Friday, October 30, 2009


Excerpts from Leavings by Wendell Berry:

Leavings: Poems Sabbaths 2005

Eternity is not infinity.
It is not a long time.
It does not run parallel to time.
In its entirety it always was.
In its entirety it will always be.
It is entirely present always


Sabbaths 2008

How many of your birthdays
I have by now been
glad of! And all that time
I’ve been trying to tell you
how with you was born
my truest life and most
desired, the better man
by your birth I am, however
fallen short. I’ll never
get it right by half.
Between us now, what
is more telling than the silence
in which once more an old
redbud simply blooms?

bedroom-october-2009Sabbaths 2008

plants, animals, humans,
soils, stones, stories,
songs—all belonging
to such small, once known
and forgotten, officially unknown
and exploited, beautiful places
such as this, where despite
all we have done wrong
the golden light of October
falls through the turning leaves.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gotta Listen

Even in the Dark
Company of Thieves

For those who work so hard
Never see their children
Never see their children grow
Into the gifts they give them

This is life, is all unknown
Gotta listen to their laughter
Everyone must be heard now
Even in the dark

For those who seek no answers
Keep it from the table
Ignorance is eaten up
When everyone must be fed

This life is constant hunger
See it in the dreamers
Believe in the believers of never-ending love
An end is kind of love

Even in the darkness
Even in the dark

Find your calling
Even in the dark
Find your calling

You gotta find your calling
Even in the dark
Everyone must be heard
Even in the darkness

On Making a Raft

Matt & Daron Portaging in the Adirondaks (July 2009)

"How useful this raft has been to me! For it was in dependence on this raft that, making an effort with my hands and feet, I have crossed over to safety on the further shore. Why don't I, having hoisted it on my head or carrying on my back, go wherever I like?"

~ Buddha

Why would one make and use a raft to cross a river only to haul it uselessly around as a burden? This is often our unskillful practice, says Stephen Batchelor. We use spiritual practice to encounter life with freshness and openness, not clinging to any particular method, just as we do not carry around a raft after having crossed a river. Each moment is an opportunity to practice. If we truly embody the practice, we can act appropriately and spontaneously in every situation.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Less Like Homework


“The founders of Electric Literature, a new quarterly literary magazine, seek nothing less than to revitalize the short story in the age of the short attention span. To do so, they allow readers to enjoy the magazine any way they like: on paper, Kindle, e-book, iPhone and, starting next month, as an audiobook. YouTube videos feature collaborations among their writers and visual artists and musicians. Starting next month, Rick Moody will tweet a story over three days…One thing Electric Literature seems good at is getting people to read serious literature, making it less like homework.”

From “Serving Literature by the Tweet,” by Felicia R. Lee, New York Times (October 27, 2009)


Front yard (October 28, 2009)Let me dream while I’m wide-awake
loose. Let me be drowned, baptized,
in the light given me. Day comes around,
night, fall, winter, spring,
summer. Leaves overhead, underfoot.
Waves arrive, buffets from friends
offended, enemies. Let it all come:
that is my way, this is the canoe I’m in.

By William Stafford, from The Answers Are Inside the Mountain: Meditations on the Writing Life

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thinking about Calcium Waves in Astrocytes

Excerpts from Andrew Koob’s discussion of glial cells and his related book, The Root of Thought, with Jonah Lehrer in "The Root of Thought: What Do Glial Cells Do?" Scientific American (October 27, 2009):

The Root of Thought: Unlocking Glia- the Brain Cell That Will Help Us Sharpen Our Wits, Heal Injury, and Treat Brain Disease Until the last 20 years, brain scientists believed neurons communicated to each other, represented our thoughts, and that glia were kind of like stucco and mortar holding the house together.  They were considered simple insulators for neuron communication.  There are a few types of glial cells, but recently scientists have begun to focus on a particular type of glial cell called the 'astrocyte,' as they are abundant in the cortex.

Interestingly, as you go up the evolutionary ladder, astrocytes in the cortex increase in size and number, with humans having the most astrocytes and also the biggest.  Scientists have also discovered that astrocytes communicate to themselves in the cortex and are also capable of sending information to neurons. Finally, astrocytes are also the adult stem cell in the brain and control blood flow to regions of brain activity. Because of all these important properties, and since the cortex is believed responsible for higher thought, scientists have started to realize that astrocytes must contribute to thought. 

In short, calcium waves are how astrocytes communicate to themselves. Astrocytes have hundreds of 'endfeet' spreading out from their body. They look like mini octopi, and they link these endfeet with blood vessels, other astrocytes and neuronal synapses. Calcium is released from internal stores in astrocytes as they are stimulated, then calcium travels through their endfeet to other astrocytes. The term 'calcium waves' describes the calcium release and exchange between astrocytes and between astrocytes and neurons.

