Sunday, December 27, 2009

What Moves Us Forward

Satir Change Model

The Hero’s Journey (On Living in the World)
by Joseph Campbell

"The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are."

What you have to do,
you do with play.

Life is without meaning.
You bring the meaning to it.

The meaning of life is
whatever you ascribe it to be.

Being alive is the meaning.

The warrior's approach
is to say "yes" to life:
"yea" to it all.

Participate joyfully
in the sorrows of the world.

We can not cure the world of sorrows,
but we can choose to live in joy.

When we talk about
settling the world's problems,
we're barking up the wrong tree.

The world is perfect. It's a mess.
It has always been a mess.

We are not going to change it.

Our job is to straighten out
our own lives.

We must be willing to get rid of
the life we've planned, so as to have
the life that is waiting for us.

The old skin has to be shed
before the new one can come.

If we fix on the old, we get stuck.
When we hang onto any form,
we are in danger of putrefaction.

Hell is life drying up.

The Hoarder,
the one in us that wants to keep,
to hold on, must be killed.

If we are hanging onto the form now,
we're not going to have the form next.

You can't make an omelet
without breaking eggs.

Destruction before creation.

Out of perfection
nothing can be made.

Every process involves
breaking something up.

The earth must be broken
to bring forth life.
If the seed does not die,
there is no plant.

Bread results
from the death of wheat.

Life lives on lives.

Our own life
lives on the acts
of other people.

If you are lifeworthy,
you can take it.

What we are really living for
is the experience of life,
both the pain and the pleasure.

The world is a match for us.
we are match for the world

to find deeper powers
within ourselves
come when life
seems most challenging.

to the pain and ferocity of life
is negativism to life.

We are not there
until we can say
"yea" to all.

to take a righteous attitude
toward anything is to denigrate it.

Awe is what moves us forward.

As you proceed through life,
following your own path,
birds will shit on you.
Don't bother to brush it off.

Getting a comedic view of your situation
gives you spiritual distance.
Having sense of humor saves you.

Eternity is a dimension
of here and now.

The divine lives within you.

Live from your own center.

Your real duty
is to go away from the community
to find your bliss.

The society is the enemy
when it imposes its structures
on the individual.

On the dragon there are many scales.
everyone of them says "Thou Shalt."

Kill the dragon "Thou Shalt."

When one one has killed that dragon,
one has become The Child.

Breaking out
is following your bliss pattern,
quitting the old place,
starting your hero journey,
following your bliss.

You throw off yesterday
as the snake sheds its skin.

Follow your bliss.

The heroic life is living the individual

There is no security
in following the call to adventure.

Nothing is exciting
if you know
what the outcome is going to be.

To refuse the call
means stagnation.

What you don't experience positively
you will experience negatively.

You enter the forest
at the darkest point.,
where there is no path.

Where there is a way or path,
it is someone else's path.

You are not on your own path.

If you follow someone else's way.
you are not going to realize
your potential.

The goal of the hero trip
down to the jewel point
is to find those levels in the psyche
that open, open, open
and finally open to the mystery
of your Self being
Buddha consciousness
or the Christ.

It is all about finding
that still point in your mind
where commitment drops away.

It is going down into the abyss
that we recover the treasures of life.

Where you stumble,
there lies your treasure.

The very cave you are afraid to enter
turns out to be the source of
what you are looking for.
The damned thing in the cave
that was so dreaded
has become the center.

You find the jewel,
and it draws you off.

In loving the spiritual,
you cannot despise the earthly.

The purpose of the journey
is compassion.

When you have come past
the pairs of opposites,
you have reached compassion.

The goal is to bring the jewel
back to the world,
to join the two things together.

The separateness
apparent in the world
is secondary.

Beyond the world of opposites
is an unseen, but experienced,
unity and identity in us all.

Today, the planet is
the only proper "in group."

You must return
with the bliss
and integrate it.

The return is seeing
the radiance everywhere.

Sri Ramakrishna said:
"Do not seek illumination
unless you seek it
as a man whose hair is on fire
seeks a pond."

If you want the whole thing,
the gods will give it to you.
But you must be ready for it.

The goal is to live
with godlike composure
on the full rush of energy,
like Dionysus riding the leopard,
without being torn to pieces.

A bit of advice
given to a young Native American
at the time of his initiation:

"As you go the way of life,
you will see a great chasm.


It is not as wide as you think."

[Thanks Kit!]

