Baby Steps

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Commented under an illness-specific article today, for perhaps the first time. The article was about what it is like to live with an illness that is invisible from the outside, yet completely undermining.

In a matter of ten hours, my comment became one of the most “liked” or, resonated with, which feels validating, but not comforting, since up until now I’ve tried not to validate the illness as much as possible. For me, mine is the truest analogy I’ve encountered so far, as someone who has deep desires and ambitions, who stores up intentions and awaits the next opening, often living miracle to miracle, tiny accomplishment to tiny accomplishment, and saying it publicly may mark a turn in the way I approach my life.

I wrote, “For me it is like being a prisoner, where occasionally someone leaves a gate in the distance open and you run for it, see how far you can get, but they keep catching you and closing it. You’re then sent back to do small jobs when in fact you were trained for more complex things.”

 

Meantime

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It isn’t that I haven’t written about what it means to live with an illness – what it does to the landscape of my life. Close friends, if paying attention at all, know that it means I often have a wave of creative activity and health, and then a stretch of time in which every offer is met with apologies. That I can’t give clear yes or no answers about outdoor events too far in the future. That when someone is giving me advice or motivation, they might be met with a blank stare or a light hopeful smile as I search through my databases of patterns, rather than, “Yes let’s do this!” That if I talk too long, or mention my fears and regrets about the life I imagined and especially the kind of energetic mom I dreamed of being, I will cry, which will be embarrassing. I might not stop for a while. I’m afraid of not stopping at all.

It means that parts of my life remain complicated, that needed changes might be deferred beyond a reasonable point. That avoiding conflicts so that health doesn’t spiral, costs a lot. That health usually spirals anyway. That well-meaning questions can feel like a humiliating trial. That I have no idea what is reasonable to ask of others, or how to feel when they don’t come through. That it is hard not to nurture seeds of resentment over abandonments and shallow gestures that stand in for genuine care.

That I spend a lot of energy playing out conversations in my mind with potential employers or friends, potential lovers, with myself. That I suspect a circular pattern of isolation>depression>illness>denial>burst of recovery>wipe out. But how to not remain isolated if surplus is channeled into making up for things I let slip before? That I am at my best when keeping a meditation schedule, when getting to the ocean, when eating well and not too much, but usually don’t do these things.

Some days I am the me when strongest, after a time without headaches when super productive, someone who thinks she can keep it going by sheer will, and that the weak version of herself is a mirage. Some days I don’t even let me, see me. When weak, I can remember what it looks like to be strong. I can gather a bit of the feeling and wish for longer and longer stretches of that arrival, but I dare not accept myself as “myself” in that state.

Waiting is a too large slice of my life, and activities that I can do in the meantime – some blooming more fruitful and sublime than any expectation or fantasy, and some serving just to keep creative sparks alive. Thank Goodness I’m a writer, in the sense that makes a distinction between a painter of fine art or a painter of buildings. I write because it must be done. I write louder than I speak, and more truthfully, so connections made through online venues, and friendships formed through writing, feel real to me. Yet it is easy to fall out of balance, forgetting that online connections go deeper in some ways because they are restricted in others, not expected to come fully through.

Still, through those connections I’ve been able to express more fully, less fearfully, and to give and receive love more openly in the moment, then bring that higher bar back to those in my life otherwise …  so they see that even when weak, even when sleeping too much or foggy-headed unable to complete sentences or remember names, I’m giving my all, always preparing for a time when my all will amount to more.

This is how I have managed, how I have crafted areas where illness need not factor, where weakness need not be faced, even by me. I could make up the difference in secret, work with time and space in a different way, preserve some image and dignity.

Until now. It is time to face everything now, to find out what that means.

[in progress]

Coming to Terms

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I always thought it in the case of some figures in my life, who refuse to reflect too deeply (which limits dreaming, and gives a low ceiling to creativity) – but really all of our cases – that should we truly face our pasts, we might not be able to take it… what we didn’t know, what we might have done/not done, seem to have made and unmade with our one precious life. Impossible to fathom. Impossible to know if one might have done better, or what might have been different. The factors are just too numerous, although it is some help to think in terms of arcs of character rather than monetary or public accomplishment.

