Monday, January 30, 2023

The Silence of the Stars



When Laurens van der Post one night

In the Kalihari Desert told the Bushmen
He couldn't hear the stars
Singing, they didn't believe him. They looked at him,
Half-smiling. They examined his face
To see whether he was joking
Or deceiving them. Then two of those small men
Who plant nothing, who have almost
Nothing to hunt, who live
On almost nothing, and with no one
But themselves, led him away
From the crackling thorn-scrub fire
And stood with him under the night sky
And listened. One of them whispered,
Do you not hear them now?
And van der Post listened, not wanting
To disbelieve, but had to answer,
No. They walked him slowly
Like a sick man to the small dim
Circle of firelight and told him
They were terribly sorry,
And he felt even sorrier
For himself and blamed his ancestors
For their strange loss of hearing,
Which was his loss now.
On some clear nights
When nearby houses have turned off their televisions,
When the traffic dwindles, when through streets
Are between sirens and the jets overhead
Are between crossings, when the wind
Is hanging fire in the fir trees,
And the long-eared owl in the neighboring grove
Between calls is regarding his own darkness,
I look at the stars again as I first did
To school myself in the names of constellations
And remember my first sense of their terrible distance.
I can still hear what I thought
At the edge of silence where the inside jokes
Of my heartbeat, my arterial traffic,
The C above high C of my inner ear, myself
Tunelessly humming, but now I know what they are:
My fair share of the music of the spheres
And clusters of ripening stars,
Of the songs from the throats of the old gods
Still tending even tone-deaf creatures
Through their exiles in the desert.

—David Wagoner

.       .       .

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,

And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

—Sara Teasdale

Flame and Shadow (1920)


the complexity of a sphere



The search for Reality is the most dangerous of all undertakings,
for it destroys the world in which you live.

—Nisargadatta Maharaj

.       .       .

Buckminster Fuller defines a Sphere as “a multiplicity of discrete events, approximately equidistant in all directions from a Nuclear Center.

Ever since we discovered that Earth is round and turns like a mad spinning top, we have understood that reality is not what it seems: every time we glimpse a new aspect of it, it is a deeply emotional experience. Another veil has fallen.

But the leap made by Einstein is unparalleled: spacetime is a field; the world is made only of fields and particles; space and time are not something else, something different from the rest of nature: they are just a field among the others.

—Carlo Rovelli
Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity

.       .       .

First find the immutable center where all movement takes birth.
Just like a wheel turns round an axle, 
so must you be always at the axle in the centre and not whirling at the periphery.
Listen: this world is the lunatic’s sphere,
Don’t always agree it’s real!

Even with my feet upon it
And the postman knowing my door
My address is somewhere else.



the vast similitude



On the beach at night alone, 
As the old mother sways her to and fro, singing her husky song, 
As I watch the bright stars shining, 
I think a thought of the clef of the universes and of the future. 

A vast similitude interlocks all, 
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets, 
All distances of place however wide, 
All distances of time, all inanimate forms, 
All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in different worlds, 
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes, 
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages, 
All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe, 
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future, 

This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d, 
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.

—Walt Whitman
on the beach at night alone

.       .       .

I celebrate myself, and sing myself, 
And what I assume you shall assume, 
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
—Walt Whitman
Song of Myself, 1892 version

grandmother rock, 
Patrick Smith


Sunday, January 29, 2023

there are moments in moist love when heaven is jealous of what we on earth can do. —Hafiz


Little soul, 
you have wandered
lost a long time.
The woods all dark now,
birded and eyed.
Then a light, a cabin, a fire,
a door standing open.
The fairy tales warn you:
Do not go in,
you who would eat will be eaten.
You go in. You quicken.
You want to have feet.
You want to have eyes.
You want to have fears.

—Jane Hirshfield
Amor Fati
Poetry, 2017


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 Tranströmer
from Half-Finished Heaven
robert bly version


wakey, wakey




Don't go back to sleep.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the
doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.



Saturday, January 28, 2023

two sources of order



I would like you to show me, if you can, where the line can be drawn
between an organism and its environment. The environment is in you.

It is passing through you. You are breathing it in and out.

You and every other creature.

—Wendell Berry

.       .       . 

If biologists have ignored self-organization, it is not because self-ordering is not pervasive and profound. It is because we biologists have yet to understand how to think about systems governed simultaneously by two sources of order.

