Amongst White Clouds

Imagine that hermits’ life, in a cave high up in the holy mountains amongst white clouds, silently meditating the days away. Nope. There is a nice documentary about hermits living in the Zhongnan Mountains of China called “Amongst White Clouds“. You can see them struggling with every day life, hard working most of the time.

Sandbags at our Dojo door.

It is possibly sobering to keep in mind there is no emergency exit from daily struggles and chores towards the clouds. Between Christmas and New Year our Dojo was in the danger of being flooded, once more. I had to quickly prepare sand-bags and learn how to access and interpret upstream and downstream gauge heights published by the authorities online to predict how close the danger really is. Not to talk about carrying everything of value up to the first floor. And back down before our first Zazen in the new year.

Water levels rising towards flood.

After this was over and I wanted to write a little bit about my experience, also in the face of a much more severe disaster which struck Japan just a few days ago, I found this blog was down. Once more. After setting up the technology behind it more than ten years ago, I had to (re-)learn what it means to have an (meanwhile outdated) “Theme” operating the page, why PHP 7.4 works with it (but costs lots of extra money for “extended support”, which I was not aware of) while PHP 8.0 did not work with the old “Theme”. Updating to a “Theme” which goes well with PHP 8.0 smashed the layout of my 100+ posts. In the process of fixing it, the whole blog seemed gone … with the backup software neither working with PHP 7.4 or 8.0 .

Just little things. I imagine, in the hermitage amongst white clouds the shovel or pick-axe breaks apart. And while trying to repair the tool, some cloths rupture, while the last needle is gone. I imagine the fire gone out during a cold and windy evening, and the last box of matches got wet. There is no escape.

Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux

Albert Camus

The other day we watched a movie where the main character earns his living as a toilet cleaner in Tokyo. I guess you have seen it. He seemed to have found his hermitage, a way of living, day after day, with a dirt job in the middle of a busy mega-city. The director Wim Wenders said in an interview, as blueprint for this character he had the late Leonard Cohen on his mind, cleaning the monastery toilets while living as a novice Zen monk at Mount Baldly.

From my own experience, I can confirm there is no need to travel to the other side of the world just to clean some exotic toilet. Yet, it is slightly more pleasant, and an aesthetically more satisfying experience to clean a Japanese toilet.

Do the hermits have toilets, high up amongst white clouds?