Lately S is talking about regret, that it has no place in Buddhism, but that remorse is another thing altogether. I’ve been thinking on this for a few weeks now and have come to the conclusion that regret is mental and perhaps has a ceiling, but remorse allows for grieving and release… is to be embodied and is without limit.

When I consider, full grieving has a chance of breaking down the sense of hopelessness that might come with realizing one’s mistakes and accepting one’s conscious wrongs. Sorrow allows for a kind of nourishment to the ground that may at some point, become soft for new growth, possibilities. When one truly experiences their losses, faces the shortcomings and impossibilities as contrasted with the dreams of what they may have dreamed of being, becoming, it is much harder to be a wall against others. Forgiveness becomes more than moving on or putting the past behind; forgiveness becomes the air one breathes, animates all of one’s actions, mingles other and self, rather than being made into a suppressed time bomb waiting for a trigger out of the darkness.

It is a kind of closure indeed, just not an “event” of closure.

I trust my fixations. When there is something I am drawn to strongly there is little that I’ll let divert me from pursuing that course of inquiry. Sometimes it is difficult to justify, and sometimes it is like some passive-aggressive tax I extract for not drawing stricter boundaries with other areas of life. More often it is neither of those things but rather a wind of inspiration leading into a place I couldn’t have known myself well enough to realize would be needed or liberating. This is what k-dramas have been. This is what virtual worlds were. A few relationships began this way too.

So right now, I’m re-watching a not-lauded series, again, Valid Love. It isn’t as gripping as it was the first two times when I found myself breaking apart at every other scene; instead it is a soft massage … a slow release of toxins getting at the residue of what began with much greater shock.

I have been confused as to why this drama wasn’t widely embraced, aside from the obvious, that Korean audiences tend to take a very strict view of adultery and divorce. Koreans are less separate from their society than Americans, I think, in the way of difference between growing up in a small town daily intertwined with one’s own and others’ families, as compared with growing up in a city so large that within even the same high school it is possible to change groups of friends several times without too much upheaval. My own life has been one of constant reinvention in a way that would be less possible in a smaller country more rooted in history and tradition.

[spoilers]

Anyway, the adultery is not the main point of Valid Love, or maybe I should say that the sexual attraction that is assumed to be the point of adultery is not a main point in the drama. Rather, time is taken to go into the communication intricacies of relationships, and factors that change someone that aren’t, in fact, fully conscious choices, yet we are nonetheless responsible for. In that sense, the drama gives due to each character as operating from a softhearted intention, whether they start there or get back there eventually.

Valid Love actually requires repeated viewing. By the time I reached this third attempt, my visceral attractions to Carpenter Kim, and imaginations of Il Ri’s possible life with him going forward had lessened considerably.  My impressions of Hee Tae remained consistent, and my understanding of Il Ri’s attraction toward him reminded me of my own tendencies when younger, especially as a girl whose father had disappeared, to be drawn to a steady, wise figure who might give me new roots. Those are the impressions and emotions that dominated my initial reactions (that I wrote about here: Valid Love ).

Then, already in the second viewing, Hee Soo’s story became prominent, told so poetically by the writers, bringing forward direct relatability for anyone who has felt trapped without way to tell their story, or has had to accept catastrophic loss, especially publicly. That’s a lot of us.

It took this third viewing to invest in Hee Tae’s mother’s story. She is more a potential future after all, than a previous role I might want to reconcile with, and gets to act out frustrations that most of us aren’t allowed to – frustrations that would be in bad taste and we would be expected to conceal, like looking at one’s partner after many years and finding them unattractive, repulsive in some way. In the story, she regresses to her young years and expresses those feelings, those impressions openly. What is poignant however, is not that the show gives a place for taboo feelings, but that we’ve come to know that at the root of her turning against her husband, of coming to see him as unimaginable as a partner, is not in fact his (objectively less attractive) physical appearance but the years and years of struggle and heartbreak he caused her as he relegated her to the sidelines of his attentions and showed his best sides to others.

