The Difference Between “We Are” and “We Are Not”

'It's enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment,' by user hazara (Hadi Zaher) on Flickr

[Image: “‘It’s enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment,'” a quotation from Gabriel Garcia Marquez used as the title of this photo by user ‘hazara’ (Hadi Zaher) on Flickr. (Image used here under a Creative Commons license.) The passage quoted appears in Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.]

From whiskey river:

Celebration… is self restraint, is attentiveness, is questioning, is meditating, is awaiting, is the step over into the more wakeful glimpse of the wonder — the wonder that a world is worlding around us at all, that there are beings rather than nothing, that things are and we ourselves are in their midst, that we ourselves are and yet barely know who we are, and barely know that we do not know all this.

(Martin Heidegger [source])

and:

Music Is In The Piano Only When It Is Played

We are not one with this world. We are not
the complexity our body is, nor the summer air
idling in the big maple without purpose.
We are a shape the wind makes in these leaves
as it passes through. We are not the wood
any more than the fire, but the heat which is a marriage
between the two. We are certainly not the lake
nor the fish in it, but the something that is
pleased by them. We are the stillness when
a mighty Mediterranean noon subtracts even the voices of
insects by the broken farmhouse. We are evident
when the orchestra plays, and yet are not part
of the strings or brass. Like the song that exists
only in the singing, and is not the singer.
God does not live among the church bells
but is briefly resident there. We are occasional
like that. A lifetime of easy happiness mixed
with pain and loss, trying always to name and hold
on to the enterprise under way in our chest.
Reality is not what we marry as a feeling. It is what
walks up the dirt path, through the excessive heat
and giant sky, the sea stretching away.
He continues past the nunnery to the old villa
where he will sit on the terrace with her, their sides
touching. In the quiet that is the music of that place,
which is the difference between silence and windlessness.

(Jack Gilbert [source])

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ADMIN: Testing a New Music Player (Part 2: Some Notes (So Far))

Some observations about the new music/audio player thing I experimented with yesterday

  1. It’s not as customizable as I’d like it to be — yet.
    • I wish I could arrange things so it doesn’t span the entire width of the blog post; I suspect that I can, with some artfully applied style-sheet changes.
    • The colors need to be tinkered with, as well. (Again, though, I suspect I just need to… well, to tinker some more.)
  2. There doesn’t seem to be any way to change the name of a track as it appears in the playlist. By default — maybe unchangeably? — the player uses the filename. Personally, I try never to use spaces, punctuation, or other special characters in my filenames, and I don’t make the names, y’know, Mixed Upper- and Lowercase — plain all lowercase for me. Which didn’t matter before, because I could specify how I want each track labeled. Now? A filename like songtitle_artistname.mp3 shows up exactly as such in the playlist, not as Song Title, by Artist Name (or whatever). Ugly. (I got the “user-friendly” names in yesterday’s post to appear that way by renaming their files that way, against my tech-guy better-or-otherwise judgment.)
  3. I haven’t yet figured out how to replicate the functionality of what I used to call the “RAMH right-bracket secret decoder ring” trick for playlists of more than one song. On the other hand, even with the old audio player I didn’t really have a solution — I’d just hoped otherwise.
  4. Most, well, troublingly: I couldn’t use the new audio player with my (Android) smartphone’s Firefox browser. It showed up beautifully on the screen, and went through the motions of playing each song — showing the little progress meter, advancing to the next track, and so on. But… no sound. (It worked okay in the Chrome Android browser.)

Will see how things progress as we move along here…

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ADMIN: Testing a New Music Player (with Big Daddy’s “Sgt. Pepper” Album)

Big Daddy: 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'For reasons both technical and “political” (dueling Web software standards), I have discovered, the old familiar audio-player thingumabob I’ve been using here for seven years will no longer work in the latest version of the Firefox Web browser. This isn’t a fatal problem, obviously; I can just tell site visitors, “If you want to listen to this music, please use a browser other than Firefox.” Not a particularly elegant solution, though, is it?

