Archives for category: Dustless

‘There are some expressions which, when heard, convince you instantly that their author is a man or woman of great subtlety, that their illumination is intense and pure. This expression of Rygansogun’s is one such: Only a man of flames can live in a house of fire. Of course, knowing Master Rygansogun was a RoMayZine philosopher, one can see that this epigram may be applied to war – that, surely, is one sense of the “house of fire”. Anyone who has fought with the Forbidden Army would feel this: unless a man becomes a thing of flame himself, he cannot live in the house of fire, he must burn, and perish. I have walked there, in the house of fire, and I know something of burning. And yet’ the young Lord went on, lifting his pale blue eyes to look at Zysoshin, and apparently blithely unconcerned that he was addressing his thoughts on complex philosophy to an eight-year-old boy, ‘perhaps the house of fire is not just the house of war, but the house of life itself. Certainly, this is the inflection placed upon the epigram by a much later philosopher, the genial and gracious Serensobel et:denu, a man of Fine Rank, of the Bullrush Mark and the dominant figure of the Ploughing Oxen Era, a master of synthesis, who did so much to try and draw the main traditions of pure philosophy together. Serensobel wrote: Only a man of flames can live in a house of fire. Only a child can live in the house of children.

Excerpt from Fire House, Volume 6 of Dustless



It was a book called The Three Attitudes. In it, the woman, an educated traveller, fascinated by the differences among the three main divisions of ShiO — ZirCong, RoMayZine and SurGaKu – organised her observations of the people of the ShiO clans who, within fifty years, had started the war that would unify the whole world of O.


ZirCong | A pure person feels no pain. What is called “pain” among the common people, and people of flawed purity, is a sign of immaturity and a clinging to the body, which is to cling to dust and to sensations of dust. Although TanZo (“the Way”) is in all things, not all things are in TanZo. To feel pain is selfish, and to be selfish means you have not achieved true illumination. A Dustless person will feel neither the pain belonging to him or to her, nor the pain belonging to others. Pain is useful, as others — the impure — feel pain, and can be reached through pain and through the cessation of pain. All sensation is dust, leading to the void. Pain is dust, leading to the void. Pain is a false understanding of the world. Those who feel pain go towards the void. Achieve purity, true illumination, and there will be no pain. A Dustless person can walk among the sufferings of the damned in barbarian hells, and be unmoved; similarly, a Dustless person can walk among the blisses of the blessed in barbarian heavens, and be unmoved. Hells and heavens belong to the dust: to be truly ZirCong, one must be Dustless.

RoMayZine | Pain is real, a sign of life and of TanZo. Life is battle, and incurs pain. A woman gives birth through pain, and overcomes hardships in order to bring a child into the world. There is thus pain at the very gates of life. It cannot be avoided. But the RoMayZine spirit is never to retreat: where pain is inevitable, it is to be welcomed, as a means to prove one’s purity. The purity of the RoMayZine, the RoMayZine TanZo, is in a great, a warlike spirit. To be alive, one must fight a spiritual battle: nothing else matters. Pain is not to be inflicted needlessly, or received needlessly, but a RoMayZine will never run from pain. To fight through pain, and to win, or to lose, without wavering in one’s spirit: that is RoMayZine.

SurGaKu | Life is one event. The SurGaKu TanZo is through beauty, through appreciation of the world of natural things and through the world of things made by men and by women. Pain is an inevitable part of life, unless one is Dustless. If one is in pain, make it beautiful, do not bow before it and turn ugly, grow weak, become full of dirt and dust. Remain pure. The giving and taking of pain is to be avoided: it is not TanZo, the desire for power of one over another is a sign of weakness, a sign of impurity. Bullying, use of force, malice, the desire for triumph over others, this is not TanZo, and is a disgrace to the Way. At the pure core of all things, there is emptiness, the Dustless state: at the pure core of all life, there is nothing, there is no dust, it is a state beyond peace or war, beyond pleasure or pain, for there is no one to commit acts, no one to receive acts. Few, though, become Dustless: a handful, among billions. For the rest, there is striving through TanZo. It is idle to consider pain an easy or a pleasant thing: but to confront and survive pain, the best course of action is to become TanZo, to show courage and not to dwell too much in the illusion of the present, where painful things must befall all of us. Life is one event: that event is not here, or there, not now, or then. The Way is beauty: make your Way beautiful.