Glial Cells Scientists at Yale, most notably Ann H. Cornell-Bell and Steven Finkbeiner, have shown that calcium waves can spread from the point of stimulation of one astrocyte to all other astrocytes in an area hundreds of times the size of the original astrocyte (watch video).

Furthermore, calcium waves can also cause neurons to fire. And calcium waves in the cortex are leading scientists to infer that this style of communication may be conducive to the processing of certain thoughts. If that isn't convincing, it was recently shown that a molecule that stimulates the same receptors as THC can ignite astrocyte calcium release. 

This idea [that glia and their calcium waves might play a role in creativity] stems from dreams, sensory deprivation and day dreaming. Without input from our senses through neurons, how is it that we have such vivid thoughts?  How is it that when we are deep in thought we seemingly shut off everything in the environment around us? 

In this theory, neurons are tied to our muscular action and external senses. We know astrocytes monitor neurons for this information. Similarly, they can induce neurons to fire. Therefore, astrocytes modulate neuron behavior.

This could mean that calcium waves in astrocytes are our thinking mind. Neuronal activity without astrocyte processing is a simple reflex; anything more complicated might require astrocyte processing. The fact that humans have the most abundant and largest astrocytes of any animal and we are capable of creativity and imagination also lends credence to this speculation.

Calcium is also released randomly and without stimulation from astrocytes' internal stores in small bursts called 'puffs.'  These random puffs can lead to waves.  It is possible that the seemingly random thoughts during dreams and sensory deprivation experience could be calcium puffs becoming waves in our astrocytes.

Basically, it is obvious that astrocytes are involved in brain processing in the cortex, but the main questions are, do our thoughts and imagination stem from astrocytes working together with neurons, or are our thoughts and imagination solely the domain of astrocytes?  Maybe the role of neurons is to support astrocytes.


Continuous Revision

From The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art by Joyce Carol Oates:

The Faith of a Writer Stories come to us as wraiths requiring precise embodiments. Running seems to allow me, ideally, an expanded consciousness in which I can envision what I'm writing as a film or a dream. I rarely invent at the typewriter but recall what I've experienced. I don't use a word processor but write in longhand, at considerable length. (Again, I know: writers are crazy.)

By the time I come to type out my writing formally, I've envisioned it repeatedly. I've never thought of writing as the mere arrangement of words on the page but as the attempted embodiment of a vision: a complex of emotions, raw experience.

The effort of memorable art is to evoke in the reader or spectator emotions appropriate to that effort. Running is a meditation; more practicably it allows me to scroll through, in my mind's eye, the pages I've just written, proofreading for errors and improvements.

My method is one of continuous revision. While writing a long novel, every day I loop back to earlier sections to rewrite, in order to maintain a consistent, fluid voice. When I write the final two or three chapters of a novel, I write them simultaneously with the rewriting of the opening, so that, ideally at least, the novel is like a river uniformly flowing, each passage concurrent with all the others.


Present but Elsewhere

Flying Distracted
by Daron Larson

Can we honestly claim to be shocked
by attention’s prolonged absence
from the cockpit?

It never really left.

It was merely present but elsewhere,
at the same time,
behind a secure door.

Deadly altitudes and velocities
feel thin and inert
from the inside,
just like outsized economic expansions
which are always too good to be true.

What lures us with adrenaline
quickly turns stale and dull.

Look at us, for example,
waiting in the cabin
for a better or more familiar city
to loom up from the
sleeping patchwork earth.

No longer dressed for Sunday,
we look like pole dancers and suckers
who lost it all in Vegas,
too short on time to wash or comb our hair, 
busy toying with the restrictions on electronic devices.

We are all flying distracted
     until jolted awake
          by contact with the ground,
               speed dialing anyone who will answer
                    to let the other passengers know
                         we are special,
                              we are adored,
                                   we are still alive.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tree of Contemplative Practices

From the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society:

The Tree of Contemplative Practices illustrates some of the contemplative practices that have been developed over the past few thousand years. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list; the practices listed on the Tree are drawn from those mentioned by survey respondents during our 2001-2004 research project.


The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society helped design the Search Inside Yourself program at Google.

To Become Visible While Carrying What is Hidden as a Gift to Others

What to Remember When Waking
by David Whyte

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other,
more secret, movable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.

What you can live wholeheartedly
will make plans enough for the vitality
hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden
as a gift to others.

To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents.
You were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now looking through
the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence
of everything that can be,
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely
white page on the waiting desk?

