AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

22 May 2017

Finer.


Miracles seem to me to rest not so much upon healing power coming suddenly near us from afar but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that, for a moment, our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there around us always.

Willa Cather

Leading.

Feel.

O'Keeffe, Blue, Black and Grey, 1960


The unexplainable thing in nature that makes me feel the world is big and fat beyond my understanding – to understand maybe by trying to put it into form. To find the feeling of infinity on the horizon line or just over the next hill.

Georgia O'Keeffe

17 May 2017

Infinite.


Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

William Martin

Contact.


“The more contact I have with people, the better I feel: eye contact, a smile, I’ll take anything. The moment somebody makes any kind of overture, I’m heading their way. So many people ask for my photograph. I always say ‘yes.’ It’s thrilling. Aren’t we lucky? We’re so lucky to be here. This street is so full of sweetness and people. I love this street so much because it leads to the park. I can smell it. Look at that beautiful dog over there!” 

CONNECT

Forget.

16 May 2017

Entwine.



Philosophers have long been pondering the origins of genius. Early Greek thinkers believed an overabundance of black bile—one of the four bodily humors proposed by Hippocrates—endowed poets, philosophers, and other eminent souls with “exalted powers,” says historian Darrin McMahon, author of Divine Fury: A History of Genius. Phrenologists attempted to find genius in bumps on the head; craniometrists collected skulls—including philosopher Immanuel Kant’s—which they probed, measured, and weighed.

None of them discovered a single source of genius, and such a thing is unlikely to be found. Genius is too elusive, too subjective, too wedded to the verdict of history to be easily identified. And it requires the ultimate expression of too many traits to be simplified into the highest point on one human scale. Instead we can try to understand it by unraveling the complex and tangled qualities—intelligence, creativity, perseverance, and simple good fortune, to name a few—that entwine to create a person capable of changing the world.

Paradise.


I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.

Jorge Luis Borges

Money.


Huck Finn's wealth and the fact that he was now under the Widow Douglas' protection introduced him into society—no, dragged him into it, hurled him into it—and his sufferings were almost more than he could bear. The widow's servants kept him clean and neat, combed and brushed, and they bedded him nightly in unsympathetic sheets that had not one little spot or stain which he could press to his heart and know for a friend. He had to eat with a knife and fork; he had to use napkin, cup, and plate; he had to learn his book, he had to go to church; he had to talk so properly that speech was become insipid in his mouth; whithersoever he turned, the bars and shackles of civilization shut him in and bound him hand and foot.

He bravely bore his miseries three weeks, and then one day turned up missing. For forty–eight hours the widow hunted for him everywhere in great distress. The public were profoundly concerned; they searched high and low, they dragged the river for his body. Early the third morning Tom Sawyer wisely went poking among some old empty hogsheads down behind the abandoned slaughter–house, and in one of them he found the refugee. Huck had slept there; he had just breakfasted upon some stolen odds and ends of food, and was lying off, now, in comfort, with his pipe. He was unkempt, uncombed, and clad in the same old ruin of rags that had made him picturesque in the days when he was free and happy. Tom routed him out, told him the trouble he had been causing, and urged him to go home. Huck's face lost its tranquil content, and took a melancholy cast. He said:

"Don't talk about it, Tom. I've tried it, and it don't work; it don't work, Tom. It ain't for me; I ain't used to it. The widder's good to me, and friendly; but I can't stand them ways. She makes me get up just at the same time every morning; she makes me wash, they comb me all to thunder; she won't let me sleep in the woodshed; I got to wear them blamed clothes that just smothers me, Tom; they don't seem to any air git through 'em, somehow; and they're so rotten nice that I can't set down, nor lay down, nor roll around anywher's; I hain't slid on a cellar–door for—well, it 'pears to be years; I got to go to church and sweat and sweat—I hate them ornery sermons! I can't ketch a fly in there, I can't chaw. I got to wear shoes all Sunday. The widder eats by a bell; she goes to bed by a bell; she gits up by a bell—everything's so awful reg'lar a body can't stand it."

"Well, everybody does that way, Huck."