Unfortunately, the main browser I’ve been using for a couple years now has been — you guessed it — Firefox. Fortunately, I discovered the audio-player problem while working on my first “real” post in the new design. Unfortunately, of course, I’ve now got seven years’ musical selections effectively unlistenable, on a going-forward basis…

Le sigh.

I’ve looked around for a plugin which my WordPress-based site might use, without being too, y’know, weird. (I don’t care about flashy graphics, and I don’t really want an ultra-compact player which sits up in a tiny corner of the window, and so on, and so on.)

I’m going to use this post to try it out.

The list below includes a few selections from an album called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, by the group known (at the time) simply as Big Daddy. I’ve mentioned Big Daddy a few times here at RAMH, most notably this early post. For their Sgt Pepper’s project, they refashioned the Beatles’s entire original album as if they’d been recorded in the styles of various 1950s-era rock-n-roll and other popular performers. You will recognize some of those names, perhaps; even if not, the songs rather speak for themselves.

I won’t explain how the various audio-player controls work at this time, but trust you’ll be able to figure them out for yourself. If you DO encounter problems, please let me know in the comments.

(This music player should also scale smoothly in size, depending on the device you’re reading this post from.)

Thank you!

'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' (selections) (Big Daddy)

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A Day of Small Things

'Invasion of Nature,' by user AndreasS on Flickr

[Image: “Invasion of Nature,” by user AndreasS on Flickr. (Used under a Creative Commons license.)]

From whiskey river:

The contemplation of nature has two correlative aspects. First, it means appreciating the “thusness” or “thisness” of particular things, persons and moments. We are to see each stone, each leaf, each blade of grass, each frog, each human face, for what it truly is, in all the distinctness and intensity of its specific being. As the prophet Zechariah warns us, we are not to “despise the day of small things.” “True mysticism”, says Olivier Clément, “is to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary.”

(Kallistos Ware [source])

and (italicized portion):

The things that make our lives are so tenuous, so unlikely, that we barely come into being, barely meet the people we’re meant to love, barely find our way in the woods, barely survive catastrophe every day

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 [source])

and:

A Blessing for Wedding

Today when persimmons ripen
Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
Today when windows keep their promise to open
Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
Today when someone you love has died
or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love has been born
or someone you will not meet has been born
Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let this light bless you
With these friends let it bless you
With snow-scent and lavender bless you
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days

(Jane Hirshfield [source])

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Potpourri, June 18th (2015 edition)

[This year’s Potpourri, I reckon, will be shorter than its predecessors. I’ve got just as much I could post about, and of course today’s the only day I can post a Potpourri entry, but The World Is Too Much With Me this time around. So I’ll just write, off and on, and hit the WordPress Publish button when the clock runs out.]

Apropos of nothing: I am really feeling anti-technology at the moment. Practically every program I need to use every day seems to be broken, and — at least on my work PC — some mysterious force prevents me from making the changes I need to make in order to get some of them running smoothly. Symptom: the error message which pops up informing me that I need permission from [username] to make the change (a simple file rename). Why is this a problem? Because I am signed in as [username].

If my PC here were trying to serve me donuts right now, I’d be walking away from the counter in disgust, shaking my head.

On the other hand: My recent adventures in site redesign have reminded me of both (a) the pleasure of getting my hands into the guts of a technical problem, and (b) the satisfaction of knowing that I (alone among the people I know really well, at least in real life) can solve said problem.

Oh, no no no — I’m not even close to done with this yet. Still, it’s good to feel (rightly or wrongly) that I can still do what I have been trained and have learned to do.

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RAMH Enters the 21st Century

'Baby Black Hole,' artist's rendering (from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, via Flickr)

[Image: “Baby Black Hole,” from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Says the description at Flickr: “This is an artist’s impression of a growing supermassive black hole located in the early Universe, showing a disk of gas rotating around the central object that generates copious amounts of radiation. This gas is destined to be consumed by the black hole. The black hole’s mass is less than one hundredth of the mass it will have when the Universe reaches its present day age of about 13.7 billion years.”]

