his left hand was used to issue commands such as to start a fight, etc. The Chinese character on the flag, “令”,  represents  “Order”.


As I do my daily fast-walk along Alameda Creek  levee I have been listening to podcasts of the Chinese classic novel Water Margin, aka Outlaws of the Swamp, aka All Men Are Bothers.

One of the “Four Classic Chines ” novels, written in a  “picaresque style,” characters are moved to act on some mixture of political victimhood, personal skills and inadequacies, greed and honor while  during their process of becoming  outcasts and outlaws the book being the series of events of their coming together in a “brotherhood of self interest” to help save China.

Taking place doing the Song dynasty, story of traveling around  fighting, eating,  drinking with enemies or among themselves, stealing , around the Liangshan Mars) in an adventure story of over  100 chapters


In the early 1800s Suikodan, the Japanese version   was published  with  fantastic  illustrations by  Kuniyoshi. In China  criminals were tattooed on the face, and in Japan the combination of  brotherhood of outlaws, nationalism and  and tattoos  was a natural fit for yakuza.

kuniyopshM2_800Water Margin has been adapted into several other types of modern media, such as television and film, across several different countries. In Japan, where it is known as “Suikoden”, it has even inspired several video game adaptations. Most notable are Koei’s “Bandit Kings of Ancient China” series of strategy games and and Konami’s “Suikoden” series of role playing games.


Another classic cross cultural story of the Romance of Killing genre shrouded in the romance of brotherhood, political injustice and honor.  Its not much different than we see today in film and TV, and video games and music.


Perhaps Nevil Shute got it right with On The Beach, and he only needed three characters.


Why do we have these stories of killing, and  why do  people like them so much? Maybe that’s just the way human beings are—Is there such a thing as human nature  and if so what is it? Are people, naturally  good ?or bad? or just natural.


Is it something about “human nature?  Are human beings “Naturally Flawed”? “Naturally Good?”  “Naturally Bad?”

The Bible story  is that God (perfection) created man in his image, and man was lonely —obviously man is not perfect otherwise he would not feel lonely—so God created woman.


The Bible version is that God (perfection) created man in his image, and then  man was lonely —obviously man was not perfect otherwise he would not have felt lonely or maybe to be lonely  was the way God designed man—so God created woman.

Since the first (in his own image) effort  did not work so well, no reason to think the  second would work any better and sure enough woman had two  faults—curiosity and defiance” —faults so bad that God kicked them both out of Paradise, maybe God was angry at himself for failing?— I guess we could say that the Bible says that people are naturally bad or they were good  to start with but they chose to become bad  and now must live outside of Eden.


Hobbes, in The Leviathian  suggests social order is necessary for a good functioning society but since everyone is a “sociopath”seeking to fulfill  their uncontrollable impulses and desires even at the expense of others it results in a  breakdown of social order.

Even if people make agreements, enter into contracts, compromise?  its  all to no avail,  people lack the ability to control their own base impulses,  the only thing that will control them is fear.


Hobbes suggests that a “super sociopath” will emerge who has the “ ability” to establish order—the biggest scumbag of all who will use any means necessary to establish order—and because social order is in the interest of everyone in society, it is the obligation of people to recognize this “great leader ” and submit to him (or her) for the good of society.


Also you could suggest that people learn to understand  themselves, learn to  express themselves and learn to interact peacefully with others to make compromises about social rules with which they agree to live with and enforce for the social order—this would be Liberal Democracy.

Or you could say that sitting around taking a break from shopping and having some coffee with friends is a way to deal with the problem.


“The eye with which I see God is the very eye with which God sees me.”
Nyogen    The Iron Flute     #67 Ch‘ien-feng’s Transmigration

Somedays I have to look for myself .


“…Sir Robert of Namur ands his men leapt eagerly on board the Spaniard, with their swords drawn. They attacked its crew so heartily that they killed them all and threw them over board, and captured the ship.”
Froissart Chronicles  Book One


Is there no place for peace? None of these people were characters in Water Margin. This photo is VISTA workers in Bangor ME about 48 years ago. I never saw them again, probably  never will, but people who believed they could  find a way to make a difference.


A zen temple could be hiding behind a “laundry of no access.” Or maybe knot.

The Aztec Motel, Route 66, Central Ave SE, Albuquerque NM . I believe its no longer there,


gate gate
bodhi svāhā

Allen Ginsberg’s version:
“Gone gone
totally gone
totally gone
over the top,
wakened mind,
So, ah!”





One thought on “Know swamp, high dingzen

  1. Love the photo of the VISTAs! 40 years ago next month I loaded up my VW wagon and drove from Eugene to Knoxville to begin what would end up as 2 years as a VISTA in East Tennessee. Good memories and a good start to a career that is now winding to a close in the very interesting times we find ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

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