"Tom, it don't make no difference. I ain't everybody, and I can't STAND it. It's awful to be tied up so. And grub comes too easy—I don't take no interest in vittles, that way. I got to ask to go a–fishing; I got to ask to go in a–swimming—dern'd if I hain't got to ask to do everything. Well, I'd got to talk so nice it wasn't no comfort—I'd got to go up in the attic and rip out awhile, every day, to git a taste in my mouth, or I'd a died, Tom. The widder wouldn't let me smoke; she wouldn't let me yell, she wouldn't let me gape, nor stretch, nor scratch, before folks—" [Then with a spasm of special irritation and injury]—"And dad fetch it, she prayed all the time! I never see such a woman! I HAD to shove, Tom—I just had to. And besides, that school's going to open, and I'd a had to go to it—well, I wouldn't stand THAT, Tom. Looky here, Tom, being rich ain't what it's cracked up to be. It's just worry and worry, and sweat and sweat, and a–wishing you was dead all the time. Now these clothes suits me, and this bar'l suits me, and I ain't ever going to shake 'em any more. Tom, I wouldn't ever got into all this trouble if it hadn't 'a' ben for that money; now you just take my sheer of it along with your'n, and gimme a ten–center sometimes—not many times, becuz I don't give a dern for a thing 'thout it's tollable hard to git—and you go and beg off for me with the widder."

Martk Twain, from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Typography..

Inverted.

14 May 2017

Calendars.


There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we left without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book. Everything that filled them for others, so it seemed, and that we dismissed as a vulgar obstacle to a divine pleasure; the game for which a friend would come to fetch us at the most interesting passage; the troublesome bee or sun ray that forced us to lift our eyes from the page or to change position; the provisions for the afternoon snack that we had been made to take along and that we left beside us on the bench, without touching while above our head the sun was diminishing in force in the blue sky; the dinner we had to return home for, and during which we thought only of going up immediately afterward to finish the interrupted chapter, all those things which reading should have kept us from feeling anything but annoyance at, it has on the contrary engraved in us so sweet a memory of (so much more precious to our present judgment than what we read then with such love), that if we still happen today to leaf through those books of another time, it is for no other reason than that they are the only calendars we have kept of days that have vanished, and we hope to see reflected on their pages the dwellings and pond which no longer exist.

Marcel Proust

Processes.


If you spend a lot of time in the woods and see a lot of bears, obviously you reach a point where you know a bear is not just a bear and a wolf is not just a wolf. In that sense it's what Wallace Stevens said, "We were all Indians once." If you really study crows and ravens for a long time, you don't overlook their splendors and peculiarities. Most of the bad attitudes against the natural world, of course, come from utter ignorance of the processes of the natural world. If you really knew what a river was you couldn't dump all that garbage in it, but most of the people who dump the garbage in the river don't have any idea what a river is.

Jim Harrison

Humility.


We've been walking slowly through the dark for a long time, the old soldier and I, beneath a thumbnail silver moon, the coyotes chattering like roosters. He makes his way using a wooden flagpole for a cane, a rifle and a tripod strapped to his back. Here, some 30 miles north of Yellowstone, at the edge of Montana's Crazy Mountains, on this cold morning in November, the mind feels clean and clear, focused on this one moment. We're hoping to kill an elk at daylight.

Doug Peacock has barely hunted, or even fired a gun, since his days in Vietnam. He experienced enough killing there, he says, to last several lifetimes. He was 27 when he came home, racked with PTSD, back before there was a name for it — his Army medical papers described his condition as: "Occupational and social impairment . . . due to such symptoms as: depressed mood, anxiety, suspiciousness, panic attacks, sleep impairment . . ."

Peacock thought he was alone back then; he didn't know that every soldier experienced some version of this. Once home, he wandered the West — Utah, Arizona, Wyoming — in solitude for weeks at a time. Eventually, he found his way into Yellowstone country, just a day's walk from the sagebrush prairie we're traversing this morning. In the small number of grizzly bears that were holding on there, Peacock found something worth living for. He began to follow those bears — tracking them year after year, getting to know them, filming them. Over the years, he came to understand them in ways few others, if any, had before. Now no one knows wild grizzlies better. Other researchers fly over them in airplanes, and many good scientists sit in front of computers doing the important work of spatial modeling and scat analysis. But for nearly his entire adult life, Peacock has been out with the bears — in their country, watching and learning. "It's the one animal out there that can kill and eat you anytime it chooses to — even though it seldom does," he says. "It stands as an instant lesson in humility."

