Seeing (and Knowing It)

'I Know I See You, I Just Don't Know When,' by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

[Image: “I Know I See You, I Just Don’t Know When,” by Thomas Hawk; found on, used here under a Creative Commons license. The photograph shows one view of the Stata building at MIT, designed by Frank Gehry. The building houses various facilities in support of research into computers, information science, intelligence, robotics, and related topics. More in the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river:

There is, in sanest hours, a consciousness, a thought that rises, independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shining eternal. This is the thought of identity—yours for you, whoever you are, as mine for me. Miracle of miracles, beyond statement, most spiritual and vaguest of earth’s dreams, yet hardest basic fact, and only entrance to all facts. In such devout hours, in the midst of the significant wonders of heaven and earth, (significant only because of the Me in the centre) creeds, conventions, fall away and become of no account before this simple idea. Under the luminousness of real vision, it alone takes possession, takes value. Like the shadowy dwarf in the fable, once liberated and look’d upon, it expands over the whole earth, and spreads to the roof of heaven.

(Walt Whitman [source])


It would be an endless battle if it were all up to ego
because it does not destroy and is not destroyed by itself
It is like a wave
it makes itself up; it rushes forward getting nowhere really
it crashes, withdraws and makes itself up again
pulls itself together with pride
towers with pride
rushes forward into imaginary conquest
crashes in frustration
withdraws with remorse and repentance
pulls itself together with new resolution.

(Agnes Martin [source])


To open our eyes, to see with our inner fire and light, is what saves us. Even if it makes us vulnerable. Opening the eyes is the job of storytellers, witnesses, and the keepers of accounts. The stories we know and tell are reservoirs of light and fire that brighten and illuminate the darkness of human night, the unseen.

(Linda Hogan [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])


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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You Are (Barely) Here

Sometimes when working on the Saturday Propagational Library serial I get a little overwhelmed thinking about the distances and time scales involved. While I try to keep things roughly “factual” — or factual-ish, anyhow — by referring as needed to one online source or another, it can really help to have a graphical tool available to bring it into perspective.

The Number Sleuth site has conveniently provided one such tool, with its “Magnifying the Universe” feature:

(For a more static but a little more easily digestible view, they also offer a plain old enormously long poster-style image.)

This perspective of relative sizes can change your perspective of everything: what’s important, what’s fair, what “change” means, what’s “old” and “young,” what’s worth remembering (and worth forgetting), what it means to age, what’s funny vs. deadly serious…

And I like the implied interrelationship between space and time, especially at the most gigantic scales. Let’s say you’ve got a way to measure the distances from yourself to greatly distant objects — some way which does not (obviously) require you yourself to travel that distance (using an odometer which clicks over every giga-parsec or so). Let’s say you take as a given the (still conventional) notion that nothing can move faster than light. One implication of this is that the universe is not just at least as far across (in radius) as the most distant object you can see; it’s that the universe is also at least that old. So if the most distant visible object in the heavens is a light-year away, the light from that object has taken a whole year to reach your eyes… and the universe is at least that old.

Therefore, if (as seems to be the case) the most distant visible object is around fourteen billion light-years away, then…

We can also infer the presence of objects even farther than we can actually see, from the effects of those yet-farther objects on what we can see. Imagine Aeolus, the God of Intergalactic Breezes, sitting on his throne way the hell out there beyond observable limits. We can’t see him but can guess he’s there, because of the way the most-distant-visible objects dance around every time Aeolus sighs (probably out of loneliness) in this direction.

If your head can stand even more interestingness, consider the theory that the universe is expanding, and indeed accelerating in its rate of expansion. According to this theory, although the speed of light still marks an upper limit, it does so locally, on a more or less “small” scale — implying that the space between objects may expand more rapidly than light speed. Thus, at that fourteen-billion-light-years horizon, things are constantly crossing over the line into invisibility and, ultimately, unknowability.

Consider the similarities between all this and (say) the way in which things, people, and experiences pass from our individual (or collective) memory.

Consider the grand themes of art, literature, and music, from the small and personal to the most sweepingly “universal.”

Consider sharing those themes with Aeolus and, if Aeolus creates art of his own, his sharing his themes with us


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Creating in the Margins

After yesterday’s post about and the tendency of things to break down along edges, I was reminded this morning about the other side of the matter: the tendency of interesting and indeed surprising things, good things, to happen between two adjacent experiences.

A few weeks ago, I set myself a general writing objective (to write a story with a given first and last sentence) and a specific deadline: Labor Day, September 1 (this Monday). I had plenty of other stuff to do in the meantime, but my main motivation was a sort of writer’s guilt. I was bothered, see, that I’d been so distracted by other stuff (marketing Merry-Go-Round, blogging, and then of course I do have a day job, a wife, and books to read!) — so distracted by all that stuff that I hadn’t been able to write something new.

(Well, I did write myself a few sentences into a MGR sequel. But that wasn’t “real” writing.)

The main effect of this objective was, alas, not that I sat down, raised the lid of my inkwell, and began to write. The main effect was to foster a different and somewhat more exquisite sort of writer’s guilt: the guilt of not-writing when you know you quote-unquote “have to.” Especially when under your own deadline (you know you can’t weasel out). Especially when you publicly announced your deadline (you know everyone will know, even if you do try to weasel out).

So this morning I’m lying in bed. The alarm has gone off once, been snoozed, and gone off (and been snoozed) again. I’m kind of semi-conscious. It’s 5 a.m.

Then a picture starts to form behind my eyelids: A man in a cabin, dusting something off, it’s not his cabin but someone else’s… Wait, no, that’s not dust — it’s snow… He picks up a scrap of paper and reads it… He finds another scrap of paper, and reads it, and sometime later he finds an old photograph…

…and so on, to the end.

There, in the crevasse between waking and sleeping (or between pokes at the snooze button, if you will), there I found my story.

I’ve always loved the sensation of falling asleep, even more than I like sleeping itself (which I love quite a bit!). But the transition to wakefulness can bring its own rewards.

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