Thursday, December 08, 2016

Mood Altering

Yesterday afternoon I was exhausted, crabby and yawning like crazy. "Go get wet, just swim one lap," I told myself. I ended up finding relief and flow in the pool. I stayed for an extensive swim session and left calm energized and cheerful. This amazes me. Swimming is my most mood-altering activity.

Light that left Earth Two Hundred Years Ago

“What an interesting and exciting thought. We may be only one of millions of advanced civilizations. Unfortunately, space being spacious, the average distance between any two of these civilizations is reckoned to be at least two hundred light-years, which is a great deal more than merely saying it makes it sound. It means for a start that even if these beings know we are here and are somehow able to see us in their telescopes, they’re watching light that left Earth two hundred years ago. So they’re not seeing you and me. They’re watching the French Revolution and Thomas Jefferson and people in silk stockings and powdered wigs—people who don’t know what an atom is, or a gene, and who make their electricity by rubbing a rod of amber with a piece of fur and think that’s quite a trick. Any message we receive from them is likely to begin “Dear Sire,” and congratulate us on the handsomeness of our horses and our mastery of whale oil. Two hundred light-years is a distance so far beyond us as to be, well, just beyond us.”
― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

More than Lucky Breaks

“I mention all this to make the point that if you were designing an organism to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going and keep a record of where it has been, you wouldn't choose human beings for the job.

But here's an extremely salient point: we have been chosen, by fate or Providence or whatever you wish to call it. It's an unnerving thought that we may be living the universe's supreme achievement and its worst nightmare simultaneously.

Because we are so remarkably careless about looking after things, both when alive and when not, we have no idea-- really none at all-- about how many things have died off permanently, or may soon, or may never, and what role we have played in any part of the process. In 1979, in the book The Sinking Ark, the author Norman Myers suggested that human activities were causing about two extinctions a week on the planet. By the early 1990s he had raised the figure to about some six hundred per week. (That's extinctions of all types-- plants, insects, and so on as well as animals.) Others have put the figure ever higher-- to well over a thousand a week. A United Nations report of 1995, on the other hand, put the total number of known extinctions in the last four hundred years at slightly under 500 for animals and slightly over 650 for plants-- while allowing that this was "almost certainly an underestimate," particularly with regard to tropical species. A few interpreters think most extinction figures are grossly inflated.

The fact is, we don't know. Don't have any idea. We don't know when we started doing many of the things we've done. We don't know what we are doing right now or how our present actions will affect the future. What we do know is that there is only one planet to do it on, and only one species of being capable of making a considered difference. Edward O. Wilson expressed it with unimprovable brevity in The Diversity of Life: "One planet, one experiment."

If this book has a lesson, it is that we are awfully lucky to be here-- and by "we" I mean every living thing. To attain any kind of life in this universe of ours appears to be quite an achievement. As humans we are doubly lucky, of course: We enjoy not only the privilege of existence but also the singular ability to appreciate it and even, in a multitude of ways, to make it better. It is a talent we have only barely begun to grasp.

We have arrived at this position of eminence in a stunningly short time. Behaviorally modern human beings-- that is, people who can speak and make art and organize complex activities-- have existed for only about 0.0001 percent of Earth's history. But surviving for even that little while has required a nearly endless string of good fortune.
We really are at the beginning of it all. The trick, of course, is to make sure we never find the end. And that, almost certainly, will require a good deal more than lucky breaks.”

― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

Woods

“Woods are not like other spaces. To begin with, they are cubic. Their trees surround you, loom over you, press in from all sides. Woods choke off views & leave you muddled & without bearings. They make you feel small & confused & vulnerable, like a small child lost in a crowd of strange legs. Stand in a desert or prairie & you know you are in a big space. Stand in the woods and you only sense it. They are vast, featureless nowhere. And they are alive.”
― Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Undiffused Light

“It was the kind of pure, undiffused light that can only come from a really hot blue sky, the kind that makes even a concrete highway painful to behold and turns every distant reflective surface into a little glint of flame. Do you know how sometimes on very fine days the sun will shine with a particular intensity that makes the most mundane objects in the landscape glow with an unusual radiance, so that buildings and structures you normally pass without a glance suddenly become arresting, even beautiful? Well, they seem to have that light in Australia nearly all the time.”
― Bill Bryson

I Like it Here

“Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain - which is to say, all of it. Every last bit of it, good and bad - Marmite, village fetes, country lanes, people saying 'mustn't grumble' and 'I'm terribly sorry but', people apologizing to me when I conk them with a nameless elbow, milk in bottles, beans on toast, haymaking in June, stinging nettles, seaside piers, Ordnance Survey maps, crumpets, hot-water bottles as a necessity, drizzly Sundays - every bit of it.

What a wondrous place this was - crazy as fuck, of course, but adorable to the tiniest degree. What other country, after all, could possibly have come up with place names like Tooting Bec and Farleigh Wallop, or a game like cricket that goes on for three days and never seems to start? Who else would think it not the least odd to make their judges wear little mops on their heads, compel the Speaker of the House of Commons to sit on something called the Woolsack, or take pride in a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy? ('Please Hardy, full on the lips, with just a bit of tongue.') What other nation in the world could possibly have given us William Shakespeare, pork pies, Christopher Wren, Windsor Great Park, the Open University, Gardners' Question Time and the chocolate digestive biscuit? None, of course.

