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

28 June 2016

Happy birthday, Rousseau.

Ramsay, Rousseau, 1766

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born on this day in 1712.

The more I study the works of men in their institutions, the more clearly I see that, in their efforts after independence, they become slaves, and that their very freedom is wasted in vain attempts to assure its continuance. That they may not be carried away by the flood of things, they form all sorts of attachments; then as soon as they wish to move forward they are surprised to find that everything drags them back. It seems to me that to set oneself free we need do nothing, we need only continue to desire freedom.  The more ingenious our apparatus, the coarser and more unskillful are our senses.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, from Emile


It was a holiday, and the Hassidim had gathered to pray and to have a communion - sat sang - with the Master.

A man had come with his child. He was a little worried about the child, the boy. He may do something, so he was keeping an eye on the boy. When the prayers were said, the boy asked his father, "I have got a whistle - can I play on it?"  The father said, "Absolutely no - where is your whistle?" because he was afraid. He may not even listen to his “no.” He showed the whistle and the father kept his hand on his pocket, the boy's pocket.

Then there was dancing, and the father forgot and he also started dancing. And Hassids are dancers, joyous people - the cream of Judaism, the very essence of Judaism is with them, with those mad people.

When everybody was praying to God and dancing, suddenly the boy could not resist any longer. He took out his whistle and blew on it. Everybody was shocked! But Baal Shem came, hugged the boy, and said, "Our prayers are heard. Without this whistle, all was futile - because THIS was the only spontaneous thing here. All else was ritual."

Don't allow your life to become just a dead ritual. Let there be moments, unexplainable. Let there be a few things which are mysterious, for which you cannot supply any reason. Let there be a few doings for which people will think you are a little crazy. A man who is a hundred percent sane is dead. A little bit of craziness by the side is always a great joy. Go on doing a few crazy things. too.

And then meaning will be possible.



Canova, Amore e Psyche, 1793


Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Walt Whitman



J.R.R. Tolkien: A Study Of The Maker Of Middle-earth ...


If you want to understand Dogen’s philosophy you have to accept that there are many real things and phenomena in this universe that we human beings are simply not equipped to perceive, but that these things and phenomena are not parts of some mystical other realm. They’re part of our concrete reality. These days we grow up learning about infrared and ultraviolet light. So we know that there are forms of light that we can’t see. We know about the subconscious. So we know that there are realms of the mind we cannot consciously access. These are commonplace ideas. Just because we can’t normally perceive these things, we don’t think of them as supernatural the way people in Dogen’s times tended to conceive of things they could not perceive directly. So when we read Dogen we’re already prepared for much of what he wrote about in ways that his contemporaries were not.

Brad Warner


Zeal always.  Never allow your energy to be depleted by the modern world.


Plains warrior feather meanings ...


Thanks to Kurt for this beauty.


Fibonacci trefoil ...



A map of the world. Not the one in the atlas,
but the one in our heads, the one we keep coloring in.
With the blue thread of the river by which we grew up.
The green smear of the woods we first made love in.
The yellow city we thought was our future.
The red highways not traveled, the green ones
with their missed exits, the black side roads
which took us where we had not meant to go.
The high peaks, recorded by relatives,
though we prefer certain unmarked elevations,
the private alps no one knows we have climbed.
The careful boundaries we draw and erase.
And always, around the edges,
the opaque wash of blue, concealing
the drop-off they have stepped into before us,
singly, mapless, not looking back.

Lisel Mueller



How sweet to be thus nestling deep in boughs,  
Upon an ashen stoven pillowing me; 
Faintly are heard the ploughmen at their ploughs,  
But not an eye can find its way to see. 
The sunbeams scarce molest me with a smile,  
So thick the leafy armies gather round; 
And where they do, the breeze blows cool the while,  
Their leafy shadows dancing on the ground. 
Full many a flower, too, wishing to be seen, 
Perks up its head the hiding grass between.  
In mid-wood silence, thus, how sweet to be; 
Where all the noises, that on peace intrude,  
Come from the chittering cricket, bird, and bee, 
Whose songs have charms to sweeten solitude.

John Clare

New Order, "Age of Consent"


There is no telling," said he, "what treasures are hid in that glorious old pile. It is a famous place for antiquarian plunder; there are such rich bits of old time sculpture for the architect, and old time story for the poet. There is as rare picking in it as a Stilton cheese, and in the same taste -- the mouldier the better.”

