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])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

It Seems So Reasonable, and So Crazy

Escaping from Brainland

[Image: panel excerpted from “Slobbering Like Pavlov’s Dog: A Neurocomic,” by Matteo Farinella
and Hana Ros. To see the three-panel portion of the comic of which this is a part, click on the image.
For the whole thing, head on over to
The Nib.]

From whiskey river:

A whole lot of us go through life assuming that we are basically right, basically all the time, about basically everything: about our political and intellectual convictions, our religious and moral beliefs, our assessment of other people, our memories, our grasp of facts. As absurd as it sounds when we stop to think about it, our steady state seems to be one of unconsciously assuming that we are very close to omniscient.

(Kathryn Schulz [source])

and (italicized lines):

Miracle Fair

Commonplace miracle:
that so many commonplace miracles happen.

An ordinary miracle:
in the dead of night
the barking of invisible dogs.

One miracle out of many:
a small, airy cloud
yet it can block a large and heavy moon.

Several miracles in one:
an alder tree reflected in the water,
and that it’s backwards left to right
and that it grows there, crown down
and never reaches the bottom,
even though the water is shallow.

An everyday miracle:
winds weak to moderate
turning gusty in storms.

First among equal miracles:
cows are cows.

Second to none:
just this orchard
from just that seed.

A miracle without a cape and top hat:
scattering white doves.

A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.

A miracle, less surprising than it should be:
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers,
it still has more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:
the world is everywhere.

An additional miracle, as everything is additional:
the unthinkable
is thinkable.

(Wislawa Szymborska [source; I have used this one before, although not on a Friday])

..and:

The range of the human mind, the scale and depth of the metaphors the mind is capable of manufacturing as it grapples with the universe, stand in stunning contrast to the belief that there is only one reality, which is man’s, or worse, that only one culture among the many on earth possesses the truth.

To allow mystery, which is to say to yourself, “There could be more, there could be things we don’t understand,” is not to damn knowledge. It is to take a wider view. It is to permit yourself an extraordinary freedom: someone else does not have to be wrong in order that you may be right.

(Barry López [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

Everyone’s Excited About the New Cosmos

'Get Fuzzy,' March 2, 2014Or so it appears. Yesterday, it was the guys from the “Get Fuzzy” strip who brought their fractious relationship to bear on the mysteries of time, space, and everything in between.

First couple of panels are shown here. See the whole strip over on the Washington Post‘s site.

Send to Kindle
Share

“Where Do You Get Your Ideas?” — Who Cares?

The really important question (as cartoonist Shannon Wheeler reminds us) remains: what happens to your ideas once you get them?

Too Much Coffee Man: Where Ideas Go

[Cartoon scanned from April, 2013 issue of The Funny Times; click to enlarge]

Send to Kindle
Share

Magic, Good and Bad

[Image: excerpt from a 1941 adventure of Mandrake the Magician, “The Adventure of the Striped Orchid.” Click to enlarge; if you’d like to read the whole thing, find it at the ilovecomix archive (free registration required).]

You don’t have to be particularly old to know of the Mandrake the Magician character and comic strip — which is still being published daily, although it first appeared in 1934. (Mandrake himself is widely regarded as the first costumed superhero.)

Mandrake is indeed a “magician,” in a loose sense of the term. More precisely, he’s an illusionist. For instance, in the above series, he didn’t actually make the “Uncle” character swell up like that; as the caption for the fourth panel says, Uncle just seemed to inflate. A key element of Mandrake’s mythology can be found in the word “gesture,” often modified with a form of the word “hypnotic.” Mandrake gestures hypnotically. Mandrake’s hypnotic gesture. And so on. The hypnotic spell takes effect immediately, presumably just because Mandrake knows exactly how to waggle his fingers and flip his wrist. Furthermore, the spell strikes only his selected targets and does not, well, explode omnidirectionally, like an anti-personnel weapon. As you can see here, the strip’s art at such a key moment takes the point of view of Mandrake’s hapless victim.