How easily we lose sight of all this. What an enigma Britain will seem to historians when they look back on the second half of the twentieth century. Here is a country that fought and won a noble war, dismantled a mighty empire in a generally benign and enlightened way, created a far-seeing welfare state - in short, did nearly everything right - and then spent the rest of the century looking on itself as a chronic failure. The fact is that this is still the best place in the world for most things - to post a letter, go for a walk, watch television, buy a book, venture out for a drink, go to a museum, use the bank, get lost, seek help, or stand on a hillside and take in a view.

All of this came to me in the space of a lingering moment. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I like it here. I like it more than I can tell you.”
― Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island

A Moose

“Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old.”
― Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Bill Bryson

“We used to build civilizations. Now we build shopping malls.”
― Bill Bryson

Cows

“To my mind, the only possible pet is a cow. Cows love you. They will listen to your problems and never ask a thing in return. They will be your friends forever. And when you get tired of them, you can kill and eat them. Perfect.”
― Bill Bryson

Textbook Authors

“There seemed to be a mystifying universal conspiracy among textbook authors to make certain the material they dealt with never strayed too near the realm of the mildly interesting and was always at least a long-distance phone call from the frankly interesting.”
― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

On Foot

“Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.

Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful, really.

You have no engagements, commitments, obligations, or duties; no special ambitions and only the smallest, least complicated of wants; you exist in a tranquil tedium, serenely beyond the reach of exasperation, “far removed from the seats of strife,” as the early explorer and botanist William Bartram put it. All that is required of you is a willingness to trudge.

There is no point in hurrying because you are not actually going anywhere. However far or long you plod, you are always in the same place: in the woods. It’s where you were yesterday, where you will be tomorrow. The woods is one boundless singularity. Every bend in the path presents a prospect indistinguishable from every other, every glimpse into the trees the same tangled mass. For all you know, your route could describe a very large, pointless circle. In a way, it would hardly matter.

At times, you become almost certain that you slabbed this hillside three days ago, crossed this stream yesterday, clambered over this fallen tree at least twice today already. But most of the time you don’t think. No point. Instead, you exist in a kind of mobile Zen mode, your brain like a balloon tethered with string, accompanying but not actually part of the body below. Walking for hours and miles becomes as automatic, as unremarkable, as breathing. At the end of the day you don’t think, “Hey, I did sixteen miles today,” any more than you think, “Hey, I took eight-thousand breaths today.” It’s just what you do.”
― Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Potential Energy

“You may not feel outstandingly robust, but if you are an average-sized adult you will contain within your modest frame no less than 7 X 10^18 joules of potential energy—enough to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”
― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

Physics

“Physics is really nothing more than a search for ultimate simplicity, but so far all we have is a kind of elegant messiness.”
― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

Consider the Fact

“Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth's mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result -- eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly -- in you.”
― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

Real World

“Of all the things I am not very good at, living in the real world is perhaps the most outstanding.”
― Bill Bryson, I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after Twenty Years Away

Easily Enchanted

“I mused for a few moments on the question of which was worse, to lead a life so boring that you are easily enchanted, or a life so full of stimulus that you are easily bored.”
― Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent

Four Bears

“My particular dread--the vivid possibility that left me staring at tree shadows on the bedroom ceiling night after night--was having to lie in a small tent, alone in an inky wilderness, listening to a foraging bear outside and wondering what its intentions were. I was especially riveted by an amateur photograph in Herrero's book, taken late at night by a camper with a flash at a campground out West. The photograph caught four black bears as they puzzled over a suspended food bag. The bears were clearly startled but not remotely alarmed by the flash. It was not the size or demeanor of the bears that troubled me--they looked almost comically nonaggressive, like four guys who had gotten a Frisbee caught up a tree--but their numbers. Up to that moment it had not occurred to me that bears might prowl in parties. What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die, of course.
― Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

“Black bears rarely attack. But here's the thing. Sometimes they do. All bears are agile, cunning and immensely strong, and they are always hungry. If they want to kill you and eat you, they can, and pretty much whenever they want. That doesn't happen often, but - and here is the absolutely salient point - once would be enough.”
― Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Bryson

“I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.”
― Bill Bryson

“The upshot of all this is that we live in a universe whose age we can't quite compute, surrounded by stars whose distances we don't altogether know, filled with matter we can't identify, operating in conformance with physical laws whose properties we don’t truly understand.”
― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

Bill Bryson

“It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of the intoxicating existence we've been endowed with. But what's life to a lichen? Yet its impulse to exist, to be , is every bit as strong as ours-arguably even stronger. If I were told that I had to spend decades being a furry growth on a rock in the woods, I believe I would lose the will to go on. Lichens don't. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult, for a moment's additions existence. Life, in short just wants to be.”
― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

James Thurber: The Dog

“I am not a cat man, but a dog man, and all felines can tell this at a glance - a sharp, vindictive glance.”
― James Thurber

“The dog has seldom been successful in pulling man up to its level of sagacity, but man has frequently dragged the dog down to his.”
― James Thurber

James Thurber

“I’m not an artist. I’m a painstaking writer who doodles for relaxation.”

