I’m a typist, what beauty and art is there in the white of the paper as it comes up? The miracle that when you press the key, the black on the paper. When you first see this , oh it’s wonderful. But after a few weeks you think, “Oh this blasted typewriter. I don’t like the touch” . What’s happened? We miss , something’s gone , we miss something. We think ‘well yes all right perhaps we’ve missed a bit of beauty, but what art is there in typing?’ There is an art. Typists can be artists. Before the days of Xerox’s, in a lawyer’s office sometimes it was necessary to make a copy of a carbon copy. An extra copy of a letter. And it had to be absolutely accurate in a lawyer’s office so every letter when it’s copied is then checked over verbally by two people. But one of the typists in the lawyer’s office, she had a little room.
She insisted on a good machine and a good light , but she would take one of these documents in, type it very fast and then bring it out and say, “There you are”. And they would say, “Well , have you checked it?” She said, “There it is” . So then they would check it and they never found a mistake. And finally it occurred to the office manager to ask her how it was that there was never a mistake. How could she check , reading this , and this , and this , and this, so quickly? Well, she was an artist. She would look at the letter. She would see where the margins came, where the date came, and then she would copy that letter from the same margins, same date, same length of line, same spacing, so that it was identical. Then she would hold the two up to the light. If it looks like one letter then the copy is absolutely perfect. If there’s any discrepancy, it will show up as a blur.
She was an artist and she’d found inspiration in an everyday thing in life and her letters created beauty. And we think, “Oh you can’t live like that. You can’t do that. You can whip yourself up bubbles oh yes , beautiful , and so on. The wood , yes, oh look at the gleam”.
You can keep it up about ten minutes. But the fact is when you’re dealing with a tradesman, you’re answering the telephone, you’ve got important business to do, there are crises and so on , you can’t remember all this stuff because the mind won’t be able to keep up that train of thought and the train of thought of ordinary business.
How can it? How can the mind keep up two trains of thought like that? This point was put to a teacher. And he said, “You know from your personal experience that it can “
“What?” He said, “Yes. In your ordinary life yes, you do the business, you deal with the tradesmen, you cook and you have your office work or your factory work, and all the time you’ve got another train of thought: a series of complaints. That goes on all the time. No difficulty about keeping that up. Washing up , “yes, I’ve got this blasted stuff to do. Sink and stove all the time” you think. All this goes on while you’re washing up. No difficulty in keeping that up. So he said to the housewife, “You can have these two trains of thought. And you can have a train of thought of beauty, and you can have a train of thoughts of complaints, and the people in this country as they said last year, “They’re living in heaven aren’t they” and I said to him, “Yes, and you know we’re all complaining about the crumpled leaves in the bed of roses” . We have this wonderful life , this wonderful choice, and all the time we’re thinking “Oh yes a bed of roses , but I don’t like pink !” Well, some of the teachers tell us this. They say naturally , there is something natural in you which will see beauty and express it. And will see the and express it. It’s something natural in you.
A famous teacher whom I know, he wrote that he visited what’s called a “hippy” community I believe , I’ve never been to one, but he was invited to go to Hawaii. And they met him. Well now Japanese and Zen priests, and Zen people generally, however poor they are the things are neat and, as far as possible, they are clean. So he came there in his neat robe and he said they were lined up to meet him. And one of the first things he noticed was that all the men had frayed trouser-legs, and that always one leg , one trouser-leg , was shorter than the other. They weren’t cut off, but one had frayed shorter than the other. Both men and women had their hair in a tremendous tangle, and nothing was very clean. And he gave his instruction, and then one of them asked him over tea: he said, “Teacher, you have mentioned in your address about neatness and so on don’t you think this obsessive concern for cleanliness and so on is really a bit irrelevant. It’s not one of the important things of life and it’s unnatural isn’t it ?“ So the teacher said, (by good fortune the community cat was passing and he put down a bit of cream and the cat came up and had the cream and then sat down, and then began to lick himself) , and the teacher said “You see, he likes doing that.Cleanliness and neatness is natural , that’s his natural desire. And untidiness can be an artificial defiance which is unnatural and which impedes the really important things of life.”
Another example that he gives is of the magnet which is, as you will know, the bar magnet consists of the atoms and they’re all pointing in one direction when it’s magnetised. And a bar of iron which is not magnetised , it has the same atoms with the electrons rotating round their little selves and revolving around their little atom , but all pointing in various directions, and so the thing is not magnetised. One’s pointing out here, another’s here, another one’s up there, another one’s here , so it’s not magnetised. Although each of these is a little magnet , but they’re not working together. And he says that in our personality, we have so to say, these atoms. But they’re not pointing in the same direction. They conflict with each other.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 4: The doctrine of the void