This is a drama in which the complicated truth of things refuses to stay hidden. There is a lot of awkwardness, and scenarios that people generally wouldn’t find themselves in, but also a lot of facing those awkward scenarios head on. In my first post I talked about the moment in which Il Ri is called to the police office and is asked which man she takes responsibility for. She responds, “both.” The two men are brought together again and again while trying to find appropriate balances, and when they finally get some distance, another universe conspiracy occurs.

It feels as though we are inside the mind of this universe as she makes us continually give up judgmentalism and truly comprehend the fate of each character and relationship at her mercy. Hee Tae says at some point that hate is freedom, and using hate tries to distance himself, but he is ultimately not allowed. They are all called to rise to the occasion. To surrender.

 

 

 

Presence of Space

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The second TSK session went as well as the first, with many of the group showing up, not just being there but sincerely taking part. I would have liked for there to be a bit of discussion about how the vision of the book and exercises, contemplations, are practical, but so far as a group we aren’t approaching that way. We are wrestling with the concepts, contrasting them with our previous sensibilities and experiences, comparing with each other.

I remember S saying, matter of factly, “Mind and world are co-arisen.” It took some effort to see that as so, not because I convinced myself with arguments, but because I saw it play out… saw that a spacious and playful view inwardly, allowed a spacious view externally…. until inward and outward were more mingled. That mingling became calming, relaxing, and what seemed impenetrable problems, reformed and reframed themselves quite often, sometimes in spectacular ways. Appropriate responses came forward in many instances. I became more authentic, or at least I felt that way, more authentic to myself.

He also said that contemplation was about taking awareness into places it usually doesn’t go, which I understand more these days when it feels like a surge of maturation has occurred, or at least some kind of seasoning, reordering priorities that used to seem a given. “No hindrance; no fear.”

Facing

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An odd thing, to say that I’m finally ready to face my illness, after being diagnosed roughly 15 years ago. But I am. Not facing it has made my life smaller and smaller, although from my perspective I felt that guarding places where I didn’t have to let it factor was a kind of freedom, an empowerment I still had left. Perhaps there are phases, and that way of coping was appropriate for a while, but lately I feel panicked, as though I need to turn the tides away from the inevitable course that follows if I continue to hide.

TSK Notes for Session One

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Preface
Presents a “circular rather than linear presentation” of the vision, so there will be a sense of repetition, but that is more crystal-like.

Introduction
“We have limitless possibilities to find fulfillment and satisfaction in or lives and in our relationships with one another. By learning to directly contact the essence of our being {experience},we can discover an unbounded freedom which is not only a freedom from some external restraint, but is itself the dynamic expression of the meaning and value of being human. Once this intrinsic freedom becomes a lived reality, then all other freedoms naturally follow.
(snip)
The highly developed industrial nations have led the world in adopting this path (of impressively solving problems through science and tech) to the exclusion of other approaches; we should now consciously consider our responsibility to restore a balance, an integration of material advances with the deeper values of humanity. And when there is a balance of the two ways of thinking-technology can be utilized as a very valuable and creative force.

{learning to recognize whatever we experience to be space and time}
{directly experience our Being}

Guenther’s Forward

xxiv
The ambiguity of the word ‘experience’ can be interpreted as pointing in the direction either of absolute objectivity (a road followed by deductive naturalism) or of absolute subjectivity (pursued by deductive idealism). The one conceals the subject, the other conceals the object; common to both is the bogus dichotomy of the subject and object.  But ‘experience’ antedates the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity, between interior and exterior, because it is neither a subject nor an object and has neither an interior nor exterior. As a matter of fact, experience is not a thing, and the interiority of a constituting subject or transcendental ego, as well as the exteriority of a constituted object, are ‘latecomers’. The transcendental ego is a postulate – as are absolute space and time – and it has only a limited application in myopic representational thinking.

xxv
The distinguishing qualities of ‘the presence of a subject’ and the ‘presence of an object’ are results of later (thematic) construction. Although experience is pervasively present as ‘horizon forms’ which are playfully imposed boundaries, experience (as continuous source) never exhausts itself.

