AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

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

31 December 2014

Shinyribs, "Fisherman's Friend"

May you carry soul by the truck load,
May you not grow mold on your manifold.
And may you build bridges that ain't got no end.
And may you sing for the King and the fisherman's friend.

May you travel under a silvery moon
In the pleasant comp’ny of a woman who swoons.
And your simple words, may she find them wise.
And may you wake up in the morning with her by your side.

May you never have to explain the ways you feel.
May you always have a fresh hand on the wheel.
And if you get tired I hope you lay down
and dream about your children jumping up and down.

I pray the blessing all along your road.
I pray the sun shines down wherever you go.
Don't worry bout your suffering cause it'll be all right.
You cast a beautiful shadow the way your standing in the light.

May you carry soul by the truck load,
May you not grow mold on your manifold.
And may you build bridges that ain't got no end.
And may you sing for the King and the fisherman's friend.

29 December 2014

Beppe Gambetta, "Slow Creek"

With Mike Witcher and Radim Zenkl ...


Servitude.


All life is servitude. And so a man must become reconciled to his lot, must complain of it as little as possible, and must lay hold of whatever good it may have; no state is so bitter that a calm mind cannot find in its some consolation.  Apply reason to difficulties; it is possible to soften what is hard, to widen what is narrow, and burdens will press less heavily upon those who bear them skillfully.

Seneca

Happy birthday, Casals.

Pablo Casals was born on this date in 1876.

Bach's Suite No. 1 for Cello ...

Part 1 ...



Part 2 ...

Stay.


You read a sentence which will stay with you. You sense the raw power of an insight which seems to have been out there, waiting for you, and worry about those who don't even search.

Thank you, Mr. Wade.

Thank You, Poetessa.

28 December 2014

Jean Carignan, "Immitation de la Cornemuse"

More.


Sound is something I’m very conscious of. And maybe that’s part of the Northwest; there is a mossy, deadened sound here. So you listen more carefully—you’re an owl. You don’t have to put on earmuffs to keep from damaging your hearing. It’s nice and quiet, so you listen. But in a way that’s a metaphor too. It is an alertness of sense in a world where senses are never enough—any of the senses. I thought maybe you were going to say smell. I feel I’m really a good smeller, and I value that, although on the other hand, I look at a bloodhound and realize I’ve got a ways to go. So, whatever the senses in my poems, I am consciously aware of the limits of human beings and of the mistake we make if we assume what we are receiving is everything that’s there. I feel that we need to hear more, see more, smell more, feel more.

I think you create a good poem by revising your life . . . by living the kind of life that enables good poems to come about. 

William Stafford

CONNECT

Thank You, Jessica.

Escape.


There is no escape. You can't be a vagabond and an artist and still be a solid citizen, a wholesome, upstanding man. You want to get drunk, so you have to accept the hangover. You say yes to the sunlight and pure fantasies, so you have to say yes to the filth and the nausea. Everything is within you, gold and mud, happiness and pain, the laughter of childhood and the apprehension of death. Say yes to everything, shirk nothing. Don't try to lie to yourself. You are not a solid citizen. You are not a Greek. You are not harmonious, or the master of yourself. You are a bird in the storm. Let it storm! Let it drive you! How much have you lied! A thousand times, even in your poems and books, you have played the harmonious man, the wise man, the happy, the enlightened man. In the same way, men attacking in war have played heroes, while their bowels twitched. My God, what a poor ape, what a fencer in the mirror man is- particularly the artist- particularly myself!

Herman Hesse

Return.


Will the decals return, as well?

Enjoyably.

Sea.

27 December 2014

Frank Sinatra, "I Get a Kick Out of You"

... Your fffffffffabulous face.

Fringes.


My love for chaos, conspiracy and the dark side of human nature colors the behavior of my charges, most of whom are already living near the fringes of acceptable conduct. 

Anthony Bourdain

26 December 2014

Great.


The Himalayas are the crowning achievement of the Indo-Australian plate. India in the Oligocene crashed head on into Tibet, hit so hard that it not only folded and buckled the plate boundaries but also plowed into the newly created Tibetan plateau and drove the Himalayas five and a half miles into the sky. The mountains are in some trouble. India has not stopped pushing them, and they are still going up. Their height and volume are already so great they are beginning to melt in their own self-generated radioactive heat. When the climbers in 1953 planted their flags on the highest mountain, they set them in snow over the skeletons of creatures that had lived in a warm clear ocean that India, moving north, blanked out. Possibly as much as 20,000 feet below the sea floor, the skeletal remains had turned into rock. This one fact is a treatise in itself on the movements of the surface of the earth.

If by some fiat, I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence; this is the one I would choose: the summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone.