Yet who seeing the snowflake, who seeing simple lipid molecules cast adrift in water forming themselves into cell-like hollow lipid vesicles, who seeing the potential for the crystallization of life in swarms of reacting molecules, who seeing the stunning order for free in networks linking tens upon tens of thousands of variables, can fail to entertain a central thought: if ever we are to attain a final theory in biology, we will surely, surely have to understand the commingling of self-organization and selection. 

We will have to see that we are the natural expressions of a deeper order. Ultimately, we will discover in our creation myth that we are expected after all.

—Stuart Kauffman


you are standing in the sky



Look at your feet.
You are standing in the sky. 

When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, 
but the sky actually begins at the earth. 

We walk through it, yell into it, rake leaves, 
wash the dog, and drive cars in it. 

We breathe it deep within us. 

With every breath, we inhale millions of molecules of sky, heat them briefly, and then exhale them back into the world.

—Diane Ackerman
A Natural History of the Senses

.        .        .

Until we understand what the land is, we are at odds with everything we touch. And to come to that understanding it is necessary, even now, to leave the regions of our conquest—the cleared fields, the towns and cities, the highways—and re-enter the woods. For only there can a man encounter the silence and the darkness of his own absence. Only in this silence and darkness can he recover the sense of the world’s longevity, of its ability to thrive without him, of his inferiority to it and his dependence on it. 

Perhaps then, having heard that silence and seen that darkness, he will grow humble before the place and begin to take it in—to learn from it what it is. As its sounds come into his hearing, and its lights and colors come into his vision, and its odors come into his nostrils, then he may come into its presence as he never has before, and he will arrive in his place and will want to remain. 

His life will grow out of the ground like the other lives of the place, and take its place among them. He will be with them—neither ignorant of them, nor indifferent to them, nor against them—and so at last he will grow to be native-born. That is, he must reenter the silence and the darkness, and be born again.

—Wendell Berry
A Native Hill

.        .        .

Think always of the universe as one living creature, made of one substance and one soul: how all is absorbed into this one consciousness; how a single impulse governs all its actions; how all things collaborate in all that happens; the very web and mesh of it all.

—Marcis Aurielius
Meditations 4:40


an infinite storm of beauty




When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell, and we feel like stopping to speak to the plants and animals as friendly fellow mountaineers. Nature as a poet, an enthusiastic workingman, becomes more and more visible the farther and higher we go; for the mountains are fountains — beginning places, however related to sources beyond mortal ken.
The universe would be incomplete without man; but it would also be incomplete without the smallest transmicroscopic creature that dwells beyond our conceitful eyes and knowledge … The fearfully good, the orthodox, of this laborious patchwork of modern civilization cry “Heresy” on every one whose sympathies reach a single hair’s breadth beyond the boundary epidermis of our own species. Not content with taking all of earth, they also claim the celestial country as the only ones who possess the kind of souls for which that imponderable empire was planned.
I have never yet happened upon a trace of evidence that seemed to show that any one animal was ever made for another as much as it was made for itself. Not that Nature manifests any such thing as selfish isolation. In the making of every animal the presence of every other animal has been recognized. 
Indeed, every atom in creation may be said to be acquainted with and married to every other, but with universal union there is a division sufficient in degree for the purposes of the most intense individuality; no matter, therefore, what may be the note which any creature forms in the song of existence, it is made first for itself, then more and more remotely for all the world and worlds.
The scenery of the ocean, however sublime in vast expanse, seems far less beautiful to us dry-shod animals, than that of the land seen only in comparatively small patches; but when we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.

—John Muir
from Nature Writings


Friday, January 27, 2023

I, the Beloved, and Love



We lay in the dark, breathing together. 
The deepest intimacy ... 

—L. Gluck


In those days before a trace of the two worlds,
no "other" yet imprinted on the Tablet of Existence,

I, the Beloved, and Love lived together
in the corner of an uninhabited cell.

—Fakhruddin 'Iraqi
Divine Flashes

.       .       .

For this is the truth about our soul, our self, who fish-like inhabits deep seas and plies among obscurities threading her way between the boles of giant weeds, over sun-flickered spaces and on and on into gloom, cold, deep, inscrutable; suddenly she shoots to the surface and sports on the wind-wrinkled waves; that is, has a positive need to brush, scrape, kindle herself, gossiping.

—Virginia Woolf
Mrs. Dalloway

.       .       .

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone—we find it with another.

—Thomas Merton

.       .       .

If a thing loves, it is infinite.

—William Blake


self is a myriad


We with our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest. The maple and the pine may whisper to each other with their leaves. But the trees also commingle their roots in the darkness underground, and the islands also hang together through the ocean’s bottom. 
Just so there is a continuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge as into a mother-sea or reservoir.

