Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Everything is connected and the web is holy. — Marcus Aurelius


The kind of hope I often think about I understand above all as a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us or we don't; it is a dimension of the soul; it's not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. 
Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but, rather, an ability to work for something that is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. 
The more unpropitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. 
In short, I think that the deepest and most important form of hope, the only one that can keep us above water and urge us to good works, and the only true source of the breathtaking dimension of the human spirit and its efforts, is something we get, as it were, from "elsewhere". It is also this hope, above all, which gives us the strength to live and continually to try new things, even in conditions that seem hopeless as ours do, here and now. 

—Vaclev Havel
Disturbing the Peace: A conversation with Karel Hvizdala


you know


We are not stuff that abides,
but patterns that perpetuate themselves. 

—Norbert Weiner

. . .

You are like a dewdrop, on a multidimensional spider's web in the morning. And if you look at that thing carefully, you will see that in every dewdrop the reflections of all the other dewdrops. So the way that dewdrop looks goes with the way all the other ones look, you see.

—Alan Watts


i am


I am the bird that knocks at your window in the morning
and your companion, whom you cannot know,
the blossoms that light up for the blind.
I am the glacier’s crest above the forests, the dazzling one
and the brass voices from cathedral towers.
The thought that suddenly comes over you at midday
and fills you with a singular happiness.

I am one you have loved long ago.
I walk alongside you by day and look intently at you
and put my mouth on your heart
but you don’t know it.

I am your third arm and your second
shadow, the white one,
whom you don’t have the heart for
and who cannot ever forget you.

—Rolf Jacobse 
translated from the Norwegian
by Roger Greenwald


Monday, September 21, 2020



Why should you bear your load on your head when you are traveling on a train? 

It carries you and your load whether the load is on your head or on the floor of the train. You are not lessening the burden of the train by keeping it on your head but only straining yourself unnecessarily. 

Similar is the sense of doership in the world by individuals.

—Ramana Maharshi


portions and percipients


In Tibetan, the word for body is lu, which means ‘something you leave behind’, like baggage. We are only travellers, taking temporary refuge in this life and this body.
—Sogyal Rinpoche

. . .

All things exist as they are perceived: at least in relation to the percipient. “The mind is its own place, and in it self / Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.” But poetry defeats the curse which binds us to be subjected to the accident of surrounding impressions. And whether it spreads its own figured curtain, or withdraws life’s dark veil from before the scene of things, it equally creates for us a being within our being. It makes us the inhabitants of a world to which the familiar world is a chaos. It reproduces the common universe of which we are portions and percipients, and it purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being. It compels us to feel that which we perceive, and to imagine that which we know. It creates anew the universe, after it has been annihilated in our minds by the recurrence of impressions blunted by reiteration.

—Percy Bysshe Shelley
A Defence of Poetry
Paradise Lost

nothing's a gift


Nothing's a gift, it's all on loan.
I'm drowning in debts up to my ears.
I'll have to pay for myself
with my self,
give up my life for my life.

Here's how it's arranged:
The heart can be repossessed,
the liver, too,
and each single finger and toe.

Too late to tear up the terms,
my debts will be repaid,
and I'll be fleeced,
or, more precisely, flayed.

I move about the planet
in a crush of other debtors.
some are saddled with the burden
of paying off their wings.
Others must, willy-nilly,
account for every leaf.

Every tissue in us lies
on the debit side.
Not a tentacle or tendril
is for keeps.

The inventory, infinitely detailed,
implies we'll be left
not just empty-handed
but handless too.

I can't remember
where, when, and why
I let someone open
this account in my name.

We call the protest against this
the soul.
And it's the only item
not included on the list.

—Wislawa Szymborska


Sunday, September 20, 2020

To love is to undress our names. —Octavio Paz


look at love...
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love 

look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life 

why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend

why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how unknown merges into the known 

why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last 

look at your heart and tongue
one feels but deaf and dumb
the other speaks in words and signs 

look at water and fire
earth and wind
enemies and friends all at once 

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together 

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox 

you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me 

be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don't get mixed up with bitter words 

my beloved grows
right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be?

Nader Khalili translation




By itself nothing has existence. 
Everything needs its own absence. 

To be is to be distinguishable, to be here and not there,
to be now and not then, to be thus and not otherwise. 

Like water is shaped by the container, so is everything 
determined by conditions (gunas).

