Monday, January 30, 2023

all you have

It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. 

Love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. 
The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. 
We are brothers in what we share. In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, 
in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood. 
We know it, because we have had to learn it. 
We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand
 will save us if we do not reach out our hand. And the hand that you reach
 out is empty, as mine is. You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. 
You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give.

If you evade suffering you also evade the chance of joy. 
Pleasure you may get, or pleasures, but you will not be fulfilled. 
You will not know what it is to come home… Fulfillment… is a function of time. 
The search for pleasure is circular, repetitive, atemporal… It has an end. 
It comes to the end and has to start over. It is not a journey and return,
 but a closed cycle, a locked room, a cell… The thing about working with time, 
instead of against it, …is that it is not wasted. Even pain counts.

~  Ursula Le Guin
from The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia

Sunday, January 29, 2023

finding happiness in troubled times


Deeply moving and laugh-out-loud funny, His Holiness the Dalai Lama
 and Archbishop Desmond Tutu share science-backed wisdom
 of how to live with joy in troubled times.

 director Louie Psihoyos teams up with co-director Peggy Callahan on
 a documentary with unprecedented access to the unlikely friendship
 of two international icons who transcend religion:
 His Holiness the Dalai Lama & Archbishop Tutu.
 In their final joint mission, these self-described mischievous brothers give a master class
 in how to create joy in a world that was never easy for them. They offer neuroscience-backed
 wisdom to help each of us live with more joy, despite circumstances.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

nature of mind


~ Joseph Goldstein

let go of experience and its boundaries

~ Rupert Spira


the world of names

Once a rabbi met the prophet Elijah.
 The rabbi asked Elijah,
 “When will the messiah come?” 
Elijah said, “Go and ask him yourself when he’s coming.” 
The rabbi said, “Where is he?” 
Elijah said, “He’s sitting at the city gate, covered in bandages’ 

So the rabbi went and asked the messiah,
 “When will you come?” 
The messiah said, “Today.”
The rabbi came back and relayed this to Elijah:
 “The messiah is coming today!” 
Elijah responded with temperance, saying
 “the messiah meant today, if you listen to God’s voice.” 

The tradition practically begs us to realize, the messiah is here.
 The world to come is here. The unknown is as close as your breath. 
What this means is that, as Wendell Berry writes, 
“What we need is here”;
 yet we must be careful to not grasp in the presence of that knowing,
 lest we fall to irretrievably
 into the world of names. 

~ Joshua Boettiger, 
from Naming The Unnameable
Advice on living in two worlds

art by Marc Chagall, 
Elijah Touched by an Angel, from the Bible suite, 1958, 
The Jewish Museum, New York

the dean of western writers

Wallace Stegner was born on February 18, 1909 in Lake Mills, Iowa.
He was an American historian,novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist,
often called "The Dean of Western Writers". He won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1972.

"In fiction I think we should have no agenda but to tell the truth."

"'You don't go there to find something,' he once said about wilderness, 'you go there to disappear.'"

Wallace Stegner wrote about the need to preserve the West, and he also fought for it. He became involved with the conservation movement in the 1950's while fighting the construction of dam on the Green River at Dinosaur National Monument. In 1960 he wrote his famous Wilderness Letter on the importance of federal protection of wild places. This letter was used to introduce the bill that established the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964. 

"Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste. And so that never again can we have the chance to see ourselves single, separate, vertical and individual in the world, part of the environment of trees and rocks and soil, brother to the other animals, part of the natural world and competent to belong in it. Without any remaining wilderness we are committed wholly, without chance for even momentary reflection and rest, to a headlong drive into our technological termite-life, the Brave New World of a completely man-controlled environment. We need wilderness preserved--as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds--because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed. The reminder and the reassurance that it is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in ten years set foot in it. It is good for us when we are young, because of the incomparable sanity it can bring briefly, as vacation and rest, into our insane lives. It is important to us when we are old simply because it is there--important, that is, simply as an idea."

In 1964 Stegner started the Creative Writing Program at Stanford University, where he served on the faculty until 1971. He also taught at University of Utah, University of Wisconsin, and Harvard University. His students include: Wendell Berry, Larry McMurtry, Thomas McGuane, Ernest Gaines, John Daniel, Raymond Carver, Edward Abbey, and Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Haas.

