Sunday, July 1, 2007

Spring Street, June 2007

Yesterday’s entry got me thinking about the human need to classify the world around us. After all, I don’t just classify and categorize street art. I classify everything, in one form or another, as do most of us.

I think I picked this up as a kid, when I collected rocks and shells and leaves and stamps, and learned how to sort and determine which items belonged to which larger group. Was the rock igneous or sedimentary? Was the stamp from France or a French colony?

Yet classifying is fraught with problems, particularly in the natural world, where nature doesn’t always conform to our neat specifications. It’s one thing to classify a stamp, but something else to classify a snail. Particularly when it looks a lot like a neighboring snail that we determine, for some reason, to be a slightly different species.

Perhaps this is why Zen frowns on dividing things up artificially. Because the lines don’t really hold and the barriers aren’t real. Establishing barriers is the first step toward determining what we like and what we don't, and what's good and what's bad, and in extreme cases, what we allow to live and what we kill.

The snails are themselves and each other, and even more so, they are us and we are them.


  1. Steve this is so weird. In our own very different ways, we have written the same post this morning. Oh, I love the way our minds - such different minds - follow the same wavelengths so much of the time.

    As for categorizing, that's just us trying to understand the world. The problem is when we get attached to our own categories. It's a big problem.

    It's gorgeous here today. Hope you're sharing the cool, clear air. Happy Sunday!

  2. I think it is in our nature to classify things.

    Humans seem driven to try and make sense of the universe by forcing order upon it. The snail doesn't know he is a snail because he is only a snail to us.

    I think classification is also a survival technique. That mushroom will kill you, that one is delicious. Those people are the enemy, those are our friends, etc.

    Anyway, have a great day. Hopefully some of Reya's weather made it your way. It is going to be 110 here today.

  3. i was an avid rock collector as a kid. my dad tried to get me into stamps, but I only liked weird ones and wanted to make collages with them so he gave up and gave me more rocks. I used to collect beach glass too. But I never could remember much about the classification of things--scatterbrained.

  4. oh yes - love beach glass!

    (and this pic, as you know)

  5. i always thought there was a hint of snail about you ste

  6. This photo is spectacular! May I please use it an upcoming post? As usual, your photos and writing often remind me of pleasant memories!

  7. Junryu, I'm just catching up with my blogreading. This is a beautiful, beautiful photo. I'd put this on my wall, if I had any wall to spare.

    As for the relative & the absolute, well:-- the relative is the relative, & the absolute is the absolute. Just chill out, chop wood carry water, & all that good Zen shit, blah blah blah....