We walked by the SilOso
on the fire side of the city
among the market crowds
near the Bridge of Dreams.

It was cold, and the first snow fell
among our footsteps.
Winter snow falling, and footsteps falling
slowly, by the Bridge of Dreams.

Thoughts, and the memories of thoughts.
Boats, and the reflections of boats –
the empty boats, tied up beside
the SilOso, rocking in a gentle breeze.

What is the fall of snowflakes?
We parted, as winter came.
You went to your home
across the Bridge of Dreams.

Your home, on the side of ice.
My home, on the side of fire.
And the snowflakes of winter falling,
and footsteps, in between.

Excerpt from Dustless | Volume 26 Master Darkness [vi]

Be Dustless | Master darkness…

Dustless | Volume 9

I have no home and no need of one
(and the breeze blows softly).
I have a lover, yet I am alone,
here in this room overlooking the water
in a town without a name.

It’s hot now, and the summer’s been long,
but you can feel the autumn coming.
The summer dies upon the stem
like flowers, and the dragonflies with them.

The light has been a great light,
and the sun has burned my arms.
I know little, and want to know no more,
but am content to write my words
rough and useless though they are.
I know little, but must know some more,
though I have already learned all there is to know.
Love? – well, it’s just like money and time:
there’s never quite enough.

Enough –
there’s never quite enough.

The wind blows softly, what else can it do?
There were bees among the wisteria
and the blossoms hung like empty grapes.
I am a lover, yet I am alone,
here in this room overlooking the river
in a town without a name.

She lies naked and her back is so beautiful,
strong, but who can carry time?
It’s hot now, these are summer’s last days,
drought has left the fields all dust,
and burned the flowers on their stems
and my words with the flowers,
and dragonflies…

A white butterfly dead beside
the statue of a saint
gold, and peaceful in meditation:
a white butterfly, with grey-spotted wings
on a wooden floor, beside a man
made of wood, sitting in zamen:
the insect and the saint
rest in the empty morning light,
made of the same stuff…

But Love? – well, it’s just like money and time:
there’s never quite enough.

Enough –
there’s never quite enough…

Excerpt from Mask [ii], Volume 10 of Dustless

Please lose yourself in…

Dustless | Volume 9

Men and women
take pride in their beauty,
look long in the light,
and their years are like mirrors
under permanent skies:

but boys chasing dragonflies
are lost in a moment
and their lives are too short
for pride in their flight.

Excerpt from For Pride in their Flight, Volume 15 of Dustless

Be Dustless…

Dustless | Volume 9

The first thing he remembered was the clouds. The clouds, and Zysashin’s voice. His sister, Zysashin, laughing.

Did the clouds come out of Zysashin’s voice?

That was strange…

The first thing he remembered was the two of them, together on the moor, running under the brief summer sky, racing clouds across the heather.

How did they run?

They hurdled, or scrambled over, the low, soft, round grey boulders that studded the hillside. Zysoshin, Zysashin: twins. They ran hard, lifting each other up if one stumbled, trying to reach the thorn tree near the edge of the track before the cloud’s shadow fell over their heads, ending the game. The wizened black thorn was the winning post…



Sai, SolMin

And how did the game begin? In those short summers, when the days were long?

Well, they would wait by the stream until a cloud appeared over the brow of the hill, and then, trying not to giggle, sprint towards the thorn.

