The line comes before meaning. Each mark is fresh. No life movement is repeated. This is why calligraphy is therapy and calligraphers live long lives in the Orient. The vibration through their writings has been found to be the same before and after they leave this earth, according to Occidental instrumental tests.
Write largely on wall or into air to feel better.
Baby sees tree, points, "Tree!" a language about it follows. "This is a tree." But not in Chinese or Japanese.
Their language made of picture-words shows Tree.
They often draw such pictures, finger on palm, to explain what they mean, a kind of picture thinking. They sentence themselves less.
Almost everyone has seen Chinese calligraphy, characters originally picture-drawings written with a brush dipped in rubbed black ink. In China and in Japan they are considered a primary form of art. Simply by looking into them, one perceives the person of the one who drew them much as a handwriting expert does from ordinary script.
Picture then 25 or 30 boys and girls from 4 to 25 years of age seated on tatami in a small house they and their parents built together, a number of open newspapers before each one, a large ink brush and bowl of water to the right. They are members of a group in rural Japan near Himeji City in Hyogo. Many of the parents are farmers.
After sitting completely still for some time, a youth lifts the brush, dips it carefully in water, and draws a single line on the paper. The brush is then put down and the person rests. Or, an entire calligraphic character may be drawn with sweeping lines.
This is done in silence. Perhaps one of the instructors may show how a letter is made, even taking the brush-hand of a child in his or her own and helping with a first letter. After any assistance, the pupil bows silently in appreciation.
"Draw this line," to be the most worthwhile act of your life."
"Draw it with your breath."
"The line flows from brush with outbreath, although variations of it change as breath changes.'
"Let the line come from and go on to infinity off the tip of the brush."
"It is less drawn than experienced."
"Not only brush, hand, arm, but heart and mind draw it." In Japanese, one word, kokoro, stands for both heart and mind.
"Your line is an everywhere point and curve.
"The line, not aiming at perfection, never ends."
"Let center draw through you."
Do this brush stroke over and over as the youth does, each time newly. After 100 or 1,000 such strokes done with utmost consideration, a great harmony of motion sings through you. You feel more than elated. Your mind has entered the line and universe.
How may this come about simply by writing with water on newspaper by people who are too poor to buy unprinted paper and inks?
When we do something repeatedly, our nerves-muscles-ligaments learn how to do it more easily. This happens in riding a bicycle, in chopping wood, in singing a note, or whatever our tasks. The organism gets the idea and takes over. We may call it the subconscious mind. Until we educate this mind, we have only learned superficially. To live what we know, we must do so with our entire being. This being thrives in harmony of motion, in composure, in intelligent guidance.
Practice is a way. Breath is a way. Poise is a way. After these are gone beyond, we experience our true nature, more than something called this or that mind.
The drawing is not called Shu]i, calligraphy, but 0-Shuji, the drawing of God, if you wish to so translate deepest honor. It is a way of life.
Unruly pupils who come soon become cooperative. A teacher sits beside one in turmoil, simply sits, and then shows how to move brush with breath. Even in a few minutes the pupil composes within. No attention is given to changing an individual, yet immediate changes for the better are observed in students.
If you are inclined to rush or fume 0-Shuji soon relieves unguided impulses. No part of arm is tensed. Should you feel it while it is moving, it would be soft and pliable. The brush is drawn over the paper, never pushed.
The shape of the character drawn does not matter. It is the one drawing who matters. Almost everywhere these days we find the drawing or product valued and the producer neglected. Things have become of more value than their makers.
In writing with water, a child's health often improves. It is said that even if you think of your favorite line while ailing, you feel better. This could be so, as tensions are relieved with visualized movements.
The writing proceeds in silence. After this weekly hour the tools are laid away, the newspapers dried. No laughing or joking occurs at this time, for managing oneself is more than play. With such practice one easily becomes an artist in everyday living.
To avoid any weariness, the character drawn is changed, yet only a single line is needed to discover who is doing what.
Sometimes what you draw surprises you. "Did I do this?" you may ask. "I could not do so. It must be center."
There is a center of you, a center everywhere in and through you. Once touched, life freshens. It may be touched in a brush stroke or in whatever we are doing.
So if we get some newspapers, brush and water, and try this, what happens? We miss the presence of and respect for a teacher and through the teacher for ourself. We give up before 1,000 of 10,000 strokes. We lack the confidence of a group. Our breath habits tighten. We think of instead of surpassing ourself.
And doing so we lose our greatest treasure - the opening of our unwritten everywhere center.