“The notion that writers of humor are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. … To call such persons ‘humorists,’ a loose-fitting and ugly word, is to miss the nature of their dilemma and the dilemma of their nature. The little wheels of their invention are set in motion by the damp hand of melancholy.”

“Art – the one achievement of man which has made the long trip up from all fours seem well advised”
― James Thurber

“The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself, but in so doing, he identifies himself with people – that is, people everywhere, not for the purpose of taking them apart, but simply revealing their true nature.”
― James Thurber

“All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.”
― James Thurber

“Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.”
― James Thurber

“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around us in awareness.”
― James Thurber

“Why do you have to be a nonconformist like everybody else?”
― James Thurber

“There are two kinds of light - the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.”
― James Thurber

“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”
― James Thurber

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Patience

“The greatest prayer is patience.”
― Gautama Buddha

Rain Kindness

“As rain falls equally on the just and the unjust, do not burden your heart with judgements but rain your kindness equally on all. ”
― Gautama Buddha

Let Go

Swimming and walking are ways for me to think while not trying to think - body thinking. Just like when sleeping, the work happens when I let go.

Humbled

“I am always humbled by the infinite ingenuity of the Lord, who can make a red barn cast a blue shadow.”
― E.B. White

Responsible Translation

“As a writing man, or secretary, I have always felt charged with the safekeeping of all unexpected items of worldly and unworldly enchantment, as though I might be held personally responsible if even a small one were to be lost.”
― E.B. White

“Remember that writing is translation, and the opus to be translated is yourself.”
― E.B. White

E.B. White

“The so-called science of poll-taking is not a science at all but mere necromancy. People are unpredictable by nature, and although you can take a nation's pulse, you can't be sure that the nation hasn't just run up a flight of stairs, and although you can take a nation's blood pressure, you can't be sure that if you came back in twenty minutes you'd get the same reading. This is a damn fine thing.”
― E.B. White, Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976

“A despot doesn't fear eloquent writers preaching freedom-he fears a drunken poet may crack a joke that will take hold.”
― E.B. White

An Editor

“An editor is a person who knows more about writing than writers do but who has escaped the terrible desire to write.”
― E.B. White

E.B. White

“We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or doing laundry.”
― E.B. White

E.B. White

“In a free country it is the duty of writers to pay no attention to duty. Only under a dictatorship is literature expected to exhibit an harmonious design or an inspirational tone.”
― E.B. White

E.B. White

“There is nothing harder to estimate than a writer's time, nothing harder to keep track of. There are moments—moments of sustained creation—when his time is fairly valuable; and there are hours and hours when a writer's time isn't worth the paper he is not writing anything on.”
― E.B. White, One Man's Meat

The City

“A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive.”
― E.B. White, Here Is New York

Wing Shots

“The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in the blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare something up.”
― E.B. White, The Elements of Style

Bright Sound

“The young writer should learn to spot them: words that at first glance seem freighted with delicious meaning, but that soon burst in the air, leaving nothing but a memory of bright sound.”
― E.B. White

E.B. White

“Safety is all well and good: I prefer freedom.”
― E.B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan

E.B. White

“Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed. ”
― E.B. White

E.B. White

“Writing is both mask and unveiling.”
― E.B. White

“I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.”
― E.B. White

“Be obscure clearly! Be wild of tongue in a way we can understand.”
― E.B. White

“I see nothing in space as promising as the view from a Ferris wheel.”
― E.B. White, The Points Of My Compass

E.B. White

“I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively, instead of skeptically and dictatorially.”
― E.B. White

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.”
― E.B. White, Letters of E. B. White

Sylvia

Sylvia loved the unexpected. She put a bunch of words in her straw hat, each written on a scrap of paper. "You close your eyes and scramble them with your fingers. Then you take them out like this and arrange them in a sequence. I don't want power, my dear, I am fulfilled by my crazy imagination." She shuffled the scraps of paper a few more times. "What a perfect thing to do on a cold and dreary day. Random acts of eloquence."

Word Gourmets

They were the word gourmets. They had weekly word-tastings. It was the sound, taste, and feel of the words that determined the direction of their society. The meanings came much later.

Fear and Solace

“He found solace in what he wrote. It was an attempt to discover who he was at the moment.”
― Brian Krans, A Constant Suicide

“Fear is the thief of dreams.”
― Brian Krans, A Constant Suicide

E.B. White

“A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people - people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book."

