February session report

Thank you to all who attended Wednesday’s session, and helped to make it such an interesting discussion. We didn’t read very much of the book, but we did talk a lot about different, interesting subjects.

I think the Pyrenees Mountains were mentioned in the part that we read.  Here is a photo sent to me by an old acquaintance who lives in France. This photo is the view from their garden. (Click on the photo to see a larger version.) Pyrenees Mountains

We discussed the episode in the book where the young pilot makes his first trip. His day begins with a ride in a bus to the airport. Everyone on the bus is sleepy or asleep, and many of them are on their way to sleepy, bureaucratic jobs.  We talked about what St Exupery might have intended by this episode: does “asleep” have more than one meaning?

The movie I mentioned, starring Keanu Reeves is Point Break (called ハート・ブルー in Japanese). Patrick Swayze plays the charismatic leader of the gang of bank robbers. (See the trailer here).

We discussed the association of light with knowledge.  People who have achieved a profound understanding of human nature and life are said to be “enlightened”. I mentioned Jesus being referred to as the “light of the world”. 

John 1:4 – “In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. ”

John 9:5 – “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

John 12:46 – “I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness”.

Here is a famous painting, which hangs in the college I attended: William Holman Hunt, The Light of the World, 1851-53. Oil on canvas over panel. 49 3/8 x 23 1/2 in. Keble College, Oxford. Notice that Jesus in the picture is knocking on a door, as if to say,”Are you awake in there, or asleep?” Wikipedia tells us,

"Light of the World", by Holman Hunt.

The Light of the World (1853–54) is an allegorical painting by William Holman Hunt representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me”. … The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing “the obstinately shut mind”. Hunt, 50 years after painting it, felt he had to explain the symbolism. The original, painted at night in a makeshift hut at Worcester Park Farm in Surrey, is now in a side room off the large chapel at Keble College, Oxford.  Toward the end of his life, Hunt painted a life-size version, which was hung in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, after a world tour where the picture drew large crowds.This painting inspired much popular devotion in the late Victorian period and inspired several musical works, including Arthur Sullivan’s 1873 oratorio The Light of the World.

We also discussed “satori” and I learned that the Chinese character for this word is made up of two parts: heart and to know. I found that very interesting. Wikipedia tells me,

 Satori is sometimes loosely used interchangeably with kensho, but kensho refers to the first perception of the Buddha-Nature or True-Nature, sometimes referred to as “awakening.” Distinct from kensho, which is not a permanent realization but a clear glimpse of the true nature of existence, satori is used to refer to a “deep” or lasting realization of the nature of existence.
In India, there is the word “guru“, which also has an interesting connection with light and darkness: Wikipedia tells me,
Guru is composed of the syllables gu and ru, the former signifying ‘darkness’, and the latter signifying ‘the destroyer of that [darkness]’, hence a guru is one characterized as someone who dispels spiritual ignorance (darkness), with spiritual illumination (light).
When I was a student, I often listened to the music of a remarkable guitarist called John McLaughlin. McLaughlin became the student of a guru called Sri Chinmoy and his music was influenced by Indian poetry and music. One of McLaughlin’s pieces used the words from some ancient Hindu philosophical texts called the Upanishads. The words are,
“Lead me from the asat to the sat (in the McLaughlin song, the words were “from the unreal to the real”)
Lead me from darkness to light
Lead me from death to immortality
Om Peace Peace Peace.” ( Brhadaranyaka Upanishad — I.iii.28)

I leave you with a video of John McLaughlin and his acoustic band “Shakti” playing “La Danse Du Bonheur”, where he mixes traditional Indian music with modern Jazz. Here (sorry, WordPress won’t let me embed the video for some reason).

14 thoughts on “February session report”

  1. The harder the condition, the more the pilot seems to have presence of mind; for example, when he struggled against a cyclone, he felt that his hands sent him no message(p58), and he thought about it and saw them with more placidity than usual.

    And, many experiences of flight, exciting but difficult tasks, seem to give the author a special perspective.
    “There is something surprising in the tranquillity of this deserted landscape where once a thousand volcanoes boomed to each other in their great subterranean organs and spat forth their fire.”(p65)
    After taking his break in “Oasis”, he pondered about the girls whom he met his oasis in Argentine. “What has become of these two fairy princesses?….Do they feel differently now about the jungle growth and the snakes? They had been fused with something universal….”(p82)

  2. Yes, it is, thank you. I forgot to link to.

    By the way, I’ve heard of that scientific name of firefly family(蛍科)is called lucidina.

  3. The light is a power, energy, hope and joy of living. Someone told me that a message or “wake up call” from a great existence, Christ or Buddha or whoever they may be, is in the words of your close people like friends or something you happen to see, hear or read. I came to believe in this idea. If only I am conscious, not asleep anytime, I could hear the knock on the door and let the light in from every opportunity given to me. Thank you for introducing this great painting.

    1. When asked by Marc, “Who will wake you up?”, I answered “It’s me who wakes me up.” It was not correct expression-wise. Someone or some invisible power would awake me, but if my mind is not open to them, I would miss the “wake up call”, so it’s all up to me: that’s what I wanted to say.