Experience carries with it the connotation of knowledge which, it must be emphasized, is basic to, if not synonymous with, all life (as we ‘know’ it). It is also the manner in which it manifests, that is, spatializes and temporalizes itself.

xxvi
‘Great Knowledge’ encompasses ‘lower knowledge’, and can therefore ‘see’ (and most important, laugh at) its limitations, while ‘lower knowledge’ can do nothing of the sort.
(take lightly)

So to use figurative language, ‘Great Knowledge’ plays the game of blind-man’s bluff with itself. But there is nothing to prevent it from tearing off its blindfold and proceeding knowingly. Or, we may say, ‘lower knowledge’ is like impaired (myopic) vision {with a goal or objective that constricts its potential expressions} while ‘Great Knowledge’ is full (normal) vision — a seeing without seeing ‘things’.

Me again :)
So he is writing that the fullness of our human nature normally sees without seeing things – positing a need to re-balance, but not by learning in the typical sense of understanding subject matter. What I read is the suggestion to step in first, via exercises – making space in usual patterns.

“It is the restoration of vision which as such neither denies nor absolutizes.”  Being Seeing.

{he describes this as paradoxical language that is unintelligible to literalist thinking which blocks out the joy of Being [seeing]}

Pema used to say, “You can’t get there from here.” In a sense, the vision the book aims at restoring is something to step into, to experience, and then includes the “lower” (not in the sense of ‘worse’) framing of a co-arisen world of things handled and done by beings.

 This ended up being first wiki comments on our Page One for the book exploration, as:
The Forward by Guenther had some sections that I thought would be good to highlight on their own, as we go into talking about space and objects, and as we move toward beginning exercises.

“The ambiguity of the word ‘experience’ can be interpreted as pointing in the direction either of absolute objectivity (a road followed by deductive naturalism) or of absolute subjectivity (pursued by deductive idealism). The one conceals the subject, the other conceals the object; common to both is the bogus dichotomy of the subject and object.
But ‘experience’ antedates the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity, between interior and exterior, because it is neither a subject nor an object and has neither an interior nor exterior. As a matter of fact, experience is not a thing, and the interiority of a constituting subject or transcendental ego, as well as the exteriority of a constituted object, are ‘latecomers’. The transcendental ego is a postulate – as are absolute space and time – and it has only a limited application in myopic representational thinking.
(snip)
The distinguishing qualities of ‘the presence of a subject’ and the ‘presence of an object’ are results of later (thematic) construction. Although experience is pervasively present as ‘horizon forms’ which are playfully imposed boundaries, experience (as continuous source) never exhausts itself.

me >> I kept coming back to the word ‘experience’ in my own reading, because not only is it emphasized this way but is our common ground with one another, so seems the best place to share from. Phrases like “horizon forms” are interesting to me too, with the feeling that life is being drawn (appearances) in playful ways we can observe, appreciate, feel at the mercy of, etc. :)

Posted 20:04, 8 Jan 2016
………
I was very pleased with the first meeting, and the general attitudes people came to “class” with, yet couldn’t help but be surprised that the very next day there arose potential divisions, using the endeavor as a debate platform. It helps to write here so as not to lose momentum in a time when I desire to give a lot of energy to this, and want to manage that carefully.

TSK

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May have gotten ahead of myself, agreeing to make an outline and schedule to take a pretty large group of us through the Time Space Knowledge book that inspired our beginnings years ago. Previously, sessions like this were hosted by the founder, whose presence tended to change those attending. Some of us would try to be impressive, or would hold back from expressing our sillier thoughts or criticisms when he was there. Others would lean the other way, becoming argumentative or critical over things that didn’t seem crucial. Eventually, in this way, the sessions would lose their spark and steam.

The book is not an easy read, not a page turner. It is a dense puzzle that requires effort to break into. Although I have read it through twice, there are sections I have gone back to over and over again. This is what I hope to make painless and easy, because otherwise it will remain important unexplored territory disconnected from the group’s ongoing narrative.

So I’ll use this space to write aloud into, to rehearse the format and directions we might go in, to map out the basic territory, without expecting that we will cover the entire area but rather a few key spots.

