Saturday, September 30, 2017

futurity - questions

 



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A memory may feel abstract or immaterial, but it is actually a biochemical process taking place in the brain. It involves neurons communicating with each other via the “wires” or synapses connecting them.

The pathway an electrochemical signal follows as it continually travels from neuron to synapse to neuron constitutes a memory. Whenever you have that memory, the same pathway gets activated. And the more it’s activated, the more it becomes hardwired into the brain’s circuitry. Eventually, it becomes a long-term memory.

Activation also requires enzymes, molecules that set off chemical reactions. The problem is that these enzymes don’t exist for longer than a week. If a memory is to endure, it would seem that the enzymes would have to remain functioning for years or even decades.

Once the enzymes turn off, one would expect the memories to go with them. “This became a holy grail in neuroscience,” Lisman says. “How can a molecule in your brain serve as a memory? How does nature accomplish this?”


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look

 



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If you can see it, it can see you. That’s true of just about anything.

–Margaret Atwood










on dragons and princesses






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We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any way can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible in it. That is at bottom the only courage which is demanded of us: to have courage for the most extraordinary, the most singular, and the most inexplicable that we may encounter.
Only he or she who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation to another as something alive and will wholly expand his or her being.
For if we think of this existence of the individual as a larger or smaller room, it appears evident that most people learn to know only a corner of their room, a place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and down.
Thus, they have a certain security.
And yet that dangerous insecurity is so much more human than that which drives the prisoners in Poe's stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their abode.
We, however, are not prisoners. We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us.
Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them.
And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful.
How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses;
perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.


–Rainer Maria Rilke

Letters to a Young Poet




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Friday, September 29, 2017

look





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When past and future dissolve there is only You


–Rumi


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you are that





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One went to the door of the Beloved and knocked.
A voice asked, 'Who is there?'

He answered, 'It is I.'

The voice said, 'There is no room for Me and Thee.'
The door was shut.

After a year of solitude and deprivation he returned and knocked. A voice from within asked, 'Who is there?'
The man said, 'It is Thee.'
The door was opened for him.


–Jelaluddin Rumi



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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

not to worry





💗





not its self





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Consciousness is consciousness of something.
This means that transcendence is the constitutive structure of consciousness; that is, that consciousness emerges supported by a being which is not itself.
 
–Jean-Paul Sartre


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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

the sea wind





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The sea wind sways over the endless oceans -
spreads its wings night and day
rises and sinks again
over the desolate swaying floor of the immortal ocean.

Now it is nearly morning
or it is nearly evening
and the ocean wind feels in its face - the land wind.

Clockbuoy toll morning and evening psalms,
the smoke of a coalboat
or the smoke of a tar-burning phoenician ship faces away at the horizons.

The lonely jellyfish who has no history rocks around with
burning blue feet.
It's nearly evening now or morning.


–Harry Martinson



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conditions of a solitary bird





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The conditions of a solitary bird are five:

The first, that it flies to the highest point;

the second, that it does not suffer for company,
not even of its own kind;

the third, that it aims its beak to the skies;

the fourth, that it does not have a definite color;

the fifth, that it sings very softly.


–St. John of the Cross



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Thursday, September 21, 2017

tell me a story






💗





I don’t know any longer whether I’m living or remembering. –Albert Camus






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In Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective novel A Study in Scarlet (1887) we learn that Sherlock Holmes used the most effective memory system known: a memory palace. Although imagined memory palaces are still used by memory champions and the few who practice the memory arts, they are best known from Greco-Roman times when great orators, including Cicero, used them to ensure their rhetoric was smooth, detailed and flawless. The physical memory palace, usually a streetscape or building interior, would become so familiar to the orator that it was always available to them in their imagination. By ‘placing’ one piece of information in each site, they could mentally stroll through their memory palace, location by location, drawing out each portion of the speech in the required order without missing any element.

Received opinion is that this method of loci, as the technique is also known, dates to before Simonides of Ceos (c556-468 BCE), who is often credited as the inventor. However there is ample circumstantial evidence that indigenous cultures the world over have been using it for far longer than that. There is a continuous record dating back at least 40,000 years for Australian Aboriginal cultures. Their songlines, along with Native American pilgrimage trails, Pacific Islanders’ ceremonial roads and the ceque system of the Inca at Cusco all exhibit exactly the same pattern as the memory palaces described by Cicero. At each sacred location along these paths, elders would sing, dance or tell a story, all making the information associated with the location more memorable.