John McPhee

25 December 2014

Christmas.

Dawson, Rounding Cape Horn, 1967


Christmas Night

We shipped a sea on Christmas night,
On Christmas night, on Christmas night!
From stem to stern the decks flowed white –
On Christmas night till the morning!

"One more like that," our mate did say,
"And she'll not last till the break of day,"
So deep she rolled, so ill she lay –
All the night long till the morning!

So black the night, the gale it screamed,
On Christmas night, on Christmas night!
Like gushing wounds her swing-ports streamed;
On Christmas night till the morning!

All ice the yard was where we clung,
The frozen shrouds shrill carols sung,
Like harps the twanging backstays rung –
All the night long till the morning!

We called "All hands!" We hove her to,
On Christmas night, on Christmas night!
And nothing then was left to do
On Christmas night till the morning!

But hang on all, and wait, and pray
For nothing else to carry away,
So she might last till the break of day –
All the night long till the morning!

And one big roaring sailorman
A sort of rambling yarn began,
About a place nigh Wexford town,
With the river Slaney flowing down
By the farm where he was born an' rared;
"An' my old mother, well, she's not heard
A word o' me this many a year . . .
But I've got stuff and I've got gear
Stowed in my sea-chest all for her –
I can just see them old eyes stare:
A lump o' coral like a tree
Them Blacks dive after in Fee-jee,
A Spanish shawl and a carved fan,
A little tea-set from far Japan,
That's blue and white, and wee and small,
If this black gale don't break 'em all!"

The long night passed and that great gale,
On Christmas night, on Christmas night!
Went down at dawn, so we made sail,
On Christmas Day in the morning!
We sent the yards to the masthead,
The watch sung out to wake the dead!
"Them tea-things is all right," Dan said –
On Christmas Day in the morning!

Cicely Fox Smith

Glorious!

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious! Glorious!
“What’s to-day!” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.
“Eh?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.
“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.
“To-day!” replied the boy. “Why, Christmas Day.”

King's College Choir, "In Dulci Jubilo"

Praising.

Caravaggio, Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence, 1609


Luke 2:1-20

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Christmas.

Salvi, Madonna and Child, 1650


The Burning Babe

As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
“Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.”
      With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
      And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.

Robert Soutwell

24 December 2014

Scrooge.

1935

A Child's Christmas in Wales.

Talking.


"Just you think," wrote one soldier to his family, "that while you were eating your turkey I was out talking with the very men I had been trying to kill a few hours before!"

CONNECT

More.

Noise.


Come bring the noise,
My merry, merry boys,
The Christmas log to the firing;
While my good dame, she
Bids ye all be free,
And drink to your heart's desiring.

With the last year's brand
Light the new block, and
For good success in his spending,
On your psalteries play,
That sweet luck may
Come while the log is a tending.

Drink now the strong beer,
Cut the white loaf here,
The while the meat is a shredding
For the rare mince-pie
And the plums standing by,
To fill the paste that's a kneeding.

Robert Herrick

Festival.

Boris Ord conducts the 1954 Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service from King's College Chapel, Cambridge England.

Together.

Kent, Open Book, 1938


We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or to be blind. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then to become the storyteller. 

Everyone has stories of the small coincidence by which their parents met or their grandmother was saved from fire or their grandfather from the grenade, of the choice made by the most whimsical means that led to everything else, whether you're blessed or cursed or both. Trace it back far enough and this very moment in your life becomes a rare species, the result of a strange evolution, a butterfly that should already be extinct and survives by the inexplicabilities we call coincidence. The word is often used to mean the accidental but literally means to fall together. The patterns of our lives come from those things that do not drift apart but move together for a little while, like dancers.

Rebecca Solnit

Fall.

Ribera, Euclid (detail), 1635


Rather than literally burning the midnight oil, which he judged to be unhealthy, John Adams advised his son to make the most of college by developing an inquisitive outlook that would prompt him to get to know the most exceptional scholars and question them closely. "Ask them about their tutors, manner of teaching. Observe what books lie on their tables. Fall into questions of literature, science, or what you will."

David McCullough

Van Morrison, "In the Garden"

Listen ... no guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature ...

Garden.


Man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild.

James Allen

Entirely.

Stuart, George Washington, 1797


The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy age of Ignorance and Superstition, but at an Epoch when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period, the researches of the human mind, after social happiness, have been carried to a great extent, the Treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labors of Philosophers, Sages and Legislatures, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the Establishment of our forms of Government; the free cultivation of Letters, the unbounded extension of Commerce, the progressive refinement of Manners, the growing liberality of sentiment have had ameliorating influence on mankind and increased the blessings of Society. At this auspicious period, the United States came into existence as a Nation, and if their Citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.