[From The House of Belonging (1996)]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Artists and Scientists

Generosity An Enhancement “I do not see a profound difference between art and science. I feel as if they are engaged each in different aspects of negotiating the world, of figuring out this precarious balance between inside and outside, the theories that we make about ourselves. This lovely kind of two-way portal between what we can measure and reproduce and what we intuit and feel in our viscera. We are these complex creatures. All of us are simultaneously artists and scientists. And wouldn’t it be lovely to create a kind of fiction, a kind of literature that did more than fear the transformation of material existence by science and technology? But said, rather, that these pursuits were every bit as much our pursuit and expressions of our own hopes and fears and desires as our social interactions.” 

~ Richard Powers discussing his recent novel, Generosity: An Enhancement, with Studio 360’s Kurt Anderson (October 23, 2009)

A Possibility as a Reality

“The human self-model is just a virtual model. It depicts a possibility as a reality. It’s just the best hypothesis the system has about its own current state.”

~ Thomas Metzinger, director of the theoretical philosophy group at the department of philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz

A Foerster Lectures on the Immortality of the Soul presented by the UC Berkeley Graudate Council. Series: UC Berkeley Graduate Council Lectures (2/14/2005)

University of California Television

Saturday, October 24, 2009


"The main effort of arranging your life should be to progressively reduce the amount of time required to decently maintain yourself so that you can have all the time you want for reading."

~ Norman Rush


"The secret to being a writer is that you have to write. It's not enough to think about writing or to study literature or plan a future life as an author. You really have to lock yourself away, alone, and get to work."

~ Augusten Burroughs


Rodney Smith of the Seattle Insight Meditation Society in conversation with Vince Horn of Buddhist Geeks (Episode 143: Stepping Out of Self-Deception):

Anything that we think about the world is really coming from the mind.  It is not coming from reality itself.  All of the likes and dislikes that we have of the world are really mental projections onto the world.  They are not coming from the world. And so when you begin to see that, then you begin to decipher how the mind is distorting reality on a constant momentary level...

I think the fraction line is very relevant to what we are talking about, because that fraction line is -- in a spiritual analogy -- the resistance factor.  The upper part of the fraction, or the numerator, which is all things that appear and we latch onto, hold onto, and grasp in life -- all appearances...Meanwhile, there is a common denominator to all of life that is waiting for us...that we have to cross that fraction line in order to experience and in order to embody.  Now crossing that fraction line is the entire spiritual journey.  It is the movement from the numerator toward the denominator that all spiritual paths point.

Much of Buddhism is about seeing the limited quality of anything that has an appearance, anything that has form.  In Christianity, too, Christ says, “Lay not up your treasures where rust does corrupt or thieves let in,” which means the same thing -- don’t focus and invest in the appearances of life.

And when we don’t do that, when we release the need to grasp and hold onto appearances that change, then we start crossing that fraction line and feeling -- and embodying really, because it has never left us -- the common denominator, which is that wholeness, that presence, that all encompassing awareness that is waiting for us...

And we take it as a numerator problem.  We think, “Oh, I just haven’t tried hard enough as a fraction, and that if I really tried hard has a fraction I could get to a whole number.”  And that's not the point.  The point is not to continue to assert the muscles of our numerator, because the numerator will never get us to the denominator.  It's seeing the limitations of the numerator, releasing the need to be, or abide, or grasp at the numerator that eventually evolves us into the common denominator.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Brain Anticipates Significance

The High Life (Slinkachu)

Excerpt from “Marin County, Sort Of,” by Kay Ryan, Poetry Magazine (November 2009):

There are two related pleasures in studying roadside trash. One is identifying the whole from the part. A particular half-buried bit of orange cardboard can only be part of a Wheaties box. That greasy curve of flat black stuff has got to be from some kind of automotive gasket. I admire how good the mind is, what a small bit it needs to call up the whole, and how it attributes value to things simply because it recognizes them. I take the keenest pleasure in knowing that a small trapezoid of gold slashed with red is part of a Dos Equis label. I know it. I’m a weird expert in these identifications. I don’t know how I trained, certainly not consciously. Maybe it’s just that I’ve always enjoyed looking down. I don’t know how many other people really like to do this. Maybe a lot. My brother is even better at it than I am, but maybe it’s just my tiny family.

The second kind of pleasure has to do with pieces fitting together. Whereas the first pleasure was instantaneous, the mind effortlessly constructing the whole beer bottle around the little trapezoid, this pleasure is slightly more patient, involving some actual time and distance. In this second type, as I walk along I notice that some second scrap is the color of something I saw earlier, a ways back, and has a matching edge. The first scrap meant nothing to me, but my brain on its own seems to have believed that one thing may later connect to another thing, and this built-in autonomic faith apparently keeps all the bits animated. Which is to say, the brain anticipates significance; it doesn’t know which edge may in fifty yards knit to which other edge, so everything is held, charged with a subliminal glitter along its raw sides.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What Has the Fighting Been For?

