Saturday, January 18, 2014

sunflower






What sower walked over earth,
which hands sowed
our inward seeds of fire?
They went out from his fists like rainbow curves
to frozen earth, young loam, hot sand,
they will sleep there
greedily, and drink up our lives
and explode it into pieces
for the sake of a sunflower that you haven't seen
or a thistle head or a chrysanthemum.

Let the young rain of tears come.
Let the calm hands of grief come.
It's not all as evil as you think.





~ Rolf Jacobsen
translated by Robert Bly




Thursday, January 16, 2014

from 'Flatirons'






V

It’s when we’re most engaged with other things
that the angel enters, a twist in temperature,
a lightness in the chest that we call wings.
Giddy with sacrament and the impure
gluttony of blood and air and skin,
we look with panoramic eyes to where
the earth curls under and the sky begins,
though we ourselves are of this light-shot air,
senses extending without obstacle,
reaching past by rooting down through rock—
obdurate kindness, heaven’s windowsill.
We are as useless as an open lock,
more insubstantial than a drinking song,
and marked by sandstone long after we’re gone. 




~ David Yezzi
from Flatirons
with thanks to http://fivebranchtree.blogspot.com//



Friday, January 10, 2014

the lamp once out








The lamp once out
Cool stars enter
The window frame.





~ Natsume Soseki
from Zen Haiku: Poems and Letters of Natsume Soseki, by Natsume Soseki 
 Translated by Soiku Shigematsu





music is in the piano only when it is being played




Jack Gilbert: 1925-2012 (Photo by Robert Toby)


We are not one with this world. We are not
the complexity our body is, nor the summer air
idling in the big maple without purpose.
We are a shape the wind makes in these leaves
as it passes through. We are not the wood
any more than the fire, but the heat which is a marriage
between the two. We are certainly not the lake
nor the fish in it, but the something that is
pleased by them. We are the stillness when
a mighty Mediterranean noon subtracts even the voices of
insects by the broken farmhouse. We are evident
when the orchestra plays, and yet are not part
of the strings or brass. Like the song that exists
only in the singing, and is not the singer.
God does not live among the church bells
but is briefly resident there. We are occasional
like that. A lifetime of easy happiness mixed
with pain and loss, trying always to name and hold
on to the enterprise under way in our chest.
Reality is not what we marry as a feeling. It is what
walks up the dirt path, through the excessive heat
and giant sky, the sea stretching away.
He continues past the nunnery to the old villa
where he will sit on the terrace with her, their sides
touching. In the quiet that is the music of that place,
which is the difference between silence and windlessness.




~  Jack Gilbert




Wednesday, January 8, 2014

song of the open road





1
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)

2
You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here.

Here the profound lesson of reception, nor preference nor denial,
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas’d, the illiterate person, are not denied;
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar’s tramp, the drunkard’s stagger, the laughing party of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person’s carriage, the fop, the eloping couple,

The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the town, the return back from the town,
They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can be interdicted,
None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to me.

3
You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me.

You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!

You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d façades! you roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards!
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings!
From all that has touch’d you I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me,
From the living and the dead you have peopled your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be evident and amicable with me.

4
The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment of the road.

O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied, adhere to me?

O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.

I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all free poems also,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.

5
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently,but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me,
I can repeat over to men and women You have done such good to me I would do the same to you,
I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.

6
Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear it would not amaze me,
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear’d it would not astonish me.

Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.

Here a great personal deed has room,
(Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law and mocks all authority and all argument against it.)

Here is the test of wisdom,
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not having it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the soul.

Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing currents.

Here is realization,
Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in him,
The past, the future, majesty, love—if they are vacant of you, you are vacant of them.

Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me?
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for you and me?

Here is adhesiveness, it is not previously fashion’d, it is apropos;
Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved by strangers?
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?

