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])

…and:

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])

[Read more…]

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Of Double Dactyls, Electric Velocipedes, and Hedgehogs

Check out this TED video, of lexicographer Erin McKean (note the “View Subtitles” button — an option I wish were available everywhere, for obvious reasons):

Cool, huh?

Especially given that two years later, her new online super-duper improved version of the dictionary concept is actually online now. It’s called WordNik, and it’s very interesting.

I went to the WordNik site, and entered the word touchstone into the blank field. Here are some of the things I found out:

  • I got four examples of the word’s use in a sentence, drawn from Project Gutenberg texts of public-domain works. For instance:

    To answer this, we must consider the argument for conceivability as the touchstone which is to separate the “Knowable” from the “Unknowable.” The Arena Volume 4, No. 19, June, 1891

  • The original, non-metaphorical meaning (per the American Heritage Dictionary) was: “A hard black stone, such as jasper or basalt, formerly used to test the quality of gold or silver by comparing the streak left on the stone by one of these metals with that of a standard alloy.”
  • The word had shown up in Twitter tweets twice (ha!) within the previous 20(ish) minutes.
  • My favorite, this image showing the word’s popularity over time:
    (The caption under the image explains, “Bubble size: how much this word was used in a year. Bubble height: unusualness in that year.”)

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. But this sort of thing isn’t just fun and cool; it feels like a leap, y’know?

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