Oddly, though, Mandrake’s spells sometimes affect inanimate objects as well as people. Over there on the right, we have a cover from one of the Mandrake comic books (click to enlarge it); clearly, he has just gestured hypnotically in the direction of the jewel thieves — as a result of which, the thieves imagine themselves disoriented, spinning in mid-air.

…but the bag containing the jewelry is itself in mid-air, and it has sprung open, and the jewels themselves are spilling out.

What’s going on here? Has he hypnotized the jewels? Or has he somehow included an illusion of the open sack and the spilling jewels as part of the overall illusion? Either way, you have to admit, that’s a hell of a gesture.

While researching this post, I noticed something else a little off — namely, that Mandrake himself either gets caught up in the illusion (in the way that a woman wearing cologne can actually get a whiff of herself) or, again, somehow includes himself in the illusion just to make it complete.

At right, for example, another of the comic book covers highlights a moment when Mandrake has hypnotized a cowboy (or has he?) to picture himself, mounted on a horse, galloping across the roof of a house. But Mandrake (and his faithful companion Lothar) is looking up into the air. If the cowboy has simply been hypnotized, and is not actually galloping overhead, then what is Mandrake (and Lothar) looking up at?

(The horse, too, seems awfully panicky.)

Finally, if you really want to get picky: in order to hypnotize someone, Mandrake must be looking into his or her eyes. (Earlier in the “Striped Orchid” series, he must fight off a drugged Lothar — who has attacked him from behind and caught him in a death grip. Until Lothar releases one hand for a moment, allowing Mandrake to turn and look back at him… and pierce the druggy fog with a hypnotic gaze.) How has he hypnotized the cowboy in this case? the horse? Lothar? himself?

Thinking about the holes in Mandrake’s universe has been one small result of my having read a post over at Froog’s place, way back in October. I’ve been pondering that post ever since.

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

How (Not) to (Dis)Connect

[Image: “Superman” (strip #220 January 16, 1944), by Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster.
Click to enlarge; see the whole page here.]

From whiskey river:

I go to a pub and talk to another man. He is experienced deeply part of the time, and shallowly another part of the time, depending on the quality of my consciousness. If I am very conscious, meeting him can be an experience comparable to great music or even an earthquake; if I am in the usual shallow state, he barely “makes an impression.” If I am practicing alertness and neurological self-criticism, I may observe that I am only experiencing him part of the time, and that part of the time I am not-tuning-in but drifting off to my favorite “Real” Universe and editing out at the ear-drum much of what he is saying. Often, the “Real” Universe hypnotizes me sufficiently that, while I “hear” what he says, I have no idea of the way he says it or what he means to convey.

(Robert Anton Wilson [source])

and:

Adage

When it’s late at night and branches
are banging against the windows,
you might think that love is just a matter

of leaping out of the frying pan of yourself
into the fire of someone else,
but it’s a little more complicated than that.

It’s more like trading the two birds
who might be hiding in that bush
for the one you are not holding in your hand.

A wise man once said that love
was like forcing a horse to drink
but then everyone stopped thinking of him as wise.

Let us be clear about something.
Love is not as simple as getting up
on the wrong side of the bed wearing the emperor’s clothes.

No, it’s more like the way the pen
feels after it has defeated the sword.
It’s a little like the penny saved or the nine dropped stitches.

You look at me through the halo of the last candle
and tell me love is an ill wind
that has no turning, a road that blows no good,

but I am here to remind you,
as our shadows tremble on the walls,
that love is the early bird who is better late than never.

