Monday, December 31, 2012

108 Bells

I have grown tired of the moon, tired of its look of astonish-
ment, the blue ice of its gaze, its arrivals and departures, of
the way it gathers lovers and loners under its invisible wings,
failing to distinguish between them. I have grown tired of
so much that used to entrance me, tired of watching cloud
shadows pass over sunlit grass, of seeing swans glide back and
forth across the lake, of peering into the dark, hoping to find
an image of a self as yet unborn. Let plainness enter the eye,
plainness like the table on which nothing is set, like a table that
is not yet even a table.

— Mark Strand, “Nocturne of the Poet Who Loved the Moon

At midnight tonight, as they do on December 31st every year, Buddhist temples around Japan will ring out the old year with 108 chimes of the temple bell, in a ceremony called Joya no Kane. Each chime is supposed to symbolize the purification of one of 108 sins, defilements, errors, and worldly desires that stand in the way of a believer’s passage to Nirvana.

I am no Buddhist, but I am a firm believer in the psychological and, dare I say it, spiritual benefit of ritual. No matter what ritual you follow tonight, may you cleanse the errors and confusions from your past life and replace them with the clarity of a clean and hopeful future.

It is time to say goodbye to the last, tired moon of 2012. Say hello to the sunrise of a brand new year.

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