Department of Unmagical Thinking

Image: '1688 miracle,' by nebojsamladjenovic on Flickr.com

[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])

and:

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
Share

An Infinity of Reflexive Trajectories

one view of a triple torus

[Image (courtesy of Wikipedia): one of numerous graphic representations of a mathematical (and perhaps physical) space called a 3-torus (also three-torus, or triple torus). For more information, see below.]

From whiskey river:

We are such inward secret creatures, that inwardness is the most amazing thing about us, even more amazing than our reason. But we cannot just walk into the cavern and look around. Most of what we think we know about our minds is pseudo-knowledge. We are all such shocking poseurs, so good at inflating the importance of what we think we value.

(Iris Murdoch [source])

…and:

Every person passing through this life will unknowingly leave something and take something away. Most of this “something” cannot be seen or heard or numbered or scientifically detected or counted. It’s what we leave in the minds of other people and what they leave in ours.

(Robert Fulghum [source])

…and:

Poem to My Daughter

The sky has, is, one exit, one excuse,
and if I’m dead now that I’m saying this,
I can’t vouch for my transition from life
as having been rough or even evident.
Have I tried turning it off and then on again?
Have I tried throwing it against the wall?
Getting to know you, getting to know all
about you getting the mirror to mean
not only me, and thinking I must look
dumber than I look — dumber, then, than prose —
I walk through the laundry room regretting
getting the weekend done this way, as if
backstage, and say the name of your birthplace
as if I’d lost a hundred dollars there,
which I may have … Dear, when nowhere, don’t do
as those of us in nowhere do — just go.

(Graham Foust [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

Crossings

'The Other Side,' by Gisela Giardino on Flickr

[Image: “The Other Side,” by Gisela Giardino on Flickr. (Click image to enlarge.)
Used under a Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river:

Happiness

A state you must dare not enter
with hopes of staying,
quicksand in the marshes, and all

the roads leading to a castle
that doesn’t exist.
But there it is, as promised,

with its perfect bridge above
the crocodiles,
and its doors forever open.

(Stephen Dunn [source])

and:

The fierce poet of the Middle Ages wrote, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” over the gates of the lower world. The emancipated poets of today have written it over the gates of this world. But if we are to understand the story which follows, we must erase that apocalyptic writing, if only for an hour. We must recreate the faith of our fathers, if only as an artistic atmosphere. If, then, you are a pessimist, in reading this story, forego for a little the pleasures of pessimism. Dream for one mad moment that the grass is green. Unlearn that sinister learning that you think is so clear, deny that deadly knowledge that you think you know. Surrender the very flower of your culture, give up the very jewel of your pride, abandon hopelessness, all ye who enter here.

(G. K. Chesterton [source])

and:

Gone

It’s that, when I’m gone,
(and right off this is tricky)
I won’t be worried
about being gone.
I won’t be here
to miss anything.
I want now, sure,
all I’ve been gathering
since I was born,
but later
when I no longer have it,
(which might be
a state everlasting, who knows?)
this moment right now
(stand closer, love,
you can’t be too close),
is not a thing I’ll know to miss.
I doubt I’ll miss it.
I can’t get over this.

(Lia Purpura [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

Not So Very Empty

[Video: “Empty Space Is NOT Empty,” from Veritasium (Derek Muller’s “science video blog from atoms to astrophysics!”). To my knowledge there’s no plain-old Web page to point you to, but here’s the YouTube channel, and here’s the Facebook page for those of you who are all Facebooked up.]

From whiskey river:

The Moth, the Mountains, the Rivers

Who can guess the luna’s sadness who lives so
briefly? Who can guess the impatience of stone
longing to be ground down, to be part again of
something livelier? Who can imagine in what
heaviness the rivers remember their original
clarity?

Strange questions, yet I have spent worthwhile
time with them. And I suggest them to you also,
that your spirit grow in curiosity, that your life
be richer than it is, that we — so clever, and
ambitious, and selfish, and unrestrained — are only
one design of the moving, the vivacious many.

(Mary Oliver [source])

and:

Many people are afraid to empty their own minds lest they plunge into the Void. Ha! What they don’t realize is that their own Mind is the Void.

(Huang-po [source])

and:

When Tesshu, the famous Japanese samurai master, was young and headstrong, he visited Master Dokuon and triumphantly announced to him the classic Buddhist teaching that all that exists is empty, and how there is really no you or me. The master listened to this in silence. Suddenly he snatched up his pipe and struck Tesshu’s head with it. This infuriated the young swordsman, and then Dokuon said calmly, “Emptiness is sure quick to show anger, is it not?”

(unattributed [but see here, among many other sources, in more or less these words])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

Life Lessons

One of my few successful attempts at visual art

[Image: The Ultimate Answer, one of my few successful attempts at (representational) visual art]

From whiskey river:

The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky.

(Flannery O’Connor [source])

…and (italicized portion):

I can often sense the spirit of a place, but I’m not entirely convinced such spirits have an existence separate from their environment. In that sense I’m both believer and skeptic; I’d like to believe, but keep searching for that elusive proof.

I do believe in an everyday sort of magic—the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of syncronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone. These are magics that many of us experience, parts of a Mystery that can’t—and perhaps shouldn’t—be explained.

I should add that often the magical elements in my books are standing in for elements of the real world, the small and magical-in-their-own-right sorts of things that we take for granted and no longer pay attention to, like the bonds of friendship that entwine our own lives with those of other people and places. When one of my characters becomes aware of a magical element, it might be because the world is wider than we assume it to be, but it might also be a reminder to pay attention to what is here already, hidden only because it’s been forgotten.

(Charles de Lint [source])

…and:

Passing Remark

In scenery I like flat country.
In life I don’t like much to happen.

In personalities I like mild colorless people.
And in colors I prefer gray and brown.

My wife, a vivid girl from the mountains,
says, “Then why did you choose me?”

Mildly I lower my brown eyes —
there are so many things admirable people do not understand.

(William Stafford [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

It Calls Me On and On

[Image: audio-animatronic scene at the 1960s-era Disneyland “Carousel of Progress” display. See yesterland.com for more information and a larger version of this image.]

From whiskey river:

The Bones
(excerpt)

…Shells were to shut out the sea,
The bones of birds were built for floating
On air and water, and those of fish were devised
For their feeding depths, while a man’s bones were framed
For what? For knowing the sands are here,
And coming to hear them a long time; for giving
Shapes to the sprawled sea, weight to its winds,
And wrecks to plead for its sands. These things are not
Limitless: we know there is somewhere
An end to them, though every way you look
They extend farther than a man can see.

(W. S. Merwin [read the whole thing here])

and:

We clutter the earth with our inventions, never dreaming that possibly they are unnecessary — or disadvantageous. We devise astounding means of communication, but do we communicate with one another? We move our bodies to and fro at incredible speeds, but do we really leave the spot we started from? Mentally, morally, spiritually, we are fettered. What have we achieved in mowing down mountain ranges, harnessing the energy of mighty rivers, or moving whole populations about like chess pieces, if we ourselves remain the same restless, miserable, frustrated creatures we were before? To call such activity progress is utter delusion. We may succeed in altering the face of the earth until it is unrecognizable even to the Creator, but if we are unaffected wherein lies the meaning?

(Henry Miller [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share