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Between Waking and Dreams

Photo of western Arctic Ocean, north of Alaska, taken out of an airplane window at about 200 feet above the ice by Jeff Key.

by Adam Zagajewski
Translated by Clare Cavanagh

I watched the arctic landscape from above
and thought of nothing, lovely nothing.
I observed white canopies of clouds, vast
expanses where no wolf tracks could be found.

I thought about you and about the emptiness
that can promise one thing only: plenitude—
and that a certain sort of snowy wasteland
bursts from a surfeit of happiness.

As we drew closer to our landing,
the vulnerable earth emerged among the clouds,
comic gardens forgotten by their owners,
pale grass plagued by winter and the wind.

I put my book down and for an instant felt
a perfect balance between waking and dreams.
But when the plane touched concrete, then
assiduously circled the airport's labryinth,

I once again knew nothing. The darkness
of daily wanderings resumed, the day's sweet darkness,
the darkness of the voice that counts and measures,
remembers and forgets.

Friday, December 25, 2009

To Rediscover the Questions

Abraham Joshua Heschel “It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with a voice of compassion--its message becomes meaningless.

Religion is an answer to man's ultimate questions. The moment we become oblivious to ultimate questions, religion becomes irrelevant, and its crisis sets in. The primary task of philosophy of religion is to rediscover the questions to which religion is an answer.”

~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, from God in Search of Man : A Philosophy of Judaism

Monday, December 21, 2009

Turning Sadness into Compassion

From “When Does Death Start?” by Darshak Sanghavi, New York Times, December 16, 2009:

Holleigh and Paul Tlapa with their children (Alexeigh, Aspen and Gage) at a shrine to their daughter Jaiden, who died at age 8.  (Photo by Lydia Panas for The New York Times)Over time Holleigh Tlapa and her husband, Paul, realized Jaiden wouldn’t get better, and they asked about organ donation. Because she wasn’t brain-dead, D.C.D. [donation after cardiac death] was the only option. Although the task force at Children’s disagreed about D.C.D., the hospital drafted a protocol. The Tlapas were told about the disagreement, but they chose to proceed. On Jan. 13, 2008, a dying but not dead organ donor was brought to the operating room and prepped for withdrawal of support for the first time in the hospital’s history. Holleigh and Paul lay in their daughter’s bed and played Jaiden’s favorite Miley Cyrus song as the breathing tube was removed. They held their daughter and waited.

There’s something remarkable about such families. I’ve known hundreds of parents whose children are stricken by terrible diseases. For many, the gravity of the situation is so overwhelming that they withdraw into themselves, letting no emotion escape, and then suddenly explode into a supernova of blame and anger. But there are others on whom this terrible pressure exerts a metamorphic power that turns some of their sadness into a compassion that is strong and diamond-brilliant. [More…]

An Accountant of the Heart

The Loneliest Job in the World
by Tony Hoagland, from Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty: Poems

As soon as you begin to ask the question, Who loves me?,
you are completely screwed, because
the next question is How Much?,

and then it is hundreds of hours later,
and you are still hunched over
your flowcharts and abacus,

trying to decide if you have gotten enough.
This is the loneliest job in the world:
to be an accountant of the heart.

It is late at night. You are by yourself,
and all around you, you can hear
the sounds of people moving

in and out of love,
pushing the turnstiles, putting
their coins in the slots,

paying the price which is asked,
which constantly changes.
No one knows why.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Offering the Self

This poem is a retelling of one of the Jātaka tales, Asian folktales which recount various acts of self-sacrifice performed by earlier incarnations of the Buddha. I came across this poem in Norman Fischer’s Talks on Dogen's Genjokoan published in "Moon in a Dewdrop" (Part 4).

The Rabbit in the Moon
by Ryōkan Taigu

Moon rabbit It took place in a world long long ago they say:
a monkey, a rabbit, and a fox struck up a friendship,
morning frolicking field and hill,
evenings coming home to the forest,
living thus while the years went by,
when Indra, sovereign of the skies,
hearing of this,
curious to know if it was true,
turned himself into an old man,
tottering along,
made his way to where they were.

“You three,” he said, “are of separate species
yet play together with a single heart.
If what I’ve heard is true,
pray save an old man who’s hungry!”
then he set his staff aside,
sat down to rest.

Simple enough, they said, and presently
the monkey appeared from the grove behind
bearing nuts he’d gathered there,
and the fox returned from the rivulet in front,
clamped in his jaws a fish he’d caught.

