Monday, January 26, 2015

parts of a tune


One old man keeps humming the same few notes
of some song he thought he had forgotten
back in the days when as he knows there was
no word for life in the language 
and if they wanted to say eyes or heart
they would hold up a leaf and he remembers
the big tree where it rose from the dry ground
and the way the birds carried water in their voice

they were all the color of their fear of the dark

and as he sits there humming he remembers
some of the words they come back to him now

he smiles hearing them come and go

–W. S. Merwin
The Shadow of Sirius


the physics of beauty


The physics of beauty requires math. The sunflower has spirals of 21, 34, 55, 89, and - in very large sunflowers - 144 seeds. Each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. This pattern seems to be everywhere: in pine needles and mollusk shells, in parrot beaks and spiral galaxies. After the fourteenth number, every number divided by the next highest number results in a sum that is the length-to-width ratio of what we call the golden mean, the basis for the Egyptian pyramids and the Greek Parthenon, for much of our art and even our music. In our own spiral-shaped inner ear’s cochlea, musical notes vibrate at a similar ratio.

The patterns of beauty repeat themselves, over and over. Yet the physics of beauty is enhanced by a self, a unique, self-organizing system. Scientists now know that a single flower is more responsive, more individual, than they had ever dreamed. Plants react to the world. Plants have ways of seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, and hearing.

Rooted in soil, a flower is always on the move. Sunflowers are famous for turning toward the sun, east in the morning, west in the afternoon. Light-sensitive cells in the stem “see” sunlight, and the stem’s growth orients the flower. Certain cells in a plant see the red end of the spectrum. Other cells see blue and green. Plants even see wavelengths we cannot see, such as ultraviolet.
Most plants respond to touch. The Venus’s-flytrap snaps shut. Stroking the tendril of a climbing pea will cause it to coil. Brushed by the wind, a seedling will thicken and shorten its growth. Touching a plant in various ways, at various times, can cause it to close its leaf pores, delay flower reproduction, increase metabolism, or produce more chlorophyll.

Plants are touchy-feely. They taste the world around them. Sunflowers use their roots to “taste” the surrounding soil as they search for nutrients. The roots of a sunflower can reach down eight feet, nibbling, evaluating, growing toward the best sources of food. The leaves of some plants can taste a caterpillar’s saliva. They “sniff” the compounds sent out by nearby damaged plants. Research suggests that some seeds taste or smell smoke, which triggers germination.
The right sound wave may also trigger germination. Sunflowers, like pea plants, seem to increase their growth when they hear sounds similar to but louder than the human speaking voice.

In other ways, flowers and pollinators find each other through sound.
A tropical vine, pollinated by bats, uses a concave petal to reflect the bat’s sonar signal. 
The bat calls to the flower. The flower responds.

–Sharman Apt Russell
Anatomy of A Rose: Exploring the Secret Life of Flowers

Dr. Bohumil Kröhn photo, 1937/38

5 percent


... We perceive only a negligible portion of the vibrating ocean in which we are immersed.

We fail to detect the infrared and the ultraviolet, infrasound and ultrasound, and in general the very high and very low frequencies; we can’t even detect the X rays, gamma rays, radioactivity, and cosmic rays, which all still affect our bodies. And so many frequencies are still unknown.

The senses are therefore incomplete; our neural circuits can’t process the majority of inputs in order to translate them into images. According to some, our senses comprehend only 5 percent of the signals from the world, which means that we miss 95 percent of our environment.

–Citro Massimo, M.D.
The Basic Code of the Universe:
The Science of the Invisible in Physics, Medicine, and Spirituality


the key


What is the key
To untie the knot of your mind’s suffering?
Is the esoteric secret
To slay the crazed one whom each of us
Did wed

And who can ruin
Our heart’s and eye’s exquisite tender

Hafiz has found
Two emerald words that

That I now cling to as I would sacred
Tresses of my Beloved’s 

Act great.
My dear, always act great.

What is the key
To untie the knot of the mind’s suffering?

Benevolent thought, sound
And movement.



Ubuntu (oo-boon-too, n.) means, “I am because we are."


 Ubuntu is a Zulu or Xhosa word, and a traditional African concept.
It’s a term for humaneness, for caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Of the Surface of Things, excerpt


In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;

But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four
hills and a cloud.

—Wallace Stevens


like this


As stars, a lamp, a fault of vision,
As dewdrops or a bubble,
A dream, a lightning flash, a cloud,
So one should see conditioned things.

–Diamond Sutra



Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
to reconfirm
that witnessing presence.

–Denise Levertov


that Unchanging thing


The things that change are not our real life.
Within us there is another body, another beauty.
It belongs to that ray of Light which never changes.

We must discover how to mingle with It and become one
with that Unchanging thing.

We must realize and understand this treasure of Truth.
That is why we have come to the world.

Within your heart, in a space no bigger than an atom,
God has placed the 18,000 universes.

