The Observer in the Observed

'Message From the Unseen World,' by Roger Marks on Flickr

[Image: “Message From the Unseen World,” by Roger Marks; found on Flickr and used here under a Creative Commons license (thank you!). Click photo to enlarge. The photographer explains: “…this permanent installation is a collaboration between United Visual Artists and poet Nick Drake.  Alan Turing is one of Paddington’s most famous sons. This artwork, Message From the Unseen World, celebrates his groundbreaking work on artificial intelligence. Its outer shell comprises aluminium panels, punctuated with holes. LED lights shine through the holes, forming the words to Drake’s poem. A Turing-inspired algorithm shuffles through the poem, creating new interpretations of the verse.” An excerpt from the poem appears below, as the last entry in today’s post; the entirety can be viewed at the Flickr page.]

From whiskey river:

We’re only here for a short while. And I think it’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention. In some ways, this is getting far afield. I mean, we are—as far as we know —the only part of the universe that’s self-conscious. We could even be the universe’s form of consciousness. We might have come along so that the universe could look at itself. I don’t know that, but we’re made of the same stuff that stars are made of, or that floats around in space. But we’re combined in such a way that we can describe what it’s like to be alive, to be witnesses. Most of our experience is that of being a witness. We see and hear and smell other things. I think being alive is responding.

(Mark Strand [source])

and:

There is no less holiness at this time—as you are reading this—than there was on the day the Red Sea parted, or that day in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as Ezekiel was a captive by the river Chebar, when the heavens opened and he saw visions of god. There is no whit less enlightenment under the tree at the end of your street than there was under the Buddha’s bo tree… In any instant the sacred may wipe you with its finger. In any instant the bush may flare, your feet may rise, or you may see a bunch of souls in a tree.

(Annie Dillard [source])

…and (from whiskey river’s commonplace book):

Why do I write?

To satisfy a basic, fundamental need. I think all people have this need. It’s why children like to draw pictures of houses, animals, and Mom; it’s an affirmation of their presence in the corporeal world. You come into life, and life gives you everything your senses can bear: broad currents of animal feeling running alongside the particularity of thought. Sunlight, stars, colors, smells, sounds. Tender things, sweet, temperate things, harsh, freezing, hot, salty things. All the different expressions on people’s faces and in their voices. For years, everything just pours into you, and all you can do is gurgle or scream until finally one day you can sit up and hold your crayon and draw your picture and thus shout back, Yes! I hear! I see! I feel! This is what it’s like! It’s dynamic creation and pure, delighted receptivity happening on the same field, a great call and response.

(Mary Gaitskill [source])

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Ecstasy in the Commonplace

'Mill City is Crumbling and I'm going to Art-A-Whirl!,' by user jadammel on Flickr

[Image: “Mill City is Crumbling and I’m going to Art-A-Whirl!,” by user jadammel on Flickr. com. (Used under a Creative Commons license.) This is an example of something called a Holgarama: a panoramic photo taken with a camera called a Holga, whose cult status is attributable to the weirdly and unpredictably flawed photos it takes. Wikipedia calls this, delicately, “its low-fidelity aesthetic.”]

From whiskey river:

Everything Is Going to Be All Right

How should I not be glad to contemplate

the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window

and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?

There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.

The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.

The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.

I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.

Everything is going to be all right.

(Derek Mahon [source (and elsewhere)])

and:

Every day my early morning walk along the water grants me a second waking. My feet are nimble, now my ears wake, and give thanks for the ocean’s song.

This enormity, this cauldron of changing greens and blues, is the great palace of the earth. Everything is in it — monsters, devils, jewels, swimming angels, soft-eyed mammals that unhesitatingly exchange looks with us as we stand on the shore; also, sunk with some ship or during off-loading, artifacts of past decades or centuries; also the outpourings of fire under water, the lava trails; and kelp fields, coral shelves, and so many other secrets — the remembered and faithfully repeated recitations of the whales, the language of dolphins — and the multitude itself, the numbers and the kinds of shark, seal, worm, vegetations, and fish: cod, haddock, swordfish, hake, also the lavender sculpin, the chisel-mouth, the goldeye, the puffer, the tripletail, the stargazing minnow. How can we not know that, already, we live in paradise?

(Mary Oliver [source])

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Sleepwaking, Blindsighted, and a Little Bit of Movies in the Night

[Video: one of the best cinematic commentaries on ignoring (and paying attention to) the wrong things turned 71 the other day. Above, its trailer — complete with telephone commentary not actually in the film… and not showing its title character for even a single second.]

From whiskey river:

Solar

On a gray day, when the sun
has been abducted, and it’s chill
end-of-the-world weather,
I must be the sun.
I must be the one
to encourage the young
sidetracked physicist
working his father’s cash register
to come up with a law of nature
that says brain waves can change
the dismal sky. I must be the one
to remind the ginger plant
not to rest on the reputation
of its pungent roots, but to unveil
those buttery tendrils from the other world.
When the sky is an iron lid
I must be the one to simmer
in the piquant juices of possibility,
though the ingredients are unknown
and the day begins with a yawn.
I must issue forth a warmth
without discrimination, and any guarantee
it will come back to me.
On a dark day I must be willing
to keep my disposition light,
I have to be at the very least
one stray intact ray
of local energy, one small
but critical fraction
of illumination. Even on a day
that doesn’t look gray
but still lacks comfort or sense,
I have to be the sun,
I have to shine as if
sorry life itself depended on it.
I have to make all the difference.

(Thomas Centolella [source])

and:

Eyesight

It was May before my
attention came
to spring and

my word I said
to the southern slopes
I’ve

missed it, it
came and went before
I got right to see:

don’t worry, said the mountain,
try the later northern slopes
or if

you can climb, climb
into spring: but
said the mountain

it’s not that way
with all things, some
that go are gone

(A.R. Ammons [source])

and:

Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.

(Anne Lamott [source])

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