They raced together – only then was the race real. Sometimes Zysoshin would race alone, without Zysa, and sometimes even beat the cloud to the thorn – but it didn’t matter. He knew it didn’t count without Zysa. Even if she watched him race the cloud, Zysa sitting on the Bug Stone in the sunlight, and he said: ‘“Watch me, Zysa – Zysa: watch”, and they both laughed and yelped when the tip of the great white cloud first appeared over the top of the hill, like the tentacle of some fairytale sea creature, and Zyso set off, splashing through the wet grass and over the peaty, black earth, in a kind of ecstasy – even then, if he managed to reach out and touch the trunk of the thorn before the shadow fell upon him, he knew he had not won very much really, it was only him alone, it didn’t mean anything.

No, only when they raced hand in hand was the race true. And though they were both slender, of similar build, long-limbed and agile, and though Zysa was hardly slower than Zyso, when they ran together, they always lost the race against the cloud – unless it was a very fat, old summer cloud, lazy and ambling, which didn’t count anyway: but at least when they lost together, the losing was real. To run alone (and Sasa could beat the cloud on her own, too) was not really to run at all.

Their home and their world was a high place of clouds and of winds. It belonged to them…

Excerpt from The Sentinels, Volume 1 of Dustless

Please embark…

Dustless | Volume 1

Amazon Kindle Store:
UK | Dustless | Volume 1
US | Dustless | Volume 1
India | Dustless | Volume 1

ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) | B00BEZL4ZU

So the boy slept. He woke again, and I will tell you of that in a moment. But let him sleep for a while now. He deserves a little peace, doesn’t he?

It will be obvious to you, I imagine, that I have some affection for the boy. I have followed him closely through this story, never letting him out of my sight for very long.

It will not always be like this. There are too many voices, and too many stories.

We are not set up to listen to one story alone, however much we may want to. But equally, we are not set up to hear every story.

We must choose, for the most part, which stories we attend to, and which stories we tell.

Only the damned, perhaps, have no choice in this matter.

And yet, as we turn away from this story, and listen to that – as we grow deaf to this story, and attentive to that – isn’t there a kind of betrayal going on?

I think so.

Only, even now, I am not sure who is betrayed.

Well, well – never mind. We are not set up for too many stories. Let us concentrate on the one in hand.

For after all, only a man of flames can live in a house of fire. Only a child can live in the house of children.

Listen, and I’ll tell you about it.

Excerpt from Fire House, Volume 6 of Dustless

And the Way was hard to come by, and precious to find…

Volume 1 | The Sentinels


Dustless | Volume 1 is approximately 20 pp./a5

status | published 11 02 2013

Amazon Kindle Store:
UK | Dustless | Volume 1  |||–––––|||  US | Dustless | Volume 1

ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) | B00BEZL4ZU

I’d like to discuss my experience in creating a fantasy world in the novel, Dustless.

I think there are different degrees of fantasy. Perhaps there should be a measure, like proof for alcohol, or Celsius for temperature, for the ‘fantastic’?

How fantastic is Dustless? Is it mildly fantastic? Does it possess medium fantasy? Is it soft or hard?

Fantasy writers often inscribe strongly realist constraints into their work. By this, I simply mean that in order for the imagined world to be internally consistent and convincing, it needs to be governed by rules, which involve a kind of realism, even though the world itself may be organised by conventions that diverge strongly from those organising our own world.

In the case of Dustless, although philosophically it is a strongly fantastic work, I was very keen to embed my characters in a credible environment. I mentioned in another post, on ambient literature, my desire to

slow the narrative tempo down, to pay attention to details, to honour the materiality of ordinary life.

This aspect of Dustless, strongly related to the philosophy of TanZo (the ‘simple or pure Way’), is very important to me. I tried to imagine a world in which the beauty of the mundane, the rhythms of routine, the imposing existence of the ‘humdrum’, the recalcitrance and resistance of the natural terrain, are borne in on the reader. I wanted to give the main characters’ journey across the Land of O an existential weight and conviction. In slowing the narrative down, in paying attention to the passing of hours, moments, instants, I wished to give the reader a sense of struggle and of duration – so that, hopefully, at moments of release or climax in the story, the reader would feel, along with the characters, a genuine sense of achievement, and feel a real shift in their spirits.