–M. R. Muhaiyaddeen


A so-called Brocken Spectre as seen in the Tatra mountains in Zakopane, Poland. A Brocken Spectre is a rare optic phenomenon that can be observed in mountains when an observer standing on higher altitude can see his own shadow cast onto a cloud at a lower altitude below him. The head of the figure is often surrounded by rings of coloured light.

–Gregorz Momot


First Light Edging Cirrus


1025 molecules
are enough
to call woodthrush or apple.
A hummingbird, fewer.
A wristwatch: 1024.
An alphabet's molecules,
tasting of honey, iron and salt,
cannot be counted–
as some strings, untouched,
sound when a near one is speaking.
As it was when love slipped inside us.
It looked out to face in every direction.
Then it was inside the tree, the rock, the cloud.

–Jane Hirshfield


from A Cloud in My Hand

سَبْعُ سنابِلَ تكفي لمائدةِ الصَيْفِ…”
سَبْعُ سَنَابِلَ بين يديَّ. وفي كل سُنْبُلَةٍ
يُنْبِتُ الحقلُ حقلاً من القمح. كانَ
أَبي يَسْحَبُ الماءَ من بئرِهِ ويقولُ
لَهُ: لا تجفَّ. ويأخذني من يَدِيْ
…لأَرى كيف أكبُرُ كالفَرْفَحِينَةِ
أَمشي على حافَّة البئر: لِيْ قَمَرانْ
واحدٌ في الأعالي
آخرُ في الماء يسبَحُ … لِيْ قمرانْ


…Seven sheaths of grain are enough for the summer table
Seven sheaths of grain in my hands. And in each grain
a wheat field makes another grow. My father
drew water from his well. Don’t dry up, he
told it. He took me by the hand
to see how I’d grow like rose moss…
I walk at the edge of the well: I have two moons
one above
and another in the water swimming… I have two moons

[…] A cloud in my hand wounds me. I don’t
want from earth more than
this earth : the scent of cardamom and hay
between my father and a horse
In my hand is a cloud that wounded me. But I
don’t want from the sun more
than an orange seed and more than
the gold that flowed from the call to prayer

Mahmoud Darwish
Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone?
Jeffrey Sacks translation 

Saturday, January 24, 2015



Consider that:
  • you can see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum and hear less than 1% of the acoustic spectrum.  
  • As you read this, you are traveling at 220 km/sec across the galaxy.
  • 90% of the cells in your body carry their own microbial DNA and are not “you.”
  • The atoms in your body are 99.9999999999999999% empty space and none of them are the ones you were born with, but they all originated in the belly of a star.
  • Human beings have 46 chromosomes, 2 less than the common potato.
  • The existence of the rainbow depends on the conical photoreceptors in your eyes; to animals without cones, the rainbow does not exist.

So you don’t just look at a rainbow, you create it. 

This is pretty amazing, especially considering that all the beautiful colors you see represent less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum. 

–NASA Lunar Science Institute
image: Earth, Jupiter and Venus, seen from Mars




The pebble
is a perfect creature
equal to itself
mindful of its limits  
filled exactly
with a pebbly meaning
with a scent that does not remind one of anything
does not frighten anything away does not arouse desire
its ardour and coldness
are just and full of dignity
I feel a heavy remorse
when I hold it in my hand
and its noble body
is permeated by false warmth
- Pebbles cannot be tamed -
to the end they will look at us
with a calm and very clear eye

–Zbigniew Herbert
Peter Dale Scott and Czeslaw Milosz translation


we have a beautiful Mother


We have a beautiful
Her hills
Are buffaloes
Her buffaloes
We have a beautiful
Her oceans
Are wombs
Her wombs
We have a beautiful
Her teeth
The white stones
At the edge
Of the water
The summer
Her plentiful
We have a beautiful
Her green lap
Her brown embrace
Her blue body
Everything we know.

–Alice Walker

listen here

your body is a divine stream


Your body is a divine stream,
as is your spirit.
When your two great rivers merge, one voice is found
and the earth applauds
in excitement.

Shrines are erected to those songs
the hand and heart have sung
as they serve
the world

with a love, a love
we cherish.

–St. John of the Cross


love sonnet, XXXIV


You are the daughter of the sea, oregano's first cousin.
Swimmer, your body is pure as the water;
cook, your blood is quick as the soil.
Everything you do is full of flowers, rich with the earth.
Your eyes go out toward the water, and the waves rise;
your hands go out to the earth and the seeds swell;
you know the deep essence of water and the earth,
conjoined in you like a formula for clay.

Naiad: cut your body into turquoise pieces,
they will bloom resurrected in the kitchen.
This is how you become everything that lives.

And so at last, you sleep, in the circle of my arms
that push back the shadows so that you can rest--
vegetables, seaweed, herbs: the foam of your dreams.

–Pablo Neruda


Friday, January 23, 2015

Romanesque Arches



Inside the huge Romanesque church the tourists jostled 
in the half darkness, vault gaped behind vault, no complete view.
A few candle flames flickered.
An angel with no face embraced me
and whispered through my whole body:
"Don't be ashamed of being human, be proud!
Inside you vault opens behind vault endlessly.
You will never be complete, that's how it's meant to be."
Blind with tears
I was pushed out on the sun-seething piazza
together with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Mr. Tanaka, and Signora Sabatini,
and inside each of them vault opened behind vault endlessly.

