Knowledge, goodness, and beauty

1. To Know is to be in touch with nature, i.e., the way things are.

2. To embody the Good is to follow nature’s course.

3. To manifest Beauty is to follow along the way of things with grace.

4. Radiance brings all three into harmony in the soul. I.e., radiance is the way–the gentle demeanor, the graceful act, the eloquent voice–of manifesting all three at once.

Hence, radiance just is being in touch with, while going along with, nature in the way of lightness and grace.

Coursing Meditations

How to present a flowing day? ‘Coursing’: A philosophical life moving in pictures, in turning holding pictures. Look: 


What is the beautiful course of a day? How does one follow nature’s course? A line, drawn by hand, drawing the day, is both extensive and intensive. Extensive: flowing through time without resistance. Intensive: expressing the degree of energetic power manifested in any activity. A day inspirits or inhibits. A beautiful day–meaning: the highest expression of goodness–is nothing save a wellspring of fecundity.


Course: another name for the Dao, itself unnamable. Also: itinerary, or Way. Whisper and follow.


There are modes of becoming, each with extension and intensity. Proper intensity. Eating, for instance. Conversing philosophically, for instance. Each mode of being is followed, in turn, by its complement. Sleeping, therefore, by ​meditating; meditating by eating; eating by conversing; conversing by gracefully moving; and so on. More literally this: the ‘and so on.’


In Awakening to Philosophical Life  (2013), I write,

‘The “basic questions of living” occur to me but transcend my finite existence; they emerge in my time but go beyond my years; they shape my moral character but the nature of my character is poured from a general cast of mind. They enliven me-this is true-yet only by dint of coursing through my being; and while their beginning is contingent, their reason for being is necessary.’


We are thinking, as thinking, in verbs. Hence, cours-ing. In other words: moving, meditating, thinking, acting energetically, eating slowly. I see I am starting to add in the adverbs in order to speak of the manner or the way of doing something. The course of the way. I note, ‘The verb solicits the aid of the adverb, the adverb fully expressing the verb’s power like an unfolding pleat.’


Marcus Aurelius writes, ‘All that is in tune with you, O Universe, is in tune with me.’ To live in accordance with nature was the Stoic’s ultimate aim. Sometimes rather than accordance, one reads of agreement, of concord. Can one find a beautiful word that says the same only in the right key, in the key of praise? Harmony? Attunement? I am still searching for the word to describe the being-in-touch I sense.

There is nothing worse than a house that is too done up…

‘A house, I know, is but a temporary abode, but how delightful it is to find one that has harmonious proportions and a pleasant atmosphere. One feels somehow that even moonlight, when it shines into the quiet domicile of a person of taste, is more affecting than elsewhere. A house, though it may not be in the current fashion or elaborately decorated, will appeal to us by its unassuming beauty–a grove of trees with an indefinably ancient look; a garden where plants, growing of their own accord, have a special charm; a verandah and an open-work wooden fence of interesting construction; and a few personal effects left carelessly lying about, giving the place an air of having been lived in.’

Yoshida Kenko, Essays in Idleness

There is nothing worse than a house that is too done up and crammed full of stuff. No room in a vast mansion that’s been done up–save the roughly hewn kitchen–invites loitering, loafing, or lingering. The living room is a set piece for a drama never to be filmed; the dining room is a museum without the identifying placards; the bedroom is sanitized of life and eros. Throughout the tour, the guest looks cautiously but has no desire to touch and stay, and moves on hurriedly in hopes of seeing simple natural beauties again. Once outside, he makes haste to stretch his lungs and does a sun salutation without so much as a single thought of embarrassment.

A home–which does not blush in displaying its ‘unassuming beauty,’ whose look, like a grove of trees, is ‘indefinably ancient,’ a place where the occupants can look out freely yet also feel secluded–would produce the desired effect: humility and sensitivity disclosing the inner feel of things.

Pei-chien on action and stillness

The collection, ‘Summer: Collages of Desert Pieties (2013),’ is now visible at There are beautiful photos of summer Daoist travels on each page. Enjoy.


This morning after watering the plants, I meditated upon Zen master Pei-chien’s words (1185-1246). I then put them into a more poetic form:

Let your actions be like the gliding clouds; the gliding clouds are mindless. Let your stillness be like the valley spirit; the valley spirit is undying. When action and stillness dwell together, the fault-line disappears.

Plato speaks of reality in terms of movement, rest, being, same, and other.

I say that the highest movement is the same as graceful action; the greatest form of rest is stillness. Thus, when movement, which is generally other than rest, seems to pass into rest and rest to pass easily into movement, then there is being, energy, flowingness. Then, the fault-line disappears and the sage is but gliding and stilling.

Wandering babies in Topanga Canyon…

Early in Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby exuberantly proclaims that there is no place he would rather live than in a cottage and, in particular, in a cottage that in all respects resembles the one the Dashwoods have let. Eleanor replies–come, come now, dear Willoughby–that the hallways are dark and the quarters are cramped. Would he really change nothing? No, nothing at all.

Willoughby is right and wrong to confuse his love of the Dashwoods with his fondness for their cozy cottage. He is wrong to claim that this cottage is exactly answerable to the best sort of life, yet right to draw our attention to the close-knit relationship between the excellences of a home and the excellences of a form of life. Just as a home is cluttered with chtokes, so a human life can be stuffed with dross and filler.

Continue reading “Wandering babies in Topanga Canyon…”