Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Sincere Form of Flattery

Matt made the homemade version of Jeni's Lemon-Blueberry Frozen Yogurt in our new automatic ice cream maker. He even used fresh local blueberries from the farmers market. It tastes just like what everyone around here stands in line to eat!


Maybe instead of a book club we have an ice cream social with everyone bringing their attempts at one of these flavors:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Like Right Now

by William Stafford, from The Way It Is

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could you know. That's why we wake
and look out—no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sublime Illusion

Sunset on Volunteer Mountain

photo by Pez Owen

From Eckhart Tolle’s Findhorn Retreat: Stillness Amidst the World:

“The sun never sets. It is only an appearance due to the observer’s limited perspective. And yet, what a sublime illusion it is.”

* * * * *

“The original reason for art is the sacred—to be a portal, an access point for the sacred. When you see it or experience it, you experience yourself. In it you see yourself reflected. In true art, the formless is shining through the form.

Ultimately, it is not everybody’s purpose to create works of art. It is much more important for you to become a work of art. Your whole life, your very being, becomes transparent so that the formless can shine through. That happens when you are no longer totally identified with the world of form.

It happens when you have access to the realm of stillness within yourself. Then something emanates through the form that is not the form.”

Condemned to Freedom

Excerpt from “The Limits of the Coded World,” by William Eggington, New York Times (July 25, 2010):

In Immanuel Kant’s view, the main mistake philosophers before him had made when considering how humans could have accurate knowledge of the world was to forget the necessary difference between our knowledge and the actual subject of that knowledge. At first glance, this may not seem like a very easy thing to forget; for example, what our eyes tell us about a rainbow and what that rainbow actually is are quite different things. Kant argued that our failure to grasp this difference was further reaching and had greater consequences than anyone could have thought.

rainbow Taking again the example of the rainbow, Kant would argue that while most people would grant the difference between the range of colors our eyes perceive and the refraction of light that causes this optical phenomenon, they would still maintain that more careful observation could indeed bring one to know the rainbow as it is in itself, apart from its sensible manifestation. This commonplace understanding, he argued, was at the root of our tendency to fall profoundly into error, not only about the nature of the world, but about what we were justified in believing about ourselves, God, and our duty to others.

The problem was that while our senses can only ever bring us verifiable knowledge about how the world appears in time and space, our reason always strives to know more than appearances can show it. This tendency of reason to always know more is and was a good thing. It is why human kind is always curious, always progressing to greater and greater knowledge and accomplishments. But if not tempered by a respect for its limits and an understanding of its innate tendencies to overreach, reason can lead us into error and fanaticism…

As much as we owe the nature of our current existence to the evolutionary forces Darwin first discovered, or to the cultures we grow up in, or to the chemical states affecting our brain processes at any given moment, none of this impacts on our freedom. I am free because neither science nor religion can ever tell me, with certainty, what my future will be and what I should do about it. The dictum from Sartre…gets it exactly right: I am condemned to freedom. I am not free because I can make choices, but because I must make them, all the time, even when I think I have no choice to make.

Read the entire Opinionator post…

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Procedural Voyeurism

Excerpt from "The Art of the Deal as Entertainment," by Walter Kirn, New York Times (July 20, 2010):

LeBron James Mural Comes Down (Cleveland Plain Dealer) In the contemporary entertainment business (and also, increasingly, in sports and in politics), it’s the business that’s the entertainment and the art of the deal that’s the art that draws most notice. We have become a society that is fixated on process and absorbed by the slippery, complex machinations of the middlemen, brokers and executives who conspire offstage to determine what takes place onstage. Call this outlook “procedural voyeurism” — a redirection of mass attention from the spectacle of the game itself to the circus of the game behind the game, as when LeBron James, the N.B.A. superstar, commandeered the TV sets of umpteen thousands of sports bars, not to mention the better part of the Web’s bandwidth, to tell us, months before the season’s first tipoff, that he was moving from Cleveland to Miami to take advantage of the new team’s “cap space,” a slangy term for the ability teams have to add new strings of zeros to coveted players’ salaries.

You might also think back to last winter’s late-night-talk-show feud, its battlefield swarming with lawyers, go-betweens, snitches, seducers and propagandists, that pitted Conan O’Brien against Jay Leno for the desk that the senior comedian nobly ceded to the younger and then, as if by tugging on a lasso encircling the desk’s legs, rudely jerked away. This orgy of Jacobean backstage backstabbing wasn’t televised directly, but rumors about its intrigues captured our imaginations anyhow, stirring extensive discussions of ratings numbers, severance payments, contractual etiquette and viewer demographics...