–Tomas Tranströmer
from The Half Finished Heaven
translated by Robert Bly

Thursday, January 22, 2015

shing like the sun


In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. 
It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness.
This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud.

I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. 
As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. 
And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained.
There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. 
At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. 

This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. 
It is so to speak his name written in us … like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. 
It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely.

I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. 
But the gate of heaven is everywhere.

–Thomas Merton  


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

how it works


You create what you resist.

—Luis Alvarez
Nobel Prize/Physics


not to worry


The likeness of this worldly life is that of a snake: soft to the touch, it will kill you with its poison. So turn away from what impresses you of it, since what stays with you is so little.

And do not be concerned about it, since you are certain about its parting. 

And be most happy in it when you are most heedful of it; for every time its companion takes solace in one of its delights, it gives way to one of its woes.

–Alî b. Abî Tâlib
(radiAllahu anhu)

Ibn Abî Al-Dunyâ,
Kitâb Al-Zuhd article 164.


you are that


This is a subtle truth: Whatever you love, you are.



Open Secret


Think of the phoenix coming up out of ashes,
but not flying off.
For a moment we have form.
We can't see.

How can we be conscious and you be conscious
at the same time and separate?

Copper when an alchemist works on it loses its copper qualities.
Seeds in Spring
begin to be trees, no longer seed. Brushwood
put in the fire changes.

The snow-world melts.
You step in my footprint and it's gone.

It's not that I've done anything to deserve
this attention from you.

Predestination and freewill: We can argue them,
but they're only ideas. What's real
is a presence, like Shams.

Coleman Barks version




If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.

—Nikola Tesla


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

cup and ocean


These forms we seem to be are cups floating in an ocean
of living consciousness.

They fill and sink without leaving an arc of bubbles or any good-bye spray. What we are is that ocean, too near to see, though we swim in it and drink it in.
Don't be a cup with a dry rim, or someone who rides all night and never knows the horse beneath his thighs, the surging that carries him along.

Mathnawi 1, 1109-16
Coleman Barks version


so radical, so difficult


Consciousness is the ground of all being.

We all have the habit of thinking that everything around us is already a thing existing without my input, without my choice. You have to banish that kind of thinking.

Instead, you really have to recognize that even the material world around us, the chairs, the tables, the rooms, the carpet, time included, all of these are nothing but possible movements of Consciousness. And I’m choosing, moment to moment, out of those movements, to bring my actual experience into manifestation.

This is the only radical thinking that you need to do. But it is so radical, it is so difficult, because our tendency is that the world is already out there, independent of my experience.
It is not.
Quantum physics has been so clear about it. Heisenberg himself, co-discoverer of quantum physics said, “Atoms are not things, they’re only tendencies.”

So instead of thinking of things, you have to think of possibilities.
They’re all possibilities of Consciousness.

–Dr. Amit Goswami Ph.D.
Theoretical Quantum Physicist


song of Kabîr


Between the poles of the conscious and the unconscious, there has the mind made a swing:

Thereon hang all beings and all worlds, and that swing never ceases its sway.

Millions of beings are there: the sun and the moon in their courses are there:

Millions of ages pass, and the swing goes on.

All swing! the sky and the earth and the air and the water; and the Lord Himself taking form:

And the sight of this has made Kabîr a servant.

Rabindranath Tagore translation


Monday, January 19, 2015

things will happen


When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego, and when we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality and get into the forests again, we shall shiver with cold and fright but things will happen to us so that we don't know ourselves.
Cool, unlying life will rush in, and passion will make our bodies taut with power, we shall stamp our feet with new power and old things will fall down, we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.

–D. H. Lawrence


i worried


I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers 
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn 
as it was taught, and if not how shall 
I correct it? 

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven, 
can I do better? 

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows 
can do it and I am, well, 

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it, 
am I going to get rheumatism, 
lockjaw, dementia? 

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. 
And gave it up. And took my old body 
and went out into the morning, 
and sang.

–Mary Oliver
Swan: Poems and Prose Poems


I go among trees and sit still


I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last, and I sing it.
As we sing, the day turns,
the trees move.

–Wendell Berry


come into animal presence


No man is so guileless as
the serpent. The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star
twitching its ears at the rain.
The llama intricately
folding its hind legs to be seated
not disdains but mildly
disregards human approval.

What joy when the insouciant
armadillo glances at us and doesn't
quicken his trotting
across the track and into the palm brush.
What is this joy? That no animal
falters, but knows what it must do?
That the snake has no blemish,
that the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings
in white star-silence? The llama
rests in dignity, the armadillo
has some intention to pursue in the palm-forest.

Those who were sacred have remained so,
holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence
of bronze, only the sight that saw it
faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.

–Denise Levertov
Poems: 1960-1967