(Billy Collins [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

Sitting, Silent, Open-Minded

[Caption: Vicar’s wife (sympathisingly): “Now that you can’t get about, and are not able to read, how do you manage to occupy the time?” Old Man: “Well, Mum, sometimes I sits and thinks; and then again I just sits.” For more information, see the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river:

Meditation has nothing to do with contemplation of eternal questions, or of one’s own folly, or even of one’s navel, although a clearer view on all of these enigmas may result. It has nothing to do with thought of any kind — with anything at all, in fact, but intuiting the true nature of existence, which is why it has appeared, in one form or another, in almost every culture known to man. The entranced Bushman staring into fire, the Eskimo using a sharp rock to draw an ever-deepening circle into the flat surface of a stone achieves the same obliteration of the ego (and the same power) as the dervish or the Pueblo sacred dancer. Among Hindus and Buddhists, realization is attained through inner stillness, usually achieved through the samadhi state of sitting yoga. In Tantric practice, the student may displace the ego by filling his whole being with the real or imagined object of his concentration; in Zen, one seeks to empty out the mind, to return it to the clear, pure stillness of a seashell or flower petal. When body and mind are one, then the whole thing, scoured clean of intellect, emotions, and the senses, may be laid open to the experience that individual existence, ego, the “reality” of matter and phenomena are no more than fleeting and illusory arrangements of molecules. The weary self of masks and screens, defenses, preconceptions, and opinions that are propped up by ideas and words, imagines itself to be some sort of an entity (in a society of like entities) may suddenly fall away, dissolve into formless faux where concepts such as “death” and “life”, “time” and “space”, “past” and “future” have no meaning. There is only a pearly radiance of Emptiness, the Uncreated, without beginning, therefore without end.

Like the round bottomed Bodhidharma doll, returning to its center, meditation represents the foundation of the universe to which all returns, as in the stillness of the dead of night, the stillness between tides and winds, the stillness of the instant before Creation. In this “void”, this dynamic state of rest, without impediments, lies ultimate reality, and here one’s own true nature is reborn, in a return from what Buddhists speak of as “great death”.

(Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard)

and:

The wind blows hard among the pines
Toward the beginning
of an endless past.
Listen: you’ve heard everything.

(Shinkichi Takahashi [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

Answers in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

[Image: xkcd #936, on password strength. Click image to enlarge; see xkcd itself for the full six panels and the punchline.]

From whiskey river:

This accidental
meeting of possibilities
calls itself I.

I ask: what am I doing here?
And, at once, this I
becomes unreal.

(Dag Hammarskjöld [source])

…and:

Ch’ui the draftsman
Could draw more perfect circles freehand
Than with a compass.

His fingers brought forth
Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind
Was meanwhile free and without concern
With what he was doing.

No application was needed
His mind was perfectly simple
And knew no obstacle.

So, when the shoe fits
The foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits
The belly is forgotten,
When the heart is right
“For” and “against” are forgotten.

No drives, no compulsions,
No needs, no attractions:
Then your affairs
Are under control.
You are a free man.

Easy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.

(Chuang Tzu [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

The Shape of What You Live

[Image: “Angular Momentum,” from xkcd.com. The tooltip/”hover title” at the original page says: “With reasonable assumptions about latitude and body shape, how much time might she gain them? Note: whatever the answer, sunrise always comes too soon. (Also, is it worth it if she throws up?)”]

From whiskey river:

Remembering

And you wait. You wait for the one thing
that will change your life,
make it more than it is—
something wonderful, exceptional,
stones awakening, depths opening to you.

In the dusky bookstalls
old books glimmer gold and brown.
You think of lands you journeyed through,
of paintings and a dress once worn
by a woman you never found again.

And suddenly you know: that was enough.
You rise and there appears before you
in all its longings and hesitations
the shape of what you lived.

(Rainer Maria Rilke [source])

and:

You’re really just an ongoing set of events: boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, one after the other. The awareness is keeping up with those events, seeing your life unfolding as it is, not your ideas of it, not your pictures of it. See what I mean?

(Charlotte Joko Beck [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

The Nonexistent Kavalier & Clay Film

This is almost heartbreaking to watch — because the film it’s promoting (by director and cinematographer Jamie Caliri, of Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) hasn’t (yet) been made.

(And if you haven’t read Kavalier & Clay yet, well, now you’ve got one more reason to do so.)

Send to Kindle
Share