[Letters of Note; Troy (MI, USA) Public Library, 1971]”
― E.B. White

Distorts

“Thought is so cunning, so clever, that it distorts everything for its own convenience.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known

The Wandering, The Distraction

“Follow the wandering, the distraction, find out why the mind has wandered; pursue it, go into it fully. When the distraction is completely understood, then that particular distraction is gone. When another comes, pursue it also. ”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti

One Question

“You know, if we understand one question rightly, all questions are answered. But we don't know how to ask the right question. To ask the right question demands a great deal of intelligence and sensitivity. Here is a question, a fundamental question: is life a torture? It is, as it is; and man has lived in this torture centuries upon centuries, from ancient history to the present day, in agony, in despair, in sorrow; and he doesn't find a way out of it. Therefore he invents gods, churches, all the rituals, and all that nonsense, or he escapes in different ways. What we are trying to do, during all these discussions and talks here, is to see if we cannot radically bring about a transformation of the mind, not accept things as they are, nor revolt against them. Revolt doesn't answer a thing. You must understand it, go into it, examine it, give your heart and your mind, with everything that you have, to find out a way of living differently. That depends on you, and not on someone else, because in this there is no teacher, no pupil; there is no leader; there is no guru; there is no Master, no Saviour. You yourself are the teacher and the pupil; you are the Master; you are the guru; you are the leader; you are everything. And to understand is to transform what is.

I think that will be enough, won't it?”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti

“The ending of sorrow is the beginning of wisdom. Knowledge is always within the shadow of ignorance. Meditation is freedom from thought and a movement in the ecstasy of truth. Meditation is explosion of intelligence.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti

“We carry about us the burden of what thousands of people have said and the memories of all our misfortunes. To abandon all that is to be alone, and the mind that is alone is not only innocent but young -- not in time or age, but young, innocent, alive at whatever age -- and only such a mind can see that which is truth and that which is not measurable by words.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti

Jiddu Krishnamurti

“When I understand myself, I understand you, and out of that understanding comes love. Love is the missing factor; there is a lack of affection, of warmth in relationship; and because we lack that love, that tenderness, that generosity, that mercy in relationship, we escape into mass action which produces further confusion, further misery. We fill our hearts with blueprints for world reform and do not look to that one resolving factor which is love.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti

“The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end - you don't come to an achievement, you don't come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti

“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti

“If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti

“It is truth that liberates, not your effort to be free.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti, The First and Last Freedom

To the Trees

“If you reveal your secrets to the wind,
you should not blame the wind for
revealing them to the trees.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Wanderer

Attitude

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”
― Kahlil Gibran

Joy and Sorrow

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding... And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy.”
― Kahlil Gibran

“You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

“We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.”
― Kahlil Gibran

High Tide, Low Tide

“The feelings we live through
in love and in loneliness
are simply, for us,
what high tide
and low tide are to the sea.”
― Kahlil Gibran, Love Letters in the Sand: The Love Poems of Khalil Gibran

Gibran

“Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Kalil Gibran

“To measure you by your smallest deed
is to reckon the ocean by the frailty of its foam.
To judge you by your failures
is to cast blame upon the seasons
for their inconsistencies.”
― Kahlil Gibran

Spaces

“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don't, they never were.”
― Kahlil Gibran

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Light in the Heart

“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.”
― Kahlil Gibran

Gibran

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”
― Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran

“Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

“We are all like the bright moon, we still have our darker side.”
― Kahlil Gibran

Trees are Poems

“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.”
― Kahlil Gibran

Rilke

“We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Translations from the Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke


“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Love the Questions

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Guardian of Solitude

“The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Rainer Maria Rilke

“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away... and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast.... be happy about your growth, in which of course you can't take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don't torment them with your doubts and don't frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn't be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn't necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust.... and don't expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Rosemarie Urquico

“You should date a girl who reads.
Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.”

― Rosemarie Urquico

Dreamer

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

Rilke

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Too Strong to Stop, Too Sweet to Lose

“Let your fiction grow out of the land beneath your feet.”
― Willa Cather

“What was any art but a mold to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself- life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.”
― Willa Cather

“Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness. The stupid believe that to be truthful is easy; only the artist, the great artist, knows how difficult it is.”
― Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark

“Success is never so interesting as struggle.”
― Willa Cather

“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”
― Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark

Great Love

“Where there is great love, there are always miracles.”
― Willa Cather

Willa Cather

“I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.”
― Willa Cather, My Ántonia

Trees

“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do. I feel as if this tree knows everything I ever think of when I sit here. When I come back to it, I never have to remind it of anything; I begin just where I left off.”
― Willa Cather, O Pioneers!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Tony Schwartz Article

The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.

[...]

“To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”

[...]

Along the way, I learned that it’s not how long, but how well, you renew that matters most in terms of performance. Even renewal requires practice. The more rapidly and deeply I learned to quiet my mind and relax my body, the more restored I felt afterward. For one of the breaks, I ran. This generated mental and emotional renewal, but also turned out to be a time in which some of my best ideas came to me, unbidden. Writing just four and half hours a day, I completed both books in less than six months and spent my afternoons on less demanding work.
-Tony Schwartz

Article

Henrik Ibsen

“The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That's one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population -- the intelligent ones or the fools?”
― Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People

“To live is to war with trolls in heart and soul.
To write is to sit in judgement on oneself.”
― Henrik Ibsen, Peer Gynt

“The strongest men are the most alone.”
― Henrik Ibsen

“Money may be the husk of many things but not the kernel. It brings you food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; acquaintance, but not friends; servants, but not loyalty; days of joy, but not peace or happiness.”
― Henrik Ibsen

