Saturday, May 30, 2009

Aretê, a higher idea of efficiency

‘...What moves the Greek warrior to deeds of heroism’, Kitto comments, 'is not a sense of duty as we understand it-duty towards others: it is rather duty towards oneself. He strives after that which we translate "virtue", but is in Greek aretê, "excellence". It runs through Greek life.

Phaedrus is fascinated by the description of the motive of 'duty toward self' which is an almost exact translation of the Sanskrit word dharma, sometimes described as the 'one' of the Hindus. Can the dharma of the Hindus and the 'virtue' of the ancient Greeks be identical?

'When we meet aretê, in Plato,' he said, 'we translate it "virtue", and consequently miss all the flavour of it. "Virtue" at least in modern English, is almost entirely a moral word; aretê, on the other hand, is used indifferently in all the categories, and simply means excellence.

Thus the hero of the Odyssey is a great fighter, a wily schemer, a ready speaker, a man of stout heart and broad wisdom who knows that he must endure without too much complaining what the gods send; and he can both build and sail a boat, drive a furrow as straight as anyone, beat a young braggart at throwing the discus, challenge the Phaeacian youth at boxing, wrestling or running; flay, skin, cut up and cook an ox, and be moved to tears by a song. He is in fact an excellent all-rounder; he has surpassing aretê.

Aretê implies a respect for the wholeness or oneness of life, and a consequent dislike of specialization. It implies a contempt for efficiency - or rather a much higher idea of efficiency, an efficiency which exists not in one department of life but in life itself.'

'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' Robert M Pirsig

The sewage pipes first, indeed

Letter to the Chinese Premier -

"...I gather you yellow-skinned men, despite your triumphs in sewage, drinking water, and Olympic gold medals, still don't have democracy. Some politician on the radio was saying why we Indians are going to beat you: we may not have sewage, drinking water, and Olympic gold medals, but we do have democracy.

If I were making a country, I'd get the sewage pipes first, then the democracy, then I'd go about giving pamphlets and statues of Gandhi to other people, but what do I know?"

Page 96,
'The White Tiger', by Aravind Adiga, Man Booker Prize for 2008

A Square of Wood

"...The Great Khan tried to concentrate on the game: but now it was the game's reason that eluded him. The end of every game is a gain or a loss: but of what? What were the real stakes? At checkmate, beneath the foot of the king, knocked aside by the winner's hand, nothingness remains: a black square, or a white one. By disembodying his conquests to reduce them to the essential, Kublai had arrived at the extreme operation: the definitive conquest, of which the empire's multiform treasures were only illusory envelopes; it was reduced to a square of planed wood.

The Marco Polo spoke: "Your chessboard, sire, is inlaid with two woods: ebony and maple. The square on which your enlightened gaze is fixed was cut from the ring of a trunk that grew in a year of drought: you see how its fibres are arranged? Here a barely hinted knot that can be made out: a bud tried to burgeon on a premature spring day, but the night's frost forced it to desist."

Until then the Great Khan had not realized that the foreigner knew how to express himself fluently in his language, but it was not his fluency that amazed him.

"Here is a thicker pore: perhaps it was a larvum's nest; not a woodworm, because, once born, it would have begun to dig, but a caterpillar that gnawed the leaves and was the cause of the tree's being chosen for chopping down... This edge was scored by the wood carver with his gouge so that it would adhere to the next square, more protruding..."

The quantity of things that could be read in a little piece of smooth and empty wood overwhelmed Kublai; Polo was already talking of ebony forests, about rafts laden with logs that come down the rivers, of docks, of women at the windows...."

An excerpt from Calvino's "Invisible Cities"
Quoted in Chapter 3: Exactitude
From: "Six Memos for the Next Millennium - The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, 1985-86", by Italo Calvino


"...The biologist Stephen J.Gould makes a good point: "Science is not 'organized common sense'; at its most exciting, it reformulates our view of the world by imposing powerful theories against the ancient, anthropocentric prejudices that we call intuition."

When I say I'm angry, I may be, but I might also be wrong. I might really be afraid or jealous or some combination of all these. Donald Hebb pointed out long ago that outside observers are far more accurate at judging a person's true emotional state than is the person himself.

Some, perhaps, many of the things we do, including the appraisal of the emotional significance of events in our lives and the expression of emotional behaviours in response to those appraisals, do not depend on consciousness, or even on processes that we necessarily have conscious access to."

