“People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don't find myself saying, "Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner." I don't try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.” (Carl Rogers)

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Cloud of Unknowing Competition

This is from Chapter 68 of The Cloud of Unknowing:

"But thus will I bid thee. Look on nowise that thou be within thyself. And shortly, without thyself will I not that thou be, nor yet above, nor behind, nor on one side, nor on other.

“Where then,” sayest thou, “shall I be? Nowhere, by thy tale!” Now truly thou sayest well; for there would I have thee. For why, nowhere bodily, is everywhere ghostly. Look then busily that thy ghostly work be nowhere bodily; and then wheresoever that that thing is, on the which thou wilfully workest in thy mind in substance, surely there art thou in spirit, as verily as thy body is in that place that thou art bodily. And although thy bodily wits can find there nothing to feed them on, for them think it nought that thou dost, yea! do on then this nought, and do it for God’s love. And let not therefore, but travail busily in that nought with a waking desire to will to have God that no man may know. For I tell thee truly, that I had rather be so nowhere bodily, wrestling with that blind nought, than to be so great a lord that I might when I would be everywhere bodily, merrily playing with all this ought as a lord with his own."

Me again. Mmm. What does it mean? Prize* for the best answer!

* note that the sponsor of the competition has been known to buy a bag of sweets.


  1. This guy is obviously at the zen end of the medieval christian spectrum, but if you are familiar with the zen way of talking about things it makes perfect sense. Here's a very free translation:Here is the instruction. Don't locate your sense of self within yourself. Nor outside yourself either. Nor above yourself, nor behind, nor one one side, nor the other. Nor anywhere else that I might not have mentioned. Clear?But that means, according to you, i should be nowhere! Right! Exactly! By George, I think you've got it! What it is, is, nowhere physically is everywhere spiritually. Like, obviously? So, concentrate hard: see to it that your work of contemplation doesn't bog itself down in the physical. If you can do that, you will acquire single-pointed focus on the spiritual, which is precisely what you want. When you're doing something physical, like, say, chopping down a tree, you don't want your mind to wander from the physical, do you? Obviously not. Could be very nasty. So, but contrariwise, with contemplation. What will happen then is that that part of your sense of self that's locked in the body will get a bit restless, because it has nothing to feed on, because it thinks you are doing, exactly, nothing. That's perfect, it's a sign you're doing it right: go on doing that 'nothing', and do it, moreover, out of, and in, love. Don't stop! Keep at it, working on nothing, with a buoyant longing to achieve the unknowable. Because, believe me, I would infinitely rather be wrestling with that emptiness (as the Buddhists call it), that blind nothing, than be king of the world, fooling around with the endlessly varied (but, sadly, highly limited) pleasures of everything there is.So, there you are. Get on with it. And, in three words: only don't know [title of a famous zen text].OK, one word: why?Because, my dear, we give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.Oh.xxtom

  2. You're everywhere and nowhere, baby - that's where you're at! A strong start - but are there any challengers?

  3. You shall cease to exist and will yet be bodyless spirit.To exist and to not.I shall exist in your Great Mind as a distant thoughtOf floating like dreams, Like dreams.

  4. spirit without body isspirit without end isend without end

  5. Thanks, True Stories - the competition is hotting up here: any more takers?

  6. So - the winner is....Tom Davis for his one-word response: 'why?'Well done, Tom - when ur around again, I'll buy you a pint!

  7. I'm sorry to have missed the competition!


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