more than this

img_1104This morning, as I found myself wishing for an ordinary day without any of the extra tasks brought on by the holidays, I came across this passage from D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love:

“Ursula often wondered what else she waited for, besides the beginning and end of the school-week, and the beginning and end of the holidays.  This was a whole life!  Sometimes she had periods of tight horror, when it seemed to her that her life would pass away, and be gone, without having been more than this.”

What makes a life more than this?

There’s a Zen saying, “Magical power, marvelous action!  Chopping wood, carrying water.”  Is it the state of mind we bring to clearing away the furniture, putting the tree in the stand, wrapping the lights around the branches, retrieving the boxes of ornaments, hanging the sparkly ones, remembering Christmases past?  Is it being in the moment, whatever moment you’re in, rather than wishing it away? 

Despite appreciating how the sun falls across a vacant lot, how the wind floats a branch high above my car, how fresh it feels to be outside, at the end of a day spent moving from gas station to bank to grocery store to gym without any time to wrestle the inside out, to put words on the page, or to connect to someone else’s words, I feel unsatisfied.  As if I have “done nothing.” 

I want something more–echos from Virginia Woolf’s Clarissa and Dani Shapiro‘s Clara.  What is it we want? 

We want our lives to catch on something…

David Herbert Richards Lawrence died in France in 1930 at the age of forty-four.  He wrote Women in Love in 1916, at the age of thirty-one.  It was rejected by publishers.  He revised it, and it was published four years later, in 1920.

5 thoughts on “more than this

  1. I’m totally intrigued by the Zen “wood/water” quote.

    I Googled it, trying to track down the the original context to get a better idea of what the author meant. Result: Many people quote it, hardly anybody agrees about what it means, and nowhere did I find the context.

    (By the way, congrats: You come up third in a Google search for the quote. A New York Times blog was #4.)

    The search continues…


  2. Thanks for your comment, Chuck. When I was writing the post, I was trying to remember the quote from a book I had read years ago about finding the spiritual in everyday actions. So I googled it. Because you commented on it, I did a little more research. I actually had the wrong “wood/water” quote. I have now updated the post and added a new link. Many thanks!


  3. Well, I’m glad you found the Zen quote you really wanted, but sorry, I was more intrigued by the first one. HOWEVER: I’m not much of a Zen guy, so that opinion ain’t really worth much.

    The more I thought about it, the stranger I thought the first quote was. What if you swapped in some different terms, like “Before Harvard MBA, wait tables, clean toilets; after Harvard MBA, wait tables, clean toilets?” That would seem to cast some doubt on the value of your graduate degree. My take was the same for enlightenment/wood/water. But I’m not an MBA, or enlightened, and I do chop wood and carry water. And I got a Zen book from the library, so we’ll see where that goes…


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