(I saw in the mist a little village of a few tiled roofs and joyfully admired it.)
There's a stream, and there's bamboo,
there's mulberry and hemp.
Mist-hid, clouded hamlet,
a mild, tranquil place.
Just a few tilled acres.
Just a few tiled roofs.
How many lives would I
have to live, to get
Yuan Mei, 1716-1798
I think it's easy to get attached to desired external conditions. I love this poem, but the longing is palpable.
Yuan Mei was, it seems, a fairly busy guy.
Like many of the great Chinese poets, Yuan Mei exhibited many talents, working as a government official, teacher, writer, and painter.
He eventually left public office and retired with his family to a private estate named "The Garden of Contentment." In addition to teaching, he made a generous living writing funerary inscriptions. Among other things, he also collected local ghost stories and published them. And he was an advocate of women's education.
Who is the one that isn't busy? Maybe you've heard that question before.
Conventional busy is the new normal these days. Even those of us who don't have a lot of required stuff on our plates often run the busy default, filling every moment with some activity or another.
But when you consider Yuan Mei's poem, longing for simplicity, while living busy, isn't anything new.
Regardless of external conditions,there are always going to be things ready to fill your days, distract you from your life's true calling.
What is it that you were called here to do in this life? Return there, again and again. The true "place" Yuan Mei - and you and I - long for.