Everyday Things

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The realities of life are most truly seen in everyday things and actions.

Here is a picture painted in China about eight hundred years ago, showing a somewhat elderly and somewhat inebriated gentleman returning from a feast. The gay decorations on his hat are frazzled, his party robe is rumpled, his face is grizzled and mizzled. He remains upright on the water buffalo's back only with the assistance of a young attendant. Such an event some might find reprehensible, disgusting, ridiculous.

Open yourself to the whole picture.

The huge weeping willow tree bends gracefully above the old man. The buffalo, secured through the nose with a taut line held by a stoop-shouldered attendant, proceeds as slowly as possible, mournful of mien, shaggy of coat, and scrawny of tail. The attendant is completely impassive. The roadside plants go right on growing. Everything is fulfilling its part in the whole. Such is life—and of such are the realities of life. Harmony comes in understanding things on their own terms, and in a compassionate and humorous acceptance of the way they fulfill their roles.

Notice how the artist's technique contributes to this feeling of the universal in the particular. The strokes he uses to make the plant and willow leaves, the rocks and bits of vegetation, the buffalo's hairs and hooves, are quite conventional. Even the clothes and faces seem casually drawn with a few strokes of a fine brush.

Yet... Do you feel close to this particular tree, to this old man with his self-inflicted headache and addled wits, to this buffalo, pressed into duty as a taxi after serving long hours as a tractor?

Here is no academic exercise, but a slice of life as it has been lived by Everyman for thousands of years. This is the way things are on planet Earth, our only home.