Seeing (and Knowing It)

'I Know I See You, I Just Don't Know When,' by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

[Image: “I Know I See You, I Just Don’t Know When,” by Thomas Hawk; found on, used here under a Creative Commons license. The photograph shows one view of the Stata building at MIT, designed by Frank Gehry. The building houses various facilities in support of research into computers, information science, intelligence, robotics, and related topics. More in the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river:

There is, in sanest hours, a consciousness, a thought that rises, independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shining eternal. This is the thought of identity—yours for you, whoever you are, as mine for me. Miracle of miracles, beyond statement, most spiritual and vaguest of earth’s dreams, yet hardest basic fact, and only entrance to all facts. In such devout hours, in the midst of the significant wonders of heaven and earth, (significant only because of the Me in the centre) creeds, conventions, fall away and become of no account before this simple idea. Under the luminousness of real vision, it alone takes possession, takes value. Like the shadowy dwarf in the fable, once liberated and look’d upon, it expands over the whole earth, and spreads to the roof of heaven.

(Walt Whitman [source])


It would be an endless battle if it were all up to ego
because it does not destroy and is not destroyed by itself
It is like a wave
it makes itself up; it rushes forward getting nowhere really
it crashes, withdraws and makes itself up again
pulls itself together with pride
towers with pride
rushes forward into imaginary conquest
crashes in frustration
withdraws with remorse and repentance
pulls itself together with new resolution.

(Agnes Martin [source])


To open our eyes, to see with our inner fire and light, is what saves us. Even if it makes us vulnerable. Opening the eyes is the job of storytellers, witnesses, and the keepers of accounts. The stories we know and tell are reservoirs of light and fire that brighten and illuminate the darkness of human night, the unseen.

(Linda Hogan [source])

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A Moment, a Moment Long…

[Image: The Meteor of 1860, by Frederic Edwin Church]

This summer marks the 150th anniversary of a remarkable celestial event: an Earth-grazing meteor procession of interest not just to the scientific world, but to the literary one as well. It wasn’t just notable: it was flat-out forgotten until recently.

First, some definitions:

  • An Earth-grazing meteor is one which enters the Earth’s atmosphere at a shallow angle, and exits the atmosphere a few moments later without actually striking the ground. Of course, during those brief few seconds or minutes, it flares up just like any other fast-moving object from the heavens.
  • The term meteor procession refers to a phenomenon in which an Earth-grazing meteor hits the atmosphere and bursts into fragments, which then become multiple smaller meteors traveling in parallel with one another.

These events are exceedingly rare, countable on the fingers of one hand if you go back several centuries. In fact, the 1860 occurrence had been utterly forgotten until about ten years ago — even though (from all contemporary reports) it was one of the more spectacular. Its very, um, forgottenness created a problem for literary scholars with an OCD bent. To wit: what was Walt Whitman nattering on about in poem #100 of Leaves of Grass, entitled “Year of Meteors, 1859-’60“?

Here’s the relevant passage:

…the comet that came unannounced out of the north,
flaring in heaven;
Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear,
shooting over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long, it sail’d its balls of unearthly light
over our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)

In the upcoming July issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, a physicist (a “forensic astronomer”) explains how he made the connection (thanks to the painting featured at the top of this post) — and “discovered” the 1860 procession. If you don’t want to wait for that issue, you can read about the whole matter here (in an interview at the New Scientist site) and here (Texas State University news service).

I just love stuff like this.

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