Procedural voyeurism grants us an illusion of control over realities that we secretly fear we have no power over — sometimes correctly, as with the BP oil spill, whose coverage has been rich in process and until recently short on meaningful developments. The Romanian religious philosopher Mircea Eliade wrote about mesmerizing narratives that he called origin myths. He said they helped people feel a sense of authority over an otherwise chaotic world. Today our origin myths are more mundane, but we still see the deal as a primordial act. We might do well to call these decadent versions “LeBron Announcements” or “Conan-Leno Matches”: rituals of symbolic participation in games-within-games that are way above our heads and occur within heavily guarded inner circles that we can peek into but never truly penetrate.

Read the entire essay…

Saturday, July 24, 2010

No Other Life

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this."

~ Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, July 22, 2010

If We Cantaloupe


To my favorite honeydew, do you carrot all for me?
My heart beets for you, with your turnip nose, and radish face.
You are a peach. If we cantaloupe, lettuce marry.
Weed make a swell pear.

~ Author Unknown

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where We Live

"It's no wonder we don't defend the land where we live. We don't live here. We live in television programs and movies and books and with celebrities and in heaven and by rules and laws and abstractions created by people far away and we live anywhere and everywhere except in our particular bodies on this particular land at this particular moment in these particular circumstances."

~ Derrick Jensen, from Endgame, Volume 2: Resistance

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An Inability to Conceive of Alternatives

Excerpt from “The Creativity Crisis,” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, Newsweek (July 10, 2010):

For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong—and how we can fix it. In early childhood, distinct types of free play are associated with high creativity. Preschoolers who spend more time in role-play (acting out characters) have higher measures of creativity: voicing someone else’s point of view helps develop their ability to analyze situations from different perspectives. When playing alone, highly creative first graders may act out strong negative emotions: they’ll be angry, hostile, anguished. The hypothesis is that play is a safe harbor to work through forbidden thoughts and emotions.

In middle childhood, kids sometimes create paracosms—fantasies of entire alternative worlds. Kids revisit their paracosms repeatedly, sometimes for months, and even create languages spoken there. This type of play peaks at age 9 or 10, and it’s a very strong sign of future creativity. A Michigan State University study of MacArthur “genius award” winners found a remarkably high rate of paracosm creation in their childhoods.

From fourth grade on, creativity no longer occurs in a vacuum; researching and studying become an integral part of coming up with useful solutions. But this transition isn’t easy. As school stuffs more complex information into their heads, kids get overloaded, and creativity suffers. When creative children have a supportive teacher—someone tolerant of unconventional answers, occasional disruptions, or detours of curiosity—they tend to excel. When they don’t, they tend to underperform and drop out of high school or don’t finish college at high rates.

They’re quitting because they’re discouraged and bored, not because they’re dark, depressed, anxious, or neurotic. It’s a myth that creative people have these traits. (Those traits actually shut down creativity; they make people less open to experience and less interested in novelty.) Rather, creative people, for the most part, exhibit active moods and positive affect. They’re not particularly happy—contentment is a kind of complacency creative people rarely have. But they’re engaged, motivated, and open to the world.

The new view is that creativity is part of normal brain function. Some scholars go further, arguing that lack of creativity—not having loads of it—is the real risk factor. In his research, Runco asks college students, “Think of all the things that could interfere with graduating from college.” Then he instructs them to pick one of those items and to come up with as many solutions for that problem as possible. This is a classic divergent-convergent creativity challenge. A subset of respondents, like the proverbial Murphy, quickly list every imaginable way things can go wrong. But they demonstrate a complete lack of flexibility in finding creative solutions. It’s this inability to conceive of alternative approaches that leads to despair. Runco’s two questions predict suicide ideation—even when controlling for preexisting levels of depression and anxiety.

In Runco’s subsequent research, those who do better in both problem-finding and problem-solving have better relationships. They are more able to handle stress and overcome the bumps life throws in their way. A similar study of 1,500 middle schoolers found that those high in creative self-efficacy had more confidence about their future and ability to succeed. They were sure that their ability to come up with alternatives would aid them, no matter what problems would arise.

