Fluidity of existence



Through memories of distant shores and waters...

(ELB 2021)



An Ancient Chinese Ancestor


Our ornamentations begin by contracting to a minimum of elements in order to expand. A similar principle was written down two and half thousand years ago in Chapter 42 of the Tao te Ching: 


            The Way produces unity,                                         
            Unity produces duality,
            Duality gives rise to trinity,
            Trinity gives rise to myriad things.                    [the 'ten thousand things'] 

The myriad things bear yin on their backs and embrace yang in their bosoms.

All things contain polar opposites which interact to achieve harmony.
            That which all under heaven hate most
            Is to be orphaned, destitute, and worthless.        [disconnected, lacking in value]
            Yet kings and dukes call themselves thus.

Things may diminish by being increased

And increase by being diminished.

            That which people teach
            After deliberation, I also teach:
            'The tyrant dies a violent death'.                         [an unnatural or untimely death]        

            This is the essence of my teaching.


There are interesting parallels to Christian and Kabbalistic texts and the numerology of 42 in those creation myths is a strong starting point for connections. Setting monotheistic Genesis aside, what interests me is the Taoist account of an auto-poetic creative process. The working of the Tao is  impersonal and more akin to fractal reiteration or evolving bio-diversity than the will of a god.


The Tao is associated with a primal and eternal nothingness. This is apparent in some translations such as James Legge's rendering of lines six and seven above as: ''All things leave behind them the Obscurity out of which they have come [yin] and go forward to embrace the Brightness into which they have emerged [yang] while they are harmonized by the Breath of Vacancy''.  This 'breath of vacancy' is not a simple negation. It also contains the 'polar elements' which 'can gain from losses, and can lose because of gainings', as Lin Quixuan's translation highlights. 'Vacancy' or 'nothingness' is not tethered to one interpretation or one value. It certainly encompasses lack and negation, and Thomas Z. Zhang's translation of lines 7 and 8 suggest this kind of gnawing nihilism which can afflict anyone, whatever their social class: 'Loneliness, friendlessness, and worthlessness are generally disliked. Yet, kings and lords use these these terms to describe themselves'. But as well as a nihilistic lack of meaning and value, vacancy is also the productive, maternal zero (see 'Nothingness and the Mother Principle in Early Chinese Taoism' by Ellen Marie Chen, St John's University). Nothingness – wu - is generative.


I end on a speculative note concerning the seeming swerve towards ethics and politics in the last four lines. Understandably, the Western mind reads these as a warning such as we find in Matthew's Gospel (26:52) 'those who take up the sword die by the sword': but I sense something more than ethics or politics in the words. The Tao te Ching concerns the creative principles of the cosmos itself, not merely a humanistic bubble within that cosmos. I hear in these concluding lines a sense of a creative dance which can not be stilled by one element having dominion: efforts at mastery contain the seeds of their own destruction. If reason, ego, or individuation tries to tyrannise over the irrational elements of a creative process, the work comes to an untimely end. And likewise if chaos tries to drown reason and structuration entirely, the attempt ends badly. Trust the flow, the Tao: the cosmos is itself creative, and we are often much more so when we take a few steps back from 'being creative' and let the world speak. As an anonymous Chinese poet once wrote: 'When a bird calls, the mountain becomes more mysterious'.  

                                                                                                              (Price 2021, night between 9-10 September)

(Price et al 2021)

an endlessness brings the most confusing and wonderful twittering between stems of light.

The walls have come too close

1 am trapped between the ceiling and the floor

My mouth is full of woes

A quiet fire ’s burning in my core


I dress in solid black

Watch my feet, they keep on moving me


In my veins the blood still flows

And my heart is beating for a hidden shore


My hands are full of pain

of unresolved caress

What I gave was all in vain

I swallow back the love I once confessed


My numbness slowly grows

It’s like an icing, and the heart is last.

All is still, it all froze

The death hand of the past


But watch, a desperate flood within

now tears my inner walls apart


An implosion, visible for those

Who felt the same and who were never asked.


My hands are full of pain

of unresolved caress

What I gave was all in vain

I swallow back the love I once confessed


Stick (har ingen musik till det än…)

I put my hands in a cold well

To burn away the undesired touch

All my lust in one small cell

I pretend there isn’t much


My hands are full of pain

Made of unresolved caress

What I gave was all in vain

I swallow back the love I once confessed


(Nyhlin , A. 2019, Still Alone

(A sacred studio exploration with the simplest recording equipment available. Olof Wendel, Jonas Dominique and Anna Nyhlin)