Right Haunted

Image: photo of Ron Mueck's sculpture, 'Boy' (photo by Tamaki Sono on Flickr.com)

[Image: photograph of Ron Mueck’s sculpture, “Boy”; photo by Tamaki Sono, found on Flickr (and used here under a Creative Commons license — thanks!). Mueck specializes in sculpting people in ultra-realistic detail, but scaled up (as here) or down for a slightly jarring effect. See more examples here, and elsewhere around the Web.]

From whiskey river (all but the last sentence):

Masquerades disclose the reality of souls. As long as no one sees who we are, we can tell the most intimate details of our life. I sometimes muse over this sketch of a story—about a man afflicted by one of those personal tragedies born of extreme shyness… who one day, while wearing a mask I don’t know where, told another mask all the most personal, most secret, most unthinkable things that could be told about his tragic and serene life. And since no outward detail would give him away, he having disguised even his voice, and since he didn’t take careful note of whoever had listened to him, he could enjoy the ample sensation of knowing that somewhere in the world there was someone who knew him as not even his closest and finest friend did. When he walked down the street he would ask himself if this person, or that one, or that person over there might not be the one to whom he’d once, wearing a mask, told his most private life. Thus would be born in him a new interest in each person, since each person might be his only, unknown confidant. And his crowning glory would be if the whole of that sorrowful life he’d told were, from start to finish, absolutely false.

(Fernando Pessoa [source])

and (italicized portion):

Surely we cannot take an open question like the supernatural and shut it with a bang, turning the key of the madhouse on all the mystics of history… You cannot take the region of the unknown and calmly say that, though you know nothing about it, you know all the gates are locked. You cannot say, “This island is not discovered yet; but I am sure that it has a wall of cliffs all round it and no harbour”… We do not know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable.

(G. K. Chesterton [source])


…the life you lead is a midnight thing, always a hair’s breadth from the witching hour; it is volatile, it is threadbare; it is carefree in the true sense of that term; it is light, losable like a key or a hair clip. And it is lethargy: why not sit all morning, all day, all year, under the same cypress tree drawing the figure eight in the dust? More than that, it is disaster, it is chaos: why not overthrow a government on a whim, why not blind the man you hate, why not go mad, go gibbering through the town like a loon, waving your hands, tearing your hair? There’s nothing to stop you — or rather anything could stop you, any hour, any minute.

(Zadie Smith [source])

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Pay Attention to This Dream You Are Having

[Video: TED Talk by the puppeteers behind the War Horse stage production. The play was originally based on a children’s book by Michael Morpurgo, and was itself adapted into a very successful film by Steven Spielberg. Having seen this talk, but neither the play nor the film, I can’t imagine the imagery was much improved by using real horses. See the additional note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river (italicized passage):

…my definition of magic in the human personality, in fiction and in poetry, is the ultimate level of attentiveness. Nearly everyone goes through life with the same potential perceptions and baggage, whether it’s marriage, children, education, or unhappy childhoods, whatever; and when I say attentiveness I don’t mean just to reality, but to what’s exponentially possible in reality. I don’t think, for instance, that Marquez is pushing it in One Hundred Years of Solitude—that was simply his sense of reality. The critics call this “magic realism,” but they don’t understand the Latin world at all. Just take a trip to Brazil. Go into the jungle and take a look around. This old Chippewa I know—he’s about seventy-five years old—said to me, “Did you know that there are people who don’t know that every tree is different from every other tree?” This amazed him. Or don’t know that a nation has a soul as well as a history, or that the ground has ghosts that stay in one area. All this is true, but why are people incapable of ascribing to the natural world the kind of mystery that they think they are somehow deserving of but have never reached?

(Jim Harrison [source])


Being a Person

Be a person here. Stand by the river, invoke
the owls. Invoke winter, then spring.
Let any season that wants to come here make its own
call. After that sound goes away, wait.

A slow bubble rises through the earth
and begins to include sky, stars, all space,
even the outracing, expanding thought.
Come back and hear the little sound again.

Suddenly this dream you are having matches
everyone’s dream, and the result is the world.
If a different call came there wouldn’t be any
world, or you, or the river, or the owls calling.