“It's not only what we have inherited from our father and mother that walks in us. It's all sorts of dead ideas, and lifeless old beliefs, and so forth. They have no vitality, but they cling to us all the same, and we can't get rid of them.”
― Henrik Ibsen, Ghosts

“It is the very mark of the spirit of rebellion to crave for happiness in this life”
― Henrik Ibsen, Ghosts

“It’s a release to know that in spite of everything a premeditated act of courage is still possible.”
― Henrik Ibsen, Hedda Gabler

George Orwell

“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”
― George Orwell, 1984

George Orwell

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
― George Orwell, 1984

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
― George Orwell

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
― George Orwell

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”
― George Orwell, 1984

Upton Sinclair

“The great corporation which employed you lied to you, and lied to the whole country—from top to bottom it was nothing but one gigantic lie.”
― Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

Jiddu Krishnamurti

“Governments want efficient technicians, not human beings, because human beings become dangerous to governments – and to organized religions as well. That is why governments and religious organizations seek to control education.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti, Education and the Significance of Life

Wendell Berry

The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth. This alignment destroys the commonwealth - that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community - and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means.”
― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Thomas Jefferson

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”
― Thomas Jefferson, Letters of Thomas Jefferson

North Dakota Pipeline Is Blocked, Veterans at Standing Rock Cheer

“A lot of people here are willing to sacrifice their body, willing to give their life,” said Vincent Emanuele, 32, a former Marine who served in Iraq and has spoken out extensively against what he called a futile war. “You might as well die for something that means something.”

Others said they did not care much about politics and had never joined a protest. But they said they had been moved by the tribe’s fight to block a crucial section of the 1,170-mile pipeline. Or they said they were angry at seeing images of violent clashes between lines of law enforcement and Native Americans.

“I just couldn’t believe what was happening in the United States,” Mr. Brocar, 44, said. “Even in Iraq, there was some rule of engagement. If these guys don’t have weapons, it just doesn’t make sense to me that it’s a shooting gallery.”

Article

Raynaud's Syndrome

Regular physical exercise, while good for everyone’s well-being, is said to be especially helpful for those with primary Raynaud’s. Any activity that increases heart rate fosters circulation of warm blood to the extremities.
Article

Dream

I was in Jamestown with Bill and Lily. Lily chased a yellow tennis ball into a quarry. I jumped in with her. Then I had to figure out how to get us out. There was a slab of rocks on one side so we clambered up. I was surprised to find my paintings on top of the rocks leftover from a Jamestown art show. They were exposed to the elements, getting ruined.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Suicides Rise in the Spring and Summer

There's a myth that more suicides occur during the holidays but the data demonstrates that the incidents of suicides rise during the spring and summer.
Article

Leftover Everything Soup

Vegetable stock and a crazy improvisational streak are the secrets to a great soup. I had a jar of stock from last weeks pressure cooked vegetables. I opened the freezer and found two containers of leftover beans and vegetables dating back to January. So I decided to add the stock to the blocks of frozen glop and throw in freshly chopped onions, celery and carrots and leftover green peppers. The soup is simmering in my crock pot. I just tasted it and it's delicious.

Brenda Ueland

“When Van Gogh was a young man in his early twenties, he was in London studying to be a clergyman. He had no thought of being an artist at all. he sat in his cheap little room writing a letter to his younger brother in Holland, whom he loved very much. He looked out his window at a watery twilight, a thin lampost, a star, and he said in his letter something like this: "it is so beautiful I must show you how it looks." And then on his cheap ruled note paper, he made the most beautiful, tender, little drawing of it.

When I read this letter of Van Gogh's it comforted me very much and seemed to throw a clear light on the whole road of Art. Before, I thought that to produce a work of painting or literature, you scowled and thought long and ponderously and weighed everything solemnly and learned everything that all artists had ever done aforetime, and what their influences and schools were, and you were extremely careful about *design* and *balance* and getting *interesting planes* into your painting, and avoided, with the most astringent severity, showing the faintest *acedemical* tendency, and were strictly modern. And so on and so on.

But the moment I read Van Gogh's letter I knew what art was, and the creative impulse. It is a feeling of love and enthusiasm for something, and in a direct, simple, passionate and true way, you try to show this beauty in things to others, by drawing it.

And Van Gogh's little drawing on the cheap note paper was a work of art because he loved the sky and the frail lamppost against it so seriously that he made the drawing with the most exquisite conscientiousness and care. ”
― Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

Drawing

“Drawing makes you see things clearer, and clearer, and clearer still. The image is passing through you in a physiological way, into your brain, into your memory - where it stays - it's transmitted by your hands.”
― Martin Gayford, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney

“There are no bad drawings.
Drawings are experiences.
The more you draw, the more experienced you'll get.
In fact, you'll learn more from bad or unpredictable or weird experiences than from those that go exactly as you'd hoped and planned.
So let it go.
Release your ego's desire for perfection.
Take risks.
Stretch.
Grow.
Create as much as you can, whenever you can.”
― Danny Gregory, The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be The Artist You Truly Are

Eyes Fastened With Pins by Charles Simic

How much death works,
No one knows what a long
Day he puts in. The little
Wife always alone
Ironing death's laundry.
The beautiful daughters
Setting death's supper table.
The neighbors playing
Pinochle in the backyard
Or just sitting on the steps
Drinking beer. Death,
Meanwhile, in a strange
Part of town looking for
Someone with a bad cough,
But the address somehow wrong,
Even death can't figure it out
Among all the locked doors...
And the rain beginning to fall.
Long windy night ahead.
Death with not even a newspaper
To cover his head, not even
A dime to call the one pining away,
Undressing slowly, sleepily,
And stretching naked
On death's side of the bed.

