Sunday, October 25, 2020

Joy is a function of Focus

Choose joy. Choose it like a child chooses the shoe to put on the right foot, the crayon to paint a sky. 

Choose it at first consciously, effortfully, pressing against the weight of a world heavy with reasons for sorrow, restless with need for action. Feel the sorrow, take the action, but keep pressing the weight of joy against it all, until it becomes mindless, automated, like gravity pulling the stream down its course; until it becomes an inner law of nature. 

If Viktor Frankl can exclaim “yes to life, in spite of everything!” — and what an everything he lived through — then so can any one of us amid the rubble of our plans, so trifling by comparison. 

Joy is not a function of a life free of friction and frustration, but a function of focus — an inner elevation by the fulcrum of choice. 

So often, it is a matter of attending to what Hermann Hesse called, as the world was about to come unworlded by its first global war, “the little joys”; so often, those are the slender threads of which we weave the lifeline that saves us.

Delight in the age-salted man on the street corner waiting for the light to change, his age-salted dog beside him, each inclined toward the other with the angular subtlety of absolute devotion.

Delight in the little girl zooming past you on her little bicycle, this fierce emissary of the future, rainbow tassels waving from her handlebars and a hundred beaded braids spilling from her golden helmet.

Delight in the snail taking an afternoon to traverse the abyssal crack in the sidewalk for the sake of pasturing on a single blade of grass.

Delight in the tiny new leaf, so shy and so shamelessly lush, unfurling from the crooked stem of the parched geranium.

I think often of this verse from Jane Hirshfield’s splendid poem 

“The Weighing”

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

Yes, except we furnish both the grains and the scales. I alone can weigh the blue of my sky, you of yours.

From here thanks to Maria Popova

Thursday, September 17, 2020

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be angry

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be angry.
Anger seems reasonable. But perhaps
we will do what I’ve heard the Inuit do—
spend the emotion on walking, walk a line
until all the anger has left our bodies.

The moment the Inuit notice the anger is gone,
replaced, perhaps, by sadness or fear,
compassion or just a quietness,
they mark that spot with an object
to show the extent of their anger.

And perhaps, if we’re lucky, when we walk
this way, it will be a long enough walk
that we arrive at each other’s doors,
object in hand, and when the object

leaves our grip, we’ll be able to use our hands
to greet each other, touch each other’s faces,
point to the horizon to all the other places
we might choose to walk now together.

Rosemerry Trommer

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The best is not destroyed, although forever threatened

 The Good

The good are vulnerable
As any bird in flight,

They do not think of safety,
Are blind to possible extinction
And when most vulnerable
Are most themselves.

The good are real as the sun,
Are best perceived through clouds
Of casual corruption
That cannot kill the luminous sufficiency
That shines on city, sea and wilderness,

Fastidiously revealing
One man to another,
Who yet will not accept
Responsibilities of light.

The good incline to praise,
To have the knack of seeing that
The best is not destroyed
Although forever threatened.

The good go naked in all weathers,
And by their nakedness rebuke
The small protective sanities
That hide men from themselves.

The good are difficult to see
Though open, rare, destructible;
Always, they retain a kind of youth,
The vulnerable grace
Of any bird in flight,

Content to be itself,
Accomplished master and potential victim,
Accepting what the earth or sky intends.

I think that I know one or two
Among my friends.

Brendan Kennelly

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

You must be the thing you see

After the red Gulmohars of summer, the pink/purple/violet Bauhinias are here, announcing August.

To Look at Any Thing

To look at any thing,
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long:

To look at this green and say,
"I have seen spring in these
Woods," will not do - you must
Be the thing you see:

You must be the dark snakes of
Stems and ferny plumes of leaves,
You must enter in
To the small silences between
The leaves,

You must take your time
And touch the very peace
They issue from.

John Moffitt

Monday, June 8, 2020

I must be the sun


On a gray day, when the sun
has been abducted, and it’s chill
end-of-the-world weather,
I must be the sun.

I must be the one
to encourage the young
sidetracked physicist
working his father’s cash register
to come up with a law of nature
that says brain waves can change
the dismal sky.  I must be the one

to remind the ginger plant
not to rest on the reputation
of its pungent roots, but to unveil
those buttery tendrils from the other world.

When the sky is an iron lid
I must be the one to simmer
in the piquant juices of possibility,
though the ingredients are unknown
and the day begins with a yawn.

I must issue forth a warmth
without discrimination, and any guarantee
it will come back to me.

On a dark day I must be willing
to keep my disposition light,
I have to be at the very least
one stray intact ray
of local energy, one small
but critical fraction
of illumination.  Even on a day

that doesn’t look gray
but still lacks comfort or sense,
I have to be the sun,
I have to shine as if
sorry life itself depended on it.

I have to make all the difference.

