Department of Unmagical Thinking

Image: '1688 miracle,' by nebojsamladjenovic on

[Image: “1688 miracle,” by nebojsa mladjenovic on Flickr. (Used here under a Creative Commons license; thank you!) For more information, see the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river:

A certain man… once lost a diamond cuff-link in the wide blue sea, and twenty years later, on the exact day, a Friday apparently, he was eating a large fish—but there was no diamond inside. That’s what I like about coincidence.

(Vladimir Nabokov [source])


Making a Fist

We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
—Jorge Luis Borges

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

“How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

(Naomi Shihab Nye [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle

Intersecting Panes

A reader where you'd expect a book

From whiskey river:

Indeterminacy means, literally: not fixed, not settled, uncertain, indefinite. It means that you don’t know where you are. How can it be otherwise, say the Buddhist teachings, since you have no fixed or inherent identity and are ceaselessly in process? Life is filled with uncertainty. Chance events happen to all of us. Each of us must take responsibility and make decisions. None of us should be imposing our ego image on others.

There’s another way to live. Accept indeterminacy as a principle, and you see your life in a new light, as a series of seemingly unrelated jewel-like stories within a dazzling setting of change and transformation. Recognize that you don’t know where you stand, and you will begin to watch where you put your feet. That’s when the path appears.

(Kay Larson, on John Cage [source])

…and (from whiskey river’s commonplace book — not counting the lovely epigraph, which walks a line between mysterious and profound):

Nothing is too wonderful to be true.
— Michael Faraday

There is a hole in the universe.

It is not like a hole in a wall where a mouse slips through, solid and crisp and leading from somewhere to someplace. It is rather like a hole in the heart, an amorphous and edgeless void. It is a heartfelt absence, a blank space where something is missing, a large and obvious blind spot in our understanding of the universe.

That missing something, strange to say, is a grasp of nothing itself. Understanding nothing matters, because nothing is the all-important background upon which everything else happens.

(K. C. Cole [source])


To the Reader

As you read, a white bear leisurely
pees, dyeing the snow

and as you read, many gods
lie among lianas: eyes of obsidian
are watching the generations of leaves,

and as you read
the sea is turning its dark pages,
its dark pages.

(Denise Levertov)

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle

What’s in a Song: Cry Me a River (1)

[Another in a series of occasional posts about popular American songs with long histories. And if you are seeking information on the Justin Timberlake song by the same name, believe me, you are 100% in the wrong place.]

On paper, it doesn’t appear to be a “big” song. Nearly always, the arrangement features a single vocalist and one or two background instruments. The lyrics aren’t even all that special, in one respect: very simple words (with one exception), in a more or less conventional order. At that, the title itself appears six times over the course of the three stanzas, and a slight variation of it thrice more.

But given the right singer, oh, how loudly this song speaks…

(Who’s “the right singer”? Hard to say. Wikipedia lists a sample of about 150 of them. Amazon’s MP3 download store includes over 600 hits — many duplicates, of course, but still… And if you go rummaging around on iTunes and elsewhere on the Web, you can quickly fill your hard drive with unique versions.)

Here’s the story:

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle