Thursday, July 10, 2008
So one of the most memorable things Raymond Davidson taught me was "Yield and you need not break," the opening line of poem/prayer/meditation number 22 of "The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu" as translated by Witter Bynner. I still have the paperback copy I bought in the 1980s at the bookstore on 47th Street, in the Diamond District of Manhattan, the store in an area peopled by Hasidic men, a look Raymond loved. Later, years after I last saw him, one can see in the photos and drawings he sent back East, the long flowing beard of one of these Hasidics. What was that bookstore? It had a sign: "Where wise men fish." Is it still there? Help, someone. Raymond inscribed my copy of the book, saying, as if in a Zen koan, "I knew Witter Bynner in 1952, but I don't remember him" and that his brother knew Witter Bynner. Around that time, when Raymond was doing paintings of the Mets, he did one of Lao Tzu Number 22, handwritten, from this translation, illustrated, I recall, with stars and a young Dwight Gooden winding up to pitch. Who ultimately received the original of that painting? Of course, the reason I so loved "Yield and you need not break" was because it was a concept I practiced so poorly in my life. Maybe, just maybe, I'm a little better at it now. Maybe not. Who's keeping score, anyway? No one, I was told, a message rubbing against the grain of guilt so ingrained. "Yield and you need not break."