AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

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

10 February 2016

All.


If I did not believe in life, if I were to lose faith in the woman I love, if I were to lose faith in the order of things, even if I were to become convinced, on the contrary, that everything is a disorderly, damned, and perhaps devilish chaos, if I were struck even by all the horrors of human disillusionment -- still I would want to live, and as long as I have bent to this cup, I will not tear myself from it until I've drunk it all!

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

09 February 2016

God-like.


He’s practicing what I’ve long thought of as “Jim Yoga,” focusing his attention alternately skyward (mountains, birds, clouds) and at ground level (dogs, trout, plants). It’s a ritualistic way of moving through the world that’s revivified him, of seeing through eyes other than his own — and those of us who’ve read his books have been revivified as well.

“If you spend a fair amount of time studying the world of ravens,” he’s said elsewhere, “it is logical, indeed, to accept the fact that reality is an aggregate of the perceptions of all creatures, not just ourselves.”

Save for the squeaking oarlocks and the water lapping at the hull, the boat is wonderfully quiet. Flicker calls, warbler note cascades, wind, around us the scent of budding cottonwoods on which we base our faith. Then Jim says, “Come on, trout! You don’t want to see little Jimmy throw a tantrum, do you? You know, Davey, I once caught a 3-pound brown on this left bank coming up. Right … ” he pauses and waits for his Little Olive to slap against the bank, “here!”

And before he can strip the line, a chunky brown trout cartwheels out of its element for the fly, latches on to the hook, and Jim lets out a whoop. We are all three more than a little dumbfounded. David and I exchange glances of substantial bafflement as I slip the net under the fish.

“Mystery,” poet James Galvin wrote, “moves in God-like ways.”

Why.

Tohaku, Pine Trees, 1580


this ink painting of wind blowing through pines
who hears it?

clouds very high look
not one word helped them get up there

alone with the icy moon no passion
these trees this mountain nothing else

nobody understands why we do what we do
this cup of sake does

passion's red thread is infinite
like the earth always under me


Ikkyu

Door.

Today.

1981.


A couple of favorites ...



Won.


Fight ever on: this earthly stuff
If used God’s way will be enough.
Face to the firing line o friend
Fight out life’s battle to the end.

One soldier, when the fight was red,
Threw down his broken sword and fled.
Another snatched it, won the day,
With what his comrade flung away.

Edwin  Markham

Read.


Read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read ...

Werner Herzog

08 February 2016

Wandering.

Sotter, Moonlight, Bucks County, 1951


The pale moon shining from a pallid sky
Lit half the street, and over half she laid
Her folded mantle; through the dark-browed shade
White windows glittered, each a watchful eye.
The dim wet pavement lit irregularly
With shimmering streaks of gaslight, faint and frayed,
Shone luminous green where sheets of glass displayed
Long breadths of faded blinds mechanically.

the night was very still; above, below,
No sound, no breath, no change in anything;
Only, across the squares of damp lit street,
Shooting a mocking double from his feet,
With vague uncertain steps went to and fro
A solitary shadow wandering.

Arthur Symons

Longing.

Love Dogs

One night a man was crying,
“Allah, Allah!”
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
“So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer for that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage,
“Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”
“This longing you express
is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs no one knows the names of.
Give your life to be one of them.

Rumi

Coleman Barks performs a poem by Rumi, "Love Dogs," musical accompaniment by Eugene Friesen and Arto Tuncboyaciyan.

Happy birthday, Verne.


Jules Verne was born on this day in 1828.

While there is life there is hope.  I beg to assert that as long as a man's heart beats, as long as a man's flesh quivers, I do not allow that a being gifted with thought and will can allow himself to despair.

Jules Verne

Calexico, "Across the Borderline"

With Gaby Moreno and Ray Wylie Hubbard ...

Power.


The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection. The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.

John Stuart Mill

Robert Earl Keen, "For Love"

Marty Muse, pedal steel ...

Happy birthday, Ruskin.

Ruskin, Interior of San Frediano Lucca, 1845



John Ruskin was born on this day in 1819.

I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I don't mean by humility, doubt of his power. But really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not of them, but through them. And they see something divine in every other man and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.

John Ruskin

Cauld.


Cauld blaws the wind frae east to west,   
The drift is driving sairly;
Sae loud and shrill’s I hear the blast,   
I’m sure it’s winter fairly. 

Up in the morning’s no for me,   
Up in the morning early;
When a’ the hills are cover’d wi’ snaw,   
I’m sure its winter fairly. 

The birds sit chittering in the thorn,   
A’ day they fare but sparely;
And lang’s the night frae e’en to morn,   
I’m sure it’s winter fairly. 

Up in the morning’s no for me,   
Up in the morning early;
When a’ the hills are cover’d wi’ snaw,
I’m sure its winter fairly.

Robert Burns

Rules.


07 February 2016

Today.

1981.

Necessary.


... dictionary and atlas open on the rug,
the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,
a cello on the radio,

and, if necessary, the windows—
trees fifty, a hundred years old
out there,
heavy clouds on the way ...

Billy Collins, from "Morning"

06 February 2016

The Cure, "A Forest"

Never.

Molsky's Mountain Drfiters, "Grandad's Favorite/Red Steer"

Iridescent.