—William James

.       .       .

Self is a myriad. We can use the word to cover both our sense of extension over time – the feeling that somehow I’m the same person I was as a child – and for the constantly changing ungraspable flow of consciousness. Which is the true self? That question, the basis for so many Zen koans, immediately leads us astray.

Instead of fully experiencing ourselves in the very act of asking the question, we imagine there’s another more real, truer, more essential self hiding somewhere out of sight that we have to go search for. Not surprisingly, we can never find it. 
But when a problem remains intractable for so long and so many answers that are proposed are so unsatisfying, one must begin to suspect that the question is either being asked in a way that makes it inherently unanswerable or that we are looking for the wrong kind of answer.

—Barry Magid
Ending the Pursuit of Happiness

.       .       .

Morning and afternoon are clasped together
And North and South are an intrinsic couple
And sun and rain a plural, like two lovers
That walk away as one in the greenest body.

—Wallace Stevens
Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

.       .       .

You were enmeshed in a great network which magically changed you into something vaster than yourselves. 
For you have need of the vastness that such words alone impart. 

—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Wisdom of the Sands


heart breath


All things share the same breath - the beast, the tree, the man.  
The air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.

—Chief Seattle

.      .      .

Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart longs for, and have no fear. 
Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.

—W. B. Yeats

.      .      .

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.

—William Wordsworth

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Need, then, is the net for all things. —Rumi


Paris at night, from the International Space Station
click to see



In this world, time has three dimensions, like space. Just as an object may move in three perpendicular directions, corresponding to horizontal, vertical, and longitudinal, so an object may participate in three perpendicular futures. 
Each future moves in a different direction of time. Each future is real. At every point of decision, the world splits into three worlds, each with the same people, but different fates for those people. In time, there are an infinity of worlds.

—Alan LightmanAmerican physicist, writer, and social entrepreneur. He is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Einstein’s Dreams, London, Vintage, 2004. 

.       .       .

We cannot live only for ourselves.

A thousand fibers connect us

with our fellow men;

and among those fibers,

as sympathetic threads,

our actions run as causes,

and they come back

to us as effects.

—Herman Melville
(1819 - 1891)

.       .       . 


There is an endless net of threads throughout the universe.
The horizontal threads are in space. 
The vertical threads are in time.

At every crossing of the threads, there is an individual, 
and every individual is a crystal bead.

And every crystal bead reflects not only the light from every
other crystal in the net, but also every other reflection
throughout the entire universe.

—The Rig Veda



Bumble Bees, Levitation and Earth’s Magnetic Grid



Aerodynamically (a bee) can’t fly…. there’s a hollow cavity inside his system and when he beats his wings he starts to resonate with this energy that goes back and forth similar to a guitar strumming on one side of the room and hitting the same chord on the other side of the room, or somebody hitting a high C and breaking a crystal. It’s the same thing. It’s resonance. 
(He) eventually reaches the resonance of the field around him (this resonance is the Earth’s rotational frequency due to its spin and is measured on today’s devices as 7.83Hz). 
Once the bumblebee hits that resonance, the frequency of his surroundings, he becomes a free agent. He creates a magnetic bubble around himself and he can go anywhere he wants… That’s not in any of the science books…. We have a conventional way of doing things and we have a natural way of doing things and they’re totally different. They’re diametrically opposed in many many cases.

—Ralph Ring

 .       .       .

Move over, Schrödinger’s cat – birds may be the true quantum animals. 

The bath of cells in avian eyes could prolong a delicate quantum state that helps to explain how some birds navigate using Earth’s magnetic field. 

It is thought that light reacts with receptors in the birds’ eyes to produce two molecules with unpaired electrons, whose spins are linked by a special state called quantum entanglement. 

If the relative alignment of the spins is affected by Earth’s magnetic field, the electron pair can cause chemical changes that the bird can sense. 
In 2009, researchers at the University of Oxford calculated that such entanglement must last for at least 100 microseconds for the internal compass to work. But how the sensitive state of quantum entanglement could survive that long in the eye was a mystery. 

Calculations by Zachary Walters of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden, Germany, now show that interactions with cells in the bird’s eye allow the electron pairs to stay entangled for longer through a dampening effect. 

Rather like the way a car with stiff shock absorbers takes longer to stop bouncing after going over a bump, the signal from the electron pair dies away more slowly under strong interactions with the cellular bath. 