In many ways, for large parts of the novel, I only wanted to ‘tweak’ reality. My characters are, in the main, flesh and blood human beings – they are drawn along the lines of what I consider to be psychologically realist patterns. They’re flawed, they are battered and eroded, and heightened, by the circumstances in which they find themselves. They aren’t endowed with ‘super-powers’, they can’t make magical escapes from the dilemmas they face, but must compromise and bodge, as we all do.

Dustless exhibits what I hope is an interesting inter-weaving of fantastic and realist narrative threads. The world of the novel grew, slowly, from certain intense imaginary nodes or cores. A lighter and more fantastic novel would have perhaps passed over much of the material and cultural complexity of Dustless, and concentrated less on the natural than the supernatural elements. As I wrote, however – and in this, I’m not going to pretend there wasn’t an element of ‘mission creep’ – and the world came more and more into view, became more immersive and extensive, I found that I wanted convincing reasons for the state of the landscape, the organisation of the communities, the evolution of the various interest groups, and a credible historical narrative behind the profoundly hierarchical and formalised society we find unfolded throughout the novel.1

Perhaps there is a curious jeopardy in the act of creating fantasy worlds? Even as one has the pleasure of bringing into being a world that has never existed before, one may experience a sense of melancholy at the futility of ever providing a proper account of this new domain. Detail begets detail: one character implies others. The constraints of time and mortality ensure that we can never fully investigate any phenomenon. Different forms permit different creations: with poetry, one can construct a convincing literary entity in a matter of seconds, but for the fantasy writer, it is quite possible to imagine years and years being absorbed in the creation of the literary world. Is there a danger – both technical (a matter of style, perhaps?) and psychological (in the urge to linger too long in a world of one’s own devising) – in building imaginative kingdoms in this way?

And if this is true for an imagined world – that we can never exhaustively account for any phenomenon – is there another world for which it is also true?

1It strikes me now that the creation of the novel became in a way a kind of hermeneutical progress. In trying to create a credible world in which the notion of TanZo is strongly rooted, it was necessary to try and pay attention to the different parts of the society – both ‘horizontally’, across the present, and ‘vertically’, through time. For the writer, certainly, there is a danger that a form of hermeneutic circle can develop, in which, as the world is created, and more elements of it come to be revealed, so more elements are required in order to complete the world satisfactorily – a process to which, in one way, there is no logical end. It’s possible to imagine, for example, a writer for whom it becomes necessary to account for every cell and molecule and atom in their world. “God is in the details”. And who’s to say that such a writer is wrong, or crazy? Perhaps, when they turn over an obscure atom in an indifferent part of spacetime, they might uncover the greatest secret in the universe of their book?

A man is a subtle engine, a wonder of nerves and sinew, a thing of shadows and bone, hard, delicate and bound with vision. He is a mix, with heavy stuff rounding with the light. But no one can look closely at the opening of a human eye without realising that here is a focal point of wild beauty, a moment where the universe bends back upon itself and flowers with exhilaration at its own radiant sensitivity, and may recoil in an instant understanding what a hurt may be, and who may cause that hurting.

Excerpt from Stories in the Falling Snow, Volume 3 of Dustless

Dustless | Volume 3

They will come in ones and twos, drawn to the new phenomenon.

In coffee houses and bars, they will meet and discuss the new phenomenon, attempting to understand.

The new phenomenon subsists, then evolves, and deepens, offering more of itself.

The old phenomenon endures, encamped within its huge mass, secure in its inertia: it can bear the crumbling at its edges, even at its centre, for it is where we all live, and with invisible limitations, limits us.