13 May 2017

Ronnie Wood, "I Gotta See"

Jack Ingram, with Bruce & Charlie Robison, "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)"

Better.


the trick of finding what you didn't lose
(existing's tricky:but to live's a gift)
the teachable imposture of always
arriving at the place you never left

(and i refer to thinking)rests upon
a dismal misconception;namely that
some neither ape nor angel called a man
is measured by his quote eye cue unquote.

Much better than which, every woman who's
(despite the ultramachinations of
some loveless infraworld)a woman knows;
and certain men quite possibly may have

shall we say guessed?"
"we shall" quoth gifted she:
and played the hostess to my morethanme

e.e. cummings

11 May 2017

Never.

Midnight Oil, "Dead Heart"

Bread, "Guitar Man"

R.E.M., "Maps & Legends"

De-grading.



Alfie Kohn on de-grading ...

You can tell a lot about a teacher’s values and personality just by asking how he or she feels about giving grades. Some defend the practice, claiming that grades are necessary to“motivate”students. Many of these teachers actually seem to enjoy keeping intricate records of students’marks. Such teachers periodically warn students that they’re“going to have to know this for the test”as a way of compelling them to pay attention or do the assigned readings—and they may even use surprise quizzes for that purpose, keeping their gradebooks at the ready. 

Frankly, we ought to be worried for these teachers’students. In my experience, the most impressive teachers are those who despise the whole process of giving grades. Their aversion, as it turns out, is supported by solid evidence that raises questions about the very idea of traditional grading.

Everything.


And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.

William Shakespeare

Haydn, Symphony No. 60 in C major, H. I/60

Giovanni Antonini directs Il Giardino Armonico, with Geddy Lee, cello ...

Carpe.

10 May 2017

Neil Young, "Expecting to Fly"

Tim O'Brien, "Gentle on My Mind"

With Bryan Sutton, guitar, and Stuart Duncan, fiddle ...

Willing.


Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries.

Theodore Roethke

Objectively.

Tiepolo, Woman with as Parrot, 1760


Audience Member:  What’s the most beautiful color … objectively?

Roger Scruton: The most beautiful color, objectively, is the pale violet used by Tiepolo in painting the lips of degenerate women.

Audience Member: What’s the most truthful one?

Scruton:  I think that one is equally truthful.

Ronnie Wood & Buddy Guy, "Miss You"

Spinning.


Tricycle remembers Robert Pirsig ...

Quality—you know what it is, yet you don’t know what it is. But that’s self-contradictory. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof! There’s nothing to talk about. But if you can’t say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn’t exist at all. But for all practical purposes it really does exist. What else are the grades based on? Why else would people pay fortunes for some things and throw others in the trash pile? Obviously some things are better than others—but what’s the “betterness?" So round and round you go, spinning mental wheels and nowhere finding any place to get traction. What the hell is Quality? What is it?

When.

N/A, Pelicans in Valparaíso, Chile, 1893


WHY the DAY FLIES

The poet, throughout his life, leans for a moment against some tree, or sea, or bank of earth, or cloud of a certain hue, as circumstances permit. He is not fused to the distractions of others. His love, his joy, his astonished reach have their equivalent in all the places he has not gone, all the places he will never go, among strangers he will not know. When we lift our voices to him, when we greet him with honors that bind, if we invoke the stars in his name, he responds that he is from the country beside, from the sky that has just gone under. 

The poet quickens, then runs to the outcome. At evening, despite the apprentice’s dimples on his cheeks, he is a courteous passerby whose farewells are brief so he can be there when the bread comes out of the oven.


René Char

Robert Plant, "Carry Me Down to the Sea"

Souls.


Perhaps reading and writing books is one of the last defenses human dignity has left, because in the end they remind us of what God once reminded us before He too evaporated in this age of relentless humiliations – that we are more than ourselves; that we have souls.