7
Here is the efflux of the soul,
The efflux of the soul comes from within through embower’d gates, ever provoking questions,
These yearnings why are they? these thoughts in the darkness why are they?
Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me the sunlight expands my blood?
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and always drop fruit as I pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?
What with some driver as I ride on the seat by his side?
What with some fisherman drawing his seine by the shore as I walk by and pause?
What gives me to be free to a woman’s and man’s good-will? what gives them to be free to mine?

8
The efflux of the soul is happiness, here is happiness,
I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times,
Now it flows unto us, we are rightly charged.

Here rises the fluid and attaching character,
The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and sweetness of man and woman,
(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and sweeter every day out of the roots of themselves, than it sprouts fresh and sweet continually out of itself.)

Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the sweat of the love of young and old,
From it falls distill’d the charm that mocks beauty and attainments,
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact.

9
Allons! whoever you are come travel with me!
Traveling with me you find what never tires.

The earth never tires,
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first,
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop’d,
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.

Allons! we must not stop here,
However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling we cannot remain here,
However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters we must not anchor here,
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted to receive it but a little while.

10
Allons! the inducements shall be greater,
We will sail pathless and wild seas,
We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.

Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements,
Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity;
Allons! from all formules!
From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic priests.

The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the burial waits no longer.

Allons! yet take warning!
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance,
None may come to the trial till he or she bring courage and health,
Come not here if you have already spent the best of yourself,
Only those may come who come in sweet and determin’d bodies,
No diseas’d person, no rum-drinker or venereal taint is permitted here.

(I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes, rhymes,
We convince by our presence.)

11
Listen! I will be honest with you,
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes,
These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is call’d riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d, you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remain behind you,
What beckonings of love you receive you shall only answer with passionate kisses of parting,
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach’d hands toward you.

12
Allons! after the great Companions, and to belong to them!
They too are on the road—they are the swift and majestic men—they are the greatest women,
Enjoyers of calms of seas and storms of seas,
Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of land,
Habituès of many distant countries, habituès of far-distant dwellings,
Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, solitary toilers,
Pausers and contemplators of tufts, blossoms, shells of the shore,
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, tender helpers of children, bearers of children,
Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, lowerers-down of coffins,
Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years, the curious years each emerging from that which preceded it,
Journeyers as with companions, namely their own diverse phases,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,
Journeyers gayly with their own youth, journeyers with their bearded and well-grain’d manhood,
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsurpass’d, content,
Journeyers with their own sublime old age of manhood or womanhood,
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the universe,
Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom of death.

13
Allons! to that which is endless as it was beginningless,
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and nights they tend to,
Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys,
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and pass it,
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you may reach it and pass it,
To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you, however long but it stretches and waits for you,
To see no being, not God’s or any, but you also go thither,
To see no possession but you may possess it, enjoying all without labor or purchase, abstracting the feast yet not abstracting one particle of it,
To take the best of the farmer’s farm and the rich man’s elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of the well-married couple, and the fruits of orchards and flowers of gardens,
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you pass through,
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward wherever you go,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter them, to gather the love out of their hearts,
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls.

All parts away for the progress of souls,
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments—all that was or is apparent upon this globe or any globe, falls into niches and corners before the procession of souls along the grand roads of the universe.

Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the grand roads of the universe, all other progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.

Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent, feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know not where they go,
But I know that they go toward the best—toward something great.

Whoever you are, come forth! or man or woman come forth!
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house, though you built it, or though it has been built for you.

Out of the dark confinement! out from behind the screen!
It is useless to protest, I know all and expose it.

Behold through you as bad as the rest,
Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of people,
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash’d and trimm’d faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.

No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the confession,
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and hiding it goes,
Formless and wordless through the streets of the cities, polite and bland in the parlors,
In the cars of railroads, in steamboats, in the public assembly,
Home to the houses of men and women, at the table, in the bedroom, everywhere,
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright, death under the breast-bones, hell under the skull-bones,
Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons and artificial flowers,
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable of itself,
Speaking of any thing else but never of itself.