“I am here today because of a conversation I had last June when I was voting. A woman at my polling place asked me, ‘Do you believe in equality for gay and lesbian people?’ I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that. It made no sense to me. Finally I asked her, ‘What do you think our boys fought for at Omaha Beach?’ I have seen much, so much blood and guts, so much suffering, so much sacrifice. For what? For freedom and equality. These are the values that give America a great nation, one worth dying for.”

~ Philip Spooner, Republican and World War II veteran speaking to Maine's Judiciary Committee in April 2009.

Read more at: Philip Spooner VIDEO: WWII Veteran Makes Case For Gay Marriage

[Thanks David!]

An Integrated System

Author and UCLA psychology professor Dan Siegel in conversation with Tami Simon on the topic “What Makes the Mind Healthy,” Sounds True: Insights at the Edge (October 6, 2009):

It turns out that when a complex system moves across time, it has something called a self-organizing process that tends to move it toward what is called maximizing complexity...If you imagine a choir where you have everybody sing the note the exact same way, it has this kind of dullness and rigidity to it. There is no differentiation. They are totally linked, the singers, but not differentiated. Then you have them close their ears, where they belt out a song as loudly as they can but they’d hear each other sing. The song is random. They pick whatever they feel like. There is total differentiation and zero linkage. It is cacophony. It is chaos. Then you have them open their ears, get together, and say to them, sing whatever you want. And amazingly, they will pick a song that they sing in harmony, where there will be intervals that each of the individual singers is expressing his or her identity, yet they are linking together in this familiar common song. And everyone has their inner singer and listener alike. And there is a feeling of incredible vitality, of fluidity and flexibility...

So in terms of integration, this differentiation of parts that then become linked, the linkage of specialized parts of a system, that is what allows you to move in a harmonious path. In complexity terms, you maximize complexity, but we can drop that term because it doesn’t make intuitive sense and just use the word harmony. So when a complex system is linking differentiated parts, it becomes harmonious and adaptive. So the interpersonal neurobiology view of health is basically integration. It is that simple. And it is that profound.

Because when you have learned to monitor energy and information flow, you can then take the pulse of where your life has rigidity in it, like when you have repeated habits that you feel imprisoned by or thoughts that keep on going over and over in your head, that is an example of rigidity. Or you keep on getting romantic partners that are bad for you because they hate you. But you want to be with someone who hates you, that is an example of a rigid pattern.

Or on the other extreme chaos, where you interact with people and suddenly you burst into this emotional chaotic storm that floods you and you don’t have any kind of balance in your life. And you are saying things to loved ones that you don’t want to say. Or you are beating up in yourself in these, what I call “low-road outbursts.” You know, all those chaotic ways our life creates suffering for us. Those are all examples of impaired integration. And we could go through in detail what that looks like, and in my book Mindsight I do. But it is basically any opportunity you can see to feel rigidity in your life. It is an opportunity to look deeply at what is not differentiated in your relationships, what is not differentiated in your nervous system.


[Thanks Kit !]

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grief Translated

Strict Care, Strict Joy
by James Stephens

To-day i felt as poor O'Brien did
When, turning from all else that was not his,
He took himself to that which was his own
— He took him to his verse — for other all he had not,
And (tho' man will crave and seek)
Another all than this he did not need

So, pen in hand he tried to tell the whole tale of his woe
In rhyming; lodge the full weight of his grief in versing: and so did:
Then — when his poem had been conned and cared,
And all put in that should not be left out — did he not find and with astonishment,

That grief had been translated, or was come
Other and better than it first looked to be:
And that this happened, because all things transfer
From what they seem to what they truly are
When they are innocently brooded on
— And, so, The poet makes grief beautiful.

"Behold me now, with my back to the wall,
Playing music to empty pockets!"
So, Raferty, tuning a blind mans plight,
Could sing the cark of misery away:
And know, in blindness and in poverty,
That woe was not of him, nor kind to him.

And Egan Rahilly begins a verse —
"My heart is broken, and my mind is sad ..."
'Twas surely true when he began his song,
And was less true when he had finished it:
— Be sure, his heart was buoyant, and his grief
Drummed and trumpeted as grief was sung!

For, as he meditated misery
And cared it into song — Strict Care, Strict Joy!
Caring for grief he cared his grief away:
And those sad songs, tho' woe be all the theme,
Do not make us grieve who read them now —
Because the poet makes grief beautiful.

