Perfectly Mistaken

'D1 / typo incident,' by Zoolette Des Bois on Flickr

[Image: “D1 / typo incident,” by Zoolette Des Bois on Flickr.com. Used under a Creative Commons license. Edit to add: the sign seems to be a marker at this location in London, on a particularly bad day I guess.]

From whiskey river (italicized portion):

if i have made, my lady, intricate

if i have made, my lady, intricate
imperfect various things chiefly which wrong
your eyes (frailer than most deep dreams are frail)
songs less firm than your body’s whitest song
upon my mind—if i have failed to snare
the glance too shy—if through my singing slips
the very skillful strangeness of your smile
the keen primeval silence of your hair

—let the world say “his most wise music stole
nothing from death”—
you will only create
(who are so perfectly alive) my shame:
lady whose profound and fragile lips
the sweet small clumsy feet of April came

into the ragged meadow of my soul.

(E.E. Cummings [source])

and:

Based on my experience of life, which I have not exactly hit out of the park, I tend to agree with that thing about, If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. And would go even further, to: Even if it is broke, leave it alone, you’ll probably make it worse.

(George Saunders [source])

and:

Descriptions of Heaven and Hell

The wave breaks
And I’m carried into it.
This is hell, I know,
Yet my father laughs,
Chest-deep, proving I’m wrong.
We’re safely rooted,
Rocked on his toes.

Nothing irked him more
Than asking, “What is there
Beyond death?”
His theory once was
That love greets you,
And the loveless
Don’t know what to say.

(Mark Jarman [source])

and:

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self…

I wind my experiences around myself and cover myself with glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.

But there is no substance under the things with which I am clothed, I am hollow, and my structure of pleasures and ambitions has no foundation. I am objectified in them. But they are all destined by their contingency to be destroyed. And when they are gone there will be nothing left but my own nakedness and emptiness and hollowness, to tell me I am my own mistake.

(Thomas Merton [source])

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To Be, Not to Be, or Barely to Be?

'unbeing dead isn't being alive,' by Nicole Pierce on Flickr

[Image: “unbeing dead isn’t being alive,” by Nicole Pierce on Flickr. (Used under a Creative Commons license.) The title of this image alludes, apparently, to a quotation by E.E. Cummings — it’s quoted everywhere on the Web — but no one ever says exactly what work it comes from. Maybe he muttered it in his sleep?]

From whiskey river:

Form is certainty. All nature knows this, and we have no greater adviser. Clouds have forms, porous and shape-shifting, bumptious, fleecy. They are what clouds need to be, to be clouds. See a flock of them come, on the sled of the wind, all kneeling above the blue sea. And in the blue water, see the dolphin built to leap, the sea mouse skittering, see the ropy kelp with its air-filled bladders tugging it upward; see the albatross floating day after day on its three-jointed wings. Each form sets a tone, enables a destiny, strikes a note in the universe unlike any other. How can we ever stop looking? How can we ever turn away?

(Mary Oliver)

and:

Statistically, the probability of any one of us being here is so small that you’d think the mere fact of existing would keep us all in a contented dazzlement of surprise.

(Lewis Thomas)

and:

Late Hours

On summer nights the world
moves within earshot
on the interstate with its swish
and growl, and occasional siren
that sends chills through us.
Sometimes, on clear, still nights,
voices float into our bedroom,
lunar and fragmented,
as if the sky had let them go
long before our birth.

In winter we close the windows
and read Chekhov,
nearly weeping for his world.

What luxury, to be so happy
that we can grieve
over imaginary lives.

(Lisel Mueller)

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Infinitely More Than Meets the Eye

Infinity Mirror Room, by ®DS on Flickr

[Image: “Infinity Mirror Room,” by user ®DS on Flickr. If you’ve got a fast Internet connection, you’ll want to click on it to see the full-scale panorama — it’s 4.6MB in size. (Right-click and open it in a new window for best results.) For more information, see the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river (answer to #4):

The universe—some information to help you live in it.

  1. AREA: Infinite.
    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy offers this definition of the word “Infinite.”
    Infinite: Bigger than the biggest thing ever and then some. Much bigger than that in fact, really amazingly immense, a totally stunning size, real “wow, that’s big,” time. Infinity is just so big that by comparison, bigness itself looks really titchy. Gigantic multiplied by colossal multiplied by staggeringly huge is the sort of concept we’re trying to get across here.
  2. IMPORTS: None.
    It is impossible to import things into an infinite area, there being no outside to import things in from.
  3. EXPORTS: None.
    See Imports.
  4. POPULATION: None.
    It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.
  5. MONETARY UNITS: None.
    In fact, there are three freely convertible currencies in the universe, but the Altairian Dollar has recently collapsed, the Flainian Pobble Bead is only exchangeable for other Flainian Pobble Beads, and the Triganic Pu has its own special problems. Its exchange rate of eight Ningis to one Pu is simple enough, but since a Ningi is a triangular rubber coin six thousand eight hundred miles along each side, no one has ever collected enough to own one Pu. Niginis are not negotiable currency, because the Galactibanks refuse to deal in fiddling small change. From this basic premise it is very simple to prove that the Galactibanks are also the products of a deranged imagination.

