Void, Not-Void, and Everything in Between

Figure 5 from US Patent #US 20140215949 A1: '65 db SOUND BARRIER INSULATED BLOCK'

[Image: Figure 5 from US Patent #US 20140215949 A1: “65 db SOUND BARRIER INSULATED BLOCK.” For more information, see the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river:

When I was younger I thought my knowledge would increase with years, that it was steadily expanding like the universe. A constantly widening area of certainty that correspondingly displaced and diminished the reach of uncertainty. I was really very optimistic. With the passage of time I must admit that I know roughly as much as then, perhaps even slightly less, and with nothing like the same certainty. My so-called experiences are not the same as knowledge. It is more like, how shall I put it, a kind of echo chamber in which the little I know rings hollow and inadequate. A growing void around a scant knowledge that rattles foolishly like the dried-up kernel in a walnut. My experiences are experiences of ignorance, its boundlessness, and I will never discover how much I still don’t know, and how much is something I believed.

(Jens Christian Grøndahl [source])

and:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.

(Annie Dillard [source])

…and:

In That Great River: A Notebook
(excerpt)

So a little spring prays to the ocean, so the beating heart prays to the heart of the universe, so the little word prays to the great Logos, so a dust speck prays to the earth, so the earth prays to the cosmos, so the one prays to the billion, so human love prays to God’s love, so always prays to never, so the moment prays to eternity, so the snowflake prays to winter, so the frightened beast prays to the forest silence, so uncertainty prays to beauty itself.

And all these prayers are heard.

(Anna Kamieńska [source])

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The Hidden, the Hiding

'comfort in shadows,' by user 'JustCallMe_Bethy' on Flickr

[Image: “comfort in shadows,” found on Flickr. The photo is by a user whose display name there is JustCallMe_♥Bethy♥_. (Used here under a Creative Commons license.) She (assuming it is indeed a woman) says she was inspired by another Flickr user, Brooke Shaden, who has done several photos of herself wedged into various tight corners in the kitchen.]

From whiskey river:

Find meaning. Distinguish melancholy from sadness. Go out for a walk. It doesn’t have to be a romantic walk in the park, spring at its most spectacular moment, flowers and smells and outstanding poetical imagery smoothly transferring you into another world. It doesn’t have to be a walk during which you’ll have multiple life epiphanies and discover meanings no other brain ever managed to encounter. Do not be afraid of spending quality time by yourself. Find meaning or don’t find meaning but “steal” some time and give it freely and exclusively to your own self. Opt for privacy and solitude. That doesn’t make you antisocial or cause you to reject the rest of the world. But you need to breathe. And you need to be.

(Albert Camus [source (etc., none canonical)])

and:

We will never be the same again. But here’s a little secret for you — no one is ever the same thing again after anything. You are never the same twice, and much of your unhappiness comes from trying to pretend that you are. Accept that you are different each day, and do so joyfully, recognizing it for the gift it is. Work within the desires and goals of the person you are currently, until you aren’t that person anymore, and everything changes once again.

(Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (October 1, 2015) [source])

and (highlighted excerpt):

Forbidden City

Asleep until noon, I’m dreaming
we’ve been granted another year.

You’re here with me, healthy.
Then, half-awake, the half-truth—

this is our last day. Life’s leaking
away again, and this time, we know it.

Dear body, I told you, pleading,
Don’t leave! but I understand you

can’t say anything. Who are we?
Are we fictional? We don’t look

like our pictures, don’t look like
anyone I know. Daylight

flickers through a bamboo grove,
we approach the Forbidden City,

Looking together for the Hall
of Fulfilling Original Wishes.

Time is the treasure, you tell me,
and the past is its hiding place.

I instruct our fictional children,
The past is the treasure, time

is its hiding place. If we told him
how much we love him, how much

we miss him, he could stay.
But now you’ve taken me back

to Luoyang, to the Garden of Solitary Joy,
over a thousand years old—

I wake, I hold your hand, you let me go.

(Gail Mazur [source])

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Potpourri, June 18th (2016 edition)

1959ish, I'd sayIt’s been a few months of hardware madness here — and if you know my tastes in computer stuff, you know they lean towards the software rather than the hardware side of things. So I haven’t been entirely happy during that time…

Back in mid-April, my two-terabyte (2TB) hard drive abruptly failed. It took me several weeks — educational ones, to be sure — to admit that I probably could not resuscitate the thing. I replaced it with a 3TB one, and all went swimmingly at first…

…at least, until I installed Windows 10 on it.