But the rabbit,
though he hopped and hopped everywhere
couldn’t find anything at all,
while the others cursed him
because his heart was not like theirs.

Miserable me! he thought,
and then he said
“Monkey, go cut me firewood!
Fox, build me a fire with it!”
and when they’d done what he’d asked,
he flung himself into the midst of the flames,
made himself an offering
for an unknown man.

When the old man saw this his heart withered.
He looked up to the sky,
cried aloud,
then sank to the ground,
and in a while,
beating his breast, said to the others,

“Each of you three friends has done his best,
but what the rabbit did touches me the most!”

Then he made the rabbit whole again
and gathering the dead body up in his arms,
took it and laid it to rest in the palace of the moon.

From that time till now
the story’s been told,
this tale of
how the rabbit came to be in the moon,
and even I
when I hear it
find the tears
soaking the sleeve of my robe.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Something Fresh and Inspired

Excerpts from Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms by Norman Fischer:

Opening to You “I call them ‘Zen-inspired’ because I approach them the only way I can: as a Zen practitioner, with a Zen eye. But I have not tried to rewrite the Psalms as Zen philosophy. Quite the opposite. My intention has been to learn from them, to expand my own understanding under their influence. Nevertheless, although my way of life and understanding have been thoroughly saturated by Zen, I am still a Westerner, so I have found in the Psalms a very familiar music that seems to express my own approach to enlightenment: the passionate, prickly, and lively noise that naturally seems to rise from the silent depths of my own heart.”

“I do not think I am unusual. Western Buddhists are Buddhists, yes, but they are also Westerners. This makes a big difference. It is why Buddhism in the West is and will continue to be different from what it has been in Asia. No matter how much Westerners try to immerse themselves in the Buddhism presented to them by their Asian teachers (and expressed in the Asian texts), they will always see it colored by Western concepts and views and by a Western feeling for life. You could view this as a problem, a distortion of real Buddhism, and I know that many Asian Buddhist teachers think that Westerners just don’t ‘get’ Buddhism and that it will take several generations for them to get it. While this is a reasonable way to look at it, I prefer to see the problem as an advantage and to view the inevitable mixing of Western and Asian Buddhist perspectives as something fresh and inspired, rather than somehow incorrect.”

*     *     *

Psalm 1

Happy is the one who walks otherwise
Than in the manner of the heedless
Who stands otherwise
Than in the way of the twisted
Who does not sit in the seat of the scornful
But finds delight in the loveliness of things
And lives by that pattern all day and all night —

For this one is like a tree planted near a stream
That gives forth strong fruit in season
And whose leaf doesn’t wither
And whose branches spread wide —

Not so the heedless

They are like chaff scattered by the wind
Endlessly driven, they cannot occupy their place
And so can never be seen or embraced
And they can never be joined

What you see is always lovely and remembered
But the way of heedlessness is oblivion

Psalm 23

You are my shepherd, I am content
You lead me to rest in the sweet grasses
To lie down by the quiet waters
And I am refreshed

You lead me down the right path
The path that unwinds in the pattern of your name

And even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will not fear
For you are with me
Comforting me with your rod and your staff
Showing me each step

You prepare a table for me
In the midst of my adversity
And moisten my head with oil

Surely my cup is overflowing
And goodness and kindness will follow me
All the days of my life
And in the long days beyond
I will always live in your house

*     *     *

Meredith Monk was inspired by these translations, “by the upward-seeking forms of spiritual structures around the world, and by Ann Hamilton’s Tower in Sonoma, California” to write her Songs of Ascension.  

Monday, December 14, 2009

Flying Over the Chasm

Barry Blitt for The New York Times Excerpts from “Hollywood’s Brilliant Coda to America’s Dark Year,” by Frank Rich, New York Times, December 12, 2009:

The fictional doings in “Up in the Air,” adapted from a 2001 novel by Walter Kirn, are bookended by brief montages culled from interviews that the director, Jason Reitman, conducted with real-life laid-off workers while shooting in Detroit and St. Louis. He asked the interviewees what they had told — or wished they had told — the H.R. bureaucrats who let them go. “On the stress level, I’ve heard that losing your job is like a death in the family,” says one man. “But personally I feel more like the people I worked with were my family, and I died.”

