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Revision: “Work on What Has Been Spoiled”

It’s raining like a mofo here in California this week. I love the winter rains, I like how every little spot of the landscape gets watered. It reminds me of the hylozoic Zen koan:

Q: “Does a stone have a soul?”
A: “The universal rain moistens all creatures.

It’s absurd how the news-media always try and put a disaster-and-crisis-and-watch-your-television slant on some a healthful and revivifying natural process that is in no sense a harsh surprise. But why even worry about them? The rain is right here, right outside, right now.

I was busy revising Jim and the Flims over the last couple of months, and now I’m ready for the final scramble to the peak.

Revising a book, I’m always anxious that it will be somehow unfixable. But it is always fixable, if I keep an open mind. When revising a book, I often I think of the I Ching hexagram number #18, a figure of six lines, some solid some broken, which looks like this.

This hexagram is Ku / Work on What Has Been Spoiled [Decay] .

It’s composed of two three-line patterns called trigrams . The upper trigram is Kên / Keeping Still, Mountain, and the lower trigram is Sun / The Gentle, Wind.

I like that phrase, “Work on What Has Been Spoiled.” “Spoiled” might suggest the notion of someone interfering with your work, but you don’t have to take it that way. Things can spoil by sitting around and beginning to rot. Or a spontaneous gesture might be spoiled by a slip or a loss of attention during the execution. The point is that you can fix it.

I’ll paste in some of the analysis of this hexagram from an online copy of the classic Richard Wilhelm translation of the I Ching, rendered into English by Cary F. Baynes (Bollingen Series, Princeton University Press, 1950).

The Chinese character ku represents a bowl in whose contents worms are breeding. This means decay. It is come about because the gentle indifference in the lower trigram has come together with the rigid inertia of the upper, and the result is stagnation. Since this implies guilt, the conditions embody a demand for removal of the cause. Hence the meaning of the hexagram is not simply “what has been spoiled” but “work on what has been spoiled”.

Has supreme success.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
Before the starting point, three days.
After the starting point, three days.

What has been spoiled through man’s fault can be made good again through man’s work. … Work toward improving conditions promises well, because it accords the possibilities of the time. … We must not recoil from work and danger—symbolized by crossing of the great water—but must take hold energetically. Success depends, however, on proper deliberation. … Decisiveness and energy must take the place of inertia and indifference that have led to decay, in order that the ending may be followed by a new beginning.

Write on, aided by the secret machineries of the night!

7 Responses to “Revision: “Work on What Has Been Spoiled””

  1. Ellen Thurmond Says:

    I call these days rainbow weather, and this post beautiful. Thank you.

  2. Nathaniel Hellerstein Says:

    The world has always been spoiled, and is always being worked on; for the work is the world.

  3. Michael Says:

    Thank you! Images as beautiful as ever … “Work on what has been spoiled” doesn’t mean ‘the work has been spoiled. I see it as “time to guide your attention to the area (you see as) spoiled.” We create our own reality.

  4. The Necromancer Says:

    This makes me want to edit! Thanks for the surely unintended pep talk. Or perhaps fully intended…

  5. starryeyes Says:

    Q: “Does a stone have a soul?”
    A: “The universal rain moistens all creatures.

    I’ve read this before but today I understand it on a new level.

    Rudy, I appreciate the way you present the world to all of us. It makes everything more meaningful and incredible. I’m digging seeing the relationships and patterns in EVERYTHING. This is very helpful to me because I’m not well and this perspective takes me out of myself and gives me a way of looking at the world that’s comforting and fun.

    I can no longer read books because of my illness but I can read online. There are millions of others in the same situation. It would be great if you could make some of your books available for online reading for a fee or for a Donation. And it would be fantastic if you or someone else could read some of your books online so they’re in Audio form.

    I really enjoy your story, As Above, So Below. I like when you talk about the different plants and explain how everything is created using a computational runtime. I appreciate your blogs because you look at the world in a similar way as I do and your photos bring nature to me now that I can no longer go out into it.

    I was watching some of your YouTube videos last night, I can see them on my tv 🙂 and I really appreciated the ones where you’re in the woods and the ones where you show the eddies in the pools of water by the sea. Your talks are great too.

    I knew exactly what you were doing by posting the pictures as you’re writing your blog and it’s cool to see that I was right. I’m seeing new patterns in more than I ever have before and you’re helping me understand their underlying principles. Thanks so much for enhancing how we all look at the world.

  6. Rudy Says:

    Starryeyes, my online books are as follows below.

    And, by the way, thanks for the kind words, that means a lot to me. I’ll change “cholo” to “chola” if I ever republish the story, “As Above, So Below.”

    You can find a number of my posted documents on this page listing PDF files of mine.

    There exists a Creative Commons version of my novel POSTSINGULAR online

    As for ebook verions of my novels…it’s pretty confusing these days.

    SPACELAND, HYLOZOIC, and MASTER OF SPACE AND TIME are available from the big Diesel ebook distributor.


    THE SEX SPHERE and SPACETIME DONUTS are available as ebooks from E-Reads (scroll down the page that this link goes to). You can also find these two ebooks on the Baen Books Webscriptions site, and on Barnes and Noble as mentioned below.

    HYLOZOIC, THE SEX SPHERE and SPACETIME DONUTS can be found as ebooks on the Barnes and Noble site.

  7. starryeyes Says:

    Thank you very much Rudy. I should have written this on your last blog but I’m glad you saw it here. I look forward to exploring the books you’ve listed and the various ways I can get them. 🙂 starry

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