Child of life

Yamamoto Masao - 1175


From Thomas Mann's The Transposed Heads:

'You do say such shrewd things sometimes, if I may use the word 'shrewd' about something which is at once absurd and perfectly correct. I like it very much, sometimes it makes my diaphragm contract suddenly, almost like a sob. Thus we see how close together are laughing and weeping; so that it is an illusion to make any distinction between pleasure and pain, and like one and hate the other, when, after all, both can be called good and both bad. But there is a combination of laughter and tears which one can most readily assent to and call good among all things that move us in life. We have a word for it, we call it touching; it has to do with sympathy on the cheerful side, and is just what makes the contraction of my diaphragm so much like a sob. And it is that that hurts me about your shrewdness.'

'But why does it hurt you?' Nanda asked.

'Because after all you are actually a child of Samsara and thus completely taken up with life,' answered Shridaman; 'you do not belong among the souls who feel the need to emerge above the frightful ocean of laughing and weeping as lotus flowers rise above the surface of the stream and open their cups to the sky. You are perfectly at home in the depths, where such a complex profusion and variety of shapes and forms exist. You are well off, and that is why one feels good at the sight of you.'

-- What a fantastic story -- so clear and simple and yet so rich and surprising. I'm starting, finally, to understand the scene at the end of Hans' dream in the 'Snow' chapter -- and the passage about life pregnant with death. Thank you, Christopher, for the recommendation