Here’s how my computer at home has been set up, now going back maybe five-six years:

The hard drive is divided into two (main) partitions, running two entirely different operating systems: Windows in the first partition, and Linux in the second. This is called a dual-boot setup: when you boot the computer, you’re prompted to select which operating system you want to run for this session. The default for me is Linux, but I do occasionally (rarely, actually) use Windows for one specific program or another.

The Windows side has moved progressively from Windows XP to Windows 7 and then finally to Windows 10, via the automatic (i.e., forced) upgrade which Microsoft “offers” to users of older versions. When I installed Windows 10 on the new hard drive, I was actually restoring it.

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Present But Unaccounted For

'Absence,' by Derrick Tyson on Flickr

[Image: “Absence,” by Derrick Tyson on Flickr. (Used here under a Creative Commons license.)]

From whiskey river:

Sometimes I get mail for people who lived in my home before I did, and sometimes my own body seems like a home through which successive people have passed like tenants, leaving behind memories, habits, scars, skills, and other souvenirs.

(Rebecca Solnit [source])

and:

We are not idealized wild things.

We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.

(Joan Didion [source])

and:

Standing Alone

Empty skies. And beyond, one hawk.
Between river banks, two white gulls
Drift and flutter. Fit for an easy kill,
To and fro, they follow contentment.

Dew shrouds grasses. Spiderwebs are still
Not gathered in. The purpose driving
Heaven become human now, I stand where
Uncounted sorrows begin beginning alone.

(Tu Fu [source])

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This Matter of Not-Knowing

'The Sea Has No Need of Us,' by August Brill on Flickr

[Image: “The Sea Has No Need of Us,” by August Brill on Flickr. (Used here under a Creative Commons license.) The photograph’s description there consists entirely of a quotation from Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Sokurov: “Its beauty is not for us. It’s a beauty that has nothing to do with us… The sea doesn’t know we exist, and besides, would it perhaps really like to know this?” (I haven’t located a specific source for this quotation — may be a loose translation.)]

From whiskey river:

There is a certain kind of fascination, a strictly artistic fascination, which arises from a matter being hinted at in such a way as to leave a certain tormenting uncertainty even at the end. It is well sometimes to half understand a poem in the same manner that we half understand the world. One of the deepest and strangest of all human moods is the mood which will suddenly strike us perhaps in a garden at night, or deep in sloping meadows, the feeling that every flower and leaf has just uttered something stupendously direct and important, and that we have by a prodigy of imbecility not heard or understood it. There is a certain poetic value, and that a genuine one, in this sense of having missed the full meaning of things. There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance.

(G. K. Chesterton [source])

and:

The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice
that we fail to notice
there is little we can do
to change;
until we notice
how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds.

(Daniel Goleman [source]*)

and:

“At this moment” is a rare thing because only sometimes do I step with both feet on the land of the present: usually one foot slides toward the past, the other slides toward the future. And I end up with nothing.

(Clarice Lispector [source])

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RAMH@8: To One Thing Constant Never… and a Playlist

Drawing by V. Spahn

[Image: cartoon by French cartoonist/illustrator/humorist V. Spahn. Roughly translated, I believe the caption says something on the order of, “Oh, shoot — I meant to get to the office early this morning!”]

Like many people who fired up blogs in the Great Flowering Era — i.e., pre-2009, say (the year when Facebook first turned a profit, or at least become “cash-flow positive“) — I imagined Running After My Hat would become a journal.

A journal, of course, is different from a diary. A diary celebrates or simply notes the everyday, with lesser or greater force depending on its import to the author; a journal discusses, considers, weighs, argues, and/or blathers on about topics which may or may not be based upon something mundane, but which may also spring, unbidden, from the author’s mind and soul. The latter more closely resembles my RAMH ideal at the outset.

I suppose the place has attained that ideal, over time, although the topics have come to differ from those I’d first imagined. I apparently have much less to say about writing, for example, than I once thought I would. (On the other hand, some of this is reticence by design.)

It’s also become, well, stranger than I’d planned — stranger in ways that I could not have anticipated. I didn’t know, in 2008, that the blogging wave was already cresting. For a while, I actually tried to post something new every single day; by the time RAMH attained what I think of as its own peak, though — 2011-13, maybe — the posting rate had already declined, roughly in proportion to the dwindling audience.

To be fair, the decline in my output was mirrored by the decline in my input — my reading of and participation in other blogs. It’s not as if RAMH were the only blog withering at the time. When Google dropped its “Google Reader” blog-aggregation product, in 2013, I believe the transformation of the Web from a writers-and-readers model to a social-chatter model was complete.