Page 65.
'The Emotional Brain - The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life'
Joseph LeDoux, Phoenix Books, 1998

The Moment

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

Margaret Atwood


"...Every language is a storehouse of indigenous culture and knowledge. It reflects a peoples' worldview. English and Hindi have words for someone who loses their spouse or their parents, but they do not have a word for a person who loses a sibling. Great Andamanese does - raupuch. This tells us a lot about this society and the emphasis it places on family kinship."

Anvita Abbi, Linguistics Professor, JNU

from the article - "Mind your Languages: Dwindling populations, social pulls, sound the death knell of India's rare tongues"
by Debashri Dasgupta, Outlook Magazine, 19 Nov 2007

The Wish-Fulfilling Tree

The proverbial benevolent uncle turns up in the village and sees the children play with ragdolls and simple make-do toys. He tells them they can have even better toys if they stand under the kalpa-taru outside, the Wish-Fulfilling Tree, and make a wish. The children do so. But a strange thing happens. They ask for sweets - they get them, and they also get stomach-ache. They want toys - they get them, and they also get boredom. Bigger and better toys - bigger and bigger boredom.

"..........What they have not realized yet is that the Wish-Fulfilling Tree is the enormously generous, but totally unsentimental cosmos. It will give you exactly what you want - "this world is your wish-fulfilling cow," says Krishna [III:10] - and with it its built-in opposite. Nothing in this world comes single; everything comes with its built-in opposite.

The tragedy of the world is not that we don't get what we want, but that we always get exactly what we want - along with its built-in opposite. We are trapped under the Wishing Tree."

from The Introduction
The Bhagavad Gita - Transcreated from Sanskrit by P.Lal.

Animus, and Anima

"..............Jung called its (the unconscious) male and female forms "animus" and "anima".

The anima is a personification of all feminine psychological tendencies in a man's psyche, such as vague feelings and moods, prophetic hunches, receptiveness to the irrational, capacity for personal love, feeling for nature, and last but not the least-his relation to the unconscious. It is no mere chance that in olden times priestesses (like the Greek Sibyl) were used to fathom the divine will and to make connection with the gods.

A particularly good example of how the anima is experienced as in inner figure in a man's psyche is found in the medicine men and prophets (shamans) among the Eskimo and other arctic tribes. Some of these even wear women's clothes or have breasts depicted on their garments, in order to manifest their inner feminine side-the side that enables them to connect with the "ghost land" ( i.e., what we call the unconscious)."

'The anima: the woman within'

Part 3: The Process of Individuation
M.-L.von Franz
from the book 'Man and his Symbols'Edited, with an introduction, by Carl Gustav Jung

Au bout du chemin

Au printemps j’ai des chemins creux
Qui poussent dans la tête, des envies de campagne

Rarement je passe à l’acte
Je me complais plutôt à choyer la mémoire

D’un jour à l’ile aux Moines où nous avons marché
Entre deaux fanfares d’aubépines
(la métaphore tant pis trahit la paix du lieu)
le vert d’une île en face faisait comme un motif
sur la très grande assiette de la mer

Pourquoi étions-nous si sereins?
Était-ce au bout du chemin la certitude
Que serait une plage
Où ramasser des coquillages ?

' J’habite ici', Jean-Claude Pinson

Ju Do

"....It brings into play altogether new powers of adaptation to life, of literally absorbing pain and insecurity. ...The principle of the thing is clearly something like judo, the gentle (ju) way (do) of mastering an opposing force by giving in to it.

The natural world gives us many examples of the great effectiveness of this way. The Chinese philosophy of which judo itself is an expression - Taoism - drew attention to the power of water to overcome all obstacles by its gentleness and pliability. It showed how the supple willow survives the tough pine in a snowstorm, for whereas the unyielding branches of the pine accumulate snow until they crack, the springy boughs of the willow bend under its weight, drop the snow, and jump back again.

If, when swimming, you are caught in a strong current, it is fatal to resist. You must swim with it and gradually edge to the side. One who falls from a height with stiff limbs will break them, but if he relaxes like a cat he will fall safely. A building without "give" in its structure will easily collapse in storm or earthquake, and a car without the cushioning of tires and springs will soon come apart on the road.
The mind has just the same powers, for it has give and can absorb shocks like water or a cushion."

'The Wisdom of Insecurity' Alan W. Watts

Escalator Temporarily Stairs

I like an escalator, man, 'cause an escalator can never break. It can only become stairs. There would never be an "Escalator Temporarily Out of Order" sign, only "Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the Convenience."