As you can probably tell if you’ve visited Running After My Hat in the past, there’s been significant overhaulage. For starters, compare the size of the image above to the one which heads the previous post, from yesterday. Quite a bit bigger, eh?

Not so obvious: the above image will shrink and grow at smaller and larger screen sizes, respectively. (I artificially limited the maximum display size here to 2048 pixels wide, but that was primarily to keep the file size down. If you click on the header image, you’ll get the whole thing — at 3300 pixels wide. It will probably still display smaller, but trust me, it’s the whole thing, as you can see if you save the enlarged image to your computer.)

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Acuity in the Corner of Your Eye

Untitled photograph by Diana Eftaiha, via Flickr.com

[Image: Untitled photograph by Diana Eftaiha, via Flickr. Used under a
Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river:

Going nowhere, as Leonard Cohen would later emphasize for me, isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.

The idea behind Nowhere — choosing to sit still long enough to turn inward — is at heart a simple one. If your car is broken, you don’t try to find ways to repaint its chassis; most of our problems — and therefore our solutions, our peace of mind — lie within. To hurry around trying to find happiness outside ourselves makes about as much sense as the comical figure in the Sufi parable who, having lost a key in his living room, goes out into the street to look for it because there’s more light there. As Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius reminded us more than two millennia ago, it’s not our experiences that form us but the ways in which we respond to them; a hurricane sweeps through town, reducing everything to rubble, and one man sees it as a liberation, a chance to start anew, while another, perhaps even his brother, is traumatized for life. “There is nothing either good or bad,” as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “but thinking makes it so.”

So much of our lives takes place in our heads — in memory or imagination, in speculation or interpretation — that sometimes I feel that I can best change my life by changing the way I look at it. As America’s wisest psychologist, William James, reminded us, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” It’s the perspective we choose — not the places we visit — that ultimately tells us where we stand.

(Pico Iyer [source])

and:

Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings

for Charles Fishman

Before you go further,
let me tell you what a poem brings,
first, you must know the secret, there is no poem
to speak of, it is a way to attain a life without boundaries,
yes, it is that easy, a poem, imagine me telling you this,
instead of going day by day against the razors, well,
the judgments, all the tick-tock bronze, a leather jacket
sizing you up, the fashion mall, for example, from
the outside you think you are being entertained,
when you enter, things change, you get caught by surprise,
your mouth goes sour, you get thirsty, your legs grow cold
standing still in the middle of a storm, a poem, of course,
is always open for business too, except, as you can see,
it isn’t exactly business that pulls your spirit into
the alarming waters, there you can bathe, you can play,
you can even join in on the gossip — the mist, that is,
the mist becomes central to your existence.

(Juan Felipe Herrera [source])

and:

Perhaps I don’t know enough yet to find the right words for it, but I think I can describe it. It happened again just a moment ago. I don’t know how to put it except by saying that I see things in two different ways—everything, ideas included… It’s only if I look at them directly, in all their strangeness, that they seem impossible. But of course I may be all wrong about this, I know too little about it… No, I wasn’t wrong when I talked about things having a second, secret life that nobody takes any notice of! I—I don’t mean it literally—it’s not that things are alive… it was more as if I had a sort of second sight and saw all this not with the eyes of reason. Just as I can feel an idea coming to life in my mind, in the same way I feel something alive in me when I look at things and stop thinking. There’s something dark in me, deep under all my thoughts, something I can’t measure out with thoughts, a sort of life that can’t be expressed in words and which is my life, all the same.

(Robert Musil [source (PDF)])

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ADMIN: New “Look” Coming

Sooner rather than later, I’m going to be changing over to a new look for Running After My Hat. The changes will possibly be quite startling, and I don’t expect the dust to settle for a while; raggedy loose ends will probably be hanging out here and there for a while.