And I, myself, conning a lonely heart
— Full lonely 'twas, and 'tis as lonely now
Turned me, by proper, to my natural,
And, now too long her vagrant, wooed my muse:
Then to her — let us look more close to these,
And, seeing, know; and, knowing, be at ease.

Seeing the sky o'ercast, and that the rain had
Plashed the window, and would plash again:
Seeing the summer lost, and the winter nigh:
Seeing inapt, and sad, and fallen from good:
Seeing how will was weak, and wish o'erbearing:
Seeing inconstant, seeing timidity:
Seeing too small, too poor in this and yon:
Seeing life, daily, grow more difficult:
Seeing all that moves away — moving away
... And that all seeing is a blind-mans treat,
And that all getting is a beggars dole,
And that all having is bankruptcy ...

All these, sad all! I told to my good friend,
Told Raferty, O'Brien, Rahilly,
Told rain, and frosted blossom, and the summer gone,
Told poets dead, and captains dead, and kings!
— And we cared naught that these were mournful things,
For, caring them, we made them beautiful.

Strict Joy

Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard recently broke up but are still making music together as The Swell Season. Their new project, Strict Joy, comes out next week.

Marketa tells the New York Times, “Like Glen always puts it, you live your life, and the residue of that life you lead becomes the music. The same way it turned from friends to lovers, it somehow managed to turn the other way around at the end of it, which I’m delighted about because I’d hate for it to be drama.”

The Pomodoro Technique

tomato-timer The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo is a time management method that reminds me of some of the basic principles behind mindfulness meditation: break things down into smaller more manageable units and focus primarily on one thing for a specific interval of time to develop concentration. It also reminds me of learning strategies I came across from reading Tony Buzan’s books on mind mapping which transformed by experience as a college student.

The basic unit of work in the Pomodoro Technique can be summarized in five steps:

  1. Choose a task
  2. Set a timer to twenty-five minutes
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
  4. Take a short break (about five minutes)
  5. After every four rounds, take a longer break

Download a free pdf version of The Pomodoro Technique and a free timer app from Focus Booster (or just use the live desktop version).

[Thanks Web Worker Daily!]

To See It on the Refrigerator

"Whatever makes a child want to glue macaroni on a paper plate and paint the assemblage and see it on the refrigerator — that has always been strong in me."

~ Robert Pinsky, on how he got started as a poet

Rachel Ray (macaroni, beans) by Jason Mecier

Animals Never Lie

Excerpt from White Apples by Jonathan Carroll:

White Apples “Here's something you must know and don't forget it—animals never lie. They don't lie, they don't put on disguises, and they are always true to what they are. That's why you can trust them."

“Excuse me, but I do not trust lions. Or bears or snakes—"

"That’s because you want them to be the creatures you imagined as a child. Lions should be the strong but sweet beasts in a Disney cartoon. But they aren't, so when they start acting like lions you're angry at them for not being the fantasy animals you imagined. Real bears don't wear top hats and ride unicycles. Nor do they sleep in bed next to Goldilocks. Human beings force them to do those stupid things in circuses and films or children's books. Sure, some might be more docile or more ferocious than others, but in the end they will always, always be bears. You know you should never should turn your back on a bear. You should never even get near them; it's that simple. They're not being dishonest—you are in your perception of them."

Monday, October 19, 2009

An Observable Trail

From “The Cloud Chamber,” by Zen Master Barry Magid:

cloud-chamber A cloud chamber is a device particle physicists use to study subatomic particles that cannot be observed directly. But as they pass through the chamber, the particles bump into the cloud droplets, leaving an observable trail.

The Zendo serves as our cloud chamber, and the trail we watch out for is a trail of anger, pain and disappointment. These traces let us know that an expectation — even an unconscious expectation about how we should be, be treated, be able to handle ourselves, etc. — has passed through. Because even if we can't initially put our finger on an exact way to put the expectation into words, we know when we're in pain or angry.

Zendo Gradually, the more we study the traces in the Zendo cloud chamber, the more we will be able to discern patterns of expectation, patterns we call our core beliefs.

And then, as we notice them more and more directly, we can notice and label them simply as arising and passing thoughts, thoughts that do not need to be changed or eliminated, but simply watched as part of our mental landscape.

And at last we are present in that landscape, not because we have designed or learned to control it, but because we ourselves are the landscape and are at home in ourselves.

[Thanks Jeanne!]

