The Hour of Lead

[Video: “Numb,” by U2. (Lyrics)]

From whiskey river:

A mystical experience would be wasted on me. Ordinary things have always seemed numinous to me. One Calvinist notion deeply implanted in me is that there are two sides to your encounter with the world. You don’t simply perceive something that is statically present, but in fact there is a visionary quality to all experience. It means something because it is addressed to you. This is the individualism that you find in Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. You can draw from perception the same way a mystic would draw from a vision…

It’s not an acquired skill. It’s a skill that we’re born with that we lose. We learn not to do it.

(Marilyn Robinson [source])

and:

Mary’s Argument

To lead the uncommon life is not so bad.
There is an edge we come to count on
when all the normal signs don’t speak,
a startled vigilance that keeps us waking
to watch the moon, the peculiar stars;
the usual, underfoot, no more a solid comfort
than a rock that might move as a turtle moves,
so slowly only the nervous feel the sudden bump
of the familiar giving way to unrequested astonishment.
And for a small time, the sheer cliff of everything
we never knew can rise in front of us
like the warm dark, where starlight
has its constant conception, where the idea of turtle
blinked and was: a wry joke, an intricate affection.

(Marie Howe [source])

and:

Within each of our forms lies the existential mystery of being. Apart from one’s physical appearance, personality, gender, history, occupation, hopes and dreams, comings and goings, there lies an eerie silence, an abyss of stillness charged with an etheric presence. For all of our anxious business and obsession with triviality, we cannot completely deny this phantasmal essence at our core. And yet we do everything we can to avoid its stillness, its silence, its utter emptiness and radiant intimacy.

Being is that which disturbs our insistence on remaining in the life-numbing realm of our secret desperation. It is the itch that cannot be scratched, the whisper that will not be denied. To be, to truly be, is not a given.

Most of us live in a state where our being has long ago been exiled to the shadow realm of our silent anguish. At times being will break through the fabric of our unconsciousness to remind us that we are not living the life we could be living, the life that truly matters. At other times being will recede into the background silently waiting for our devoted attention. But make no mistake: being—your being—is the central issue of life.

(Adyashanti [source])

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The Mutable (and Not Mutually Exclusive) Real

[Video: “Chameleon,” by Johannes Stötter. For more information, see the note at the bottom of this post.]

From whiskey river:

I would argue that if consciousness exists, it can’t be obliterated; thus we borrow from consciousness in order to become (to get an identity), and we return what we borrow as egos to the greater conscious field when we die, so that’s what happens to “us.” The real question then is the fate not of our consciousness but of our personal identity.

You know, science’s definition of us is that a light goes on, a light goes off, and it wasn’t even a light, but that’s like not existing at all. And we do exist — in the sense that we are not just interdependent with everything else in the universe; we are everything else in the universe, and ourselves too. That’s why we exist at all, why we have a personal identity. Likewise we are not just everything else in the universe; we are one probabilistic form even of ourselves. At each moment, all of our other selves, making different choices and experiencing themselves differently exist elsewhere as well as in deep latency in us, and in states just as physical as ours. They bail us out of this mess, but we bail them out of their messes. We support one another eternally. The light we share never goes on, never goes off, and that’s the Soul.

(Richard Grossinger [source])

and:

This Might Be Real

How long in a cold room will the tea stay hot?
What about reality interests you?
How long can you live?
Were you there when I said this might be real?
How much do you love?
Sixty percent?
Things that are gone?
Do you love what’s real?
Is real a partial form?
Is it a nascent form?
What is it before it’s real?
Is it a switch that moves and then is ever still?
Is it a spectrum of cross-fades?
Is what’s next real?
When it comes will everything turn real?
If I drink enough tea to hallucinate, is that real?
If I know I’m waiting for someone but I don’t know who, is he real?
Is he real when he comes?
Is he real when he’s gone?
Is consequence what’s real?
Is consequence all that’s real?
What brings consequence?
Is it what’s real?
Is it what turned everything to disbelief, the last form love takes?

(Sarah Manguso [source])

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Weekend Music Break/What’s in a Song: Various Artists, “The Skye Boat Song”

[Video: opening title sequence from the Outlander television series]

The Missus and I have been watching, with pleasure, the Starz TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels. The pleasure is personal, since we both know Ms. Gabaldon. (As we have since her first drafts of individual paragraphs in what would become the first of the book series, twenty-five years ago.)

And the pleasure is also aesthetic, I guess you could say — of particular interest, today, the music.

When I first heard the Outlander theme song, I was dazzled — the lyrics, melody, arrangement, and accompanying visuals during the open credits: all seemed of a piece. Mysterious, mystical, wistful… all those adjectives that I thought to apply as well to (say) the closing title theme in The Return of the King.

Here are the lyrics:

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair,
All that was me is gone.

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye…

It fits the story, sorta-kinda, and features a disappearing lass, and lots of rich imagery. (Outlander‘s protagonist is a 1940s-era British nurse who falls through a sort of temporal discontinuity into the Scotland of the 1740s.) From the start, I — grammar nerd alert! — liked about the theme that the lyricist used the first-person singular pronoun for those end-rhymes… exactly as s/he should have.

But then during the season finale episode, one thing suddenly grated on me. They hadn’t used “I” consistently perfectly. Last line of the middle stanza: see it? a subjective me. ARGH. You lazy bastards, I thought. And you were doing so well

As one does, over the next day or two I looked to the Internets for support from others outraged by such minutiae.

…and, um, well… I was wrong. (Sorta-kinda.)