How you stand here is important. How you
listen for the next things to happen. How you breathe.

(William Stafford [source])

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When a Moment Is More Than a Moment

'Desert Watcher,' by Children of Darklight (athalfred) on Flickr

[Image: “Desert Watcher,” by Children of Darklight (user athalfred) on Flickr. (Used here under a Creative Commons license.) This is a composite image: the star trails comprise 76 separate photos, stacked atop one another in (presumably digital) layers; the figure at the lower left is a lightpainted portrait.]

From whiskey river:

Crossing the Swamp

Here is the endless
wet thick
cosmos, the center
of everything—the nugget
of dense sap, branching
vines, the dark burred
faintly belching
bogs. Here
is swamp, here
is struggle,
pathless, seamless,
peerless mud. My bones
knock together at the pale
joints, trying
for foothold, fingerhold,
mindhold over
such slick crossings, deep
hipholes, hummocks
that sink silently
into the black, slack
earthsoup. I feel
not wet so much as
painted and glittered
with the fat grassy
mires, the rich
and succulent marrows
of earth—a poor
dry stick given
one more chance by the whims
of swamp water—a bough
that still, after all these years,
could take root,
sprout, branch out, bud—
make of its life a breathing
palace of leaves.

(Mary Oliver [source])

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The Trap of What Never (Might Have) Happened

10th July 2008 - The Dream Diary, by practicalowl on Flickr

[Image: “10th July 2008 – The Dream Diary,” by user practicalowl on Flickr.com. (Right-click and view in a new window/tab for a much larger version.)) Used under a Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river:

Song for the Deer and Myself to Return On

This morning when I looked out the roof window
before dawn and a few stars were still caught
in the fragile weft of ebony night
I was overwhelmed. I sang the song Louis taught me:
a song to call the deer in Creek, when hunting,
and I am certainly hunting something as magic as deer
in this city far from the hammock of my mother’s belly.
It works, of course, and deer came into this room
and wondered at finding themselves
in a house near downtown Denver.
Now the deer and I are trying to figure out a song
to get them back, to get all of us back,
because if it works I’m going with them.
And it’s too early to call Louis
and nearly too late to go home.

for Louis Oliver

(Joy Harjo [source])


Some religions call life a dream, or a dreaming, but what if it is a memory? What if this new world isn’t new at all but a memory of a new world?

What if we really do keep making the same mistakes again and again, never remembering the lessons to learn but never forgetting either that it had been different, that there was a pristine place?

Perhaps the universe is a memory of our mistakes.

(Jeanette Winterson [source])



I know this world is far from perfect.
I am not the type to mistake a streetlight for the moon.
I know our wounds are deep as the Atlantic.
But every ocean has a shoreline
and every shoreline has a tide
that is constantly returning
to wake the songbirds in our hands,
to wake the music in our bones,
to place one fearless kiss
on the mouth of that new born river
that has to run through the center of our hearts
to find its way home.

(Andrea Gibson [source])


Shuttered Windows

To speak of the smell and feel
of books, the erotics of the text,
has begun to sound perverse

One by one, the old places of worship
churches, bookstores, Nature herself
become quaint and are vacated

In their stead a gleaming, ambitious screen
part shuttered window, part distorting mirror
full of wandering, restless spirits

Like so many ghosts in limbo —
free of the tyranny of bodies,
yet aching for their phantom limbs.

(Yahia Lababidi [source])

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Seen in the Proper Light

'Night Visions,' by user lacomj on Flickr

[Image: “Night Visions,” by user lacomj on Flickr. Interestingly, this is not a black-and-white photo; says the caption on that page: “There is a lot to see up in the sky at night in infrared!”]

From whiskey river:

Scattered Reflections

I had no idea what my real life was,
but I knew I had to look for it.
So one day I packed my car and took off.
I drove the whole country, examining
houses, stores, businesses, streets,
people … when all I was looking for was me.
I concluded that there was no me,
just flutterings, shudderings and shadows.
I think most people feel the same way,
and it isn’t bad, floating under the stars
at night like fireflies sending signals.