Richard Flanagan

Tim O'Brien & Darrell Scott, "Time to Talk to Joseph"

It’s time to talk to Joseph
Gonna pack my little sack
'Ere isn’t much I really need
To wander off the track
I’ll be sleeping under ledges
Eating what I ­need
I’ll read the reaching branches
Strum your heartstrings in my mind

Here.


Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

Wendell Berry 

Silence.

Tim O'Brien, "Chinquapin Hunting/Sugar in the Gourd"

Transcontinental.


On this day in 1869, a golden spike was driven at Promontory, Utah, marking the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States.

The BBC's presentation of The Line ...

09 May 2017

Eddie Vedder, "Just Breathe"

Mechanism.


Hearing poetry starts the psychological mechanism of prayer.

Theodore Roethke

Wagner, Tristan und Isolde

The Chicago Symphony performs the Prelude and Liebestod, directed by Sir Georg Solti ...

Be.

Curtis, Crow Warriors, 1908


WOLVES of HEAVEN

It had been very hot for three weeks
so I worked well into a cool night
when at three a.m. a big thunderstorm hit.
I went out in the yard naked and sat
at the picnic table for a rain bath
careful about the rattlesnake on the sidewalk.
The sky drowned the mosquitoes
feeding on me. The lightning was relentless
and lit up the valley so I could see
the ghosts who had me ill this past year.
Then I was part of a battle from two
hundred years ago when the Cheyenne
from the east attacked the Absaroka,
the Crow, in this valley. A group of the Cheyenne
were
massaum, the wolves of heaven,
warriors who painted themselves solid yellow.
One on a black horse stopped at our gate
but decided not to kill me.
I want to be a yellow wolf of heaven.
They disappeared into the lightning.

Jim Harrison

Elgar, Variations on an Original Theme for Orchestra, Op. 36, "Enigma"

Sir Georg Solti leads the London Philharmonic in Variation IX, "Nimrod" ...

Happy birthday, Barrie.


J.M. Barrie was born on this day in 

To Peter's bewilderment he discovered that every fairy he met fled from him. A band of workmen, who were sawing down a toadstool, rushed away, leaving their tools behind them. A milkmaid turned her pail upside down and hid in it. Soon the Gardens were in an uproar. Crowds of fairies were running this away and that, asking each other stoutly, who was afraid, lights were extinguished, doors barricaded, and from the grounds of Queen Mab's palace came the rubadub of drums, showing that the royal guard had been called out. A regiment of Lancers came charging down the Broad Walk, armed with holly-leaves, with which they jog the enemy horribly in passing. Peter heard the little people crying everywhere that there was a human in the Gardens after Lock-out Time, but he never thought for a moment that he was the human. He was feeling stuffier and stuffier, and more and more wistful to learn what he wanted done to his nose, but he pursued them with the vital question in vain; the timid creatures ran from him, and even the Lancers, when he approached them up the Hump, turned swiftly into a side-walk, on the pretence that they saw him there.

Despairing of the fairies, he resolved to consult the birds, but now he remembered, as an odd thing, that all the birds on the weeping beech had flown away when he alighted on it, and though that had not troubled him at the time, he saw its meaning now. Every living thing was shunning him. Poor little Peter Pan, he sat down and cried, and even then he did not know that, for a bird, he was sitting on his wrong part. It is a blessing that he did not know, for otherwise he would have lost faith in his power to fly, and the moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it. The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply that they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.

Now, except by flying, no one can reach the island in the Serpentine, for the boats of humans are forbidden to land there, and there are stakes round it, standing up in the water, on each of which a bird-sentinel sits by day and night. It was to the island that Peter now flew to put his strange case before old Solomon Caw, and he alighted on it with relief, much heartened to find himself at last at home, as the birds call the island.

J.M. Barrie, from Peter Pan, Chapter 14, "The White Bird"

CONNECT

08 May 2017

Turning.

Collins, Valley Path, Virginia, 2005


The BRIGHT FIELD

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

R.S. Thomas

Echo & The Bunnymen, "The Game"

Born under Mars
With Jupiter rising
Fallen from stars
That lit my horizon

Along.


SPEECH to the YOUNG SPEECH to the PROGRESS-TOWARD (AMONG THEM NORA and HENRY III)

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
"Even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night."
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.
Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Thank You, Jessica.