- Charles Simic

Errata by Charles Simic

Where it says snow
read teeth-marks of a virgin
Where it says knife read
you passed through my bones
like a police-whistle
Where it says table read horse
Where it says horse read my migrant's bundle
Apples are to remain apples
Each time a hat appears
think of Isaac Newton
reading the Old Testament
Remove all periods
They are scars made by words
I couldn't bring myself to say
Put a finger over each sunrise
it will blind you otherwise
That damn ant is still stirring
Will there be time left to list
all errors to replace
all hands guns owls plates
all cigars ponds woods and reach
that beer-bottle my greatest mistake
the word I allowed to be written
when I should have shouted
her name

- Charles Simic

Empire of Dreams by Charles Simic

On the first page of my dreambook
It's always evening
In an occupied country.
Hour before the curfew.
A small provincial city.
The houses all dark.
The storefronts gutted.

I am on a street corner
Where I shouldn't be.
Alone and coatless
I have gone out to look
For a black dog who answers to my whistle.
I have a kind of Halloween mask
Which I am afraid to put on.

-Charles Simic

Simic Poem

Margaret was copying a recipe for "saints roasted with onions" from an old cookbook. The ten thousand sounds of the world were hushed so we could hear the scratching of her pen. The saint was asleep in the bedroom with a wet cloth over his eyes. Outside the window, the owner of the book sat in a flowering apple tree killing lice between his fingernails.
- Charles Simic

Only Poetry

“Only poetry can measure the distance between ourselves and the Other.”
― Charles Simic

Charles Simic

“A poem is an invitation to a voyage. As in life, we travel to see fresh sights.”
― Charles Simic

Charles Simic

“Making art in America is about saving one's soul.”
― Charles Simic, Dime-Store Alchemy

Charles Simic

“The plain truth is we are going to die. Here I am, a teeny spec surrounded by boundless space and time, arguing with the whole of creation, shaking my fist, sputtering, growing even eloquent at times, and then-poof! I am gone. Swept off once and for all. I think that is very, very funny.”
― Charles Simic

Simic

“While you sit
Like a rain puddle in hell
Knitting the socks
Of your life.”
― Charles Simic

Awe and Mystery

“Silence is the only language god speaks.”
― Charles Simic, Dime-Store Alchemy

“If I believe in anything, it is in the dark night of the soul. Awe is my religion, and mystery is its church.”
― Charles Simic

Charles Simic

“If the sky falls they shall have clouds for supper.”
― Charles Simic, The World Doesn't End: Prose Poems

Charles Simic

“One writes because one has been touched by the yearning for and the despair of ever touching the Other.”
― Charles Simic, The Unemployed Fortune-Teller: Essays and Memoirs

“When people ask me how to find happiness in life I tell them, First learn how to cook.”
― Charles Simic

Stephen King

“Love didn’t grow very well in a place where there was only fear.”
- Stephen King

Stephen King

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to makes speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

“And people who don’t dream, who don’t have any kind of imaginative life, they must… they must go nuts. I can’t imagine that.”

“If a fear cannot be articulated, it can’t be conquered.”

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy. …this book…is a permission slip: you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”

-Stephen King

J.B. Priestly

“Much of writing might be described as mental pregnancy with successive difficult deliveries.”
- J.B. Priestly

J.B. Priestly

“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.”
― J.B. Priestley

J.B. Priestly

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?
- J.B. Priestley

H.L. Mencken

The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.
- H.L. Mencken

I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.
- H.L. Mencken

Nadya Tolokonnikova

When there is no truth, invasions are “liberations” and internment camps are “relocation centers.”

But, as Ms. Tolokonnikova said, “There is always a way if you really want to tell the truth.”

Article

Lincolnesque

“If Lincoln freed the slaves and preserved the Union, how come
'Lincolnesque' just means tall?”
― Calvin Trillin, Enough's Enough

A Chorus of Turning Worms

“Do my ears deceive me, or can I actually hear the sounds of worms turning? You say a turning worm makes no sound? But how about a chorus of turning worms?”
― Calvin Trillin, Too Soon To Tell

Dream

I dreamed that my friend Sally was going to be testifying in a big trial.
"Don't you want to change your hair or change your name to protect yourself," I asked.