  • See also: Forget Brainstorming What you think you know about fostering creativity is wrong. A look at what really works.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Grief or Joy or Something Other

by Peter Everwine, from American Life in Poetry: Column278

Toward evening, as the light failed
and the pear tree at my window darkened,
I put down my book and stood at the open door,
the first raindrops gusting in the eaves,
a smell of wet clay in the wind.
Sixty years ago, lying beside my father,
half asleep, on a bed of pine boughs as rain
drummed against our tent, I heard
for the first time a loon’s sudden wail
drifting across that remote lake—
a loneliness like no other,
though what I heard as inconsolable
may have been only the sound of something
untamed and nameless
singing itself to the wilderness around it
and to us until we slept. And thinking of my father
and of good companions gone
into oblivion, I heard the steady sound of rain
and the soft lapping of water, and did not know
whether it was grief or joy or something other
that surged against my heart
and held me listening there so long and late.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inspiring Imitation

“Counterfeiters exist because there is such thing as real gold.”

~ Rumi

Avoiding Unfinished Business

Excerpt from Toward a Psychology of Awakening: Buddhism, Psychotherapy, and the Path of Personal and Spiritual Transformation by John Welwood:

Starting in the 1970s I began to perceive a disturbing tendency among many members of spiritual communities. Although many spiritual practitioners were doing good work on themselves, I noticed a wide-spread tendency to use spiritual practice to bypass or avoid dealing with certain person or emotional “unfinished business.” This desire to find a release from the earthly structures that seem to entrap us—the structures of karma, conditioning, body, form, matter, personality—has been a central motive in the spiritual search for thousands of years. So there is often a tendency to use spiritual practice to try to rise above our emotional and personal issues—all those messy, unresolved matters that weigh us down. I call this tendency to avoid or prematurely transcend basic human needs, feelings, and developmental tasks spiritual bypassing.

Spiritual bypassing is particularly tempting for people who are having difficulty navigating life’s developmental challenges, especially in a time and culture like ours, where what were once ordinary landmarks of adulthood—earning a livelihood through dignified work, raising a family, keeping a marriage together, belonging to a meaningful community—have become increasingly elusive for large segments of the population. While still struggling to find themselves, many people are introduced to spiritual teachings and practices that urge them to give themselves up. As a result, they wind up using spiritual practices to create a new “spiritual” identity, which is actually an old dysfunctional identity—based on avoidance of unresolved psychological issues—repackaged in a new guise.

In this way, involvement in spiritual teachings and practices can become a way to rationalize and reinforce old defenses. For example, those who need to see themselves as special will often emphasize the specialness of their spiritual insight and practice, or their special relation to their teacher, to shore up a sense of self-importance. Many of the “perils of the path”—such as spiritual materialism (using spiritual ideas for personal gain), narcissism, inflation (delusions of grandiosity), or groupthink (uncritical acceptance of group ideology)—result from trying to use spirituality to shore up developmental deficiencies.

A World without Empathy

“Silence has been destroyed, but also the idea that it’s important to learn how another person thinks, to enter the mind of another person. The whole idea of empathy is gone. We are now part of this giant machine where every second we have to take out a device and contribute our thoughts and opinions.”

~ Gary Shteyngart, from “The Russian Immigrant’s Handbook,” interview by Deborah Solomon, New York Times (July 13, 2010)

“Empathy is the mortar that holds society together.”

~ Chuck Close, from “Strangers in the Mirror,” Radiolab Shorts (June 15, 2010)

Emptiness and Fullness

“We realize this life as something always off its balance, something in transition, something that shoots out of a darkness through a dawn into a brightness that we feel to be the dawn fulfilled. In the very midst of the continuity our experience comes as an alteration. ‘Yes,’ we say at the full brightness, ‘this is what I just meant.’ ‘No,’ we feel at the dawning, ‘this is not yet the full meaning, there is more to come.’ In every crescendo of sensation, in every effort to recall, in every progress towards the satisfaction of desire, this succession of an emptiness and fullness that have reference to each other and are one flesh is the essence of the phenomenon.”

~ William James, from A Pluralistic Universe (Chapter 7: The Continuity of Experience)

Not Different

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring

“Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Form is not different than emptiness; emptiness is not different than form.”

~ Heart Sutra

Friday, July 16, 2010

In the Shade of Our Names

“Our name shelters a stranger, about whom we know nothing except that he is we ourselves.”

~ Octavio Paz


Between Going and Staying
by Octavio Paz

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can't be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.

Understanding a Mask as a Mask

From Sailing Home: Using Homer's Odyssey to Navigate Life's Perils and Pitfalls by Norman Fischer:

Sailing Home: Using Homer's Odyssey to Navigate Life's Perils and Pitfalls It may seem surprising, or quite counterintuitive, that finally arriving home would require us, first of all, to take great care to conceal ourselves. Doesn’t coming home mean coming home to our true selves, finally dropping all the masks and standing revealed as we are? Why then is such caution, such deception, necessary?

