Friday, January 15, 2021

the artificial structure

The mind tries to live by the artificial structure of the world, 
but the body will have none of it, holding to primeval forces.  
People try to be all mind...
this has gone so far that now... 
the earth itself is but an idea.  
As animal, man has suffered from this and degenerated... 
The only hope and consolation is the perception of beauty, 
the revelation today of that which was God.
~ Harlan Hubbard
from his journal, written in 1937 
Quoted here from "Harlan Hubbard - Live and Work"
by Wendell Berry

It needs forever to be in all its times and aspects and acts

Anna: There you are, Harlan.  I've called and called.  What are you doing?
Harlan: Looking.
Anna: At what?
Harlan: The river.
Anna: You've never seen enough, have you,  of that river you looked at all your life?
Harlan: It never does anything twice.   It needs forever to be in all its times and aspects and acts.  To know it in time is only to begin to know it.  To paint it, you must show it as less than it is.  That is why as a painter I never was at rest.  Now I look and do not paint.  This is the heaven of a painter - only to look, to see without limit.  It's as if a poet finally were free to say only the simplest things.
For a moment they are still again, both continuing to look, in  opposite directions, at the river.
~ Wendell Berry
excerpt from "Sonata at Payne Hollow"

the wild rose

Sometimes hidden from me
in daily custom and in trust,
so that I live by you unaware
as by the beating of my heart,
suddenly you flare in my sight,
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only a shade,
and once more I am blessed, choosing
again what I chose before.
Wendell Berry


We had not enough respect for the changing moon.
Then the days seemed to pass only to return again.
Having learned by loss that men’s days part from them forever,
We eat and drink together beneath the full moon
Acknowledging and celebrating the power that bereft us
And yet sheds over the earth a light that is beautiful.

~ Wendell Berry
after the Painting and Poem by Shen Chou

three questions

~ Leo Tolstoy

Thursday, January 14, 2021

These teachings are like a raft


These teachings are like a raft, 
to be abandoned once you have crossed the flood. 
Since you should abandon even good states of mind generated by these teachings,
 How much more so should you abandon bad states of mind! 
Conquer the angry man by love.
 Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness. 
Conquer the miser with generosity.
 Conquer the liar with truth.
 ~  The Dhammapada

a flowing event

A living body is not a fixed thing but a flowing event, 
like a flame or a whirlpool: the shape alone is stable, 
for the substance is a stream of energy going in at one end and out at the other.
We are particularly and temporarily identifiable wiggles in a stream 
that enters us in the form of light, heat, air, water, milk, bread, fruit, beer, 
beef Stroganoff, caviar, and pate de foie gras. 
It goes out as gas and excrement - 
and also as semen, babies, talk, politics, commerce, 
war, poetry, and music. And philosophy.

~ Alan Watts

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Inside its bends

Inside its bends, the river 
builds the land, outside
it frets the land away.
This is unjust only from
a limited view.  Forever
it doesn't matter, is only
the world's way, the give
and take, the take and 
give we suffer in order 
to live.  This household
of my work, ungainly on
its stilts, stands outside
the bend, and the river wears
near and near, flow
outlasting the standing firm.
Trees once here are gone,
the slope they stood upon
gone.  I needed what is lost,
although I love as well
the flow that took it.  Now
spring is coming, the redbird's
peal rings from the thicket,
the pair exchanges like
a kiss a seed from the feeder,
and this is timeless.  But a day
in time will come when this
house will give way, the walls
lean and fall.  Shattered will be
my window's rectitude.
~ Wendell Berry
from Leavings
photo by Ansel Adams

a train of discontinuous fragments


In listening to my patients tell me thousands of stories, 
as they try to find some peace in the present, 
I have learned this beyond the shadow of a doubt. 
 Rather than behaving sanely, rather than being in touch with our present realities, 
we human beings - all of us, myself included - 
are too often simply run by losses and hardships long gone by,
 and by our stockpiled fears.  
Our collective history, our individual lives, our very minds, 
bear unmistakable testimony.

Instead of receding harmlessly into the past, the darkest,
 most frightening events from our childhood and adolescence gain power 
and authority as we grow older.  The memory of such events 
causes us to depart from ourselves, psychologically speaking,
 or to separate one part of our awareness from the others.  
What we conceive of as an unbroken thread of consciousness is, 
instead, quite often a train of discontinuous fragments.  
Our awareness is divided.  
And much more commonly that we know, 
even our personalities are fragmented - 
disorganized team efforts trying to cope with the past -
 rather than the sane, unified wholes 
we anticipate in ourselves and in other people...

~ Martha Stout
from The Myth of Sanity, Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness
art by picasso

a multitude of others

From "the incessant workings of his mind and the physical activity
 displayed by the body... nothing of all that is from him, is him."
He, physically and mentally,  is the multitude of others.

On the mental plane, this "multitude of others" includes many beings
 who are his contemporaries: people he consorts with, with whom he chats,
 whose actions he watches. ... the individual absorbs a part of the various energies
 given off by those with whom he is in contact, and these incongruous energies, 
installing themselves in that which he considers his "I",
 form a swarming throng.
To a Westerner, Plato, Zeno, Jesus, Saint Paul, Calvin, Diderot,
 Jean Jacques Rousseau, Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, 
Napoleon, and many others constitute a diversified crowd,...
 These names are only examples. The guests, whom X shelters
 in his particular guest-house, are not at all the same
 as those who live with Y.

"that which is compound", which is constituted by the combination of elements
 as a house is made up of stones, wood, etc., is only a collection, a group
 and in no way a real "ego".  Thus the individual is empty, 
everything is empty, because one can find nothing in it 
except the parts which constitute it.

