Relearn what we no

Thousand Character Poem

Winter comes and Summer has gone,
Harvesting is in Autumn and storage in Winter.
Saving in leap day of years and years ,
then add one more month time.
During Huangdi(Yellow Emperor)‘period,
Lulu was the musical tune which tuning 
Yin and Yang as the two opposing principles in nature .

Seal script brush and translation by Janney

From the 6th Century students in China were required to practice the Thousand Character Poem to learn the meaning and writing of Chinese characters—Hanzi, 漢字. Hanzi are the oldest known continuously used human writing system. Words which represent a “common reality” are necessary tools for survival. China developed a system where a common written language had different spoken languages—the written word, not the spoken word, was the shared (true) meaning. between people.

.Languages probably start with the spoken word and writing comes later. Words arise out of human experiences and social interaction..Where some cultures saw two things (or more) others saw one—one word or two words and no shared meaning.—how do you translate? Imagine having no word for body while having words for hand, ear, mouth, but no word for body means never to see body as a thing in itself and the handler, and mouth as unrelated.

How do you find common ground? As the Earth increasingly becomes a global culture these human differences will be consolidated , compromised, rearranged, disrupted and the new words made in the process will increasingly reflect a shared common global experience. That will happen because that is what happens when people are in an interactive group and while national boundaries, lines drawn in the sand and demagogues with tax payer funded armies will never stop it but like the will cause a lot of innocent deaths along the way.

China has over 3500 years of written history (Shang Dynasty) which is understandable today, thanks in part to those who practiced and today still practice the old ways of remind us, in a beautiful way, of why we have meaning.

NOTE: You will find many slightly different English translations of the Thousand Character Poems which speaks more to the difficulties of matching language to different cultural meanings. On earth increasingly here is no place to go hide, or call your own to be defended by killing others.

Alameda Creek

Are words less real than photographs. Both have a similar purpose as tools to represent “reality” in a way which communicates a shared and common reality relative to the discussion—Do words have the same meaning to everyone using them?

Do different cultural language systems break up the universe into the same categories? Do people from one culture have the same set of “things” associated with words that every other culture has? Imagine there is a finite set of “things” in the universe and all people have to do is create a word for each “thing” and because there is a set of discrete things, language should be made of words which represent the things,—people experience the universe the same and words just reflect the integrity and commonality of human experience .


Words can be spoken, written and expressed in sign language as human expressions which have common shared meanings. Perhaps “signing” and simple sounds came first, It seems logical that “primal sounds” and impulse “body movements” would develop & evolve into more definitive means of communication—Goodness how many tens of thousands od years does it take to evolve?

Based on that context, at some point we should have the same number of words for the same number of things in the universe . Words and writing are what link us together through history . But empirically we find quite an assortment of things and meanings between cultures.

George Santayana’s  statement. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  or these words of wisdom from the Snopes family —”Only thank God men have done learned how to forget quick what they ain’t brave enough to try to cure. (The Hamlet, Faulkner)

The ability to write words on a stable medium which could be passed on to future generation was a great accomplishment.for survival. It enables human beings to educate each other as well as respond to problems successfully.

When people first started it was all they (we) could do to survive. As years went on those behviours which were necessary for successful survival became “habits”, call them norms perhaps but they were the accepted behviours which created and daily create, the structure of society,

As people became better at doing these behaviours they became more successful, i.e. As people were able to find and later cultivate enough food for survival those (successful) behaviours became common.

As people got better at them they were able to produce the same amount of necessities with less effort, or perhaps more likely, they found themselves producing more resulting in a surplus, unemployment and people getting excited about and finding meaning increating new products.

Still along Alameda Creek about the same time every year the flowers bloom.

We all live on this Earth, in a universe of billions of stars and planets we know no other life forms like ourselves. Every peoples on this planet was & is successful in their efforts to survive and yet among this tiny miniscule population of intelligent life—a population which does not represent 1/gazillionth of the universe, there are so many who seek to kill each other in the name of cultural and racial purity. And even more bizarre, they cite their God, supposedly the God of this Universe, in their defense.

Odds & ends

For a book cover entitled Buddha Nature and Animality, a transcript of and maybe some discussion on, a conference of the same subject. I was at first reminded of Case I in Mumonkan. I guess I was under the impression that question had been settled centuries ago, and suggested using this image I made in Maine, a curious cat looking like a meditating Buddha.

A monk asked Jōshū,
“Does a dog have buddha nature, or not?”
Jōshū replied, “Mu!”

Mumonkan, Case I , Wumen Huikai (無門慧開), 13th Century CE

A couple of ideas that did not fly . .


And the final cover, not my favorite, even after 600 years an old question with an answer has been forgotten, making each of us relearn what we could have known.
Even though there was no comma in the title, I like it at three lines,

All dharmas have the nature of emptiness:
They are not born or destroyed,
not impure or pure
not complete or incomplete

from Heart Sutra

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