To Be in the World, Yes — Just Not Quite of It

'Here and Now,' by Dako Huang on Flickr

[Image: “Here and Now,” by Dako Huang. Found it on Flickr; used here under a Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river (italicized passage):

I for one am resolved to mind or not mind only to the degree where my point of view is no larger than myself. I can thus have a great number of points of view, like fingers, and which I can treat as I treat the fingers of my hand, to hold my cup, to tap the table for me and fold themselves away when I do not wish to think. If I fold them away now, then I am sitting here, not because I am thinking. It is all indeed, I admit, rather horrible. But if I remain a person instead of becoming a point of view, I become a force and am brought into direct contact with horror, another force. As well set one plague of cats loose upon another and expect peace of it. As a force I have power, as a person virtue. All forces eventually commit suicide with their power, while virtue in a person merely gives him a small though constant pain from being continuously touched, looked at, mentally handled; a pain by which he learns to recognize himself. Poems, being more like persons, probably only squirm every time they are read and wrap themselves around more tightly. Pictures and pieces of music, being more like forces, are soon worn out by the power that holds themselves together. To me pictures and music are always like stories told backwards: or like this I read in the newspaper: ‘Up to the last she retained all her faculties and was able to sign cheques.’

(Laura Riding [source])

and:

A Path In The Woods from A New Name

I don’t trust the truth of memories
because what leaves us
departs forever
There’s only one current of this sacred river
but I still want to remain faithful
to my first astonishments
to recognize as wisdom the child’s wonder
and to carry in myself until the end a path
in the woods of my childhood
dappled with patches of sunlight
to search for it everywhere
in museums in the shade of churches
this path on which I ran unaware
a six-year old
toward my primary mysterious aloneness

(Anna Kamienska [source])

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Interstices

'Interstices 2' (one of several), by user 'runlevel0' (Enric Martinez) on Flickr

[Image: “Interstices 2” (one of several sharing the same title), by user ‘runlevel0’ (Enric Martinez) on Flickr.]

From whiskey river:

But there is all this time between when the cracks start to open up and when we finally fall apart. And it’s only in that time that we can see one another, because we see out of ourselves through our cracks and into others through theirs. When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.

(John Green [source])

and:

The Almanac of Last Things

From the almanac of last things
I choose the spider lily
for the grace of its brief
blossom, though I myself
fear brevity,

but I choose The Song of Songs
because the flesh
of those pomegranates
has survived
all the frost of dogma.

I choose January with its chill
lessons of patience and despair – and
August, too sun-struck for lessons.
I choose a thimbleful of red wine
to make my heart race,

then another to help me
sleep. From the almanac
of last things I choose you,
as I have done before.
And I choose evening

because the light clinging
to the window
is at its most reflective
just as it is ready
to go out.

(Linda Pastan [source])

and:

The division of one day from the next must be one of the most profound peculiarities of life on this planet. We are not condemned to sustained flights of being, but are constantly refreshed by little holidays from ourselves. We are intermittent creatures, always falling to little ends and rising to new beginnings. Our soon-tired consciousness is meted out in chapters, and that the world will look quite different tomorrow is, both for our comfort and our discomfort, usually true. How marvelously too night matches sleep, sweet image of it, so nearly apportioned to our need. Angels must wonder at these beings who fall so regularly out of awareness into a fantasm-infested dark. How our frail identities survive these chasms no philosopher has ever been able to explain.

(Iris Murdoch [source])

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Everyday Sights, Never Quite Seen or Remembered

[Photo: “If they’d only realized that the killer was right there in the crowd,” by Christopher Boffoli (from his book/exhibition, Big Appetites)]

From whiskey river:

I once had a friend. He had been teaching a long time when I was just starting. He liked telling his students he’d seen them before. In another life, at another school, the same hairline, the same kid brother back home in eighth grade. In class, he gave them obituaries to read. And though we’re no longer close, here is consolation: I still believe in what he was up to: seeing if he could make them dizzy. Suggesting they write their way into or out of the disquieting facts he offered up. Offering the chance to find themselves breathless, to consider themselves a point on a circle falling and rising, falling/drawn up, as the wheel moved, moves, is moving relentlessly on. He wanted them to feel conveyor beneath their feet, when all along they’d assumed they were walking. To consider they might, somehow, for another, be a mark and a measure of vastness. A site…

What does my friend want his students to say, what does he want them to stumble into, considering those obituaries? “Nothing in particular,” he’d answer, meaning “I have no plan.” No one thing in mind. Only for them to skid to a halt, to go breathlessly forth, for here is their chance to see: the patterns keep coming, all the lives theirs resemble — in the newspaper photo, the deceased at age twenty, the jaunty tilt of that head so like the tilt of their own. That they share the same name, the same birthday and interests. That the most basic, seismic events daily converge and include us.

(Lia Purpura [source])

and:

In the Christian calendar, November 1st is the Feast of All Saints, a day honoring not only those who are known and recognized as enlightened souls, but more especially the unknowns, saints who walk beside us unrecognized down the millennia. In Buddhism, we honor the bodhisattvas — saints — who refuse enlightenment and return willingly to the wheel of karma to help other beings. Similarly, in Judaism, anonymous holy men pray the world from its well-merited destruction. We never know who is walking beside us, who is our spiritual teacher. That one — who annoys you so — pretends for a day that he’s the one, your personal Obi Wan Kenobi. The first of November is a splendid, subversive holiday.

Imagine a hectic procession of revelers — the half-mad bag lady; a mumbling, scarred janitor whose ravaged face made the children turn away; the austere, unsmiling mother superior who seemed with great focus and clarity to do harm; a haunted music teacher, survivor of Auschwitz. I bring them before my mind’s eye, these old friends of my soul, awakening to dance their day. Crazy saints: but who knows what was home in the heart? This is the feast of those who tried to take the path, so clumsily that no one knew or noticed, the feast, indeed, of most of us…

(Mary Rose O’Reilley [source])

and:

All Hallow’s Eve

In the great silence of my favorite month,
October (the red of maples, the bronze of oaks,
A clear-yellow leaf here and there on birches),
I celebrated the standstill of time.

The vast country of the dead had its beginning everywhere:
At the turn of a tree-lined alley, across park lawns.
But I did not have to enter, I was not called yet.

Motorboats pulled up on the river bank, paths in pine needles.
It was getting dark early, no lights on the other side.

I was going to attend the ball of ghosts and witches.
A delegation would appear there in masks and wigs,
And dance, unrecognized, in the chorus of the living.

(Czeslaw Milosz [source (2MB PDF)])

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