—Nisargadatta Maharaj




Love with no object. 
There is a way of loving not attached to what is loved.
Observe how water is with the ground, always moving toward the ocean, though the ground tries to hold water’s foot and not let it go.
This is how we are with wine and beautiful food, wealth and power, or just a dry piece of bread: we want and we get drunk with wanting, then the headache and bitterness afterward.
Those prove that the attachment took hold and held you back. Now you proudly refuse help. “My love is pure. I have an intuitive union with God. I don’t need anyone to show me how to be free!”
This is not the case. A love with no object is a true love.
All else, shadow without substance.
Have you seen someone fall in love with his own shadow? That’s what we’ve done. Leave partial loves and find one that’s whole.
Where is someone who can do that? They’re so rare, those hearts that carry the blessing and lavish it over everything.
Hold out your beggar’s robe and accept their generosity. Anything not coming from that will damage the cloth, like a sharp stone tearing your sincerity.
Keep that intact, and use clarity; call it reason or discernment, you have within you a deciding force that knows what to receive, what to turn from.

Mathnawi III: 2248-80
Coleman Barks version

. . .

Out of a great need
we are all holding hands
and climbing.

Not loving is a letting go.

the terrain around here
far too



Saturday, September 19, 2020



American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses, took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen.

The bombers opened their bomb-bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. 

The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes.

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals.

Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.

—Kurt Vonnegut
from Slaughterhouse Five

. . .

… hurl the book and reduce it to photons, undulatory vibrations, polarized spectra; through the wall, let the book crumble into molecules and atoms passing between atom and atom of the re-inforced concrete, breaking up into electrons, neutrons, neutrinos, elementary particles more and more minute; through the telephone wires, let it be reduced to electronic impulses, into flow of information, shaken by redundancies and noises, and let it be degraded into a swirling entropy. 

You would like to throw it out of the house, out of the block, beyond the neighborhood, beyond the city limits, beyond the state confines, beyond the regional administration, beyond the national community, beyond the Common Market, beyond Western culture, beyond the continental shelf, beyond the atmosphere, the biosphere, the stratosphere, the field of gravity, the solar system, the galaxy, the cumulus of galaxies, to succeed in hurling it beyond the point the galaxies have reached in their expansion, where space-time has not yet arrived, where it would be received by non-being, or, rather, the not-being which has never been and will never be.

—Italo Calvino
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

Twelve Theses on the Economy of the Dead


1. The dead surround the living. The living are the core of the dead. In that core are the dimensions of time and space. What surrounds the core is timelessness.

2. Between the core and its surroundings there are exchanges, which are not usually clear. All religions have been concerned with making them clearer. The credibility of religion depends on the clarity of certain unusual exchanges. The mystifications of religion are the result of trying to systematically produce such exchanges.

3. The rarity of clear exchange is due to the rarity of what can cross intact the frontier between timelessness and time.

4. To see the dead as the individuals they once were tends to obscure their nature. Try to consider the living as we might assume the dead to do collectively. The collective would accrue not only across space but also throughout time. It would include all those who have ever lived; yet the dead already include the living in their own great collective.

5.The dead inhabited a timeless moment of construction continuously rebegun. The construction is the state of the universe at any instant.

6. According to their memory of life, the dead know the moment of construction as, also, a moment of collapse. Having lived, the dead can never be inert.

7. If the dead live in a timeless moment, how can they have a memory? They remember no more than being thrown into time, as does everything which existed or exists.

8. The difference between the dead and the unborn is that the dead have this memory. As the number of dead increases, the memory enlarges.

9. The memory of the dead existing in timelessness may be thought of as a form of imagination concerning the possible. This imagination is close to (resides in) God; but I do not know how.

10. In the world of the living there is an equivalent but contrary phenomenon. The living sometimes experience timelessness, as revealed in sleep, ecstasy, instants of extreme danger, orgasm, and perhaps in the experience of dying itself. During these instants the living imagination covers the entire field of experience and overruns the contours of the individual life or death. It touches the waiting imagination of the dead.

11. What is the relation of the dead to what has not yet happened, to the future? All the future is the construction in which their "imagination" is engaged.

12. How do the living live with the dead? Until the dehumanization of society by capitalism, all the living awaited the experience of the dead. It was their ultimate future. By themselves the living were incomplete. Thus, living and dead were interdependent. Always. Only a uniquely modern form of egoism has broken this interdependence. With disastrous results for the living, who now think of the dead as the eliminated.

— John Berger
Hold Everything Dear


a half-open door


Cowardice breaks off on its path.
Anguish breaks off on its path.
The vulture breaks off in its flight.

The eager light runs into the open,
even the ghosts take a drink.

And our paintings see the air,
red beasts of the ice-age studios.

Everything starts to look around.
We go out in the sun by hundreds.

Every person is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless field under us.

Water glitters between the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

—Tomas Transtromer
from Half-Finished Heaven
robert bly version


Friday, September 18, 2020

matter in movement, in flux, in variation


When Tilley writes of ‘brute materiality’, or archaeologist Bjørnar Olsen (2003: 88) of ‘the hard physicality of the world’, it is as if the world had ceased its worlding, and had crystallised out as a solid and homogeneous precipitate, awaiting its differentiation through the superimposition of cultural form. In such a stable and stabilised world, nothing flows. There can be no wind or weather, no rain to moisten the land or rivers running through it, no ‘rising up’ of the earth into plant or animal, indeed no life at all. There could be no things, only objects. 

