Wrong, Wrong, Uncertainly Right

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[Image: “041/365 – Skeptical,” by Artamir78 on Flickr. (Used here under a Creative Commons license; thank you!)]

From whiskey river:

You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you’re anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you’re with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception. And yet what are we to do about this terribly significant business of other people, which gets bled of the significance we think it has and takes on instead a significance that is ludicrous, so ill-equipped are we all to envision one another’s interior workings and invisible aims? Is everyone to go off and lock the door and sit secluded like the lonely writers do, in a soundproof cell, summoning people out of words and then proposing that these word people are closer to the real thing than the real people that we mangle with our ignorance every day? The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that—well, lucky you.

(Philip Roth [source])


Theories of Personal Identity

The photograph;
the past life;
the long lost
black sheep who’s become
the shoe that fits.
The ghost town,
a.k.a. the rummage bin,
that old sweet song.
The suitcase; the hotel
room; the surprise
box lunch; the plain
brown wrapper. The umbrella
someone opened in the house.
The alphabet, or perhaps
I mean a river, or a well.
The skeleton in the closet.
The writing on the wall.
The telltale heart.

(Jan Zwicky [source])

Not from whiskey river:

Once it happened that Mulla Nasrudin and his friend were drinking in a pub. They came out, completely drunk. Nasrudin was an old, experienced drinker; the other was new, so the other was affected more. The other asked, “Now I cannot see, I cannot hear, I cannot even walk rightly. How will I reach my home? Tell me, Nasrudin. Please direct me. How should I reach my home?”

Nasrudin said, “First you go. After so many steps you will come to a point where there are two ways: one goes to the right, the other goes to the left. You go to the left, because that which goes to the right doesn’t exist. I have been many times on that right path also, but now I am an experienced man. You will see two paths — choose the left one, don’t choose the right. That right one doesn’t exist. Many times I have gone on it and then you never reach, you never reach your home.

(Nasrudin [various sources])


So you won’t go down the wrong path in this work, thinking contemplation is something it’s not, I’ll tell you more about it. Some people believe contemplation is time-consuming, but it’s not. In fact, it takes less time than anything you’ll ever do. It’s as brief as an atom, which excellent philosophers in the science of astronomy define as the smallest particle of time. An atom’s littleness makes it indivisible, nearly inconceivable, and also invaluable. On this subject, it has been written, “Every moment of time is a gift to you, and one day you’ll be asked how you spent each one.”

(Anonymous, translation by Carmen Acevedo Butcher [source])


Once the World Was Perfect

Once the world was perfect, and we were happy in that world.
Then we took it for granted.
Discontent began a small rumble in the earthly mind.
Then Doubt pushed through with its spiked head.
And once Doubt ruptured the web,
All manner of demon thoughts
Jumped through—
We destroyed the world we had been given
For inspiration, for life—
Each stone of jealousy, each stone
Of fear, greed, envy, and hatred, put out the light.
No one was without a stone in his or her hand.
There we were,
Right back where we had started.
We were bumping into each other
In the dark.
And now we had no place to live, since we didn’t know
How to live with each other.
Then one of the stumbling ones took pity on another
And shared a blanket.
A spark of kindness made a light.
The light made an opening in the darkness.
Everyone worked together to make a ladder.
A Wind Clan person climbed out first into the next world,
And then the other clans, the children of those clans, their children,
And their children, all the way through time—
To now, into this morning light to you.

(Joy Harjo [source])

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