      By being conscious, I will catch the “wake up call”, but are there no time when we are suddenly awakened, even when we are not conscious? Maybe it would be a rude awakening.

  4. Someone mentioned parents and children. Do you know “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran? Here is the chapter on children (perhaps someone can find an online Japanese translation):

    And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”
    And he said:
    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

      1. “Someone” is me. I wrote….

        In the episode of the death of an old peasant wife, Saint-Exupery wrote about what makes man civilized: “This peasant mother had done more than transmit life, she had taught her sons a language, had handed on to them the lot so slowly garnered through the centuries, the spiritual patrimony of traditions, concepts, and and myths that make up the whole of the difference between Newton or Shakespeare and the caveman.” (p.223, episode pp.222-224)

        According to Marc, C.S.Lewis thought that modern man lost touch of that tradition, transmission of the value of society from generation to generation. Perhaps I’ve come to understand better C.S.Lewis thoughts in “Perelandra” by reading “Wind, Sand, and Stars.” We often say something”’s lost but something’s gained, but there’s something completely lost and sorely missed.

        “It is only when we become conscious of our part in life, however modest, that we shall be happy. Only when will we be able to live in peace and die in peace, for only this lends meaning to life and to death.” (p.222) As a parent, when we raise our children as if we are bringing up children of the world handing down spiritual back-bone, will we live and die in peace? I think so.

        1. Here are some quotes from C.S. Lewis himself about the gap between modern man and man of antiquity (the past). The first 5 are from “De Descriptione Temporum”, Lewis’ first lecture at Cambridge University, 1954.
          1. Christians and Pagans had much more in common with each other than either has with a post-Christian. The gap between those who worship different gods is not so wide as that between those who worship and those who do not…
          2. I have come to regard as the greatest of all divisions in the history of the West that which divides the present from, say, the age of Jane Austen and Scott…
          3. somewhere between us and the Waverley Novels, somewhere between us and “Persuasion”, the chasm runs.
          4. I do not think that any previous age produced work which was, in its own time, as shatteringly and bewilderingly new as that of the Cubists, the Dadaists, the Surrealists, and Picasso has been in ours.
          5. In [Jane Austen’s] days some kind and degree of religious belief and practice were the norm: now… they are the exception.
          5. Between Jane Austen and us, but not between her and Shakespeare, Chaucer, Alfred, Virgil, Homer, or the Pharaohs, comes the birth of the machines… It alters Man’s place in nature.

          The second set of quotes comes from Book 1 of “Mere Christianity”.
          1. Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature. Nowadays, when we talk of the “laws of nature” we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry. But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong “the Law of Nature,” they really meant the Law of Human Nature. The idea was that, just as all bodies are
          governed by the law of gravitation and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law
          2. This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it…taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behaviour was obvious to every one.
          3. some people say …different civilisations and different ages have had quite different moralities.
          But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans,
          what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own.
          4. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to – whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.
          5. the idea of a sort of behaviour [human beings] ought to
          practise, what you might call fair play, or decency, or morality, or the Law of Nature.
          6. a Something which is directing the universe, and which
          appears in me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong.

      2. Thank you for the introduction of “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran. I understand why he is so well read by reading some of the chapters.

        When I read “The Great Divorce” by C.S.Lewis, I wrote about two women’s possessive love in the latter half of my blog post, here. I think that is related.

  5. The photo, the snow covered moutain ranges and the fluid mountains and plains with shadows made by clouds are beautiful. The Pyrenees are beautiful only to see. but it could be dangerous due to nature’s mechanism. Recently I’ve learned about “CAT”. CAT stands for “clear air turbulence (晴天乱気流).” Saint-Exupery wrote that “the purity of the sky upset me.” (p.50)

  6. Regarding “association of light with knowledge”, I’ve remembered the following:

    Buddha statues always sit on a lotus flower. The lotus is rooted in the mud under the water, spends much of its life in the muddy water, and then blossoms in the light of the sun. “From the muddy darkness to the light of the sun” symbolizes “from ignorance to wisdom or enlightenment.”

    Like candlelight service in Christian church, candle lights are offered to Buddha. Light removes darkness and our eyes become clear so that we can see clearly.

    1. Your comment reminds me of a name of the youngest brilliant girl, in “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”, Lucy.

      According to Wikipedia, “Lucy is an English and French feminine given name derived from Latin masculine given name Lucius with the meaning of Light”.
      And Lucius means lotus flower. As is shown in an older entry on this blog.

      1. Well spotted. Yes. Can you find the link to the “older entry on this blog” and post it (write it) in a comment? Thanks.
        And I just read this in Dan Browne’s thriller “Angels and Demons”: The Illuminati [plural of Latin illuminatus, “enlightened”, from Latin lumus, light] were satanic but not in the modern sense…Satanists historically were educated men who stood as adversaries to the Church… their ultimate quest, the creation of a single unified world state – a kind of secular New World Order… based on scientific enlightenment. They called it their Luciferian Doctrine. The church claimed Lucifer was a reference to the devil, but the brotherhood [Illuminati] insisted Lucifer was intended in its literal Latin meaning – bringer of light. Or Illuminator.

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