Time to Say Good-Bye

Where the Wild Things Are

On Turning Ten 
by Billy Collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

Where The Wild Things Are

Sunday, October 18, 2009

All Ground is Holy

Frederick Franck "These Ten Commandments on seeing/drawing were revealed to me on a mountain, but also in a meadow, on a beach and even in the subway. For their revelation did not come all at once, but in installments, as it were, over the years, and always while I was busy drawing, and invariably on holy ground. But that may be because, while drawing, all ground is holy: unseparated from the Whole."

~ Frederick Franck, from The Awakened Eye

  1. You shall draw everything and every day

  2. You shall not wait for inspiration, for it comes not while you wait but while you work

  3. You shall forget all you think you know and, even more,
    all you have been taught

  4. You shall not adore your good drawings and promptly forget your bad ones

  5. You shall not draw with exhibitions in mind, nor to please any critic but yourself

  6. You shall trust none but your own eye, and make your hand follow it

  7. You shall consider the mouse you draw as more important than the contents of all the museums in the world, for

  8. You shall love the ten thousand things with all your heart and a blade of grass as yourself

  9. Let each drawing be your first: a celebration of the eye awakened

  10. You shall not worry about "being of your time", for you are your time, and it is brief

No Less Everything

Late Autumn Elms (wallpaper)

by Katha Pollitt, from The Mind-Body Problem

It’s all maya—that’s what we used to say,
Zen friends forever, rushing into the dorm
flushed from our dash through the common,
     stamping our snow-
caked boots like Cossacks: all illusion, term

papers, bad sex, no sex, my antique
real-lace camisole
lifted by the class kleptomaniac
and smuggled in atonement to Goodwill—

how scornfully we flung into our bon-
fire mere phenomena, all shadows, dreams,
as though it was not we who burned, our own
vitality we watched go up in flames!

It’s always maya—I still say that, Cartesian
to the end, and yet it comes back differently
now I believe it, everything is illusion
and yet is no less everything: love, safety,

the warm living room and the October sun
slant on the good rug, or the train today
from which I watched, beyond my dim reflection,
the silent, bright elms burn themselves away.


Dłonie (Hands)
by Maciej Jurewicz

A short documentary about silence.



Saturday, October 17, 2009

What are we if we are not our stories?

Enda Walsh on his play The Walworth Farce (Druid Ireland).

Sound Living, Sound Business

Julian Treasure
TED Talks (October 2009)


[Thanks Kit!]

We Make This World

Oscar Wilde
by Company of Thieves

Episodes and parallels,
Don't you want the invitation?
Big bright accent, catty smile,
Oscar Wilde confrontation

Ah, Live like it's the style
Oh, we waltz on your front porch

We are all our own devil
We are all our own devil
And we make this world our hell

We are all our own devil
We are all our own devil
And we make this world
We make this world our hell

Porcelain teacups decorate,
Tables and the conversation,
Beauty pageants, all the time,
Is running out, the time is running out
Live like it's the style


Time keeps on ticking away
It's Always running away
We're always running in time
We're always running from time


Shopping, Yearning, Returning

Department Store Fictions
by Jason Whitmarsh, from Tomorrow’s Living Rooms

The mannequins are all in love with you
and too depressed to say it. The cashier
flirts with another cashier, who eyes you,
who eyes the sales rack of wool pants.
Behind each mirror hunches an old man
watching women adjust their skirts,
their sunglasses, their hair. Small dogs disappear
on the escalator. Everyone leans forward
at the perfume counter, asking to be touched.

Mannequins (Paris, 2005)

i like my body
by E. E. Cummings, from Complete Poems 1904-1962 

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which I will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh...And eyes big love-crumbs,
and possibly i like the thrill
of under me you quite so new

Matt (Paris, 2005)

by Jason Whitmarsh, from Tomorrow’s Living Rooms

That last love poem I gave you, I want to apologize for that. It was
crudely put and several of the metaphors leaned too heavily on sea
life. I love you so much more than that. The best part of the poem
was the beginning, and that had nothing to do with you, or me,
or how much either of us loves each other. It was just a line from
another, better poem. Most of the poem sounds defensive, like I've
been accused of not loving you, or you of not loving me. Not that
I think I don't love you, or you me. I don't. Still, one could read a
poem by someone else and it'd seem more authentic—you'd be more
likely to think that poem was dedicated to you, I mean, than to think
mine was. One could even argue, too, that by studiously avoiding
your name or any identifying traits, I was making this poem fit for
more than one person, like women in general, or a second wife, or
your very attractive sister.

[Thanks, as usual, Garrison!]

Friday, October 16, 2009

What We See

Excerpts of dialogue spoken by the Werner Heisenberg character in Michael Frayn’s Tony award winning play, Copenhagen:

How difficult it is to see even what’s in front of one’s eyes. All we possess is the present, and the present endlessly dissolves into the past…And yet how much more difficult still it is to catch the slightest glimpse of what’s behind one’s eyes.

