There’s Gotta Be a Way…

Image: 'Push-me-Pull-you,' by user 'wiredwitch' on Flickr.com

[Image: “Push-me-Pull-you,” by Flickr user “wiredwitch” (actually a pair of Washington, DC-based photographers named Ketzirah Lesser and Art Drauglis). (Used here under a Creative Commons license; thank you!) The description there says, in part: “We came across these two red fox[es] who appeared to be stuck together. Our first thought was that they were mating. But they were facing in opposite directions. Having not read the Kanine Sutra we were unaware if this position was even possible for coitus. The predicament went on for a few minutes and they remained entangled. We wondered if there was some glue or piece of trash or something which was keeping them together. The classic Washington dilemma then popped up: Which Agency Do I Call?” For the rest of the story, see the page on Flickr.]

From whiskey river:

So much of what we dream flickers out before we can
name it. Even the sun has been frozen on the next street.
Every word only reveals a past that never seems real.
Sometimes we just stare at the ground as if it were
a grave we could rent for a while. Sometimes we don’t
understand how all that grief fits beside us on the stoop.
There should be some sort of metaphor that lifts us away.
We should see the sky open up or the stars descend.
There are birds migrating, but we don’t hear them, cars
on their way to futures made of a throw of the dice.
The pigeons here bring no messages. A few flies
stitch the air. Sometimes a poem knows no way out
unless truth becomes just a homeless character in it.

(Richard Jackson [source])

and:

On Parables

Many complain that the words of the wise are always merely parables and of no use in daily life, which is the only life we have. When the sage says: “Go over,” he does not mean that we should cross over to some actual place, which we could do anyhow if the labor were worth it; he means some fabulous yonder, something unknown to us, something too that he cannot designate more precisely, and therefore cannot help us here in the very least. All these parables really set out to say merely that the incomprehensible is incomprehensible, and we know that already. But the cares we have to struggle with every day: that is a different matter.

Concerning this a man once said: “Why such reluctance? If you only followed the parables you yourselves would become parables and with that rid yourself of all your daily cares.”

Another said: “I bet that is also a parable.”

The first said: “You have won.”

The second said: “But unfortunately only in parable.”

The first said: “No, in reality: in parable you have lost.”

(Franz Kafka [source])

and:

Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.

(Anne Lamott [source])

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All the Directions of Time

Marc Chagall: 'Clock with Blue Wing' (1949, oil on canvas)

[Image: Clock with Blue Wing, by Marc Chagall (1949, oil on canvas). Translator Susanna Nied identifies this painting as the source or inspiration for Inger Christensen’s poem, below.]

From whiskey river:

A mysterious thing, this branching structure of life: one senses in every past instant a parting of ways, a “thus” and an “otherwise”, with innumerable dazzling zigzags bifurcating and trifurcating against the dark background of the past.

(Vladimir Nabokov [source])

and:

One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer and which in a general way are naturally believed, surmised, and admitted by you, but which you’ll unconsciously deny when it comes to the point of gaining hope or peace from such an admission. In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today, when we may be wiser because we are able to look back upon our former condition, and for that very reason have got to admit the courage of our earlier striving in which we persisted even in sheer ignorance.

(Franz Kafka [source])

and:

If I Stand

If I stand
alone in the snow
it is clear
that I am a clock

how else would eternity
find its way around

(Inger Christensen [source])

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A Conspiracy of Pages

[Etching: “The Hall of Planets,” by Erik Desmazières, #5 in a series of eleven illustrating  an edition of “The Library of Babel,” by Jorges Luis Borges; click to enlarge]

From whiskey river:

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust in them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things — the beauty, the memory of our own past — are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not visited.

(C. S. Lewis, The Weight Of Glory [source])

and:

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy?… Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.

(Franz Kafka [source])

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Best Not to Wait

[Image above, “Don’t Wait for Tomorrow” (original oil on board, 92cm x 122cm),
by Nadeem Chughtai]

From whiskey river:

I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.

(Joan Didion; quoted widely, allegedly from a 1975 commencement address)

…and:

The time allotted to you is so short that if you lose one second you have already lost your whole life, for it is no longer, it is always just as long as the time you lose. So if you have started out on a walk, continue it whatever happens; you can only gain, you run no risk, in the end you may fall over a precipice perhaps, but had you turned back after the first steps and run downstairs you would have fallen at once – and not perhaps, but for certain. So if you find nothing in the corridors open the doors, and if you find nothing behind these doors there are more floors, and if you find nothing up there, don’t worry, just leap up another flight of stairs. As long as you don’t stop climbing, the stairs won’t end, under your climbing feet they will go on growing upwards.

(Franz Kafka, quoted at Memory Green from a work called The Advocates)

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