...What gives our Great Recession its particular darkness — and gives this film its haunting afterlife — is the disconnect between the corporate culture that is dictating the firing and the rest of us. In the shorthand of the day, it’s the dichotomy between Wall Street and Main Street, though that oversimplifies the divide. This disconnect isn’t just about the huge gap in income between the financial sector and the rest of America. Nor is it just about the inequities of a government bailout that rescued the irresponsible bankers who helped crash the economy while shortchanging the innocent victims of their reckless gambles. What “Up in the Air” captures is less didactic. It makes palpable the cultural and even physical chasm that opened up between the two Americas for years before the financial collapse.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Into the Cathedral


“Under the ice, the divers  find themselves in a separate reality where space and time acquire a strange new dimension. Those few who have experienced the world under the frozen sky often speak of it as going down into the cathedral.”

~ Werner Herzog, from his 2007 film, Encounters at the End of the World

[Thanks Kit!]


Gustave Flaubert "Happy are they who don't doubt themselves and whose pens fly across the page. I myself hesitate, I falter, I become angry and fearful, my drive diminishes as my taste improves, and I brood more over an ill-suited word than I rejoice over a well-proportioned paragraph."

~ Gustave Flaubert

For My Unconquerable Soul

The title of the new Clint Eastwood film, Invictus, comes from a poem that Nelson Mandela took comfort in when he was incarcerated on Robben Island for eighteen of the twenty-seven years he spent in prison.

by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

*     *     *

Listen to Overtone and Yollandi Nortjie’s “9,000 Days”:

Friday, December 11, 2009

If I Were Brave Enough

Phillippe Petit (Man on Wire, 2008)Alliance
by Maya Stein

“You have to make an alliance with your anguish,” he said,
“not wage war against it.” And I thought of all the fists
I had shaken at misfortune: games lost
because the shot clock ran out,
a good meal scorched in a forgotten oven,
money dropped on a dress worn only once,
the bully in 6th grade, the math test in 9th,
the wrong outfit at Halloween.
But of course, this isn’t what he meant.

If I were brave enough, I’d tell you how my heart
has raged for love, stretched thin as a high wire.
If I were brave enough, I’d tell you
how my body has been fighting to stay upright
on every precipitous downhill the city
throws at it. If I were brave enough,
I’d climb into your lap and weep with longing.
All I can say is that any attempt at beauty and hope
is land-mined with failure.
And so the perilous track-making begins.
Wending our way through,
there are possible clutches at sunlight, at windows, at yes.
We are each of us inches from death.
We are each of us inches from life.
We are each of us inches from one another.

[Thanks Angie!]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nothing Stays the Same

Excerpts from "The Medicalization Of Mundane Experience: The 'Syndrome' Syndrome," by Ellen Langer, The Huffington Post, December 8, 2009:

There are actually 97 named syndromes. As a culture, I think we have the syndrome syndrome—the naming of sensations. This kind of naming has a hidden downside in that it may actually cause ill health.

There are syndromes that have been categorized and those that haven't, [but] what all of [them]... have in common is that people who are given these diagnoses probably feel some relief in knowing that their discomfort is "real." (Of course, it's real. Why should we think psychological discomfort is any less real than physical discomfort?) The problem is that once symptoms are given a name they run the risk of becoming more permanent than they might otherwise have to be.

Labels lead to expectations and expectations tend to be fulfilled. Surely there are instances when there are no symptoms, but these times are easily overlooked, making the diagnosis seem that much more accurate...when we expect symptoms now that we know we have a legitimate medical condition, we may be less likely to take steps to self-heal. After all, one may think, if it can be self-healed it wouldn't be a medical condition in the first place.

These syndromes are evidence of the medicalization of mundane experience. Sensations fluctuate. Sometimes they are there and sometimes not; sometimes their felt effects are great and sometimes not. By naming them we tend to hold them still and overlook all of this variability. If we mindfully attended to the changes we would at least stand a chance of healing them ourselves...

Nothing stays the same so no matter what the syndrome or disease, we can gain control in this way by mindfully attending to the variability and then questioning why the change occurred. If everything becomes a syndrome, we give up this control over our health. The cure, then, for the Syndrome Syndrome is to become mindful.

[Thanks Kit!]

Open to Anything

Melvil Dewey"My heart is open to anything that's either decimal or about libraries."

