memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for the ‘oriental wisdom’ Category

Ambulacrum

St. Edmund's College - AMBULACRUM

St. Edmund’s College – AMBULACRUM

Here is an old picture of The Ambulacrum at my old school (from the Latin ambulare: to walk) where people would amble, saunter or stroll before mealtimes or during breaks between lessons. There was an obscure protocol concerning who could avail themselves of this privilege and when and why, the details of which have long since fled from my mind, I’m glad to say.

Walking (also known as ambulation) is one of the main methods of locomotion among legged animals and is typically slower than running and other gaits. Walking is defined by an inverted pendulum gait in which the body vaults over the stiff limb or limbs with each step. Although walking speeds can vary greatly depending on factors such as height, weight, age, terrain, surface, load, culture, effort, and fitness, the average human walking speed is about 5 kilometres per hour.

Let me just jump in here as someone who has observed walking from both points of view (can and can’t).

I can testify that walking suits people.

Locomotion makes people dynamic, whether the upright graceful carriage of an athlete or the haunchy waddle of the villager, walking makes you look good.

walking_person_silhouette_clip_art_15563

Not so much fun however is sitting round all day in a wheelchair watching other people walk.

To my chagrin I haven’t greatly improved the quality or speed of my walking on my frame. Always at the back of my mind is one of the (unwritten) maxims of this place: to stop is to die. Goaded on by this thought, in spite of the inherent indolence of my nature, I continue to doggedly sway across halls and lurch down corridors, sweating and stubborn … while I am thus ambulating, my mind sometimes stretches across the universe to grasp at some elusive truth … other times I focus on the matter in hand – to continue defying gravity for just one more step.

But we make progress my masters; courage my friends; keep on going for just one more step.

Don’t give up!

I leave you with a spot of oriental wisdom:

What the caterpillar thinks of as the end of the world, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.

Lao-tzu

BUTTERFLY - PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

BUTTERFLY – PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

No need for temples

This is my simple religion.

There is no need for temples;

No need for complicated philosophy.

Our own brain, our own heart is our temple;

The philosophy is kindness.

Dalai Lama

THE DALAI LAMA

THE DALAI LAMA

For Mitt

In 1500 BC the first record of formal composition-writing appeared: a collection of sacred Hindu hymns in Sanskrit – verses known as Vedas.

Nearly three and a half thousand years later, the great Indian philosopher and Father of the nation, Mahatma Ghandi was being interviewed by an American magazine:

when asked what he thought about Western Civilisation, Ghandi replied: I think it would be a good idea.

BUTTERFLY – PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

The girl on the steps

The little girl sitting on the steps

While her dad is communing with the Lord Buddha

Is wondering what comes next.

Last year a school friend whom I hadn’t seen for over 40 years sent me this mail:

I’ve now been practicing Nichiren Buddhism since 1991.

I’m part of a lay organization called Soka Gakkai International (SGI) which has members in 195 countries throughout the world and is dedicated to establishing the principles of human dignity and human rights throughout society. I see it as the ultimate revolution but this time the revolution starts within the individual and spreads peacefully throughout society and throughout the world.

 We don’t meditate but we chant NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO. You may have come across it. Basically it raises your life-state and with practice one develops great strength to overcome anything life can throw at you.

I like this idea – that peace and harmony starts within oneself and spreads outwards (rather than being indoctrinated with, thrust at or dumped on by Priests or Imans, Bishops or Mulhas).

Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

John 8:32

Psst or Shuss

S

The letter S represents the voiceless alveolar sibilant /s/ in most languages and the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet).

It also commonly represents the voiced alveolar fricative /z/, as in the Portuguese mesa or the English does. It may also represent the voiceless palato-alveolar fricative [ ʃ ], as in Portuguese, Hungarian, and German (before p, t). The letter S is the seventh most common letter in English and the third-most common consonant (after t and n).

In English, final ⟨s⟩ is the usual mark of plural nouns, and of third person present tense verbs.

(Or in other words)

She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore

BUTTERFLY DREAM – PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

What the caterpillar thinks of as the end of existence, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.

Lao-Tzu

My Father Learns Chinese

My father was a man of many interests and enthusiasms (and indeed obsessions) one of which was a study of the Chinese language.

He laboriously and lovingly painted each of the 214 Chinese cardinals on square white cards. He used a special broad-nib pen and black ink such as calligraphists use. Imagine the creative pleasure he must have felt in forming such beautiful and ancient symbols. Here are six of them:

(Notice how elaborate, to our eyes, YES seems to be).

6 of his cards

He would dot the cards, dozens at a time, around the various rooms of our house in France so that his eyes might fall on them and his mind might absorb their meaning.

On his death we were amazed to discover (among the myriad writings, translations, architectural drawings, pen-and-ink sketches of his beloved French village churches, water-colour washed landscapes, extensive and deep genealogical researches into his ancestry) a large loose-bound journal on the first page of which he had written:

4. 4. 56 

I seem to have a great desire to return to my earlier practice of keeping a general journal or commonplace book, for all purposes. So let this be it. Notes of all kinds, reflections, sketches, embroidery designs, rough copies of translations, let all come here.

Naturally there was competition among us for this pearl, so the sister to whom it was assigned promised the rest of us that she would have copies bound for us.

I won’t attempt to describe this rather remarkable journal further; instead I shall illustrate (with a few woefully inadequate photos) his interest in:

ANCIENT GREEK

IN GERMAN, LATIN AND CHINESE

CHINESE AND FROGS

TRANSLATION OF DANTE OUT OF ITALIAN

MORE LATIN

He was delighted to acquire a Portuguese daughter-in-law and paid her the ultimate compliment of setting about learning Portuguese, not for oral/phonetic use but in order to enjoy the rich literature of that nation. One Christmas we sent him a copy of As Lusiadas, the epic poem celebrating Portugal’s nationhood by Luis de Camões. In January he wrote to thank us for the present:

…. I started to read it on Christmas Day after lunch … by New Year’s Day I was rounding the Cape of Storms.

In the introduction to another work of his (a genealogical study of all the ancestry, both in the male and female line going back to the end of the 16th century, of his great grand-father John Crosland Milner of Thurlstone) he wrote:

The reverence for ancestors (and filial piety to elders) is one of the most endearing qualities of the Chinese tradition. They call it hsiao and for them it is one of the cardinal virtues.

HSIAO - FILIAL PIETY  by THOMAS MILNER

HSIAO - FILIAL PIETY by THOMAS MILNER

Civilisation

In 1500 BC the first record of formal composition-writing appeared: a collection of sacred Hindu hymns in Sanskrit – verses known as Vedas.

Nearly three and a half thousand years later, the great Indian philosopher and Father of the Nation Mahatma Ghandi was being interviewed by an American magazine:

when asked what he thought about Western Civilisation, Ghandi replied: I think it would be a good idea.

Painting of a butterfly figure by Thomas Milner

Painting - Butterfly - by Thomas Milner

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