Probably the expectation is to go in the direction the book leads, space> time> knowledge, but right now I’m thinking we should dwell a while on the introduction and build up in a way that encompasses these ideas more holistically. After all, one main take away is to come to comprehend/experience time and space in less linear/more liberating ways, which touches the core of what Playing as Being means.

 

C-Drama

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Although I’ve documented much of my K-drama and J-drama watching, I haven’t known how to write about C-dramas, which generally do not have the emotional punch of K nor quirkiness of J. Admittedly, what I’ve seen is a tiny sample, but ahead are my general impressions, without much worry of spoilers.

The Virtuous Queen of Han – Most of my life I’ve been a little put off by the intensity of the overlapping textures and color patterns of China as presented to me. A friend used the phrase “Indian noise” a few days ago, to describe a cacophony it took him a while to acclimate to before he loved traveling there, and I think this is similar. Suddenly, however, I didn’t feel that way. Suddenly, I found the intensity quite beautiful and could single out delicate attentions. Within this new bloom, I looked for the most striking drama I could find, and came up with The Virtuous Queen of Han.

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Mandarin is softer music than Korean, and C-drama expectations of virtue more straight forward, extremely so when compared to American TV. There are few anti-heroes, although some characters may not be understood. Through this drama, I came to understand the basic structures of many Asian historical dramatizations, especially those revolving around palace intrigues. VQoH came to serve as a template.

Journey of Flower – This is a supernatural drama that is often quite silly, and I fast-forwarded through enough of the episodes to question whether I should place it in the “watched” category. Since finishing however, I have appreciated some elements much more, thinking back with a smile and drawing from its playfulness with Taoist ideas of cultivating immortality. In some ways it was Harry Potter like, in that there were inventions to make inner workings outwardly visible, such as the wading pool that tests motivations. I always like that sort of thing.

Love Me if You Dare – I watched Journey of Flower for a particular actor, Wallace Huo, who is currently the male lead in this serial killer plot thriller. Captivated by the slow aesthetic of the show (even though it is not a plot I’m generally interested in and I don’t like gore), I enjoyed the dynamics of the romance at center UNTIL the last few episodes when the use of English speaking actors became heavy and strange.

Nirvana in Fire – Beautiful visuals made nice company for such a long series. Contrasted with a K-drama I am watching now, Six Flying Dragons, the lead is a little too far-reaching in his strategic intelligence, but that balances in other ways. Unlike Journey of Flower, I’m not left with many impressions that I go back to draw from, but I enjoyed the time.

Sound of the Desert – Excellent blend of male and female energies, with military plots and marketplace dynamics factoring alongside romantic story lines that surprised expectations. I like when a writer is confident not to give the audience what they think they want but to show them something more. It was a worthy story to immerse in for a while, and one I can imagine watching again.

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Similar to Journey of Flower, I picked it up due to enjoying Hu Ge in Nirvana in Fire, where he played another character with physical limitations.

 

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The Disguiser – Another Hu Ge drama, maybe the best of the bunch. Set in late 1930s Shanghai during Japanese occupation, the aesthetic held up well. The acting was even and plot development smooth and sensible. He was a little old for the character he played, but not to a distracting extent. The layers of identities were fun to keep track of.

 

 

Rationalle

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I have spent much of my life peering into others’ windows, imagining what life might be like to be just a little sharper, faster, clearer. Money would do for some things, but I’ve always known it wasn’t the heart of the matter. I’ve known people who had money but little imagination, intelligence, or inspiration. Also people who were smart but ungrounded, disconnected from others. I’ve known only a few whose intelligence and imagination fit well to their way with monetary resources, who were expressive in generous and inspiring ways. Without fail, these were people in whose presence I never felt less for having less, but rather felt inspired to realize more with what I suddenly knew I had, forgetting societal limitations, or at least subsuming them into a wider, if mysterious, context.