~ Melvil Dewey

Transformers of the Earth

From Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell:

The First Elegy

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed
in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to 
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.
     And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note
of my dark sobbing. Ah, whom can we ever turn to
in our need? Not angels, not humans,
and already the knowing animals are aware
that we are not really at home in
our interpreted world. Perhaps there remains for us
some tree on a hillside, which every day we can take
into our vision; there remains for us yesterday's street
and the loyalty of a habit so much at ease
when it stayed with us that it moved in and never left.
     Oh and night: there is night, when a wind full of infinite  
gnaws at our faces. Whom would it not remain for—that
mildly disillusioning presence, which the solitary heart
so painfully meets. Is it any less difficult for lovers?
But they keep on using each other to hide their own fate.
     Don't you know yet? Fling the emptiness out of your arms into the spaces we breathe; perhaps the birds
will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.

*     *     *

Commenting on this passage in a letter written thirteen years later, Rilke describes the angel in greater detail:

Anselm Kiefer, Die Ordnung der Engel/The Hierarchy of Angels, 1985–87. The “angel” of the Elegies has nothing to do with the angel of the Christian heaven (it has more in common with the angel figures of Islam). The angel of the Elegies is that creature in whom the transformation of the visible into the invisible, which we are accomplishing, already appears in its completion. For the angel of the Elegies, all the towers and palaces of the past are existent because they have long been invisible, and the still-standing towers and bridges of our reality are already invisible, although still (for us) physically lasting. The angel of the Elegies is that being who guarantees the recognition in the invisible of a higher order of reality.—Therefore “terrifying” for us, because we, its lovers and transformers, still cling to the visible.—All the worlds in the Duino Elegies & The Sonnets of Orpheus universe are plunging into the invisible as into their next-deeper reality; a few stars intensify immediately and pass away in the infinite consciousness of the angels—, others are entrusted to beings who slowly and laboriously transform them, in whose terrors and delights they attain their next invisible realization. We, let it be emphasized once more, we, in the sense of the Elegies, are these transformers of the earth; our whole existence, the flights and plunges of our love, everything, qualifies us for this task (beside which there is, essentially, no other).

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Life In All Its Boldness

Soul, considered collectively, has the care of all that which is soulless, and it traverses the whole heaven, appearing sometimes in one form and sometimes in another.

~ Socrates. Plato, Phaedrus

Psyche discovers Eros. Statue by Reinhold Begas, 1831-1911. Altes Museum, Berlin.

Excerpt from “The Temple of the Body,” by Thomas Moore:

Our society can be a friendly, helpful, and community-minded place, but in the area of sex especially it can hardly be called compassionate. Quickly we judge celebrities whose private sexual difficulties become public. We dispose of politicians and military personnel who miss the mark of our anxiously protected norms. Because sex is so full of life, it isn't easy for anyone to deal with it, and it is rarely neatly arranged. In general, if we want to live a soulful life we have to allow some latitude for the unexpected in ourselves and others, but this is especially true of sex. It is the nature of sex, maybe its purpose, to blast some holes in our thinking, our planning, and our moralisms—sex is life in all its boldness; it's not a hothouse of efficient repression.

Read the biographies of the men and women who have made extraordinary contributions to humanity throughout history. List their achievements in one column and their sexual idiosyncrasies in another. Notice the direct proportion between sexual individuality and creative output, between desire heeded and compassion acted upon. Then reflect long on your moral attitudes: Are they deep enough, humane, compassionate, and suitably complex?

Every day we could choose to be intimate rather than distant, bodily rather than mental, acting thoughtfully from desire instead of from discipline, seeking deep pleasures rather than superficial entertainments, getting in touch with the world rather than analyzing it at a distance, making a culture that gives us pleasure rather than one that merely works, allowing plenty of room in our own and others' lives for the eccentricities of sexual desire, and generally taking the role of lovers rather than doers and judges.

Monday, December 07, 2009

You Can Never Forget

The unspoiled colors of a late summer night,
The wind howling through the lofty pines —
The feel of autumn approaching;
The swaying bamboos keep resonating,
And shedding tears of dew at dawn;
Only those who exert themselves fully
Will attain the Way,
But even if you abandon all for the ancient path
of meditation,
You can never forget the meaning of sadness.

~ Zen Master Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace, translated by Steven Heine

[Thanks John!]

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Emotion is the Obstacle


“One of the things I’ve always been taught as a drama student was not to play the emotion. That doesn’t mean to say you don’t express it, you don’t have it, you don’t find it. The emotion is the obstacle. The person doesn’t want to be unhappy, and the unhappiness is the obstacle that gets in the way.”