The memory skills of indigenous elders exceed anything reported for the ancient Greeks. Research with the Native American Navajo people, for example, shows that they memorise a classification of more than 700 insects along with identification, habitats and behaviour. And that’s just insects. A fully initiated indigenous elder would be able to relate stories equivalent to a field guide for all the birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and hundreds of insects within their environment.

Another study shows that the Hanunoo people of the Philippines were able to identify 1,625 plants, many of which were unknown to Western science at the time. Add to that knowledge of astronomy, timekeeping, navigation, legal and ethical guidelines, weather and seasons, complex genealogies and belief systems, and you have a vast encyclopaedia stored in an interwoven memorised web: a web that is tied to a real or imagined memory palace.

Cultures without writing are referred to as ‘non-literate’, but their identity should not be associated with what they don’t do, but rather with what they do from necessity when there is no writing to record their knowledge. Cultures without writing employ the most intriguing range of memory technologies often linked under the academic term ‘primary orality’, including song, dance, rhyme and rhythm, and story and mythology. Physical memory devices, though, are less often included in this list. The most universal of these is the landscape itself.

Australian Aboriginal memory palaces are spread across the land, structured by sung pathways referred to as songlines. The songlines of the Yanyuwa people from Carpentaria in Australia’s far north have been recorded over 800 kilometres. A songline is a sequence of locations, that might, for example, include the rocks that provide the best materials for tools, to a significant tree or a waterhole. They are far more than a navigation aid. At each location, a song or story, dance or ceremony is performed that will always be associated with that particular location, physically and in memory. A songline, then, provides a table of contents to the entire knowledge system, one that can be traversed in memory as well as physically.

Enmeshed with the vitalised landscape, some indigenous cultures also use the skyscape as a memory device; the stories of the characters associated with the stars, planets and dark spaces recall invaluable practical knowledge such as seasonal variations, navigation, timekeeping and much of the ethical framework for their culture. The stories associated with the location in the sky or across the landscape provide a grounded structure to add ever more complexity with levels of initiation. Typically, only a fully initiated elder would know and understand the entire knowledge system of the community. By keeping critical information sacred and restricted, the so-called ‘Chinese whispers effect’ could be avoided, protecting information from corruption.

Rock art and decorated posts are also familiar aids to indigenous memory, but far less known is the range of portable memory devices. Incised stones and boards, collections of objects in bags, bark paintings, birchbark scrolls, decorations on skins and the knotted cords of the Inca khipu have all been used to aid the recall of memorised information. The food-carrying dish used by Australian Aboriginal cultures, the coolamon, can be incised on the back, providing a sophisticated mnemonic device without adding anything more to the load to be carried when moving around their landscape. Similarly, the tjuringa, a stone or wooden object up to a metre long decorated with abstract motifs, is a highly restricted device for Aboriginal men. As the owner of the coolamon or the elder with his tjuringa touched each marking, he or she would recall the appropriate story or sing the related song.

This is very similar to the way the Luba people of West Africa use a well-documented memory board known as a lukasa. Previous researchers have claimed that the ‘men of memory’ of the Mbudye society would spend years learning a vast corpus of stories, dances and songs associated with the bead and shells attached to a piece of carved wood. My initial attitude when I read this was complete skepticism. It was surely claiming far too much for such a simple device. So I made one. I grabbed a piece of wood and glued some beads and shells on it and started encoding the 412 birds of my state: their scientific family names, identification, habitats and behaviour. It worked a treat. I no longer doubt the research. Though simple, this is an incredibly powerful memory tool. Inspired by my success with the lukasa, I have also created songlines for more than a kilometre around my home. I have a location on my walk for each of the 244 countries and dependent territories in the world. I walk through them from the most populous in China to little Pitcairn Island. I also walk through time from 4,500 million years ago until the present, nodding to the dinosaurs, meeting our hominid ancestors and greeting numerous characters from history. My memory has been hugely expanded by using this ancient mnemonic technique.

