j’en peux plus

Words have been hard for me lately. There’s so much going on, and so little that seems worth saying about it all. And yet, silence also feels … not quite right.

I’ve been reading Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn. The introduction says:

Original nature has no opposites. Speech and words are not necessary. Without thinking, all things are exactly as they are. The truth is just like this.

Then why do we use words? Why have we made this book?

According to Oriental medicine, when you have a hot sickness you should take hot medicine. Most people are very attached to words and speech. So we cure this sickness with word-and-speech medicine.

So here is an attempt at medicine for whatever sickness I’ve got. I imagine I am not the only one. May we all be cured.

Some words that I keep hearing my head, an echo from 30 years ago: j’en peux plus. Translated from the French, they mean roughly “I can’t take it anymore.”

It’s not just words that have been hard. I have come to a couple of places recently where (oh, mercy) I just can’t take it anymore. For the good of all beings everywhere – for you, for me, for my poor therapist, for that confused bastard from out of town who is stuck in traffic in front of me – it has to stop. I cannot keep doing this dance. One of those places is in the studio, with the moths.

But how? A carefully worded letter to the moths will do no good. The moths are just exactly as they are, beyond words.

And then, a miracle: it occurred to me that I could take the guts out of “i know what i know.” I could cut the guts open, remove the felted wool balls, replace them with something less delicious. I could coat the wool in “bad signal” and “butterfly soup” with something both less toxic and more permanent than insecticide.

As I got used to the idea, I grew to love the process and the added layers of meaning. I am not afraid of work. These changes are a language that the moths will understand.

It turns out that the guts have a surprising amount of structural integrity, even without their wool stuffing. Maybe they will go back into the sculpture just as they are, light and empty. Maybe I will have to give the sculpture a new title. Maybe “i know nothing”?

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After experimenting with some smaller felted sculptures, I settled on an acrylic-based fabric stiffener to coat the pieces that can’t have their wool removed. Will all that liquid make the wire rust? Oh yes:

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Rust is rust. Change is change. Let them be exactly as they are.

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