George Washington

23 December 2014

Bunnymen.


How can you not sell the first three Bunnymen albums? It’s like, how can you not sell the Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and The Garden of Earthly Delights?

Ian McCulloch

Royal Albert Hall, July 18, 1983 ...

Soul.


Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.

Lao Tzu

Temperatures.

Christmas with scientists.


Fahrenheit: what temperatures affect humans
Celsius: what temperatures affect water
Kelvin: what temperatures affect atoms

Sturgill Simpson.

Laur Joamets, guitar and enthusiasm ...

"You Can Have the Crown/Some Days"


"Sitting Here Without You"



"Water in a Well"


Rules.

Filled.


In his biography of the poet Georges Perros, Jean-Marie Gibbal quotes a student from Rennes where Perros taught:

He would come in on Tuesday morning, wind-whipped and frozen stiff on his rusty blue motorcycle. Hunched over in his pea-coat, his pipe in his mouth or in his hand.  He would empty a bag of books onto the table.  And life would begin.

Fifteen years later, that student is still under Perros’ spell.  Smiling as she recalls the memory over a cup of coffee, she travels through time to her own recollections.

“That was how life began” a half-ton of books, pipes, tobacco, a copy of France-Soir or L’Equipe, keys, notebooks, bills, a sparkplug from his motorcycle … And out of that mess he drew a book, cast his eyes upon us, gave us a laugh that let us know something good was coming, then began to read.  He paced as he read, one hand in his pocket, the other one holding the book, outstretched, as if he were literally giving us a gift.  All his reading was a gift.  He asked nothing ion return.  When one of us began to drift off, he stopped reading in a second, eyes on the daydreamer, as he whistled a little tune.  The object was not to upbraid, but to invite the person to return to his world.  He never lost sight of us.  Even when most absorbed in his reading, he looked at us from over the lines.  His voice was deep yet luminous, and slightly hushed.  It filled the classroom, as it would have filled an amphitheater, or Notre-Dame cathedral, without him having to pronounce one word louder than the other.  Instinctively, he measured the space around him and the space in our minds.  He was the natural echo chamber of every book, the incarnation of the text, the book made flesh.  Through his voice, we discovered that every book had been written for us.  The discovery was a revelation after the long years of schooling and the literature classes that kept us at a respectable distance from books.  What did he do more than our other professors?  Nothing.  In some ways he did less. The difference was this: he didn’t deliver literature with the medicine-dropper of analysis; instead, he filled the glass to the brim.  We understood what he read to us.  We got inside it.  There could be no more brilliant explanation of the text than the sound of his voice as he anticipated an author’s intention, revealed a hidden meaning, uncovered an allusion.  He made misunderstanding impossible.  It would have been absolutely unthinkable, after hearing him read Marivaux’s Infidelities, to mistake the true meaning of the bedroom farce and misinterpret this theater of dissection as light entertainment.  The precision of his voice transformed the classroom into a laboratory; the lucidity of his speech urged us to pick up our scalpels and get to work on the living specimen.  Not that he added what wasn’t there, not that he drew us into the waiting room of Dr. Sade.  Still, as we listened to him, we couldn’t help seeing the cross-sections of the brains of Arlequin and de Silvia, those Marivaux characters, as if we ourselves were presiding over the vivisection of these two beings.

“We had him an hour a week.  That hour was like his backpack: anything could jump out.  When he left us at the year’s end, I counted up mu acquisitions.  Shakespeare, Proust, Kafka, Vialatte, Strindberg, Kierkegaard, Moliere, Beckett, Marivaux, Paul Valery, Huysmans, Rilke, Georges Bataille, Julien Gracq, Hardellet, Cervantes, Laclos, Cioran, Checkov, Henri Thomas, Michel Butor … I’m remembering as many as I can but I know I’ve forgotten half of them. In ten years, I haven’t heard the tenth of them!