Predicting exactly how long entanglement is sustained won’t be possible until the  mechanism is better understood, says Walters. But he believes there’s a good chance his model could account for the 100 microseconds. 

Erik Gauger part of the Oxford team, is intrigued by the findings. “It seems possible that this might be the mechanism allowing for the persistence of quantum coherence,” he says. “But it is probably too early to say for sure."

—Gilead Amit





I have been thinking of the difference between
water and the waves on it.

Rising, water's still water, falling back, it is water.
Will you give me a hint how to tell them apart? 

Because someone has made up the word "wave,"
do I have to distinguish it from water?  
There is a Secret One inside us; the planets in all the galaxies pass through his hands like beads. 

That is a string of beads one should look at 
with luminous eyes.


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

the Umwelt — an animal’s bespoke sliver of reality


In 1909, the biologist Jakob von Uexküll noted that every animal exists in its own unique perceptual world — a smorgasbord of sights, smells, sounds and textures that it can sense but that other species might not. These stimuli defined what von Uexküll called the Umwelt — an animal’s bespoke sliver of reality. 
A tick’s Umwelt is limited to the touch of hair, the odor that emanates from skin and the heat of warm blood. A human’s Umwelt is far wider but doesn’t include the electric fields that sharks and platypuses are privy to, the infrared radiation that rattlesnakes and vampire bats track or the ultraviolet light that most sighted animals can see.

The Umwelt concept is one of the most profound and beautiful in biology. It tells us that the all-encompassing nature of our subjective experience is an illusion, and that we sense just a small fraction of what there is to sense. 
It hints at flickers of the magnificent in the mundane, and the extraordinary in the ordinary. And it is almost antidramatic: It reveals that frogs, snakes, ticks and other animals can be doing extraordinary things even when they seem to be doing nothing at all.

—Ed Yong
NY Times Opinion, 6-21-22

see also 

thin places




We are not one but many. Every other living organism has a point of view, something like mind, a feeling for life and a strong inclination to go on getting about in it. We humans not only construct a world but are, ourselves, an often intimate part of the makings, the natural constructions, of other kinds of equally semiotic life in this ecology of meanings. 
Our various, always subjectively experienced, umwelten overlap, not with shared points of view but with shared biosemiotic systems. This shared and finally semiotically interdependent ecology of meanings is what we mean when we talk about reality.

—Wendy Wheeler
A Feeling for Life

.       .       .



There is in Celtic mythology the notion of ‘thin places’ in the universe where the visible and the invisible world come into their closest proximity. To seek such places is the vocation of the wise and the good — and for those that find them, the clearest communication between the temporal and eternal. 
Mountains and rivers are particularly favored as thin places marking invariably as they do, the horizontal and perpendicular frontiers. But perhaps the ultimate of these thin places in the human condition are the experiences people are likely to have as they encounter suffering, joy, and mystery.

—Peter Gomes


this road is the heart opening —Mirabai



To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. 
To know the dark, go dark. 
Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

—Wendell Berry

.       .       .

The window is the absence of the wall, and it gives air and light because it is empty.

Be empty of all mental content, of all imagination and effort, and the very absence of obstacles will cause reality to rush in.

All you need is to understand that you are the source of reality, that you give reality instead of getting it, that you need no support and no confirmation.

Things are as they are because you accept them as they are.

Stop accepting them and they will dissolve.

—Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj


Tuesday, January 24, 2023




Paths are the habits of a landscape. They are acts of consensual making. It’s hard to create a footpath on your own. 
Paths connect. This is their first duty and their chief reason for being. They relate places in a literal sense, and by extension they relate people. Paths are consensual, because without common care and common practice they disappear: overgrown by vegetation, ploughed up or built over. Paths need walking. 
In 19th century Suffolk small sickles called ‘hooks’ were hung on stiles and posts at the start of certain well-used paths: those running between villages, for example. A walker would pick up a hook and use it to lop off branches that were starting to impede passage. The hook would then be left at the other end of the path, for a walker coming in the opposite direction. In this manner the path was collectively maintained for general use.

—Robert Macfarlane
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

.       .       .

One does not stand still looking for a path. 

One walks; and as one walks,
a path comes into being.

—Mas Kodani

.       .       . 


Walker, your footsteps 
are the road, and nothing more. 

Walker, there is no road, the road is made by walking. 

Walking you make the road, 
and turning to look behind 
you see the path you never 
again will step upon. 

Walker, there is no road, 
only foam trails on the sea.

—Antonio Machado
proverbs and songs #29