Audacity

We've gone from Obama's Audacity of Hope to sheer audacity.

au·dac·i·ty
ôˈdasədē/
noun
noun: audacity

1.
the willingness to take bold risks.
"her audacity came in handy during our most recent emergency"
synonyms: boldness, daring, fearlessness, intrepidity, bravery, courage, heroism, pluck, grit; More
recklessness;
spirit, mettle;
informal guts, gutsiness, spunk, moxie
"a traveler of extraordinary audacity"
2.
rude or disrespectful behavior; impudence.
"she had the audacity to pick up the receiver and ask me to hang up"
synonyms: impudence, impertinence, insolence, presumption, cheek, bad manners, effrontery, nerve, gall, defiance, temerity; informal chutzpah, sass
"he had the audacity to contradict me"

Joan Didion

“I don't know what I think until I write it down.”
― Joan Didion

Moral Nerve

“People with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called *character,* a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to the other, more instantly negotiable virtues.... character--the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life--is the source from which self-respect springs.”
― Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

In Love with the City

“...quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage.”
― Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Place

“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.”
― Joan Didion

Joan Didion

“The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle. Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.”
― Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Joan Didion

“To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves--there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.”
― Joan Didion

Find Out

“I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
― Joan Didion

Joan Didion

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
― Joan Didion, The White Album

Joan Didion

“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

John Berendt

“Keep a diary, but don't just list all the things you did during the day. Pick one incident and write it up as a brief vignette. Give it color, include quotes and dialogue, shape it like a story with a beginning, middle and end—as if it were a short story or an episode in a novel. It's great practice. Do this while figuring out what you want to write a book about. The book may even emerge from within this running diary.”
― John Berendt

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Daniel Asa Rose

“Why do human beings do that to one another? Just when you think you’ve got everyone squared away in his or her little pigeonhole–this one’s pug-nosed, that one’s square-assed–they jump out and turn beautiful on you.”
-Daniel Asa Rose, Larry's Kidney

I Tell Fellow Swimmers

I tell fellow swimmers that swimming is my hydro-psychotherapy and that I am an endorphin dolphin.

Friday, December 02, 2016

How Are You?

"Are you okay," I asked an old woman walking towards me on the sidewalk. She was using a walker and struggling to close her purse.
"No, the doctor says I might have flesh-eating disease and my leg might have to be amputated."
"Do you have diabetes?" I asked.
"Yes," she said. "I told him about the sore on my leg the last time I saw him but he says I didn't, but I am sure I mentioned it."
"I'm sorry. Take it slow, one day at a time."
~

"Hi Heather, how are you?" I asked.
"Not too bad. Today my divorce is finalized," she said.
"Congratulations."
"My friends told me to fight for the house but I wasn't going to do that. My husband had his house before he met me."
"You did the right thing."
"My eight year old son lives there, we have shared custody but I wasn't going to jeopardize him."
"Good for you, you have to be who you are. And you are honorable," I said.
"Apparently, I have a heart. The gypsy woman who held me when I was a baby told my mother 'She will grow up to be beautiful and very smart.'"
"She was right," I said, noticing that her big blue eyes filled her face.
"My mother had my I.Q. tested and it's very high. I mean I'm not a genius or anything but it's high," she said. "Hey, I suffered a lot to bring my son into this world. I hemorrhaged for weeks and had to stay in bed. Then he was born 16 weeks early. He was one pound, eleven ounces. He had to be hooked up to all kinds of monitors and people glared at me like it was my fault," she said.
"People are ignorant and frightened," I said.
~

"Hi Carl, good to see you. You look good," I said.
"I eat well," he said.
"Do you love to cook?"
"I love to cook, eat, and I LOVE to shop. Let me say that again. I love to shop, eat, and cook. At 6:30 AM yesterday I was on the bus to Walmart and then she (pointing into space) gave me a lift to Wilfred's and I bought little necks and quahogs, and then I went to the Dollar Store. I have all of my places that I go. I steamed up the little necks for breakfast and ate them and then I made a red chowder with the quahogs. I've got four containers in my freezer along with beef stew I made and chicken soup."
"You know how to take good care of yourself," I said.
"I come from a big Italian family. That's what we do. Hey, you have a nice Christmas," he said hugging Lily-dog.
"Thank you, you too!"

True Stories

It is important to have true stories. One of my students had been told stories about her birth. "My ear was mangled and had to be rebuilt," she said. Her ear was perfectly normal with zero scars. She had a collection of incorrect stories about her body. This caught my attention because I had this too, growing up. Finding the truth about my story was grounding and important, no matter how painful. The desire for truth was like gravity, always pushing on me.

Wendell Berry

The term “imagination” in what I take to be its truest sense refers to a mental faculty that some people have used and thought about with the utmost seriousness. The sense of the verb “to imagine” contains the full richness of the verb “to see.” To imagine is to see most clearly, familiarly, and understandingly with the eyes, but also to see inwardly, with “the mind’s eye.” It is to see, not passively, but with a force of vision and even with visionary force. To take it seriously we must give up at once any notion that imagination is disconnected from reality or truth or knowledge. It has nothing to do either with clever imitation of appearances or with “dreaming up.” It does not depend upon one’s attitude or point of view, but grasps securely the qualities of things seen or envisioned.