“He talked freely, he read freely, he didn’t assume we had a library in our heads.  There wasn’t a crumb of bad faith in the man.  He took us for what we were: young, ignorant students who deserved to know more.  There was no talk about cultural heritage or sacred secrets that inhabited the ether.  With him, books didn’t fall from the sky like manna; he simply picked them up off the ground and offered them to us to read.  Everything was present; we were surrounded by the rippling of life.  I remember our disappointment at the beginning, when he presented the masters whom our teachers had already told us about: Moliere, La Fontaine.  But within an hour, they had lost their status as academic divinities; they became friends without ever losing their mystery.  We simply couldn’t live without them.  Perros resurrected authors. Arise and go forth.  From Appolinaire to Zola, from Brecht to Wilde, they strode into the classroom, very much alive, as if they’d just been at the café across the street.  A café where sometimes he’d take us for a second intermission.  He didn’t play the buddy-buddy professor, that wasn’t his type.  It was simply his way of teaching what he called his ‘course in ignorance.’  With him, culture stopped being a state religion, and the bar was a rostrum as proper as any lectern the school had to offer.  We listened to him, but we felt no desire to join his order or to put on the clerical collar of knowledge.  We just wanted to read.  When the class was over, we cleaned out all the bookstores in the county.  The more we read, he warned, the more ignorant we would feel, alone on the shore of our ignorance, facing the sea.  With him, we weren’t afraid to get our feet wet.  We dove into books and wasted no time splashing around fearfully in shallow water.  I don’t know how many of us became teachers.  Not many, no doubt, and that’s too bad, because he instilled in us the desire to share.  To share with the four winds.  He couldn’t care less about teaching; his ideal was an itinerant university.

“Why don’t we go out for a walk?  Let’s drop in on Goethe in Weimar, and cuss out God with Kierkegaard’s father.  The we can see what the white nights are like on Nevsky Prospect …”

“Reading, the resurrection of Lazarus, rolling away the stone of words.” - Georges Perros

That teacher wasn’t just inculcating a body of knowledge; he was giving us what he knew.  He was less professor, more master troubadour: one of those word-jugglers who haunted the hostelries on the road to Compostela and sang chronicles of the heroes to the illiterate pilgrims.

Since everything has to start somewhere, each year he would gather his little flock at the source of the novel.  Like that of the troubadours, his audience did not yet know how to read.  He opened their eyes.  He turned on the lights. He set his students on the road to books, on a pilgrimage without end, a path of encounters.

“He read out loud – that’s what made the difference.  Right from the start, he trusted our desire to understand … A teacher who reads out loud lifts you to the level of books.  He gives you the gift of reading!”

Daniel Pennac, from Better than Life

Feast.

Marco Pierre White prepares The Great British Feast ...

Chapter 1



Chapter 2



Chapter 3



Chapter 4

Running.

A little creek that is still running ...


CONNECT

Acknowledged.


In art there is the fact of failure, and the fact of partial success. Our metaphysicians must understand this. Works of art can fail so easily; it is so difficult for them to succeed. One man will fall silent because of lack of feeling; another, because his emotion chokes him. A third frees himself, not from the burden that weighs on him, but only from a feeling of unfreedom. A fourth breaks his tools because they have too long been used to exploit him. The world is not obliged to be sentimental. Defeats should be acknowledged; but one should not conclude from them that there should be no more struggles.

Bertolt Brecht

Mozart, Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165

Julia Lezhneva performs the "Alleluia" with the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, directed by Aapo Häkkinen ...

Mixing.



In 1692 an artist known only as “A. Boogert” sat down to write a book in Dutch about mixing watercolors. Not only would he begin the book with a bit about the use of color in painting, but would go on to explain how to create certain hues and change the tone by adding one, two, or three parts of water. The premise sounds simple enough, but the final product is almost unfathomable in its detail and scope.

CONNECT

King's College Choir, "The Holly & The Ivy"

Eye.


Lying under the stars,
In the summer night,
Late while the autumn
Constellations climb the sky,
As the Cluster of Hercules
Falls down the west
I put the telescope by 
And watch Deneb
Move towards the zenith
My body is asleep. Only
My eyes and brain are awake.
The stars stand around me
Like gold eyes. I can no longer
Tell where I begin and leave off.
The faint breeze in the dark pines,
And the invisible grass,
The tipping earth, the swarming stars
Have an eye that sees itself.

Kenneth Rexroth

Sharpen.

You cannot teach a person to read well unless you make him struggle with texts that are very difficult and over his head ... it is a sharpening stone, something you have to sharpen your mind on.

Mortimer Adler

Mortimer Adler discusses the pursuit of knowledge with William F. Buckley Jr. ...

Passage.

Lone Dog, Winter Count, 1833


The Lakota Indians marked the passage of time by drawing pictures of memorable events on calendars known as “waniyetu wowapi” or “winter counts”. 

CONNECT

More.

Thank You, Jessica.

Chance.


Something must be left to chance; nothing is sure in a sea fight above all. I cannot command winds and weather.

Lord Nelson

22 December 2014

Jerry Jeff Walker, ¡Viva Terlingua!

Joy.


We clear the harbor and the wind catches her sails and my beautiful ship leans over ever so gracefully, and her elegant bow cuts cleanly into the increasing chop of the waves. I take a deep breath and my chest expands and my heart starts thumping so strongly I fear the others might see it beat through the cloth of my jacket. I face the wind and my lips peel back from my teeth in a grin of pure joy.