In their attempts to rebalance the hylomorphic model, theorists have insisted that the material world is not passively subservient to human designs. Yet having arrested the flow of materials they can only comprehend activity, on the side of the material world, by attributing agency to objects. Pollard, however, sounds a note of dissent. Concluding an important article on ‘the art of decay and the transformation of substance’, he points out that material things, like people, are processes, and that their real agency lies precisely in the fact that ‘they cannot always be captured and contained’ (Pollard 2004: 60). As we have found, it is in the opposite of capture and containment, namely discharge and leakage, that we discover the life of things. 

Bearing this in mind, we can return to Deleuze and Guattari, who insist that whenever we encounter matter, ‘it is matter in movement, in flux, in variation’. And the consequence, they go on to assert, is that ‘this matter-flow can only be followed’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 451). What Deleuze and Guattari here call a ‘matter-flow’, I would call a material. Accordingly, I recast the assertion as a simple rule of thumb: to follow the materials. 

The EWO (environment without objects), I contend, is not a material world but a world of materials, of matter in flux. To follow these materials is to enter into a world that is, so to speak, continually on the boil. Indeed, rather than comparing it to a giant museum or department store, in which objects are arrayed according to their attributes or provenance, it might be more helpful to imagine the world as a huge kitchen, well stocked with ingredients of all sorts. In the kitchen, stuff is mixed together in various combinations, generating new materials in the process which will in turn become mixed with other ingredients in an endless process of transformation. To cook, containers have to be opened, and their contents poured out. We have to take the lids off things. Faced with the anarchic proclivities of his or her materials, the cook has indeed to struggle to retain some semblance of control over what is going on.


—Tim Ingold
Bringing Things to Life: Creative Entanglements
in a World of Materials



desire itself is movement


Each tree grows in two directions at once, into the darkness and out to the light with as many branches and roots as it needs to embody its wild desires.

—John O’Donohue
Anam Cara

. . .

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.

Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.

And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

The detail of the pattern is movement,
As in the figure of the ten stairs.
Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable;
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.

Sudden in a shaft of sunlight
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always—
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.

—T. S. Eliot





Instantaneous architectures
hanging over a pause,
apparitions neither named
nor thought, wind-forms,
insubstantial as time
and, like time, dissolved.

Made of time, they are not time;
they are the cleft, the interstice,
the brief vertigo of between
where the diaphanous flower opens:
high on its stalk of a reflection
it vanishes as it turns.

Never touched, the clarities
seen with the eyes closed:
transparent birth
and the crystalline fall
in the instant of this instant
that forever is still here.

Outside the window, the desolate
rooftops and the hurrying clouds.
The day goes out, the city
lights up, remote and near.
Weightless hour. I breathe
the moment, empty and eternal.

—Octavio Paz
Eliot Weinberger


Thursday, September 17, 2020



If I am not conjoined through the uniting of the Below and the Above,
I break down into three parts:

the serpent, and in that or some other animal form I roam, living nature daimonically, arousing fear and longing.

the human soul, living forever within you.

the celestial soul, as such dwelling with the Gods, far from you and unknown to you, appearing in the form of a bird.

—Carl Jung
liber novus/ the red book
(black book 6- 1916)

. . .

Subhuti was Buddha’s disciple.

He was able to understand the potency of emptiness,
the viewpoint that nothing exists except in its relationship of
subjectivity and objectivity.

One day Subhuti, in a mood of sublime emptiness,
was sitting under a tree. Flowers began to fall about him.

“We are praising you for your discourse on emptiness,”
the gods whispered to him.

“But I have not spoken of emptiness,” said Subhuti.

“You have not spoken of emptiness, we have not heard emptiness,”
responded the gods.

“This is true emptiness.”

And blossoms showered upon Subhuto as rain.

—Zen Flesh, Zen Bones:
Zen and Pre-Zen Writings
collected by Paul Reps, Nyogen Senzaki

. . .

For days the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree without moving, without any urge to teach. The gods came and encouraged him but he replied, “What I have discovered will not be wanted by almost anyone. Those who are not ready can not be swayed with words and those who are ready can discover it for themselves.”

One of the gods pondered this for days and then returned and said “Great Buddha, what of those with only a little dust covering their eyes? What of those who are almost ready but only held back by a small hindrance? If you teach then these ones will enter the stream of wisdom.”

After a moment the Buddha rose from his seat and went to give his first teaching.

—Traktung Rinpoche