Simultaneously, there seems to be another person living in my mind, taking up more space as I age. Her mantra is “too late, too late” as she flashes before me all the times of opportunity I missed – for not knowing they existed, or for obligations, for lack of support and examples, for impatience. She makes me feel silly about idealistic choices, blames me for not being better fortified in the world, better able to extract independence and express dignity, to draw boundaries before becoming depleted and abandoned. She ridicules me for starting from 0 again and again, insists there are limited chances. She’s also the one who whispers while I’m reading or viewing a meaningful book or film, “You will never write like that.”

Sometimes I bother to argue with her. I tell her it is her linear view that is entrapping, not the inherent situation we appear to be in… that appearances deceive. I hand her photos of accomplishments my presence or attention has at least in some part enabled. I hand her memories of unknown and hidden efforts, and counter-intuitive acts done from a core of believing. I remind her of insights that there was no choice but to follow. She is ruthless, “You were conned. Where is that Universe that promised you faith in proportion to faith?” She lists the names of people who root against me, lists practicalities I can’t ignore.

As she makes her case however, I feel my heart stir not words but images, emotions, reminding me of untapped depths and realms of possibility. Our argument doesn’t keep sensations from coming forward in affections and loving wishes for all beings, even all and every thing. This is the taste of being human – a dreaming and believing being.

She sighs, drained of answers. A gap appears.

 

What to Do with One’s Life

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A and I talked yesterday, about developing a general vision and plan for one’s life, something he often feels pressure to do. But the happiest people I know seem those who made a strong hobby of what they enjoy most, shielding that from becoming a main source of income, at which point the income itself might become more important. Cultivating spontaneity is key, but there are not too many close examples in our lives, of people living that way. “Follow your dreams (or heart)” is too vague – a bit of a scam and distraction. “Travel light” comes closer.

I couldn’t see for a long time, how longing for self-importance was resistance, not motivation. I think he does instinctively, although wrestling with messages all around him, that he should know what he wants by now, what he wants to be, and that that wanting is all important. Society seems to be embedded with a script whereupon seeing a teenager, questions about what to do with one’s life pour forth in a wave of anxiety made up of the pourer’s burdens and regrets. Almost always, there is no tangible help of the sort that might come with true concern. How could there be?  How could someone come to aid, who also can’t see out?

Found myself listening to a speaker on non-duality, Tony Parsons. He is hard to describe, because what happens in his meetings is like performance art: audience members try to pin him down and try to trick him into teaching about the relative world, then he dodges them. Or rather reminds them that there is no he to dodge them- that there is nothing happening, no person or speaker who knows some thing and would therefore have something to give to them, even if they existed.

The message at core is akin to one modern seekers might hear as Eckhart Tolle’s life living itself, but here the aim is not to kowtow to the dream of apparent reality at all. There is just a situation happening, from a relative view appears to be beings, making exchanges with one another.

It may be funny to see this play out, but what he is expressing is not dismissable to anyone who has read texts like the Heart, Diamond, or Vimalakirti sutras. A teacher in this context isn’t imparting data or information in that sense, but sustaining a note. Transferring the very thing. It is more concert than lecture, more transmission and in some sense, undoing, than accomplishment. He isn’t even “interesting.”

Yet, for an “I”, such a situation can be surprisingly scary. Foundations of what one has believed are thrown totally into question, a throwing off which can be experienced as if physically. Meditators face this, also people in churches forced to look at their hearts, or people in movie theaters taken into their own minds in a too-real way. Hot seat.

Sometimes we want a mentor or teacher to understand our experiences better than we do – an exercise in frustration considering that they are freed from trying to understand even their own experience. However, knowing might arise by example.

A worthwhile article re Heart Sutra:

 The basic point is to get to a place where we actually stop searching for and grasping at the next toy. Then we need to see how that state of mind feels. How does our mind feel when we are not grasping at anything, when we are not trying to entertain ourselves, and when our mind is not going outside (or not going anywhere at all), when there is no place left to go?

http://www.lionsroar.com/the-heart-sutra-will-change-you-forever/

Sometimes I think I am beginning understand what post-enlightenment means, not in the historical/philosophical sense, but in its contemplative meaning, when masters and poets described not seeking, not by decision but, sting of need removed. Seeing all, yet no seer. Inside walking around with what one always thought of as the outside.

Anyway it is too late to be entirely practical.

 

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