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Making a World (Over and Over)

'Calvin and Hobbes,' final panels (1995-12-31), by Bill Watterson

[Image: Final panels from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip (December 31, 1995), by Bill Watterson — by my reckoning, still the best remaking of the world ever expressed in pen-and-ink-drawing form]

From whiskey river:

One can only know what occurs within the mind, which is the instrument or tool of conscious experience. There is no such thing as “out there.” There is only our perception as inbound data. Everything is registered, just as it is. It is only via the mind that a selective representation of the data is created. Thoughts are objects in the mind as things are objects in the world. The mind and the world are two separate dimensions, overlapping during the waking state. When you can so readily create a world when you dream, why do you believe the impossibility of your creating another world when you are awake?

(Wu Hsin, translated by Roy Melvyn [source])

…and:

Suzuki Roshi had a stick — and he would hit you — and when Suzuki Roshi hit you, everything disappeared — everything — there was no up or down — there was no forward or back — there were no thoughts — no feelings — you couldn’t even say there was something or nothing. It was really quite remarkable. And then, often times you would think “Well, wait a minute — where’s reality — how was I doing that? Wait a minute! There must be some way to put these things together so that it seems like there’s a world and there’s people and there’s me. Where are they?” Then you would see if you could get some sense of reality back again.

(Edward Espe Brown [source])

…and:

When you fall asleep, your body enters a state of slumber, but it nonetheless keeps ticking, its life continues, ready to resume where it left off. Your consciousness, however, vanishes completely. In no sense does it keep ticking. You, as we say, pass out. And when you emerge again, either in a dream or when you finally resume waking life, you emerge from nothing — but the very same you that you were before.

The fact of your self bootstrapping itself back into existence is such a familiar happening that you may not be as astonished by it as you should be. Nonetheless, you can scarcely fail to notice what goes on. And it could well provide an essential plank in your reasoning about immortality. Such a proven capacity for endless resurrection out of nothing is the one thing that proves everlasting existence — or at any rate re-existence — for your individual Ego.

(Nicholas Humphrey [source])

…and:

There are ways in, journeys to the center of life, through time, through air, matter, dream, and thought. The ways are not always mapped or charted, but sometimes being lost, if there is such a thing, is the sweetest place to be. And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there, at the center of the world. It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless.

(Linda Hogan [source])

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Weekend Music Break: TV Crime Shows (A Playlist)

[Video: “Teaser trailer” for HBO’s True Detective, Season 2]

Season 1 of HBO’s True Detective series made for pretty great viewing, if you like that sort of thing. (I do, in controlled doses.) What sort of thing? Gritty. Noir-saturated. A tone so dark at times that you had to glance away from the screen. Snappy but realistic dialogue. Sharply etched characters, right down to the uncredited-cast level. Touches of humor (although never for long)…

So when Season 2 was announced, I immediately put it on my must-watch list. I haven’t started to follow up on that yet, although a couple of episodes have been broadcast so far. (I watch it on HBO’s streaming channel, so can pick it up whenever I’m ready.) But I did start poking around in some of the series’ “extras”: making-of videos, cast interviews, and so on. Among them: the so-called “teaser” trailer for the new season, shown above.

Damn, I thought. That is a song

As it happens, it’s not the theme song for the season. (More on that in a moment.) But it did get me thinking about how many crime-and/or-detective television series have featured great theme music.

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The Things You Find (and Sometimes Need to Ignore)

'Everyone #177' (detail), by Rodney Glick. Carved and painted wood.

[Image: “Everyone #9/177″ (carved and painted wooden sculpture), by Rodney Glick. See the note at the foot of this post for more information.]

From whiskey river:

The Blind Leading the Blind

Take my hand. There are two of us in this cave.
The sound you hear is water; you will hear it forever.
The ground you walk on is rock. I have been here before.
People come here to be born, to discover, to kiss,
to dream, and to dig and to kill. Watch for the mud.
Summer blows in with scent of horses and roses;
fall with the sound of sound breaking; winter shoves
its empty sleeve down the dark of your throat.
You will learn toads from diamonds, the fist from palm,
love from the sweat of love, falling from flying.
There are a thousand turnoffs. I have been here before.
Once I fell off a precipice. Once I found gold.
Once I stumbled on murder, the thin parts of a girl.
Walk on, keep walking, there are axes above us.
Watch for the occasional bits and bubbles of light—
Birthdays for you, recognitions: yourself, another.
Watch for the mud. Listen for bells, for beggars.
Something with wings went crazy against my chest once.
There are two of us here. Touch me.

(Lisel Mueller [source])

and:

One of the strangest things about life is that it will chug on, blind and oblivious, even as your private world—your little carved-out sphere—is twisting and morphing, even breaking apart. One day you have parents; the next day you’re an orphan. One day you have a place and a path. The next day you’re lost in the wilderness.

And still the sun rises and clouds mass and drift and people shop for groceries and toilets flush and blinds go up and down. That’s when you realize that most of it—life, the relentless mechanism of existing—isn’t about you. It doesn’t include you at all. It will thrust onward even after you’ve jumped the edge.

(Lauren Oliver [source])

and:

Crests

With a sigh the elevators begin to rise
in high blocks delicate as porcelain.
It will be a hot day out on the asphalt.
The traffic signs have drooping eyelids.

The land a steep slope to the sky.
Crest after crest, no proper shadow.
We hunt for You, flying
through the summer in cinemascope.

And in the evening I lie like a ship
with lights out, just at the right distance
from reality, while the crew
swarms in the parks ashore.

(Tomas Tranströmer [source])

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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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