 ~ Alexandra David-Neel and Lama Yongden
from The Secret oral teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects
art by Picasso

behind recognizable patterns


The Buddha described what we call “self” as a collection of aggregates -
 elements of mind and body - that function interdependently, 
creating the appearance of a woman or a man. 
We then identify with that image or appearance, taking it to be “I” or “mine,”
 imagining it to have some inherent self-existence.
 For example we get up in the morning, look in the mirror,
 recognize the reflection, and think, “Yes, that’s me again.” 
We then add all kinds of concepts to this sense of self:
 I’m a woman or a man, I’m a certain age,
 I’m a happy or unhappy person –
the list goes on and on.

When we examine our experience, though,
 we see that there is not some core being to whom experience refers;
 rather it is simply “empty phenomena rolling on.”
 It is “empty” in the sense that there is no one behind 
the arising and changing phenomena to whom they happen. 
A rainbow is a good example of this. 
We go out after a rainstorm and feel that moment of delight 
if a rainbow appears in the sky. Mostly, we simply enjoy the sight
 without investigating the real nature of what is happening.
 But when we look more deeply, it becomes clear that there is no “thing” 
called “rainbow” apart from the particular conditions of air and moisture and light. 
Our sense of self is like that rainbow - 
an appearance, arising from causes and conditions, 
that we cling to as ourselves, "my identity."
.- Joseph Goldstein
from  Tricycle

Monday, January 11, 2021

as they really are?

Have you considered the possibility
that everything you believe is wrong,
not merely off a bit, but totally wrong,
nothing like things as they really are?

If you've done this, you know how durably fragile
those phantoms we hold in our heads are,
those wisps of thought that people die and kill for,
betray lovers for, give up lifelong friendships for.

If you've not done this, you probably don't understand this poem,
or think it's not even a poem, but a bit of opaque nonsense,
occupying too much of your day's time,
so you probably should stop reading it here, now.

But if you've arrived at this line,
maybe, just maybe, you're open to that possibility,
the possibility of being absolutely completely wrong,
about everything that matters.

How different the world seems then:
everyone who was your enemy is your friend,
everything you hated, you now love,
and everything you love
slips through your fingers like sand.

~ Federico Moramarco
One Hundred and Eighty Degrees
from The City of Eden: Poems from a Life

let go

Let go 
this 'everywhere' and this 'everything' in exchange for this 
'nowhere' and this 'nothing.' 
Never mind if you cannot fathom this nothing,
for I love it surely so much better. 
It is so worthwhile in 
itself that no thinking about it will do it justice. 
One can feel this nothing more easily than see it, 
for it is completely dark and hidden to 
those who have only just begun to look at it. 
Yet to speak more accurately, 
it is overwhelming spiritual light that blinds the soul that is experiencing it, 
rather than actual darkness or the absence of physical light. 
Who is it then, who is it then, who is calling it 'nothing'? 
Our outer self, to be sure, not our inner. 
Our inner self calls it 'All', 
for through it he is learning the secret of all things, 
physical and spiritual alike, 
without having to consider every single one separately 
on it's own.

~ The Cloud of Unknowing


Sunday, January 10, 2021

capacity for solitude

In the 20th century, the idea of solitude formed the centre of Hannah Arendt’s thought.
 A German-Jewish émigré who fled Nazism and found refuge in the United States,
 Arendt spent much of her life studying the relationship between the
 individual and the polis. For her, freedom was tethered to both the private sphere – 
the vita contemplativa – and the public, political sphere – the vita activa.
 She understood that freedom entailed more than the human capacity to act
 spontaneously and creatively in public. It also entailed the capacity to think
 and to judge in private, where solitude empowers the individual to contemplate
 her actions and develop her conscience, to escape the cacophony of the crowd – 
to finally hear herself think.

In our hyper-connected world, a world in which we can communicate 
constantly and instantly over the internet, we rarely remember
 to carve out spaces for solitary contemplation. 
We check our email hundreds of times per day; 
we shoot off thousands of text messages per month; 
we obsessively thumb through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,
 aching to connect at all hours with close and casual acquaintances alike. 
We search for friends of friends, ex-lovers, people we barely know,
 people we have no business knowing. 
We crave constant companionship.

But, Arendt reminds us, if we lose our capacity for solitude,
 our ability to be alone with ourselves, then we lose our very ability to think. 
We risk getting caught up in the crowd. We risk being ‘swept away’,
 as she put it, ‘by what everybody else does and believes in’ – 
no longer able, in the cage of thoughtless conformity, to distinguish 
‘right from wrong, beautiful from ugly’. Solitude is not only a state 
of mind essential to the development of an individual’s consciousness – 
and conscience – but also a practice that prepares one for participation
 in social and political life. Before we can keep company with others,
 we must learn to keep company with ourselves.
~ Hannah Arendt
Read more at Aeon HERE




After a wedding ceremony in Singapore a few years
ago, the father of the bride took his new son-in-law aside to give
him some advice on how to keep the marriage long and happy.
"You probably love my daughter a lot," he said to the young man.
"Oh yes!" the young man sighed.
"And you probably think that she is the most wonderful person
in the world," the old man continued.
"She's soooo perfect in each and every way," the young man 
"That's how it is when you get married," said the old man, "But
after a few years, you will begin to see the flaws in my daughter.
When you do begin to notice her faults, I want you to remember 
this. If she didn't have those faults to begin with, Son-in-law, she
would have married someone much better than you!"
So we should always be grateful for the faults in our partner
 because if they didn't have those faults from the start, they would
have been able to marry someone much better than us.
~ Ajahn Brahm
from Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? 
art by Klimt