~ Colin Firth, from “He Wears a Revealing Sort of Restraint,” by Sarah Lyall, New York Times, December 2, 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009


Michael Langan

Whoever You Are

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Whoever you are, go out into the evening,
leaving your room, of which you know each bit;
your house is the last before the infinite,
whoever you are.
Then with your eyes that wearily
scarce lift themselves from the worn-out door-stone
slowly you raise a shadowy black tree
and fix it on the sky: slender, alone.
And you have made the world (and it shall grow
and ripen as a word, unspoken, still).
When you have grasped its meaning with your will,
then tenderly your eyes will let it go.

To Make People Love Life

Ilya Repin. Leo Tolstoy in His Study. 1891. Oil on canvas. The State Literature Museum, Moscow, Russia.“The aims of art are incommensurate (as the mathematicians say) with social aims. The aim of an artist is not to solve a problem irrefutably, but to make people love life in all its countless inexhaustible manifestations. If I were to be told that I could write a novel  whereby I might Dustin Hoffman reads War and Peace on New York's WBAI radio during the winter of 1970.irrefutably establish what seemed to me the correct point of view on all social problems, I would not even devote two hours to such a novel; but if I were to be told that what I should write would be read in about twenty years time by those who are now children, and that they would laugh and cry over it and love life, I would devote all my life and all my energies to it.”

~ Leo Tolstoy, from Tolstoy’s Letters, selected and translated by R.F. Christian

A Disappointment with a Mask

“Expectations are very dangerous things. The more of them we have, the more fixated we are on them, the more miserable we will probably be. Every expectation is a disappointment with a mask on it. Even when it happens that we get exactly what we expected, it’s never exactly what we expected because the anticipation is never the reality. And even if it feels like it, then the next minute it’s gone anyway. So this is not going to work out. It’s clear.

We need to have some drive, some desire, some feeling that it’s necessary to go forward and some energy to propel us forward, but to expect some particular result is to construct a gigantic roadblock right in the middle of where you’re trying to go.”

~ Norman Fischer, from a talk on Art Making

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

No Less Beautiful

From Waiting for God, by Simone Weil:

Where the Wild Things Are, Warner Bros.

The sea is not less beautiful in our eyes because we know that sometimes ships are wrecked by it. On the contrary, this adds to its beauty. If it altered the movement of its waves to spare a boat, it would be a creature gifted with discernment and choice and not this fluid, perfectly obedient to every external pressure. It is this perfect obedience that constitutes the sea's beauty.

All the horrors produced in this world are like the folds imposed upon the waves by gravity. That is why they contain an element of beauty. Sometimes a poem, such as The Iliad, brings this beauty to light.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Here I Am

Frank O'Hara

Autobiographia Literaria
by Frank O’Hara

When I was a child
I played by myself in a
corner of the schoolyard
all alone.

I hated dolls and I
hated games, animals were
not friendly and birds
flew away.

If anyone was looking
for me I hid behind a
tree and cried out "I am
an orphan."

And here I am, the
center of all beauty!
writing these poems!


Les Étiquettes Jaunes

I picked up a leaf
today from the sidewalk.
This seems childish.

Leaf! you are so big!
How can you change your
color, then just fall!

As if there were no
such thing as integrity!

You are too relaxed
to answer me. I am too
frightened to insist.

Leaf! don't be neurotic
like the small chameleon.

Once When the Mercedes Broke Down

From Once by Wim Wenders:

Summer 1978 in Napa Valley, California. Photograph: Wim Wenders


I drove in a silver Mercedes 600
together with Akira Kurosawa, his translator,
Tom Luddy, Monique Montgomery and a few others
from San Francisco
to Napa Valley.
Francis Coppola had invited us to his mansion and his winery.
Halfway there,
the big Mercedes broke down.
We spent an hour
at a country fair nearby
where the panoramic picture
of Kurosawa and a Cajun band,
The Louisiana Playboys, was taken.
Then Les Blank came by
with his old van.
We accepted his invitation
and changed cars.
Francis was very surprised
when the boneshaker stopped at his front porch
and Kurosawa stepped out of the vehicle.

The rest of this afternoon
was beautifully quiet and peaceful.
It was hot
and we all went swimming in a pond.
Except for Kurosawa.

A Perpetual Possibility

The first lines from T.S. Eliot’s The Four Quartets:

eliotTime present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.