(James Tate [source])


The genius of a composer is found in the notes of his music; but analyzing the notes will not reveal his genius. The poet’s greatness is contained in his words; yet the study of his words will not disclose his inspiration. God reveals himself in creation; but scrutinize creation as minutely as you wish, you will not find God, any more than you will find the soul through careful examination of your body.

(Anthony de Mello [source])


The Buzzard and Reversal


In the dream, there are rabbits. Quiet as ever,
but crowded and jostling round the fallen buzzard.

They ignore the clover where the bird fell, dipping instead
into the dark thatch of feathers with their busy nibblings,
with their tiny snipping teeth. The impossible
softness of their fur is caked with blood. The bird is

broken: a collapsed umbrella. Its naked head emerges
and turns to watch itself drawn shining into the light.

(Michael Bazzett [source])

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The Only One of Us with the Coordinates for This Destination and Its Hardware Is You

Surely I’ve said so before, here and elsewhere, but just in case it’s fallen through the cracks: I really, really like being friends with — just knowing — smart people. I could cite any number of reasons for this (better reading and music suggestions, better jokes, and so on). One perhaps not so obvious (and if they knew, they might prefer otherwise): better quirks.

Consider the case of a woman I’ve known for, oh, ten years or more, but have never met-met. (Our first encounter took place via email while she was doing some tech work for my computer-books agent’s site.) She seems quite level-headed and nice, and also (importantly) smart as heck. She’s published books on a couple of topics — including an excellent reference on using Google, back in the days when almost no one knew all the ins and out. And she also publishes a several-times-weekly e-newsletter of Web-research and -data tips. In all of these venues she’s exhibited an excellent, modestly skewed sense of humor.

Anyhow, on Facebook yesterday she posted the following non-technical status, which I frankly believe too good to keep to myself. (I checked with her before including this verbatim here on RAMH, by the way.)

I dreamed that a job applicant mentioned he had won $2000 solving King Friday’s Rubric. I was curious so I ordered a copy to see what it was.

It showed up as a large printed list, 1,000 large file cards and a hanging cloth, printed with a grid, the size of a shower curtain (in the dream we used shower curtain rings to hang it up.)

The list was a list of saints. The file cards were clues about the saints that you had to match to the list. The clues were in logic format. (“This saint was kind to birds and lived to be exactly 20 years older than the saint who is celebrated in March.”)

Once you matched up the saints to the clues, you had to use the letters on the back of the cards and arrange them on a grid in something that was kind of like Sudoku, only for letters of the alphabet.

I have no idea.

King Friday’s Rubric. I got that far and practically swooned. (Who dreams in words like rubric?!) And it testifies, indirectly, to her Web-research influence that I immediately had to look that up. King Friday, as it happens, is the name of one of the puppet characters in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood — specifically Friday XIII, don’t you know — but rubric? Maybe it didn’t mean what I thought it meant… [Calm down, self: yes, it does.] It certainly doesn’t seem to be something in need of a solution, let alone a solution someone would pay for… a solution involving shower curtain rings? A Sudoku grid using letters instead of digits?

I have no idea, either. But is that a great dream or what?


Rosenfield and CooperAbout the post title: This is a quotation from Twin Peaks. The speaker, FBI forensic examiner Albert Rosenfield (played by Miguel Ferrer), is responding to some characteristically off-center pronouncement by Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). In full:

Cooper. In observation, I don’t know where this is headed. But the only one of us with the coordinates for this destination and its hardware is you. Go on whatever vision quest you require. Stand on the rim of a volcano, stand alone and do your dance. Just find this beast before he takes another bite.

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The Propagational Library (10): Striking a Match

The latest installment in the weekly serial story called The Propagational Library appears here:

…in which The Librarian, and a certain author, have their minds turned inside-out.

If you’ve never read any of the series, please consider visiting the Overview/Table of Contents page before diving headlong into this chapter.

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The Propagational Library (8): Dreamtime

See the latest installment in the ongoing Propagational Library series, here:

…in which The Librarian (having discovered four additional dimensions of time)
drifts off to sleep, and more than one light winks on as he encounters someone very familiar.

As always, if you’re unfamiliar with the series, I encourage you to begin instead with the Table of Contents/Overview page.