It is the structure of the human brain that dictates the memory methods that work so effectively right across human societies. It is our dependence on writing that has eroded this skill. We can, if we choose to, implement these techniques alongside our current educational methods. I have taught schoolchildren to sing their science and to create memory trails right around the school grounds, with excellent results. We can and should learn from the intellectual achievements of indigenous cultures by adapting their techniques to contemporary life. But when we do this, we should acknowledge the source. These memory techniques are far older than our Western civilisation, and they are far more effective than the crude rote techniques that replaced them.
–Lynne Kelly












closer than breathing






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You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything:
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! —
powers and people —

and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.


—Rainier Maria Rilke
Robert Bly version



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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

No Title Required






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It has come to this: I'm sitting under a tree
beside a river
on a sunny morning.
It's an insignificant event
and won't go down in history.
It's not battles and pacts,
where motives are scrutinized,
or noteworthy tyrannicides.

And yet I'm sitting by this river, that's a fact.
And since I'm here
I must have come from somewhere,
and before that
I must have turned up in many other places,
exactly like the conquerors of nations
before setting sail.

Even a passing moment has its fertile past,
its Friday before Saturday,
its May before June.
Its horizons are no less real
than those that a marshal's field glasses might scan.

This tree is a poplar that's been rooted here for years.
The river is the Raba; it didn't spring up yesterday.
The path leading through the bushes
wasn't beaten last week.
The wind had to blow the clouds here
before it could blow them away.

And though nothing much is going on nearby,
the world is no poorer in details for that.
It's just as grounded, just as definite
as when migrating races held it captive.

Conspiracies aren't the only things shrouded in silence.
Retinues of reasons don't trail coronations alone.
Anniversaries of revolutions may roll around,
but so do oval pebbles encircling the bay.

The tapestry of circumstance is intricate and dense.
Ants stitching in the grass.
The grass sewn into the ground.
The pattern of a wave being needled by a twig.

So it happens that I am and look.
Above me a white butterfly is fluttering through the air
on wings that are its alone,
and a shadow skims through my hands
that is none other than itself, no one else's but its own.

When I see such things, I'm no longer sure
that what's important
is more important than what's not.

–Wislawa Szymborska
S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh translation




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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Haikudikter, excerpt







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The presence of God.
In a tunnel of birdsong
a locked gate opens.

–Tomas Tranströmer
The Sorrow Gondola

Michael McGriff, Mikaela Grassl translation


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Saturday, September 16, 2017

question







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Are we not at peace in the interval when one thought ceases and another does not yet arise?


–Ramana Maharshi


...


Whenever you entrust your heart to a thought,
something will be taken from you inwardly
Whatever you think and acquire, the thief will
enter from that side where you feel safe
So busy yourself with that which is better, so
that something less may be taken from you.


–Rumi
Mathnawi II:1505-1507
William Chittick translation



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the highest form of thought





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I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

—G. K. Chesterton


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Of Bright & Blue Birds & The Gala Sun






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Some things, niño, some things are like this,
That instantly and in themselves are gay
And you and I are such things, O most miserable...

For a moment they are gay and are a part
Of an element, the exactest element for us,
In which we pronounce joy like a word of our own.

It is there, being imperfect, and with these things
And erudite in happiness, with nothing learned,
That we are joyously ourselves and we think

Without the labor of thought, in that element,
And we feel, in a way apart, for a moment, as if
There was a bright scienza outside of ourselves,

A gaiety that is being, not merely knowing,
The will to be and to be total in belief,
Provoking a laughter, an agreement, by surprise.



Wallace Stevens


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Friday, September 15, 2017

No Man is an Island, excerpt






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When I am not present to myself, then I am only aware of that half of me, that mode of my being which turns outward to created things. 
And then it is possible for me to lose myself among them. Then I no longer feel the deep secret pull of the gravitation of love which draws my inward self toward God. 

My will and my intelligence lose their command of the other faculties. My senses, my imagination, my emotions, scatter to pursue their various quarries all over the face of the earth. 

Recollection brings them home. It brings the outward self into line with the inward spirit, and makes my whole being answer the deep pull of love that reaches down into the mystery of God.


–Thomas Merton



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middle of the way






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1


I wake in the night,
An old ache in the shoulder blades.
I lie amazed under the trees
That creak a little in the dark,
The giant trees of the world.
 

