The residency continues to be intense. Reading 1, ‘The Bridge Builder’ by Will Allen Dromgoole is about paying it forward, and leaving things better than we find them. The bridges are, of course, literal and figurative, about today and tomorrow, past and present. We don’t often remember or care who may have built the bridges we cross. Equally, while some of us may be better at building bridges, others may excel at helping people cross them. In other words, bridges are about institutions and individuals. And sometimes, bridge builders may build or help only because they may have to retrace their paths or need help re-crossing them later themselves. Does that affect the value of building and/or helping to cross? In this regard, Ahmad asked what we were doing in our lives and spheres of influence for future generations. How did we get people on board? And what strategies do we employ when personal stories, normally effective, don’t work?
Of the second reading, a selection of six poems from Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, Ahmad asked us to pick which one resonated the most. Two each chose #12 and #29, one chose #43, and I chose #9:
‘Fill your bowl to the brim
And it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
And it will blunt….
Care about people’s approval
And you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
The third reading, ‘On Trees’ from Wandering: Notes and Sketches, by Herman Hesse was impossible for me to read without feeling the presence of Abbas Kiarostami writ large over it. A deeply moving and beautiful piece, it needs no further gloss:
‘So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.’
There is a lot to take in, much to mull over personally and professionally. I am surrounded by hardworking, incredibly talented individuals who bring all of themselves to the work they do, the passions they follow, and the lives they lead. It’s a real privilege to spend time with my fellow residents. The afternoon trip to the Chateau de Chenonceau, 40min away by car, is a welcome break from routine. A generous, not to mention languorous, lunch hosted by Ahmad and Taha, followed by a tour of the castle and its grounds, including a suddenly inclement walk through its maze, does wonders to lift our spirits.