The new phenomenon persists, revealing itself occasionally, for moments, like the flash of an opening window seen from miles away across the city, or the rippled shadow of a carp on the floor of a cloud-haunted pool, or like a truth slipped down in the lining of one of your longest dreams.

Many who encounter the new phenomenon will not care for it: for them, the old phenomenon is sufficient.

For others, the new phenomenon is too arduous: it is not worth their while pursuing such a meandering course, its laws are too rigorous, they cannot entertain its poverty and its longueurs.

Some, though, remain faithful to the new phenomenon: for these, the new phenomenon spreads and opens further, offering fresh vistas, revealing unseen footage, richer veins.

No one can grasp the new phenomenon, for it is still growing, they only know that it is new, and this excites and troubles them.

The old phenomenon is so old it doesn’t even know it is old, but the new phenomenon arrives to expose the ages of what has passed, and what is passing.

The new phenomenon expands, it hasn’t yet reached its own perimeters: more and more people assemble to watch it mature, alerted by rumours and hearsay, by recommendation or by chance encounters in airports or at parties, at dusty bus-stops among fields of sunflowers, in university canteens, on crowded trains, beside graves.

How can the new phenomenon be denied?

Many cling to the old phenomenon, hoping either that it will somehow outlive the new phenomenon, or that they will die before the old phenomenon crumbles away entirely and vanishes.

The numbers of followers of the old phenomenon begin to diminish, followers of the new phenomenon increase, and the power of the new phenomenon cannot be restrained, for it is in everything new, it is a spring at the heart of us, at the centre of all things.

Groups are formed, where people query and debate the new phenomenon. Cults develop. Advocates struggle over ownership of the new phenomenon, pleading their cases, arguing for their especial interpretation. There are rifts and cliques, clubs, societies: fanatics haunt the early hours, there is no sleep.

The old phenomenon, meanwhile, dwindles. It is still immense, an environment, but is no longer unrivalled: challenged, it has entered the state of contention, and can never be as it was. Heavy and beautiful as ever, worthy of admiration and respect, yet peace has left. Supporters fear for the fate of the old phenomenon, fret over its flaws: some love it even more, but others begin to turn away, doubt rotting their spirits, unsettled by humiliation and envy, considered stale and passé by champions of the new phenomenon.

Battle is sustained.

In family-run cafés, over chessboards, sticks propped against their tables and chairs, nattering, or falling silent, gazing wistfully at April blossoms, the old sense the era of the new phenomenon has arrived.

Complacent at the centre of the old phenomenon, the wealthy and the blinkered everywhere ignore the evidence of the shoots of the new phenomenon, or fail even to be aware of the new presence among them. All their conversation, all their thoughts, all their world is framed and driven by the old phenomenon, hence they are doomed. In the busy markets, the dazzling lounges, in streams of apparently endless gossip, they are oblivious of the end of their world: in truth, they are surrounded by fading.

Once the citadel of the old phenomenon is overthrown, they will talk no more about stocks and shares.

Once the citadel of the old phenomenon is overthrown, their love will no longer be a sinecure, and their words will grow meaningful again.

Once the citadel of the old phenomenon is overthrown, morning will enter each thing, and the heart will be a dawn.

We will work on new flags.

The pride of the old phenomenon will be broken. The future will show disdain for the old temples, the old ideas, the old ways. A great battleship, lying in warm, quiet waters, coral covering the rusting parts. A moving spectacle. Its direction is now the past. Mourning enters the atoms, loss is awe, for the death of the old phenomenon is death for all of its pieces, children and daisies included.

All of this is well documented in the movement of storms.

It is the destiny of the new phenomenon to bring age.

Choose the new phenomenon.

DUSTLESS | Lord of books

Volume 1 | The Sentinels


Dustless | Volume 1 is approximately 20 pp./a5

status | published 11 02 2013

Amazon Kindle Store:
UK | Dustless | Volume 1  |||–––––|||  US | Dustless | Volume 1

ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) | B00BEZL4ZU