(Douglas Adams [source])

and:

Snow

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes —
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands —
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

(Louis MacNeice [source])

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“Basking in the Glow of an Imagined Future”

[Image: illustration from a December 20101 post, “The Time Travelling Brain,” at the Neuroskeptic blog. The orange-highlighted region of the brain is apparently used both in remembering the past, and imagining the future. See also this article in Discover.]

in spite of everything
which breathes and moves, since Doom
(with white longest hands
neatening each crease)
will smooth entirely our minds

— before leaving my room
i turn, and (stooping
through the morning) kiss
this pillow, dear
where our heads lived and were.

(E.E. Cummings)

…and:

Those hours given over to basking in the glow of an imagined future, of being carried away in streams of promise by a love or a passion so strong that one felt altered forever and convinced that even the smallest particle of the surrounding world was charged with purpose of impossible grandeur; ah, yes, and one would look up into the trees and be thrilled by the wind-loosened river of pale, gold foliage cascading down and by the high, melodious singing of countless birds; those moments, so many and so long ago, still come back, but briefly, like fireflies in the perfumed heat of summer night.

(Mark Strand)

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The Fundamental Things Apply

[Below, click Play button to begin well, playing. During this time, volume control will appear at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is 4:22 long.

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On March 1, 1991 — twenty years ago yesterday — I got an email from a stranger who’d downloaded and read an unpublished story of mine.

The story in question, “The Last Supper,” was a slender-little-nothin’ of a horror story about a church congregation who disposed of each pastor, when they tired of him, by consuming him at a communal covered-dish meal. My new correspondent just wanted me to know (a) she had enjoyed reading it and (b) in a word, Eeeeewww…!

Gross-out aside, the tone of the note was a little fangirlish. And in my reply, I — who’d written but not yet published a mystery about an email stalker — was simultaneously a little puffed-up and evasive.

Unfortunately, neither of us retained a copy of that first exchange. We both remember it, though — oh yes we do. And we both remember (in sometimes excruciating detail <g>) the long-term effects…

Erroll Garner’s piano provides the soundtrack to this post: “Love Walked In.” Seven years after George Gershwin composed the music, Ira Gershwin added the lyrics, the first verse of which goes:

Nothing seemed to matter any more,
Didn’t care what I was headed for.
Time was standing still,
No one counted till
There came a knocking at the door.

The rest fits, too.

Love you, Baby.

[Comments closed for this post, obviously.]
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“What If You Get a Question Wrong?”

[Image: detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch
(click image for a much larger view of the whole triptych)]

From whiskey river:

You Learn

You learn.
After a while you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
and you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
and company doesn’t mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises,
and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes open
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
and you learn to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure.
That you really are strong.
And you really do have worth.
And you learn. And learn.
With every good-bye you learn.

(Jorge Luis Borges)

and:

This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, argue, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek.

To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers.

(Terry Tempest Williams [source])

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Her Little Voice

[Above is the longer version of the Twin Peaks opening title sequence, including a fairly
complete cast listing (at least for the recurring characters). The “official” and higher-
quality
version, with a truncated theme song and cast listing, is here.]

[Note: Comments disabled for this post, for what will eventually be obvious reasons. :)]

From whiskey river:

And then the kicker is this: in passing from the real to the imagined, in following that trail, you learn that both sides have a little of the other in each, that there are elements of the imagined inside your experience of the “real” world — rock, bone, wood, ice — and elements of the real — not the metaphorical, but the actual thing itself — inside stories and tales and dreams.

(Rick Bass)

Not from whiskey river:

your little voice
Over the wires came leaping
and i felt suddenly
dizzy
With the jostling and shouting of merry flowers
wee skipping high-heeled flames
courtesied before my eyes
or twinkling over to my side
Looked up
with impertinently exquisite faces
floating hands were laid upon me
I was whirled and tossed into delicious dancing
up
Up
with the pale important
stars and the Humorous
moon
dear girl
How i was crazy how i cried when i heard
over time
and tide and death
leaping
Sweetly
your voice

(E.E. Cummings)

…and:

Love one another, but make not a bond of love
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you
be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with
the same music.

(Kahlil Gibran)

And finally, who could argue with this?

One woman can make you fly like an eagle, another can give you the strength of a lion, but only one in the Cycle Of Life can fill your heart with wonder and the wisdom that you have known a singular joy.

(Deputy Tommy “Hawk” Hill, Twin Peaks)

…Okay, I said “finally” up there but, heck, as long as we’re on the theme we may as well go for broke:

[Below, click Play button to begin. While audio is playing, volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is about 5½ minutes long.

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Falling
(lyrics by David Lynch; music by Angelo Badalamenti;
performance by Julee Cruise)

Don’t let yourself be hurt this time.
Don’t let yourself be hurt this time.

Then I saw your face
Then I saw your smile

The sky is still blue
The clouds come and go
Yet something is different
Are we falling in love?

Don’t let yourself be hurt this time.
Don’t let yourself be hurt this time.

Then your kiss so soft
Then your touch so warm

The stars still shine bright
The mountains still high
Yet something is different
Are we falling in love?

Falling
Falling

Are we falling in love?

Happy anniversary, Baby.

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Riding the Now

[Today’s image is of the literal-minded “Now Watch,” widely believed to be the most accurate timepiece ever. Found it at Wired’s Gadget Lab blog.]

From whiskey river:

And if there is not any such thing as a long time, nor the rest of your lives, nor from now on, but there is only now, why then now is the thing to praise and I am very happy with it.

(Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls)

Not from whiskey river:

If on earth there be
a Paradise of Bliss,
It is this,
It is this,
It is this.

(Firdausi)

This brings me to one of my favorite E.E. Cummings poems.

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