14
Allons! through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.

Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? Nature?
Now understand me well—it is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary.

My call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebellion,
He going with me must go well arm’d,
He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, angry enemies, desertions.

15
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!

Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?



~ Walt Whitman
with thanks to the poetry foundation
and the mark on the wall





Saturday, January 4, 2014

sojourns in the parallel world






We live our lives of human passions,
cruelties, dreams, concepts,
crimes and the exercise of virtue
in and beside a world devoid
of our preoccupations, free
from apprehension--though affected,
certainly, by our actions. A world
parallel to our own though overlapping.
We call it "Nature"; only reluctantly
admitting ourselves to be "Nature" too.
Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions,
our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute,
an hour even, of pure (almost pure)
response to that insouciant life:
cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing
pilgrimage of water, vast stillness
of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane,
animal voices, mineral hum, wind
conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering
of fire to coal--then something tethered
in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch
of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free.
No one discovers
just where we've been, when we're caught up again
into our own sphere (where we must
return, indeed, to evolve our destinies)
–but we have changed, a little.




~ Denise Levertov
from Sands of the Well
with thanks to Lisa at the mark on the wall


Friday, January 3, 2014

works and loves






1

Rain fell as a glass
breaks,
something suddenly everywhere at the same


2

To live like a painting
looked into from more than one angle at once —

eye to eye with the doorway,
down at the hair,
up at your own dusty feet.


3

“This is your house,”
said my bird heart to my heart of the cricket,
and I entered.


4

The happy see only happiness,
the living see only life,
the young see only the young,

as lovers believe
they wake always beside one also in love.


5

However often I turned its pages,
I kept ending up
as the same two sentences of the book:

The being of some is: to be. Of others: to be without.

Then I fell back asleep, in Swedish.


6

A sheep grazing is unimpressed by the mountain
but not by its flies.


7

The grief
of what hasn’t yet happened —

a door closed from inside.

The weight of the grass
dividing
an ant’s five-legged silence
walking through it.


8

What is the towel, what is the water,
changes,
though of we three,
only the towel can be held upside down in the sun.


9

“I was once.”
Said not in self-pity or praise.
This dignity we allow barn owl,
ego, oyster.



~ Jane Hirshfield
from Poetry (January 2014)


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ibrahim Maalouf









~ Ibrahim Maalouf


years end






Year’s end,
all corners
of this floating world, swept.


~ Matsuo Basho
from Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter
Translated by Lucien Stryk
with thanks to the mark on the wall


Saturday, December 28, 2013

foam trails on the sea






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
from proverbs and songs #29
translation by Willis Barnstone



Thursday, December 26, 2013

“remembering,” a lifelong pursuit of something else





A Hebrew Myth, a potent element in the annals of the bees, tells us that when a child is born an angel takes it under his wing and recites the Torah to it. Having done that he puts his forefinger on the infant lip and says one word, “Forget!”

Clearly, every tradition has a similar angel, for where is the human creature who lacks indentation of the upper lip, that little valley of flesh where the same word has been so ineffaceably expressed? And, indeed, of necessity. For how, without forgetting, can remembering arise? And remembering leads to search.

Maybe it needs another angel, though this time leaving no manifest mark, to set us on our way. Angels, anyway, thread through our lives, invisible presences, energies, messengers, bringers of dreams–not the hodge-podge of daily events–but those rare dreams of portent and revelation that can change the course of our lives. There are angels who walk beside us as Raphael walked with Tobias, pilgrim angels who carry bowls, not for begging at doors but to hold to our lips from time to time to refresh us with a taste of that emptiness which in their land is fullness. Such a draught–even the brush of an angel wing–can bring one to oneself, and thus to remembering; for without remembering we dream our life away and arrive at the end of it to find that there has been nobody there, the initiatory touch truly forgotten and never woken from. The way has been in us but we have not been on the way.

