“He who knows contentment is rich” Lao Tzu
Gems everywhere you see
Only the blinds of envy, fear
hide the nameless diamonds
Iron the illiberal creases in force and discontent
to see free
The sage knew;
A true value of anything dwells in discernment,
in living one’s days with purpose and joy.
My gem’s icing polished by million ages in the sea
its cracks of wisdom
adventures in the memory of its healing wounds
imperfections acquired over time
Scratching its surface – your face
I feel years, decades, centuries of resistance,
and a sudden beauty emerging from my heart.
Caressing the pebble in my palms
chosen from the myriad of others
– the diamond I treasure as a reminder of this precious moment
for as long as the stone lasts.
Even if it were all I have,
the connection with nature
She is rich, we poor
Robbing her off her treasures,
the wealth that endures
storms – quakes – floods
hundreds of lifespans.
Mighty, she outlives our ordeal
I keep the pebbles.
COLLECTOR OF PEBBLES was inspired by:
Lao Tzu’s wisdom is timeless. The transforming ancient Chinese philosopher and poet revealed so many universal truths about humanity, nature, good governance and the ethics that can benefit us all. I keep returning to his tiny book – one of the greatest writings on virtue ever produced. In the West, Cicero et al. did virtue justice too. Tao Te Ching contains everyday guidance and inspiration in such density that any practical mind must appreciate even more in today’s rushed world. This poem was inspired by random readings in Book One: “He who knows contentment is rich”,  …, and in Book Two the poems XLIV, XLV, XLVI (in the Penguin edition) stirred my creative heart.
Ever since I entered, free, the realm of nature as a child, I was attracted to and collected stones. My parents balcony was towered with my precious, weighty gems, so at some point I had to throw most of them out. Sad, yet I felt that I did not lose much. Once, we will rejoice, I thought. For I knew even then that these everywhere stones will not be probably picked up by someone else. Hoarding this literally priceless objects was my personal quirk. Unlike a stolen diamond, or disappeared earrings though (oh, Sicily!), I could find easily another pebble to please my eye and soften my naturist heart. I kept bringing stones from my faraway travels to more than sixty countries, and counting. Now, in my own home, I have a piece of Tasmania, New Zealand, Uruguay, Colombia, Nepal and almost any country that has stones freely available on its land. A souvenir.
This morning on the beach, just before the vile summer storm heiled ping pong balls on my bare head, I strolled in the clear waters of the Mediterranean. Freshening up my legs after an hour’s hike on the rocky French coast, I gazed through the salted glass of the sea, when a bright, clean pebble with cakes-like icing hues captivated me, so I picked it up. I loved the stone from the moment my fingers touched its smooth surface. Aware of its charm, once back on my beach blanket and a book, a whole new, fascinating world opened itself for my curious eyes. I started to see dozens of pebbles, tiny like a baby’s nail, some shaped like those face massage stones sold at beauty shops for more than $20, others weirdly irregular yet with that wabi beauty. Their potential as jewellery worn by anyone sold on their beauty stroke me as an analogy of value. As the economists say – everything has the value (as with wine) that the customers are willing to spend for it. I am glad that some stones are still available for free!