He wrote in The Sound of Mountain Water, "We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be…a part of the geography of hope,"

Mr. Stegner died at 84, on April 13, 1993 following an auto accident in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He left a legacy as writer, professor, and environmentalist that once moved Edward Abbey to pronounce him "the only living American writer worthy of the Nobel." Indeed, Stegner was one of the American West's preeminent historians and arguably the most important of its novelists.

commentary by
James Hepworth and

Sunday, January 22, 2023

can we judge ourselves less harshly


Part of it is observing oneself more impersonally… 
When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. 
And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens,
 and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. 
You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, 
and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it.
 You just allow it. 
You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that.
 And you are constantly saying, “You’re too this, or I’m too this.”
 That judging mind comes in. 
And so I practice turning people into trees.
 Which means appreciating them just the way they are.

When a tree is very small we protect it by surrounding it with a fence so that animals do not step on it.
 Later when the tree is bigger it no longer needs the fence.
 Then it can give shelter to many.
~ Ram Dass
 with thanks to The Marginalian



Saturday, January 21, 2023


In the point of rest at the center of our being, 
we encounter a world where all things are at rest in the same way. 

Then a tree becomes a mystery, 
a cloud a revelation, 
each man a cosmos of whose riches we can only catch glimpses.

The life of simplicity is simple, but it opens to us
 a book in which we never get beyond the first syllable.

~ Dag Hammarskjöld
from Markings

the simplicity


If you hold to Nature, to the simplicity that is in her, 
to the small detail that scarcely one man sees, 
which can so unexpectedly grow into something great and boundless; 
if you have this love for insignificant things and seek, simply as one who serves, 
to win the confidence of what seems to be poor: 
then everything will become easier for you, 
more coherent and somehow more conciliatory,
 not perhaps in the understanding, which lags wondering behind, 
but in your innermost consciousness, 
wakefulness and knowing.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke 
from Letters to a Young Poet

preferring simplicity and freedom from desires


If you overly esteem talented individuals,
people will become overly competitive.
If you overvalue possessions,
people will begin to steal.

Do not display your treasures
or people will become envious.

The Master leads by
emptying people's minds,
filling their bellies,
weakening their ambitions,
and making them become strong.
Preferring simplicity and freedom from desires,
avoiding the pitfalls of knowledge and wrong action.

For those who practice not-doing,
everything will fall into place.

~ Tao Teh Ching
version by j.h. mcdonald

Monday, January 2, 2023

as we truly are

We are not poor. We are just without riches,
we who have no will, no world:
marked with the marks of the latest anxiety,
disfigured, stripped of leaves.

Around us swirls the dust of the cities, 
the garbage clings to us.
We are shunned as if contaminated,
thrown away like broken pots, like bones,
like last year's calendar.

And yet if our Earth needed to
she could weave us together like roses
and make of us a garland.

For each being is cleaner than washed stones
and endlessly yours, and like an animal
who knows already in its first blind moments
its need for one thing only -

to let ourselves be poor like that - as we truly are.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
III.16, The Book of Poverty and Death


a friend’s umbrella


Ralph Waldo Emerson, toward the end
of his life, found the names
of familiar objects escaping him.
He wanted to say something about a window, 
or a table, or a book on a table.

But the word wasn't there,
although other words could still suggest
the shape of what he meant.
Then someone, his wife perhaps,

would understand: "Yes, window! I'm sorry,
is there a draft?" He'd nod.
She'd rise. Once a friend dropped by 
to visit, shook out his umbrella
in the hall, remarked upon the rain.

Later the word umbrella
vanished and became
the thing that strangers take away.

Paper, pen, table, book:
was it possible for a man to think
without them? To know 
that he was thinking? We remember
that we forget, he'd written once, 
before he started to forget.

Three times he was told
that Longfellow had died

Without the past, the present
lay around him like the sea.
Or like a ship, becalmed,
upon the sea. He smiled

to think he was the captain then,
gazing off into whiteness,
waiting for the wind to rise. 

~ Lawrence Raab

the intimate space

What birds plunge through is not the intimate space
in which you see all forms intensified.
(Out in the Open, you would be denied
your self, would disappear into that vastness.)
Space reaches from us and construes the world:
to know a tree, in its true element,
throw inner space around it, from that pure
abundance in you.  Surround it with restraint.
It has no limits.  Not till it is held
in your renouncing is it truly there.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Uncollected Poems

next time


 Next time what I'd do is look at
the earth before saying anything. I'd stop
just before going into a house
and be an emperor for a minute
and listen better to the wind
or to the air being still.

When anyone talked to me, whether
blame or praise or just passing time,
I'd watch the face, how the mouth
had to work, and see any strain, any
sign of what lifted the voice.

And for all, I'd know more - the earth
bracing itself and soaring, the air
finding every leaf and feather over
forest and water, and for every person
the body glowing inside the clothes
like a light.

~ William Stafford
with thanks to being silently drawn

walking in the rain

When my master and I
were walking in the rain,
he would say,
"Do not walk so fast,
the rain is everywhere."

~  Shunryu Suzuki