I cannot recall the time when I was not searching for a nameless unknown. Something Else, I called it as a child, and as that it is still known to me. The longing for it affected me most strongly at sundown, and I would weep, not allowing the grownups to comfort me, tenderly or testily, with assurances that the sun would surely rise in the morning. I knew that. But this unknown was clearly connected with it and seemed to depart with the sun.

As I grew, I learned to contain my sorrow, indeed–except at moments when an angel passed–entirely to forget it. Daily life needs its full share of the human creature’s two natures–the mind its inventions and imaginings, the heart its orchestra of feelings (oh, the drumbeats, the clarinets, the trombones!), flesh and blood their various feastings, in order to have the material to question and to know. Was it not this share that the Prodigal Son–and most of us are Prodigal Sons–set out with his portion to seek? And after, again like most of us, spending it–the revelings and the subsequent sufferings–he came at last to himself. Having forgotten, he had to remember, reminded, perhaps, by a passing angel, and knew he had to turn home.

The parable does not tell us much more. But can we suppose that he spent the rest of his life making merry and feeding on fatted calves? Would he not, after such an awakening, such a realization of his own unworth and at length such a welcome home, feel the need to search within for his essential self? Prodigal in all things, would he not submit himself to the fire of self-question, pursue the reparation of the past through the process of metanoia, and with this new energy stirring in him, apply himself to working in the patriarchal fields along with his elder brother who, significantly, never left him?

There is much to be said for that elder brother who is so often maligned. Clearly, having been told to forget he had very soon remembered that what he was searching for was to be found nowhere but at the father’s side.

Most of us have to go far before we find what is nearer than the neck vein, but the very distance draws one closer. For myself, Something Else no longer sets with the sun. Rather, the sun goes down in myself and I am lost in the twilight. O Forgetting, sustain my Remembering! Stay my feet, angels, upon the way, so that the seeker becomes the sought, and I , too, may be spied from afar as someone comes running to meet me…




~ Pamela Travers
Remembering,” A lifelong pursuit of Something Else
with thanks to parabola


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

the journey





One day you finally knew 
what you had to do, and began, 
though the voices around you 
kept shouting 
their bad advice—
though the whole house 
began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug 
at your ankles. 
"Mend my life!" 
each voice cried. 
But you didn't stop. 
You knew what you had to do, 
though the wind pried 
with its stiff fingers 
at the very foundations, 
though their melancholy 
was terrible. 
It was already late 
enough, and a wild night, 
and the road full of fallen 
branches and stones. 
But little by little, 
as you left their voices behind, 
the stars began to burn 
through the sheets of clouds, 
and there was a new voice 
which you slowly 
recognized as your own, 
that kept you company 
as you strode deeper and deeper 
into the world 
determined to do 
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.



~  Mary Oliver
art by Paul Klee


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

my body effervesces




I am born for the second time.
I am light
as the eyelash of the wind.
I froth, I am froth.

I walk dancing,
if I wish, I will soar.
The condensed lightness
of my body
condenses most forcibly
in the lightness of my foot
and its five toes.
The foot skims the earth
which gives way like compressed air.
An elastic duo
of the earth and of the foot. A dance
of liberation.

I am born for the second time,
happiness of the world
came to me again.
My body effervesces,
I think with my body which effervesces.

If I wish,
I will soar.


~ Anna Swirszczynska
translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan



Anna Swir (Świrszczyńska) was born in Warsaw, Poland, to an artistic though impoverished family. She worked from an early age, supporting herself while she attended university to study medieval Polish literature. In the 1930s she worked for a teachers’ association, served as an editor, and began publishing poetry. Swir joined the Resistance during World War II and worked as a military nurse during the Warsaw Uprising; at one point she came within an hour of being executed before she was spared. Czeslaw Milosz writes of knowing her during this time and has translated a volume of her work. Her experiences during the war strongly influenced her poetry. In 1974 she published "Building the Barricade", a volume which describes the suffering she witnessed and experienced during that time. She also writes frankly about the female body in various stages of life. In addition to poetry, Swir wrote plays and stories for children and directed a children’s theater. She lived in Krakow from 1945 until her death from cancer in 1984.