Perhaps dropping the masks requires that we put them on. This is paradoxical, yet true to life. It’s naïve to think that there’s a real self behind all the masks, and that when we take off the masks we will find that self. In fact, there’s no way not to wear a mask. Our masks are our deceptive, partial, social identities that enable us to operate in the world, to reach out to one another, so that we can be revealed. Wherever we are we’ve got to be somebody. We always have a role to play. At work we are workers, professionals, managers; in our personal lives we are friends, acquaintances, relatives; at home we are fathers, mothers, spouses, siblings. In the course of any day we put on and take off masks many times. These masks can sometimes make us weary, especially if we feel we have become only a mask. We can long for a freedom beyond our roles, a place of quiet and truth. This is what our hearts have yearned for; this is why we’ve been journeying all this time toward home.

But once again we’ve mixed things up, we haven’t looked closely enough, we’ve failed to reckon on the complexity and paradoxical nature of the situation. Just as we have seen that true awareness includes unconsciousness, sleep, and dreams, now we see that fully revealing ourselves requires masks. To think we can throw off the masks and emerge pristinely as “I” is to be like the father who thinks he can be a pal, rather than a dad, to his son. He can be a pal, but only by wearing the dad mask. Understanding a mask as a mask, we can wear it properly. Wearing it properly, we can find out what’s behind it. A close friend of mine, a Zen priest and business coach, states this succinctly in one of his “business paradoxes.” “At work we should be completely ourselves,” he writes. “And we must play a role.” This wise saying applies to all spheres of life.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Escalating into Tenderness

Excerpt from Unconditional Confidence: Instructions for Meeting Any Experience with Trust and Courage by Pema Chödrön:

unconditionalconfidence It’s not like saying, if you turn towards fear, if you smile at fear, then BOOM—you’re fearless. Instead, you don’t discover courage right away. What you discover is something actually painful, but extremely tender.

So fear arises, and it causes you to close your mind and your heart and you harden. You harden against yourself, you harden against other people.

Or fear arises, in the form of slight anxiety, in the form of feeling inadequate, in the form of being embarrassed, in the form of absolute terror. It arises and it can escalate into the hardness of aggression or it can escalate into tenderness.

[You will have the actual experience of this tenderness] if you become curious about fear itself and go under the story line and actually feel it and know it even for one and a half minutes—even for two seconds. Right away, you understand that there’s something very tender hearted and vulnerable in the best sense that’s underneath the fear.

My own experience really is that the tenderness is under all strong emotions—not just fear. It’s also under aggression and jealousy and envy and addictive urges of all kinds. Somehow we always go in the direction of digging the hole deeper. Escalating the ubiquitous nervousness. But the encouragement here is to stop, and to breathe, and to feel the underlying tenderness. 

Devils in this World

Origami devil by MAEKAWA

“The only devils in this world are those running around in our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

A Verb of Time

Echology 1
by Sergey Mikhaylov, from Between the Jaws of Time

Echo knows a border, but only one—
The one, which divides sound and silence.
Echo is free to dwell in the both.
Like a bird of passage, that has lost its way,
It flies over the border—from summer to winter— 
And dies away.

- - -

The border between sound and silence
Is composed of black crosses of larks— 
Lost, they have died on their homeward way.

- - -

Echo itself is a dyke and a trotyl.
For every sound breaches the dyke,
Leaving the speaker drowned in silence.


Echology 2

Silence gives birth to echo too. But as the echo,
Born by sound, differs from sound by rising
Levels of silence, so the echo of silence
Differs from silence, that gave birth to it,
By swelling sound, that afterward
Reaches that value, which makes it be able
To give birth to echo, that afterward
Drowns by itself...............................
Thus, the one, who has answered "forever",
Is overtaken by silence that shouts "never".

Alexandre Cabanel's picture of Echo

Echology 3

Two silences are given to man:
The one surrounds him,
The other fills.
Man becomes the third one,
Listening as his words echo in those two.

Two words are given to man:
Yes and no.
He becomes the third one—a verb of time,
Flowing between the one and the other.

Two times are given to man:
Before him and after.
He is in between and follows the both.

Two lives are given to man.
He is the difference.

[Thanks Jonathan Carroll!]

Shared Narratives


“We find a direct collision between availability and what's possible through availability, and a fundamental human need—which we've been hearing about a lot—the need to create shared narratives. We're very good at creating personal narratives, but it's the shared narratives that make us a culture. And when you're standing with someone, and you're on your mobile device, effectively what you're saying to them is, You are not as important as, literally, almost anything that could come to me through this device.”