*     *     *

Werner Heisenberg, 1965 BBC interview And that’s when I did uncertainty. Walking round Faelled Park on my own one horrible raw February night. It’s very late, and as soon as I’ve turned off into the park I’m completely alone in the darkness. I start to think about what you’d see, if you could train a telescope on me from the mountains of Norway.

You’d see me by the street lamps on the Blegdamsvej, then nothing as I vanished into the darkness, then another glimpse of me as I passed the lamp-post in front of the bandstand. And that’s what we see in the cloud chamber. Not a continuous track but a series of glimpses — a series of collisions between the passing electron and various molecules of water vapour…

Or think of you, on your great papal progress to Leiden in 1925. What did Margrethe see of that, at home here in Copenhagen? A picture postcard from Hamburg, perhaps. Then one from Leiden. One from Göttingen. One from Berlin. Because what we see in the cloud chamber are not even the collisions themselves, but the water-droplets that condense around them, as big as cities around a traveler — no, vastly bigger still, relatively — complete countries — Germany…Holland…Germany again. There is no track, there are no precise addresses; only a vague list of countries visited. I don’t know why we hadn’t thought of it before, except that we were too busy arguing to think at all.

What We Remember

“We’re constantly being swayed in what we do by just a little teeny change, something that comes, for examples, from our past experience with a certain kind of situation. But what we remember from the previous situation is not just the facts and not just the outcome that may be good or bad. We also remember whether or not what we felt was good or bad. This is something that people need to understand. When you are making decisions, any day of your life, the [choices] you make are going to produce a good or bad outcome – or something in between. You don’t only remember what the factual result is, but also what the emotional result is. And that tandem of fact and associated emotion is critical. And of course most of what we construct as wisdom, over time, is actually a result of cultivating that knowledge about how our emotions behaved – what we learned from them.”

~ Antonio Damasio, in conversation with David Brooks on the topic of emotions from the perspective of neuroscience and evolution during the Aspen Institute on July 4, 2009.

Thursday, October 15, 2009



Persistent Improvements

From “How Mindfulness Can Make for Better Doctors,” by Pauline W. Chen, M.D., New York Times (October 15, 20090:

Last month, The Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of a study examining the effects of a year-long course for primary care physicians on mindfulness, that ability to be in the zone and present in the moment purposefully and without judgment. Seventy physicians enrolled and participated in the four components of the course — mindfulness meditation; writing sessions; discussions; and lectures on topics like managing conflict, setting boundaries and self-care.

The effects of the sessions were dramatic. The participating doctors became more mindful, less burned out and less emotionally exhausted. But two additional findings surprised the investigators. Several of the improvements persisted even after the yearlong course ended. And, those changes correlated with a significant increase in attributes that contribute to patient-centered care, such as empathy and valuing the psychosocial factors that might affect a patient’s illness experience.


[Thanks Kit!]

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Life Without the Interference of the Mind

Excerpts from “The Power of Eckhart Tolle’s Now,” a conversation with Krista Tippett on Speaking of Faith (October 8, 2009):

The Power of Eckhart Tolle's Now[What we are talking about is] being fully alive and fully engaging with life in the present moment, which is where life happens. Fully responding to the needs of this moment, not rejecting this moment, not arguing with this moment, but being open to it.

The vastness of it all and the compulsion to continuously interpret whatever you are experiencing at any given moment, that is no longer there. And there's great freedom in not compulsively interpreting other people, situations, and so on. Not imposing all these judgments. That's another word for it. Imposing thinking, thinking continuously on the world, which is so alive and so fresh and new at every moment.

When we impose the continuously compulsive thinking on it, then we deaden it, and we become dead to the aliveness of the world. We become dead to the aliveness in others. And so we can no longer have empathy for others when we are behind a screen of conceptualization through which we judge others.

And so, yes, the mind is beautiful. The ability to think is a great thing...It doesn't mean you become semiconscious or it doesn't mean it's like the thing that happens to you when you have a few drinks.

What we are talking about here is a state of alert attention to what is where compulsive thinking no longer operates. This means you rise above thinking to a large extent in your life. The whole thing of Zen is really about that. Zen is a very practical way of taking you beyond compulsive thinking where you can face life without the interference of the mind. Still being able to use the mind when it's needed, but not being used by it.

Monday, October 12, 2009


"She took up her position as directed." Troy courts Bathsheba; Cornhill illustration by Helen Paterson Allingham.

"It is safer to accept any chance that offers itself, and extemporize a procedure to fit it, than to get a good plan matured, and wait for a chance of using it."