Monday, November 25, 2013

lives of a cell



Lewis Thomas

In 1974, Viking Press collected twenty-nine of the essays, exactly as they had appeared, in The Lives of a Cell. This gave readers the opportunity to see the development of his essay style and voice. The first and title essay in the book, often reprinted in prose anthologies as a model of literary prose, sets the tone and recurring themes of the essays. Here he builds on the analogy between the workings of the cell and the workings of the earth and its lives, including man's. He finds the earth "the toughest membrane imaginable in the universe, opaque to probability, impermeable to death" and man as '"the delicate part, transient and vulnerable as cilia," "embedded in nature" and not the master of it that he pictures himself to be. We are not separate entities so much as interdependent, sharing our very cells with separate creatures such the mitochondria. He concludes that the earth is cannot be called an organism because of its invisible complexities, yet it can be compared to a single cell

Many of his essays, in this book and others, elaborate this idea of interconnectedness, based on his clear explanations of scientific and medical insights. He teaches readers not only about microbiology but how these scientific discoveries can illumine their understanding of an earth in which all beings work collaboratively and interdependently toward what he hopes will be a better world in all senses. Thus the idea of the essential unity of living things, so often sentimentalized into banality, becomes compelling, based not on generalities but on his intimate understanding of how details of cellular biology and immunology can metaphorically reflect human and cosmic realities, both physical and social.

The book includes a great variety of topics. He contemplates the possibilities of extraterrestrial life as he thinks about space exploration. The activity of termite nests is compared to medical conventions, which are much less efficient and collaborative. He considers how we might communicate with our pheromones. Music, one of Thomas's great interests which reappears often in later essays, is the basis for an essay on sounds in nature and a quantitative model of thermodynamic theory.

Another favorite subject is the value of admitting to ignorance before acting precipitously. He proposes that before we start doing anything drastic to alter the environment, such as nuclear warfare, that we determine to understand fully the workings of a single form of life. In "An Ernest Proposal," his candidate for this study, which would take at least ten years, is a protozoan in the digestive tract of Australian termites, a model of collaboration we humans need to learn from.

This book also shows the broad range of Thomas's interests and knowledge. He frequently turns to classical music and language, especially the etymology of key words, to find analogies for order and evolution of ideas. He believes that "rhythmic sounds might be the recapitulation of something else--an earliest memory, a score for the transformation of inanimate random matter in chaos into the improbably ordered dance of living forms." ("The Music of This Sphere") Likewise, words, like "stigmergy," fascinate him because of their "deeply seated, immutable meaning, often hidden, which is the genotype." ("Living Language")

Combining the microscopic and the human is typical of his essays. He is fascinated with technological developments in medicine, but worries in several essays that basic research may consequently be getting too little attention. Other subjects which reappear in later essays include meditations on aging and dying and human paranoia about germs

The final essay, "The World's Biggest Membrane," returns to the premises of the first essay, as he contemplates photographs of the earth from space: "Aloft, floating free beneath the moist, gleaming membrane of bright blue sky, is the rising earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos." He goes beyond the famous photographs by comparing the atmosphere to the cell membrane: "To stay alive, you have to be able to hold out against equilibrium, maintain imbalance, bank against entropy, and you can only transact this business with membranes in our kind of world." .He develops this analogy as he describes the evolution of the sky, as "far and away the grandest product of collaboration in all of nature." As in most of his essays, such generalities come to life because he can present so clearly the scientific understandings which underlie them.



~ Ann Woodlief



Lewis Thomas said: "The great secret of doctors, known only to their wives, but still hidden from the public, is that most things get better by themselves; most things, in fact, are better in the morning."


Thursday, November 14, 2013

alan watts







~ Alan Watts
from the out of your mind lectures
with thanks to erin