Art, attention, gratitude and grace. A quiet healing, ordinary joy. I know these things in my own body. For several years now, my head has felt loose on my shoulders, and I too have felt oddly permeable, no longer so tightly wound. Little shards of self fly off into the wind, and frankly, I am glad to see them go.
In the same way as one pulls the petals from a daisy, she loves me, she loves me not, so too one can pluck one letter at a time from familiar words, revealing the core beneath. Verandah Porche (who invented the term “pluck words”) is especially fond of examples like “slaughter” and “laughter” where the missing letter not only transforms the meaning of the word, but alters its sound as well.
My own favorites center on a little cluster of words that seem, like koans, to conceal a deeper meaning. It is as if one bit into a juicy peach to find its wizened stone, or broke apart an egg to show its golden yolk. For example, when where is plucked, it reveals the answer here; less is the hidden wisdom crouching inside bless; your gives way to the more generous-hearted our; and the small domestic hearth expands into the cosmic earth. Most miraculous of all, perhaps, eyes open into an all-confirming yes.
In the I Ching, when a line of the oracle reaches its most extreme, expansive state, it swings back, like a pendulum, into its own opposite. The technical term for this is enantiodromia.
It seems possible to me that our culture of speed and confusion, busyness and overwhelm, has reached just such a state, and that the time has come for the quick double-flip of transformation, from greed to gratitude, from isolation and depression to community and calm. “Let your last thinks all be thanks,” said W. H. Auden, and certainly there is much to be thankful for.
Or, as Wu-Men put it long ago,
Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.
~ Christian McEwen, “A Day So Happy” from World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down