Thomas Centolella

Views from along the Middle Way (yet to read)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

But some bonuses, like morning


It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could, you know. That's why we wake
and look out -- no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

William Stafford, 'The Way It Is'

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Every town our home town

Every town our home town
Kaniyan Poongunranar [Sangam Period, 3rd century BC to 4th century AD]

​​"Every town our home town
every man, a kinsman
Good and evil do not come from others
Pain and relief of pain come of themselves

Dying is nothing new
We do not rejoice that life is sweet
nor in anger​​
call it bitter

Our lives, however dear,
follow their own course,
rafts drifting
in the rapids of a great river
sounding and dashing over rocks
after a downpour
from skies slashed by lightnings -

We know this from the vision
of men who see,
We are not amazed by the great
and we do not scorn the little."

Translated by A K Ramanujan: "Poems of Love and War: From the Eight
Anthologies and the Ten Long Poems of Classical Tamil"

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Cinnamon Peeler

If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbor to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler’s wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
— your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers…

When we swam once
I touched you in water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grasscutter’s wife, the lime burner’s daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume.
and knew
what good is it
to be the lime burner’s daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in an act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler’s wife. Smell me.

Michael Ondaatje

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

We must travel on our knees

Watching the Jet Planes Dive

We must go back and find a trail on the ground
back of the forest and mountain on the slow land;
we must begin to circle on the intricate sod.
By such wild beginnings without help we may find
the small trail on through the buffalo-bean vines.

We must go back with noses and the palms of our hands,
and climb over the map in far places, everywhere,
and lie down whenever there is doubt and sleep there.
If roads are unconnected we must make a path,
no matter how far it is, or how lowly we arrive.

We must find something forgotten by everyone alive,
and make some fabulous gesture when the sun goes down
as they do by custom in little Mexico towns
where they crawl for some ritual up a rocky steep.
The jet planes dive; we must travel on our knees.

William Stafford, 'Ask Me'

Sunday, March 22, 2020

We thought we were beggars, we thought we had nothing at all

We thought we were beggars, we thought we had nothing at all

But then when we started to lose one thing after another,
Each day became
A memorial day --

And then we made songs
Of great divine generosity
And of our former riches.

Anna Akhmatova, tr. Ilya Shambat

Thank you, Joanne Zeni. I first read Anna Akhmatova in my twenties. The fiery Russian poet whopassed away in 1966. It feels like something written now...

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The first sign of civilization

"Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.

But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.

'A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts', Mead said.

Ira Byock

Thanks, Kabir.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Gratitude arises from paying attention

Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not necessarily something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a-priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life

....Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness. We sit at the table as part of every other person’s strange world while making our own world without will or effort, this is what is extraordinary and gifted, this is the essence of gratefulness, seeing to the heart of privilege.

Thanksgiving happens when our sense of presence meets and fully beholds all other presences. Being unappreciative, feeling distant, might mean we are simply not paying attention.

© 2015 David Whyte, from ‘Gratitude’
In Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.

Photo: My Java Olive tree baby opening its eyes - pure magic! :) 

Monday, October 7, 2019

It's not the waking, it's the rising!

Great discovery, thanks to my friend Cavery who sees me at the entrance of Cubbon park at 7 AM on a Sunday morning, removes her headphones, and says, "Hey, I thought of you when I heard are into music, aren't you?" :)

Well, I am into Beauty, in all its forms.... Listen to this!

"It's not the waking, it's the rising
It's not the song, it is the singing..."

"Andrew Hozier-Byrne is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter from Ireland. His debut single from 2013, “Take Me to Church,” was a massive, multi-platinum hit. In September 2018, Hozier released the song “Nina Cried Power,” which features the legendary gospel singer Mavis Staples. In this episode, Hozier breaks down how he made the song, and Mavis Staples tells the story of how she got involved.

Apple Podcast: "

Nina Cried Power (Song):


Monday, August 19, 2019

No one should accept the whole of us. We're appalling! :)

"You probably believe that when somebody tries to tell you something about yourself that is a little ticklish and a little uncomfortable, they are attacking you. They are not. They are trying to make you into a better person. And we don't tend to believe that this has a role in love.

We tend to believe that true love means accepting the whole of us. It doesn't. No one should accept the whole of us. We're appalling! You really want the whole of you accepted? No, that's not love. The full display of our characters, the full articulation of who we are, should not be something that we do in front of anyone we care about.

So what we need to do is to accept that the other person is going to want to educate us. And that it isn't a criticism. Criticism is merely the wrong word we apply to a much nobler idea, which is to try and make us into better versions of ourselves. But we tend to reject this idea very strongly."

Minute 11, 'Mating Minds — Alain de Botton on Attachment Styles and the Art of Compromise'

Duration: 15.58 mins 

Mutual Education

 "And for the ancient Greeks, the whole notion of love is that love should be a process of mutual education. In which two people, under the auspices of love, undertake to educate one another to become better versions of themselves. And they do this not to be cruel, not as a way of bringing each other down, but because they have the sincerest best interests of the other at their heart. And therefore love is a process whereby a teacher and a pupil are constantly rotating roles. Everyone is the teacher and everyone is the pupil at certain points and has lots of things to take on board.

This is not a sign that love has been abandoned. It is the proof that love is in action."

Minute 34.39, Alain de Botton, 'On Love' (

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