Washington Irving, Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey



Glenn Miller Orchestra, "I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo"

Mozart, Cosi Fan Tutte, K. 588

John Eliot Gardiner leads the English Baroque Soloists in the Overture ...


That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.

Henry David Thoreau

Happy birthday, Rubens.

Rubens, Portrait of a Bearded Man, 1612

Peter Paul Rubens was born on this day in 1577.

A painting, if the light is just so, can turn into a luminescent inferno which may reveal for just a moment the soul of the artist.

Peter Paul Rubens

Gallery of the Masters: Peter Paul Rubens


Dou, Scholar Sharpening a Quill Pen, 1603

Technique is the proof of your seriousness.

Wallace Stevens

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, R.I.P.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt passed on March 5.

I thought something had been missing.

Here he is in 1995 conducting rehearsals for The Marriage of Figaro ...


27 June 2016



I propose to speak about fairy-stories, though I am aware that this is a rash adventure. Faerie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold. And overbold I may be accounted, for though I have been a lover of fairy-stories since I learned to read, and have at times thought about them, I have not studied them professionally. I have been hardly more than a wandering explorer (or trespasser) in the land, full of wonder but not of information.

The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveller who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost.

There are, however, some questions that one who is to speak about fairy-stories must expect to answer, or attempt to answer, whatever the folk of Faërie may think  of his impertinence. For instance: What are fairy-stories? What is their origin? What is the use of them? I will try to give answers to these questions, or such hints of answers to them as I have gleaned — primarily from the stories themselves, the few of all their multitude that I know.

J.R.R. Tolkien

The Gloaming, "The Pilgrim's Song"


The Waterboys, "Savage Earth Heart"


Gilbert Kerr, a member of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition ,Kerr was a member of the crew of the Scotia on the 1902-04 expedition, and was its official piper. He is seen here serenading an Emperor penguin.  In this capacity he was photographed performing in full Highland dress even in the harsh Antarctic environment.

The emperor penguin accompanying him in this photograph was evidently found to be sufficiently reluctant as a listener to require tethering to a large cooking-pot packed full of snow, but any other scientific discoveries resulting from such experiments were apparently not recorded.

This photograph was made into a postcard, and thus became one of the first items ever to be posted from Antarctica.

Thank you, Historical Times.

C'MON SNOW!  I'm ready for winter.


The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed.

Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can.

The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it's a job.

Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.

Artists are people with a genius for finding a new answer, a new connection, or a new way of getting things done.  An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.  The artists in your life are gift-focused, and their tenacity has nothing at all to do with income or job security. Instead, it’s about finding a way to change you in a positive way, and to do it with a gift. There’s a strong streak of intellectual integrity involved in being a passionate artist. You don’t sell out, because selling out involves destroying the best of what you are.  I think art is the ability to change people with your work, to see things as they are and then create stories, images, and interactions that change the marketplace.  Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.  Art is unique, new, and challenging to the status quo. It’s not decoration, it’s something that causes change.  Most of all, art involves labor. Not the labor of lifting a brush or typing a sentence, but the emotional labor of doing something difficult, taking a risk and extending yourself.

I call the process of doing your art, your "work."

Seth Godin



Gauguin, Vase of Flowers, 1886

In 1973, 
I set my brain back to 1915 and I managed to remember 
flowers -– and paint them –- as I had seen them then. 
Quite a feat. 
And the flowers were fresher.

Alice Neel


Handel, "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba"

Harry Christophers conducts the Orchestra of The Sixteen ...


Wimbledon begins today.



"Play the Game"

26 June 2016


The house was built on the highest part of the narrow tongue of land between the harbor and the open sea. It had lasted through three hurricanes and it was built solid as a ship. It was shaded by tall coconut palms that were bent by the trade wind and on the ocean side you could walk out of the door and down the bluff across the white sand and into the Gulf Stream. The water of the Stream was usually a dark blue when you looked out at it when there was no wind. But when you walked out into it there was just the green light of the water over that floury white sand and you could see the shadow of any big fish a long time before he could ever come in close to the beach.

Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream


Rest and be thankful.

William Wordsworth

The English Beat, "Doors of Your Heart"


The more I live, the more I regret how little I know.

Claude Monet


When you start to live outside yourself, it's all dangerous.

Ernest Hemingway


Bear (mukwa) medicine.