What’s left, then, has become more like a real journal: a place for talking to myself, as time and circumstance allow, about topics and in ways I don’t mind making public, but also about topics and in ways I can’t imagine sharing in Facebook’s short-attention-span theater. (RAMH posts do automatically trigger brief summary posts on Facebook, for anyone who might be interested, with links to the full RAMH entries.)

Although I haven’t done a statistical analysis, I bet ninety percent of the content here has come down to two things: posts in the “Ruminations” category — all of them whiskey river Fridays posts, I think — and posts related somehow to music. Translated, this means that my output here seldom exceeds two posts weekly: not a good mechanism for attracting and retaining loyal readers, but at the same time a good tool for “keeping my hand in.” I like ruminating, and I like learning (and talking at length) about some aspects of music, too: both pursuits which ultimately depend not on facts, but on the processing of facts. And I don’t mind processing them openly, for my own sake, even if for no one else’s.

All the other stuff I used to post about here has transitioned to That Other Place. That place has its uses, as I’ve learned. But there’s not much room there for running after one’s hat, any more than I’d find in a shopping mall at the holidays, or a crowded amphitheater.

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The Familiar, the New

'Hiraethm,' by Stewart Black on Flickr

[Image: “Hiraeth,” by Stewart Black. Found it at Flickr.com, and used here under a Creative Commons license. For more on the idea of hiraeth, see the passage below by Paula Petro.]

From whiskey river:

Theories of Time and Space

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one-
by-one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion — dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on a mangrove swamp — buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry — tome of memory
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph — who you were —
will be waiting when you return

(Natasha Trethewey [source])

and:

The desire to go home that is a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the center of the world, that center called love. To awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to cease to speak and be perfectly understood.

(Rebecca Solnit [source])

and:

The Destination

I wanted something, I wanted. I could not have it.
Irremediable rock of refusal, this world thick with bird song,
tender with starfish and apples.
How calming it is to say, “Turn right at the second corner,”
and be understood,
and see things arrive as they should at their own destination.
Yet we speak in riddles —
“Turn back at the silence.” “Pass me the mountain.”
To the end we each nod, pretending to understand.

(Jane Hirshfield [source])

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At the Edge of Enough

'All I See Is Gold,' by Billy Wilson on Flickr

[Image: “All I See Is Gold,” by Billy Wilson on Flickr.com. (Used here under a Creative Commons license.) Says the photographer: “I took this this evening — the windchill was unbelievable. This is the edge of the ice at the end of a pier in the Saint Mary’s River. There is enough current at the end on the pier that the water doesn’t freeze there in the winter.”]

From whiskey river:

Eighty-three problems

There is a story of a man who came to see the Buddha because he had heard that the Buddha was a great teacher. He had some problems in his life, and he thought the Buddha might be able to help him straighten them out.

The Buddha listened patiently to the man as he laid out all his difficulties and worries, and then waited for the Buddha to say the words that would put everything right for him.

The Buddha said, “I can’t help you.””What do you mean?” said the man.

“Everybody’s got problems,” said the Buddha. “In fact, we’ve all got eighty-three problems, each one of us. Eighty-three problems, and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you work really hard on one of them, maybe you can fix it — but if you do, another one will pop right into its place.”

The man was furious. “I thought you were a great teacher! I thought you could help me!”

The Buddha said, “Well, maybe it will help you with the eighty-fourth problem.”

“The eighty-fourth problem?” said the man. “What’s the eighty-fourth problem?”

The Buddha said, “You want to not have any problems.”

(Steve Hagen [source (in slightly different words)])

and:

If the boundaries of the self are defined by what we feel, then those who cannot feel even for themselves shrink within their own boundaries, while those who feel for others are enlarged, and those who feel compassion for all beings must be boundless. They are not separate, not alone, not lonely, not vulnerable in the same way as those of us stranded in the islands of ourselves, but they are vulnerable in other ways. Still, that sense of the dangers of feeling for others is so compelling that many withdraw, and develop elaborate stories to justify withdrawal, and then forget that they have shrunk. Most of us do, one way or another.

(Rebecca Solnit [source])

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Forever Beginning

'Âmes entrelacés par la lumière,' by user viewminder on Flickr.com

[Image: “Âmes entrelacés par la lumière,” by user Viewminder on Flickr.com. (Used here under a Creative Commons license.) Translation, per Google Translate: Souls intertwined by light.]