The last time I changed the look was August, 2011. Here’s how a test page from back then looks (for now!) with the proposed new theme — click to enlarge:

RAMH post of 2011-08-27 (new theme)The theme currently in use here, as of this moment, is just a temporary stopgap — meant as an emergency fix to some problems introduced a couple weeks ago. Among other issues, this current theme is trimming on the right any images wider than 575 or so pixels, which is why the screen capture above looks abruptly chopped off. (If you click it to enlarge it, you’ll see the full width.)

By contrast, here’s how a post from a few days before the last change looked:

Earlier RAMH post, Cutline theme

And finally, here’s how that same “Long, Languorous Tomorrows” post looked before I changed to the theme you’re currently seeing — this is the “look” most RAMH old-timers are most familiar with:

Earlier RAMH post, Leviathan theme

Obviously, the differences are many. And again, the new look is not “final.” (For one thing, I hope to return the “Hats Recently Chased” list of recent posts to the right-hand sidebar, along with the categories list and maybe — maybe — a calendar. Right now the recent posts and categories are all crowded together in the page footer.) I will be trying to retain the color scheme and some other elements which I (even if you) have gotten used to. I want people to continue to know they’re at Running After My Hat, and not lost.

Still, I wanted to give you a heads-up. Feedback, as always, greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Others’ Spirits, Others’ Senses, and Our Own

'Youth Culture - Mods - Late 1950s to Mid 1960s,' by Paul Townsend on Flickr

[Image: “Youth Culture – Mods – Late 1950s to Mid 1960s,” by Paul Townsend on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river:

I breathe in the soft, saturated exhalations of cedar trees and salmonberry bushes, fireweed and wood fern, marsh hawks and meadow voles, marten and harbor seal and blacktail deer. I breathe in the same particles of air that made songs in the throats of hermit thrushes and gave voices to humpback whales, the same particles of air that lifted the wings of bald eagles and buzzed in the flight of hummingbirds, the same particles of air that rushed over the sea in storms, whirled in high mountain snows, whistled across the poles, and whispered through lush equatorial gardens… air that has passed continually through life on earth. I breathe it in, pass it on, share it in equal measure with billions of other living things, endlessly, infinitely.

(Richard Nelson [source, apparently])

and:

Of all the forms of voice and communication, a song is perhaps the least mediated by the intellect. It ropes its way through the tangle of our cautions, joining singer to listener like a vine between two trees.

It attests to the life of the singer through our skin and through our muscles, through the wind in our lungs and the fact of our own beating heart. The evidence of other spirits becomes that of our own body.

A successful song comes to sing itself inside the listener. It is cellular and seismic, a wave coalescing in the mind and in the flesh. There is a message outside and a message inside, and those messages are the same, like the pat and thud of two heartbeats, one within you, one surrounding. The message of the lullaby is that it’s okay to dim the eyes for a time, to lose sight of yourself as you sleep and as you grow: if you drift, it says, you’ll drift ashore: if you fall, you will fall into place.

(Kevin Brockmeier [source])

and:

Horses at Midnight Without a Moon

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there’s music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

(Jack Gilbert [source])

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ADMIN: Banging of Hammers, Whining of Power Tools

I’m going to have to change the look-and-feel of Running After My Hat sooner, rather than later.

The reasons are complicated, for the most part. The simplest of them all: I was going to change it anyway, sometime by the end of the summer. Events have conspired to push that deadline way up.

As I did the last time I changed themes*, in 2011, I’ll be insulating the blog per se from its test version. So you won’t notice a lot going on here right away — and when the changeover is “ready” (such as it is), I’ll provide a little advance notice.

If by some chance you’re really fired up to see the new look in progress, your best bet would be to visit http://themetest.johnesimpson.com/. Understand, though, that you’ll find quite a bit of chaos there over the short run.

___________________

* Technically, “the last time I changed themes” was just a week or two ago — a change I was backed into by the suddenly non-functioning comment feature. The current theme is the one my real four-year-old one was based on.

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