~ Renny Gleeson, from a very brief TED Talk on antisocial phone tricks

Open Up to What is Normally Invisible

Excerpt from “Holding Life Consciously,” a Speaking of Faith conversation with Arthur Zajonc, Director of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and Professor of Physics, Amherst College (June 24, 2010):

So the contemplative becomes an avenue not only into a kind of interiority for ourselves, you know, our own moral and, say, lives of purpose and meaning and so forth that we may brood over, which is something different than meditating. But also there's an objective character to the contemplative inquiry, the kind that [Rudolph] Steiner is interested in where one is oriented towards the other, towards the world around us, towards nature.

And one comes to know the interior of the exterior. One comes to know the inside of every outside. It's not only human beings that have an interior or an inside, but Bell Sound Meditationthat the world around us as well can be known inwardly. Strike a bell and you can listen to the sound, but you can also move towards the qualities that are more aesthetic and even moral in nature that deal with the sounding bell or the particular color or that painting that's there or the music that you're hearing.

So life is dense with those levels of experience, but we need to calm ourselves, get clear, get quiet, direct attention, sustain the attention, open up to what is normally invisible, and certain things begin to show themselves. Maybe gently to begin with, but nonetheless it deepens and enriches our lives. If we are committed to knowledge, then we ought to be committed also to exploring the world with these lenses, with this method in mind and heart.

You know, otherwise we're kind of doing it halfway. And then when we go to solve the problems of our world, whether they're educational or environmental, we're bringing only half of our intelligence to bear; we've left the other half idle or relegated it to religious philosophers. But if we're going to be integral ourselves, you know, have a perspective which is whole, then we need to bring all of our capacities to the issues that we confront, spiritual capacities as well as more conventional sensory-based intellects and the like.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Before and After

Mark Bradford
Wexner Center Residency Award Project
May 8 through October 10, 2010

Scorched Earth, 2006. Collection of Dennis and Debra Scholl. Photo: Bruce M. White.

“I take comfort in histories and knowing that something came before me and something will come after me and that I’m just part of it. Sometimes students will say, ‘Well, it’s all been done.’ But I think, who cares? What does that have to do with anything? I wouldn’t be painting if I cared about that. Okay it’s all been done, so what? You have to figure out how to do it for you.”

~ Mark Bradford, from Art:21 Politics, Process & Postmodernism

Field Trip

Summer Trip to Jorgensen Farm from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams on Vimeo.

“Last month, a few of us went on a field trip to Jorgensen Farm. There, we visited Val Jorgensen, our peppermint farmer. She showed us her green house and the field of Robert Mitchum peppermint we use to flavor our Backyard Mint ice cream. We got to visit with her chickens and sheep and clip some lavender to take home with us.”

~ Jeni Britton Bauer

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Reconciled Among the Stars

This scan of the cardiovascular system shows the heart and lungs, with major blood vessels radiating from them. Photograph by Howard Sochurek. Corbis. The trilling wire in the blood
Sings below inveterate scars
Appeasing long forgotten wars.
The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph
Are figured in the drift of stars
Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf
And hear upon the sodden floor
Below, the boarhound and the boar
Pursue their pattern as before
But reconciled among the stars.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

~ T.S. Eliot, from "Burnt Norton," the first poem of his Four Quartets

The aftermath of the death of a massive star (X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State/S.Park et al.; Optical: Pal.Obs. DSS)

View in Google Sky

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Shining Screen

Radio City Music Hall, New York

Radio City Music Hall, New York, 1978
Gelatin silver print

“I'm a habitual self-interlocutor. Around the time I started photographing at the Natural  History Museum, one evening I had a near-hallucinatory vision. The question-and-answer session that led up to this vision went something like this: Suppose you shoot a whole movie in a single frame? And the answer: You get a shining screen. Immediately I sprang into action, experimenting toward realizing this vision. Dressed up as a tourist, I walked into a cheap cinema in the East Village with a large format camera. As soon as the movie started, I fixed the shutter at a wide-open aperture, and two hours later when  the movie finished, I clicked the shutter closed. That evening, I developed the film, and the vision exploded behind my eyes.”

~ Hiroshi Sugimoto

Tri-City Drive In, San Bernardino

Tri-City Drive In, San Bernardino, 1993 
Gelatin silver print


Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Tri-City Drive In is featured in Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance, an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, on view through September 6, 2010.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Video Postcards from NYC

Playing Bach's Invention No. 8 in F Major on an old, upright piano in Battery Park. It was one of the sixty pianos scattered around New York City as part of Luke Jerram's Play Me, I'm Yours project.


West African Kora player helps shake things up for commuters waiting on the train at 77th St. and Lexington Ave.