There is left us the bread and the light.
The soul’s light, and the light of the kitchen,
night light and the light of the morning,
light under the sheets of a dream.
Suckled by light,
I live as I must
in my destiny’s ruthless lucidity.
Pablo Neruda 



"Bad Company"


Lawrence, Ninety-four in the Shade, 1876


I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

Dylan Thomas


Only one nation refused to accept the psychology of submission. The Chechens never sought to please, to ingratiate themselves with the bosses; their attitude was always haughty and indeed openly hostile.... And here is the extraordinary thing—everyone was afraid of them. No one could stop them from living as they did. The regime which had ruled the land for thirty years could not force them to respect its laws. 
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
The history of the Hmong yields several lessons that anyone who deals with them might do well to remember. Among the most obvious are that the Hmong do not like to take orders; that they do not like to lose; that they would rather flee, fight, or die than surrender; that they are not intimidated by being outnumbered, that they are rarely persuaded that the customs of other cultures, even those more powerful than their own are superior; that they are capable of getting very angry....Those who have tried to defeat, deceive, govern, regulate, constrain, assimilate, or patronize the Hmong have, as a rule, disliked them intensely.  
Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

If they mean to have a war, let it begin here — Captain John Parker, commanding the American militia against the British. Said at first light, Lexington, Massachusetts, April 19, 1775

I see two ghosts appear out of the mist on the morning river that runs into our green future, each wraith beckons me follow him down a different path. One I recognize by his arrogant bearing as the imperial spirit of Major General Edward Braddock calling all of us to follow him to the end of history just across the river.

Braddock is a bold man, proud, indifferent to fear. He scorns danger because to him, all answers are already known; he demands to be our shepherd on this last regression to the royal destiny we escaped three lifetimes ago. If we go with him, the whole world will follow, and the British empire reconnected will be invincible. Come home, says Braddock, you are children who cannot care for yourselves properly. We shall give you a secure place in the bell-curve pyramid of State. Together we shall witness the final evolution of the favored races, though many will be unable to participate in the triumph. Still, there will be for them the satisfaction of serving the fortunate who have inherited the earth at the end of history.

The other ghost is a familiar one, too. A tall, muscular Virginian, just as compelling as Braddock but without his haughtiness, a man dressed in the browns and greens of nature, a brace of pistols at his waist, on a horse he calls Blueskin. He stands straight as an arrow. His powerful presence, in combination with the delicate feet of a dancer, mark him unmistakably as Major George Washington. As a boy he learned the hard things: duty, piety, courage, self-reliance, to have a mind of his own, to refuse to accept the psychology of submission. His head was stocked with Cato, Fielding, Euclid, Newton, surveying, Caesar, Tacitus, the Testaments, horsemanship, dancing, how to tell a bawdy joke, how to comfort the weak, how to brace the strong, how to endure hardship, how to give men a reason to die, or one to live.

Once this same colonial frontiersman rode in a dream together with the English general, across an angry green river they rode into the deeps of the further forest. Braddock and his army died on the Monongahela that day, but this American lived because he had learned to think for himself. The men who followed Washington lived, too, because the leader they chose was not a function of some greater abstraction. The loyalty they gave him was freely given, not imposed by intimidation or trickery.

Washington’s greatest mistake in judgment, I think, was remembering Braddock’s army as the most brilliant thing his eyes had ever seen, for surely that must have been his own reflection in the mirror. In that first moment after he refused to become King George I of America, brilliance never lived inside a more brilliant human vehicle. Behind the heroic persona of Washington a real hero reposed. America is his legacy to us. Because of Washington we owe nothing to empires, not even to the one building in America today which seeks a reunion with Great Britain in order to dominate world affairs. The American people owe empires the same rude salute we gave Britain’s at Bunker Hill, Saratoga, and Yorktown.

John Pike, a defense analyst with, a policy think tank based in Alexandria, Virginia was quoted on this maker of empires in the Los Angeles Times. After noting the Pentagon’s new expansions into Central Asia and Eastern Europe, he remarked that the United States military now spans the planet in a way unprecedented in history. "If you want to talk about suns never setting on empires, you know, the Brits had nothing compared to this," said Pike.

Time to take our schools back. If they mean to have a war, let it begin now.

John Taylor Gatto, from the Epilogue to An Underground History of American Education


Thank You, Jessica.

Handel, Recorder Sonata in A minor, HWV 362

Frans Brüggen performs, with Gustav Lionhardt accompanying ...


25 June 2016



Star, my only star,
in the poverty of the night, alone,
for me, alone, you shine,
in loneliness you shine;
But, for me, star
that never will stop from lighting,
a too short time is granted you,
you lavish me a light
that in me does nothing but
sharpen my despair.

Giuseppe Ungaretti

Sam Bush, "Same Ol' River"