I do some of my best reading (and thinking) when at the gym. In the spirit of adventure, I rely on the recycled magazine table for my reading matter. Since my exercise venue is a university gym, the material is weighted toward academic specialty journals (in pristine condition) and guilty pleasures — tattered copies of People, US, and O. But if I am really lucky, I will score a Smithsonian.
Recently I had the good fortune to peruse a June 2011 copy which contained an article by Lance Morrow on the topic of the writings of the Buddhist monk and poet Kenko. Kenko's Essays in Idleness is a compendium of seemingly random thoughts assembled around 1330.
I confess I have only read Morrow’s article, not Kenko’s volume. According to legend, Kenko wrote the 243 essays a cottage, brushing his thoughts onto scraps of paper and pasting them onto the cottage walls. The essays were only arranged in order and assembled into a volume by a poet friend after Kenko’s death.
Morrow highlighted several essays. One bemoaned the fact that no one remembered the correct shape of a torture rack or the correct manner in which to affix a victim. Others dealt with the subject of uncertainty; Kenko wrote, “Leaving something incomplete makes it interesting and gives one the feeling that there is room for growth.”
Bizarre is the best word to describe the succinct Essay 49, one which Morrow declared to be among his favorites: “You should never put the new antlers of a deer to your nose and smell them. They have little insects that crawl into the nose and devour the brain.” If you ever find yourself with this opportunity, you will know what NOT to do.
Craving more Kenko? You can read Morrow’s article here.
The complete volume, Essays in Idleness is also available for sale in paperback online.
My point? Be adventurous. Check out that pile of recycled reading matter. Treasures await. Don’t forget to add your own contributions when you get around to doing your spring cleaning…