from The Art of Writing by Lu Ji
A sentence may contradict what comes before
or trespass on what follows.
Sometimes the idea is good but words fail,
and fine words may make no sense.
In such cases it is wise to set the two apart
since they harm each other when put together.
It is delicate to judge which idea or word works better—
a difference finer than a wheat ear’s hairs.
Weigh each word on a scale;
use a measuring cord to make your cuts.
Yesterday Zach and I worked on his bike. We took the chain off, examined the gears and derailleur—integral components of the mechanics. We spent an hour learning what not to do, what to do, what will and won’t work. Learning by doing, by putting together and setting apart.
Revision and hands-on education aren’t just for words or bikes. We spend our lives disassembling and examining, repackaging, relearning. Living is an effort of revision.
I am revising the way I spend my days, learning to understand myself within the context of Madison, of anonymity’s loneliness, of a job at a hospital (something not really corporate, not really academic—something a bit jumbled and frenzied that doesn’t fit categories very well). Everything is new. Some of it is sad and some of it is beautiful.
How do I balance new context—it is difficult to judge—and familiar self—a difference finer than a wheat ear’s hairs—to create truth and peace? Sometime the weight is intuitive, and the revision is a matter of the heart understanding the body.