~ Thomas Hardy, from Far from the Madding Crowd

[Thanks Linda!]

Touch the Sound

“Award-winning director and cinematographer, Thomas Riedelsheimer,  takes us on an journey through a universe of sound with percussionist Evelyn Glennie. They map a world of the senses — images and sounds. Hearing images, seeing sound. With Evelyn, we experience sound as palpable and rhythm as the basis of everything that is.”

~ From the Touch the Sound web page

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Can Fun Change Behavior?

The Fun Theory



Every Particle of Earth

Common european earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris) "Although the conclusion may appear at first startling, it will be difficult to deny the probability, that every particle of earth forming the bed from which the turf in old pasture land springs, has passed through the intestines of worms."

~ Charles Darwin

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Autumn Leaves


Virtuoso Pamelia Kurstin plays and discusses her theremin, the not-just-for-sci-fi electronic instrument that is played without being touched. Pamelia gives Kurt Andersen a music lesson on Studio 360 (September 4, 1009).

No Different

“Rich people are no different from poor people, they always want more.”

~ Brooke Astor

Expect Nothing Always

Philip Booth "Writing poems is not a career but a lifetime of looking into, and listening to, how words see." ~ Philip Booth

By Philip Booth:

How to See Deer

Forget roadside crossings.
Go nowhere with guns.
Go elsewhere your own way,

lonely and wanting.
Or stay and be early:
next to deep woods

inhabit old orchards.
All clearings promise.
Sunrise is good,

and fog before sun.
Expect nothing always;
find your luck slowly.

Wait out the windfall.
Take your good time
to learn to read ferns;

make like a turtle:
downhill toward slow water.
Instructed by heron,

drink the pure silence.
Be compassed by wind.
If you quiver like aspen

trust your quick nature:
let your ear teach you
which way to listen.

You've come to assume
protective color; now
colors reform to

new shapes in your eye.
You've learned by now
to wait without waiting;

as if it were dusk
look into light falling:
in deep relief

things even out.
Be careless of nothing.
See what you see.

First Lesson

Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man's float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Why We Need Art

John Keats "We now know enough to know that we will never know everything. This is why we need art: it teaches us to live with mystery. Only the artist can explore the ineffable without offering us an answer, for sometimes there is no answer. John Keats called this romantic impulse 'negative capability.' He said that certain poets, like Shakespeare, had 'the ability to remain in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after facts and reason.' Keats realized that just because something can't be solved, or reduced into the laws of physics, doesn't mean it isn't real. When we venture beyond the edge of our knowledge, all we have is art."

~ Jonah Lehrer, from Proust Was a Neuroscientist

Life is an Experiment

“Life consists in penetrating the unknown, and fashioning our actions in accord with the new knowledge thus acquired.”

~ Leo Tolstoy, from The Kingdom of God Is within You

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make, the better.  What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn?  What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice?  Up again, you shall nevermore be so afraid of a tumble again.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Journals, November 11, 1842

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

~ Anaïs Nin, from D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study

“What is a scientist after all? It is a curious [person] looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what's going on."

~ Jacques Cousteau, from The Christian Science Monitor, July 21, 1971

“The greater one's science, the deeper the sense of mystery.”

~ Vladimir Nabokov, from Strong Opinions

"Everybody's a mad scientist, and life is their lab. We're all trying to experiment to find a way to live, to solve problems, to fend off madness and chaos."

~ David Cronenberg, from Cronenberg on Cronenberg

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Purpose of Human Life

Jane Campion in conversation with Elvis Mitchell on The Treatment (September 16, 2009):

“What I was struck by when I read the story was how emotionally powerful it was for me. It wasn’t just the sadness, it seemed to tell the whole story of the yearning heart. But also this other thing elevated by Keats who — only twenty-five —dying, yet he had already realized something that seems to be, I think, contingent on us all to discover which is the purpose of human life — somehow to realize your consciousness and to value it. And I think in the way he explored it philosophically in his letters to his friends and in his poetry he was aware, he did listen, and I felt I learned such a lot from the story in that way.”

“If you read Louise Bourgeois, she talks about women and waiting. Her family mended tapestries and she was a great sewer and I like sewing, too. I collect women’s embroidery of tablecloths and things like that. I’ve got quite a big collection. I often give them as gifts because I find there’s enormous pathos for me in that a woman can spend all this time embroidering this thing that you’re never going to get the money back on, it’s got no immediate return, but it’s satisfying to them. I find it’s like the woman’s place in this world. It’s moving to me the way that they’re happy to make these beautiful things for other people to enjoy with no commercial return. None.”