I will say, from my own belief and experience, that imagination thrives on contact, on tangible connection. For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it. To have a place, to live and belong in a place, to live from a place without destroying it, we must imagine it. By imagination we see it illuminated by its own unique character and by our love for it. By imagination we recognize with sympathy the fellow members, human and nonhuman, with whom we share our place. By that local experience we see the need to grant a sort of preemptive sympathy to all the fellow members, the neighbors, with whom we share the world. As imagination enables sympathy, sympathy enables affection. And it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy.

Obviously there is some risk in making affection the pivot of an argument about economy. The charge will be made that affection is an emotion, merely “subjective,” and therefore that all affections are more or less equal: people may have affection for their children and their automobiles, their neighbors and their weapons. But the risk, I think, is only that affection is personal. If it is not personal, it is nothing; we don’t, at least, have to worry about governmental or corporate affection. And one of the endeavors of human cultures, from the beginning, has been to qualify and direct the influence of emotion. The word “affection” and the terms of value that cluster around it—love, care, sympathy, mercy, forbearance, respect, reverence—have histories and meanings that raise the issue of worth. We should, as our culture has warned us over and over again, give our affection to things that are true, just, and beautiful. When we give affection to things that are destructive, we are wrong. A large machine in a large, toxic, eroded cornfield is not, properly speaking, an object or a sign of affection.
- Wendell Berry
Lecture

Terri Windling

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May Sarton

"It is only when we can believe we are creating the soul that life has any meaning, but when we can believe it -- and I do and always have -- then there is nothing we do that is without meaning and nothing we suffer that does not hold the seed of creation in it. I have become convinced since that horrible review (unimportant in itself) that it is a message, however deviously presented, to tell me I have been overconcerned with the materialistic aspects of bringing out this novel, the dangerous hope that it become a best seller, or that, for once, I might get a leg up from the critics, the establishment, and not have once more to see the work itself stand alone and make its way, heart by heart, as it is discovered by a few people with all the excitement of a person who finds a wildflower in the woods that he has discovered on his own.

"From my isolation to the isolation of someone somewhere who will find my work there exists a true communion. I have not lacked it these last years and it is a blessing. It is free of 'ambition' and it 'makes the world go away,' as the popular song says. That is what I can hope for and I must hope for nothing more and nothing less.

"Thinking of writers I cherish -- Traherne, George Herbert, Simone Weil, and the novelists Turgenev, Trollope, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, all of them modest, private, 'self-actualizers' -- I see that they are all outside the main stream of what is expected now. The moderate human voice, what might be called 'the human milieu' -- this is supremely unfashionable and appears even to be irrelevant. But there have always been and will always be people who can breathe only there and who are starved for nourishment.

"I am one of those readers and I am also one who can occasionally provide this food. That is all that really matters to me this morning."

- May Sarton's Journal of Solitude (pg 67)

May Sarton

I have been thinking about the fact that, however terrible the storms may be, if one's life has a sufficiently stable and fruitful structure, one is helped to withstand their devastating aftereffects. For most people their job does this--provides a saving routine in times of stress. I have to create my own to survive.
May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude, p84

Wave Back, A Love Story

I never expected that I would fall in love with a city. And I mean all of it, including parking lots, garbage trucks and potholes. But what got me interested were the kind humans that roam and populate our village. The love is palpable. Where else can you wave to all of the public works guys and they will always wave back.

Lev Grossman

“It didn't matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home.”
― Lev Grossman, The Magician's Land

Matt Posner

“Just having a certain kind of attitude can be magic.”
― Matt Posner, The Ghost in the Crystal

Lev Grossman

“An elephant fell off a cliff, a copper cliff, which practically broke my heart. Elephants and gravity, not a great mix. But you know what? The other elephants immediately stopped and went down and found what was left of it and stood around it in a ring. I couldn't see what they did, but when they were done - it took a day - the one that fell was all back together and up and running again. They resurrected him, I've never seen anything like it. Elephants, they know some shit. I don't know why we rule them, they should rule us.”
― Lev Grossman, The Magician's Land

Karl Germain

“Magic is the only honest profession. A magician promises to deceive you and he does.”
― Karl Germain

Dream

I dreamed that the man who will be president, opened up a refrigerator and it was filled with heads, standing up on their necks, all duplicates of himself.

George Saunders

“Fiction is a kind of compassion-generating machine that saves us from sloth. Is life kind or cruel? Yes, Literature answers. Are people good or bad? You bet, says Literature. But unlike other systems of knowing, Literature declines to eradicate one truth in favor of another; rather, it teaches us to abide with the fact that, in their own way, all things are true, and helps us, in the face of this terrifying knowledge, continually push ourselves in the direction of Open the Hell Up.”
― George Saunders

“Now I began to understand art as a kind of black box the reader enters. He enters in one state of mind and exits in another. The writer gets no points just because what's inside the box bears some linear resemblance to "real life" -- he can put whatever he wants in there. What's important is that something undeniable and nontrivial happens to the reader between entry and exit.”
― George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone

George Saunders: Stories

It is even more urgent that we learn to look passionately and technically at stories, if only to protect ourselves from the false and manipulative ones being circulated among us.”
― George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone

George Saunders

“Don't be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.”
― George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone

“That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality–your soul, if you will–is as bright and shining as any that has ever been....Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.”
― George Saunders