From whiskey river:

I wish that I could put up yesterday’s evening sky for all posterity, could preserve a night of love, the sound of a mountain stream, a realization as it sets my mind afire, a dance, a day of harmony, ten thousand glorious days of clouds that will instead vanish and never be seen again, line them up in jars where they might be admired in the interim and tasted again as needed.

(Rebecca Solnit [source])

and (italicized portion*):

We like to think that we are finely evolved creatures, in suit-and-tie or pantyhose-and-chemise, who live many millennia and mental detours away from the cave, but that’s not something our bodies are convinced of. We may have the luxury of being at the top of the food chain, but our adrenaline still rushes when we encounter real or imaginary predators. We even restage that primal fright by going to monster movies. We still stake out or mark our territories, though sometimes now it is with the sound of radios. We still jockey for position and power. We still create works of art to enhance our senses and add even more sensations to the brimming world, so that we can utterly luxuriate in the spectacles of life. We still ache fiercely with love, lust, loyalty, and passion. And we still perceive the world, in all its gushing beauty and terror, right on our pulses. There is no other way.  To begin to understand the gorgeous fever that is consciousness, we must try to understand the senses — how they evolved, how they can be extended, what their limits are, to which ones we have attached taboos, and what they can teach us about the ravishing world we have the privilege to inhabit.

(Diane Ackerman [source])

and:

Begin

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of the light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

(Brendan Kennelly [source])

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Midweek Music Break: Hanna Bech

[Lyrics]

As I’ve observed before, some mysterious pixie-dust substance seems to have been stirred into the musical waters of Hamilton, Ontario. (See this post for one example.) It probably won’t be the last time I observe it. But I’m pleased to include today’s selection among the lot:

Hanna Bech, and Hanna Bech, and Hanna Bech, and...So far, I have not been able to learn much about our featured artist, Hanna Bech. This reflects both her newness and her novelty, which of course are not necessarily synonymous:

  • As far as I can tell, prior to 2015 Bech was presumably just an aspiring performer. The evidence seems to point to her during that time as a somewhat conventional amateur musician (“amateur” in the sense of not being paid to perform): instructor in voice and various instruments, participant in a couple of choirs, and so on. She certainly does not seem to have spent a decade in the stereotypical pop-star trenches — playing in bars, singing backup in studio sessions, building an audience. Instead, she seems to have just, well, started.
  • …And yet she must have spent much of that middle-of-the-road time thinking about what sort of pop performer she might want to be, when the moment arrived: not an aggressive challenger of status quos, but a, well, a beguiler.

If not obvious from the video, you can probably tell from the promotional photo (above right) that Bech has a playful side: it toys with (without quite parodying) her own video’s quirky* split-screen, commenting-on-itself camerawork and editing. The sound and sense of the song itself provide further hints; musically and in, well, spirit, it seems to me akin to Lenka’s “The Show” (which first appeared in this post seven (!) years ago).

I have the lyrics only for “ABCs,” but much of the rest of her recently released EP (with two exceptions) seems cut from the same bouncy fabric. As Bech says at her site, the EP (called Naked Bones) resembles “a film score and indie pop going on a first date — dramatic, playful, with a rhythm that carries it forward.”

Those two exceptions? Track #3, “Butterfly,” and especially the one with which she closes the EP: “Fear of Crumbs (f u gluten).” Again, I don’t know the lyrics; from the snarky title alone, I’d imagined it would fairly, if not quite stridently, assert the rights of the gluten-intolerant. But musically it doesn’t strike me that way at all; its music — its sound — made me think of Bonnie Raitt’s rendition of Joe Henry’s “God Only Knows.” (Video here.) Not, y’know, pop-y at all: pretty much just a piano and a vocalist, contemplative, maybe even a touch wistful (if not outright melancholy).

Edit to add: According to Hanna Bech herself (as I just learned via email), the lyrics to “Fear of Crumbs (f u gluten)” are “a dry raspy humour.” So much for my discernment!

In any case, I offer you today Hanna Bech’s Naked Bones: a mix of bouncy, “I may be stuck in traffic but I’m tapping my fingers on the steering wheel”-type moments, and some haunting, anomalous hints at deeper waters stirring below the bounce.

E.P.: 'Naked Bones,' by Hanna Bech

____________________________

* Yes, “quirky”: Bech herself has explicitly embraced the label… Among other examples, she helped organize a show last year, featuring as clutch of other idiosyncratic performers as well as herself. The title: Queens of Quirk.

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