Li and Be!

On my reading table this morning: two slight books with big visions: Li: Dynamic Form in Nature by David Wade, and Be! by Paul Reps. I just picked up Be! at Pulp Fiction, a great used bookstore here in Vancouver. I’ve always been a fan of Reps, even before I found out that he was once a pupil of Inayat Khan before he ripened to become the zen/hindu/hepcat wise man – a kind of Alan Watts with practices and ink-brush in-the-moment water paintings. I think of him as a beatnik jazz sufi. Good to read this stuff, and good to recall that the info he was sharing in those days was still very new: reflexology, body awareness of stress and ways to release it, focus and meditation, freedom through the inner breath. Printed in 1971, it’s 62 condensed poetic pages, oddly bound in a shiny bright red hardcover, like a children’s book.

I’d just finished Li: Dynamic Form in Nature, which is one of the little Wooden Books series. At a bargain table at the Book Warehouse (which has tons of remaindered books at incredibly low prices) I was intrigued by a shrink-wrapped group of three little books – Essential Elements: Atoms, Quarks and the Periodic Table, The Harmonograph, a 19th century instrument that creates images of sound through weighted pendulums, and then Li, beautifully simple. The opening quote from Science and Civilization in China states: “Li reflect the order and pattern in Nature … but it is not pattern thought of as something dead, like a mosaic: it is dynamic pattern as embodied in all things living, and in human relationships, and in the highest human values.” This small square paperback holds an overview of Li in only 58 illustrated pages.


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