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The Calm at the Core of Disorder


[Video: “Saints & Liars,” by Pony Boy. See the note at the foot of this post for more information.]

From whiskey river:

There is tremendous power in unearthing, in recognizing distracted, scattered mind, the mind which would rather be anywhere but here, and spending some time there, with that mind. Rather than being an anonymous voice from the dark bossing you around, scattered mind is someone you can sit down and hang out with.

(Jusan Ed Brown)


A Settlement

Look, it’s spring. And last year’s loose dust has turned
into this soft willingness. The wind-flowers have come
up trembling, slowly the brackens are up-lifting their
curvaceous and pale bodies. The thrushes have come
home, none less than filled with mystery, sorrow,
happiness, music, ambition.

And I am walking out into all of this with nowhere to
go and no task undertaken but to turn the pages of
this beautiful world over and over, in the world of my mind.

* * *

Therefore, dark past,
I’m about to do it.
I’m about to forgive you

for everything.

(Mary Oliver [source])


It’s all a show, a deception. Your urges scream and bluster at you; they cajole; they coax; they threaten; but they really carry no stick at all. You give in out of habit. You give in because you never really bother to look beyond the threat. It is all empty back there. There is only one way to learn this lesson, though. The words on this page won’t do it. But look within and watch the stuff coming up — restlessness, anxiety, impatience, pain — just watch it come up and don’t get involved. Much to your surprise, it will simply go away. It rises, it passes away. As simple as that. There is another word for self-discipline. It is patience.

(Henepola Gunaratana [source])

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JES Has Come Unstuck in Time (by Choice and Training)

[See note at bottom of the post for information about this image.]

One of these days, if I’m feeling very ambitious, I might expand this dream (from the other morning) into a whole story or book. Until then, feel free to use it for your own purposes. Should you take it to publication, I’m sure we can work out some sort of suitable deal. Just contact my attorney — and prepare to negotiate.

I’m with a team of adventurers — you know, one of those ragtag bunches of (probably) misfits who go around the world solving problems — digging up treasure, recovering stolen loot, righting wrongs, and so on.

Unlike other teams of adventurers, though, this one has a special talent: it travels in time.

Now, as you surely know from various pop-culture references, time travel is possible… but only if you have superpowers or other almost impossible resources. For instance:

  • If you’re Superman, you can zip around Earth in a direction opposite to the planet’s rotation, at a speed faster than light. All you have to do is, uh, be Superman.
  • Or, like the guy in H.G. Wells’s story, you can build a time machine to move backward and forward.
  • If you’re Claire Randall (née Beauchamp) in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series of books, all you have to do is sort of walk through the right group of standing stones in Scotland at the right time (it helps if you swoon); just be in WW2-era Scotland, be a nurse, be brilliant, and be attractive. Also wry.
  • Dr. Who travels around time and space more or less at will — thanks to the TARDIS and its impossible geometry.

But this dream team doesn’t need any of that. It needs no machinery. Its members have no superpowers. All they have which you lack is one critical piece of information, and the training to use it: every human being is born with the ability to time-travel.

The leader of the team (think the Richard Attenborough character in Jurassic Park) made this discovery starting with a simple realization: that human memory and hope/expectation are simply diluted expressions of time travel. And the training? You just practice focusing the portion of your brain most responsible for memory (the hippocampus); you just rehearse sharpening the details of your hopes and expectations.

…and that was the sum of the dream. I didn’t remember any details of the group’s adventures or anything (ironic in light of what I did remember, eh?).

Would you time-travel if you could?


Note: The photo at the top of this post shows a sand sculpture by the artistic team known collectively as Duthain Dealbh (“fleeting sculpture” in Gaelic). The subject of the sand sculpture is the Australian aboriginal legend of the dreamtime. From Wikipedia (quoting a line from Peter Weir’s film The Last Wave):

Aboriginals believe in two forms of time; two parallel streams of activity. One is the daily objective activity, the other is an infinite spiritual cycle called the “dreamtime,” more real than reality itself. Whatever happens in the dreamtime establishes the values, symbols, and laws of Aboriginal society. It was believed that some people of unusual spiritual powers had contact with the dreamtime.

Find more information about Duthain Dealbh at their site.

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