June 4, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Excerpts from Singular Acts of Endearment: A novel by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

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[Photo by Zafar Anjum]

Carly’s Song by Enigma

Ah Gong talked about this amazing dry garden he visited once. He called it “the place where all of the beauties of Buddhist precepts come together and concentrate”. Some Zen priests in the fourteenth century designed the first temple gardens. The dry rocks were sometimes stand-alone features or grouped together, alluding to some Buddhist imagery. Something remote about how the world was but illusory, and everything could be distilled into a single breath or a child pointing at the moon.

Ah Gong didn’t think of himself as a Buddhist. He said this once and quite poignantly – that one could appreciate religious imagery and iconography from a purely aesthetic point of view, devoid of its religious symbolism and underpinnings. Even when those very underpinnings were there from the onset, part and parcel of the works’ construction. Ah Gong has studied a bit of Judaism, Islam, Taoism, and explored the plethora of Christian denominations. At this old age, he says he’s simply more at peace having explored all of them, sat with their distinct tenets, and journeyed with them throughout his life. Ah Gong expressed such humility when he said that – more as a confession than declaration – as if all his reading hadn’t made him none the wiser about the largeness of life.

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