Jenny Odell

‘When I try to think about thinking, for instance retracing where an idea of mine came from, the limitations of English force me to say that “I” “produced” an “idea.” But none of these things are stable entities, and this grammatical relationship among them is misleading. The “idea” isn’t a finished product with identifiable boundaries that one moment sprung into being – one of the reasons artists so hate the interview question, “So what was your inspiration for this?” Any idea is actually an unstable, shifting intersection between myself and whatever I was encountering. By extension, thought doesn’t occur somehow inside of me, but between what I perceive of me and not-me.’ (How To Do Nothing)

I doubt the author was thinking of Dogen when she wrote this, but the way she expresses this illuminates not just the standard Buddhist notion of interconnection, but the way that Dogen chose to pull language apart to signal the unreliablility of its building blocks.

Interestingly, when I went on a hunt through the archive to find a typically dense passage, I did not find one – though I am sure I have posted a couple over the years. But I did come across this passage, from a very early post, that is perhaps Dogen expressing the same idea:

‘You are an accoutrement that exists in the entire world of the ten directions. How do you know it to be thus? You know it because your body and mind are not you; they appear in the world of the ten directions.
Your body is not you; your life is transported, moving in time without stopping even for one moment. Where has your youthful face gone? When you search for it, there is no trace. When you ponder deeply, there are many from the past whom you cannot encounter again. The pure mind does not stay; it comes and goes in fragments. Even if there is truth, it does not stay within the boundary of yourself.’ (Shobogenzo Immo)

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