I lie on earth the way
Flames lie in the woodpile,
Or as an imprint, in sperm or egg, of what is to be.
I love the earth, and always
In its darkness I am a stranger.


2


6 A.M. Water frozen again. Melted it and made tea. Ate a raw egg and the last orange. Refreshed by a long sleep. the trail practically indistinguishable under 8" of snow. 9:30 A.M. Snow up to my knees in places. Sweat begins freezing under my shirt when I stop to rest. The woods are filled, anyway, with the windy noise of the first streams. 10:30 A.M. the sun at last. The snow starts to melt off the boughs at once, falling with little ticking sounds. Mist clouds are lying in the valleys. 11:45 A.M. Slow, glittering breakers roll in on the beaches ten miles away, very blue and calm. 12 noon. An inexplicable sense of joy, as if some happy news had been transmitted to me directly, by-passing the brain. 2 P.M. From the top of Gauldy I looked back into Hebo valley. Castle Rock sticks into a cloud. A cool breeze comes up from the valley, it is a fresh, earthly wind and tastes of snow and trees. It is not like those transcendental breezes that make the heart ache. It bring happiness. 2:30 P.M. Lost the trail. A woodpecker watches me wade about through the snow trying to locate it. The sun has gone back of the trees. 3:10 P.M. Still hunting for the trail. Getting cold. From an elevation I have an open view to the SE, a world of timberless, white hills, rolling, weirdly wrinkled. Above them a pale half moon. 3:45 P.M. Going on by map and compass. A minute ago a deer fled touching down every fifteen feet or so. 7:30 P.M. Made camp near the heart of Alder Creek. Trampled a bed into the snow and filled it with boughs. Concocted a little fire in the darkness. Ate pork and beans. A slug or two of whiskey burnt my throat. The night very clear. Very cold. That half moon is up there and a lot of stars have come out among the treetops. The fire has fallen to coals.


3


The coals go out,
The last smoke weaves up
Losing itself in the stars.
This is my first night to lie
In the uncreating dark.
 

In the heart of a man
There sleeps a green worm
That has spun the heart about itself,
And that shall dream itself black wings
One day to break free into the beautiful black sky.

I leave my eyes open,
I lie here and forget our life,
All I see is we float out
Into the emptiness, among the great stars,’
On this little vessel without lights.
 

I know that I love the day,
The sun on the mountain, the Pacific
Shiny and accomplishing itself in breakers,
But I know I live half alive in the world,
Half my life belongs to the wild darkness.


–Galway Kinnell




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blessings be





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Thanks and blessings be
to the Sun and the Earth
for this bread and this wine,
this fruit, this meat, this salt,
this food;
thanks be and blessing to them
who prepare it, and who serve it;
thanks and blessings to them
who share it
(and also the absent and the dead).

Thanks and Blessing to them who bring it
(may they not want),
and to them who plant and tend it,
harvest and gather it
(may they not want);
thanks and blessing to them who work
and blessing to them who cannot;
may they not want - for their hunger
sours the wine and robs
the taste from the salt.

Thanks be for the sustenance and strength
for our dance and work of justice, and of peace.

–Rafael Jesus Gonzalez
In Praise of Fertile Land





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Thursday, September 14, 2017

question





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What is life?

It is the flash of a firefly in the night.

It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.

It is the little shadow which runs across
the grass and loses itself in the sunset.


–Crowfoot
Blackfoot warrior and orator
1830 - 1890

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

dropping keys





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The small person
Builds cages for everyone
She
Sees.

Instead, the sage,
Who needs to duck her head,
When the moon is low,
Can be found dropping keys, all night long
For the beautiful,
Rowdy,
Prisoners.


–Hafiz


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listen


 

  

  



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Listen, my child, to the silence.
An undulating silence,
a silence
that turns valleys and echoes slippery,
that bends foreheads
toward the ground.



–Federico García Lorca




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yearn for more





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Yearn for more.
By God, don't linger
in any spiritual benefit you have gained,
but yearn for more, like one suffering from illness
whose thirst for water is never quenched.

This Divine Court is the Plane of the Infinite.

Leave the seat of honor behind;
let the Way be your seat of honor.



–Rumi

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hey!






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I am yours.

Don’t give myself back to me.

—Rumi

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