You are aware of only one unrest;
Oh, never learn to know the other!
Two souls, alas, are dwelling in my breast,
And one is striving to forsake its brother.
Unto the world in grossly loving zest,
With clinging tendrils, one adheres;
The other rises forcibly in quest
Of rarefied ancestral spheres.
If there be spirits in the air
That hold their sway between the earth and sky,
Descend out of the golden vapors there
And sweep me into iridescent life.
Oh, came a magic cloak into my hands
To carry me to distant lands,
I should not trade it for the choicest gown,
Nor for the cloak and garments of the crown.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Unknowns.

Rivers.


More of North America’s land is covered by rivers than we thought, according to a new map. Scientists came up with a way to use satellite images to estimate the width of rivers and found that previous methods tended to underestimate how wide they are. The discovery could have implications for studies of flood risk.

A team led by hydrologists Tamlin Pavelsky and George Allen of the University of North Carolina developed an algorithm that brightens water on satellite images and makes everything else appear dark. They then used the algorithm to analyze 1,756 Landsat images of North America.

Eagles, "Already Gone"

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key 

Presence.


Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines—it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits. That’s just a feeling, not a fact, but remember (I repeat): people believe weirder things than this.

Robin Sloan, from Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Elsewhere.

You know what I am doing, Miss Kenton? I am placing my thoughts elsewhere while you chatter away.

Happy birthday, Reagan.



Ronald Reagan was born on this day in 1911.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.

Ronald Reagan

Map.

Ching, after Nolli, Map of Rome (detail), Undated

Library.


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

Jorge Luis Borges

Paul Weller, "White Sky"

Strategy.

Patience.


Being an artist means: 
not numbering and counting, 
but ripening like a tree, 
which doesn’t force its sap, 
and stands confidently in the storms of spring, 
not afraid that afterward summer may not come. 

It does come. 

But it comes only to those who are patient, 
who are there as if eternity lay before them, 
so unconcernedly silent and vast. 

I learn it every day of my life, 
learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!

Rainer Maria Rilke

Simply.


When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one's ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender, of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries.

Kenneth Graham, from Wind in the Willows

05 February 2016

Willie Nelson, "A Song for You"

Single.


What is a friend?  A single soul dwelling in two bodies.

Aristotle

Palimpset.

Anderson-Lunby, As Evening Falls, Undated


Darkness comes out of the earth
And swallows dip into the pallor of the west;
From the hay comes the clamour of children's mirth;
Wanes the old palimpsest.

The night-stock oozes scent,
And a moon-blue moth goes flittering by:
All that the worldly day has meant
Wastes like a lie.

The children have forsaken their play;
A single star in a veil of light
Glimmers: litter of day
Is gone from sight.

D.H. Lawrence

Map.

Styx, "Mademoiselle"

Happy Friday!

Happy.

Happy Friday!

Reveries.


How is it possible not to feel that there is communication between our solitude as a dreamer and the solitudes of childhood? And it is no accident that, in a tranquil reverie, we often follow the slope which returns us to our childhood solitudes. Our whole childhood remains to be reimagined.  There are reveries so deep, reveries which help us descend so deeply within ourselves that they rid us of our history.  These solitudes of today return us to the original solitudes.  In reimagining them, we have the possibility of recovering the very life of our reveries as a solitary child.

Gaston Bachelard

Experienced.


Like song or dance, poetry needs to be experienced in performance before it can be fully understood.

CONNECT

Remote.


Please, Medicine Man, I feel a pain.
I always believed in spells and incantations.
Sure, women have only one, Catholic, soul,
But we have two. When you start to dance
You visit remote pueblos in your sleep
And even lands you have never seen.
Put on, I beg you, charms made of feathers,
Now it's time to help one of your own.
I have read many books but I don't believe them.
When it hurts we return to the banks of certain rivers.


Czeslaw Milosz, from “I Sleep A Lot”

Gravity.

Today we learned that gravity is a fine musician. A team of Japanese filmmakers constructed an incredibly long wooden xylophone along a steady slope in the middle of a beautiful forest in Kyushu in southern Japan. Once the awesome instrument was built and carefully tuned a wooden ball was released at the very top. As the ball rolls down the xylophone it strikes each wooden bar once, producing a single note, performing Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring“ accompanied by the gentle sounds of a peaceful forest. 

Anywhere.


Sit down anywhere you like, on a wall, a stone, a tree stump, on the grass or the earth: everywhere they surround you, a painting and a poem, everywhere the world resonates beautifully and happily around you.

Herman Hesse

Grandeur.


Modernity: we created youth without heroism, age without wisdom, and life without grandeur.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Chico Marx, "Collegiate"

Accuracy.


Accuracy of observation is the equivalent of accuracy of thinking.

Wallace Stevens

Delivers.


In humility is the greatest freedom. As long as you have to defend the imaginary self that you think is important, you lose your peace of heart. As soon as you compare that shadow with the shadows of other people, you lose all joy, because you have begun to trade in unrealities, and there is no joy in things that do not exist.

As soon as you begin to take yourself seriously, and imagine that your virtues are important because they are yours, you become the prisoner of your own vanity and even your best works will blind and deceive you. Then, in order to defend yourself, you will see sins and faults everywhere in the actions of other men. And the more unreasonable importance you attach to yourself and your own works, the more you will tend to build up your own idea of yourself by condemning other people.

When humility delivers a man from attachment to his own works and his own reputation, he discovers that perfect joy is possible only when we have completely forgotten ourselves. And it is only when we pay no more attention to our own deeds and our own reputation and our own excellence that we are at last completely free to serve God in perfection for His own sake.

Thomas Merton

Passed.

Leonardo, Archer, 1485


He who does not answer the questions has passed the test.

Franz Kafka