Mitch Hedberg

Consider the lilies...

'From the Garden'
Anne Sexton

Come, my beloved,
consider the lilies.
We are of little faith.
We talk too much.

Put your mouthful of words away
and come with me to watch
the lilies open in such a field,
growing there like yachts,
slowly steering their petals
without nurses or clocks.

Let us consider the view:
a house where white clouds
decorate the muddy halls.

Oh put away your good words
and your bad words. Spit out
your words like stones!
Come here! Come here!
Come eat my pleasant fruits.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The emptiness of space

In today's excerpt - the emptiness of space, the distances between planets and stars:

" 'The universe is a pretty empty place, and that's something most people don't get' said Michael Brown of Caltech. 'You go watch Star Wars, and you see the heroes flying through an asteroid belt, and they're twisting and turning nonstop to avoid colliding with asteroids.'

In reality, he said, when the Galileo spacecraft flew through our solar system's asteroid belt in the early 1990s, NASA spent millions of dollars in a manic effort to steer the ship close enough to one of the rubble rocks to take photos and maybe sample a bit of its dust. 'And when they got lucky and the spacecraft actually passed by two asteroids, it was considered truly amazing,' said Brown. 'For most of Galileo's journey, there was nothing. Nothing to see, nothing to take pretty pictures of. And we're talking about the solar system, which is a fairly dense region of the universe.'

"Don't be fooled by the gorgeous pictures of dazzling pinwheel galaxies with sunnyside bulges in their midsections, either. They, too, are mostly ghostly: the average separation between stars is about 100,000 times greater than the distance between us and the Sun. Yes, our Milky Way has about 300 billion stars to its credit, but those stars are dispersed across a chasmic piece of property 100,000 light-years in diameter. That's roughly 6 trillion miles (the distance light travels in a year) multiplied by 100,000 ... miles wide. Even using the shrunken scale of a citrus sun lying just twenty feet away from our sand-grain Earth, crossing the galaxy would require a trip of more than 24 million miles."

Natalie Angier, The Canon, Houghton Mifflin, Copyright 2007 by Natalie Angier

Monday, May 25, 2009

Being a wild pig :)

“James Averill, a major proponent of social constructivism, describes a behavior pattern, called “being a wild pig”, that is quite unusual by Western standards, but is common and even “normal” among the Gururumba, a horticultural people living in the highlands of New Zealand. The behavior gets its name by analogy. There are no undomesticated pigs in this culture, but occasionally, and for unknown reasons, a domesticated one will go through a temporary condition in which it runs wild. But the pig can, with appropriate measures, be redomesticated and returned to the normal pig life among the villagers.

And, in a similar vein, Gururumba people can act this way, becoming violent and aggressive and looting and stealing, but seldom causing harm or taking anything of importance, and eventually returning to routine life. In some instances, after several days of living in the forest, during which time the stolen objects are destroyed, the person returns to the village spontaneously with no memory of the experience and is never reminded of the event by the villagers. Others, though, have to be captured and treated like a wild pig – held over a smoking fire until the old self returns.

The Gururumba people believe that being a wild pig occurs when one is bitten by the ghost of someone who recently died. As a result, social controls on behavior are lost and primitive impulses are set free. According to Averill, being a wild pig is a social, not a biological or even an individual, condition. Westerners are prone to think of this as psychotic, abnormal behavior, but for the Gururumba it is instead a way of relieving stress and maintaining community mental health in the village.

Averill uses “being a wild pig” to support his claim that “most standard emotional reactions are socially constructed or institutionalized patterns of response” rather than biologically determined events (one wonders, though, where the wild impulses come from) ."

Page 115, ‘The Emotional Brain’ by Joseph Ledoux
Chapter 5: ‘The way we were’

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I've seen a frog lay most as many

From 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' [1884] , Mark Twain

"It's lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened - Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to make so many.

Jim said the moon could a laid them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn't say nothing against it, because I've seen a frog lay most as many, so of course it could be done.

We used to watch the stars that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they'd got spoiled and was hove out of the nest."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Use it lose it!

"Research on the physical results of thinking has shown that just using the brain actually increases the number of dendritic branches that interconnect brain cells. The more we think, the better our brains function – regardless of age. The renowned brain researcher Dr. Marian Diamond says, "The nervous system possesses not just a 'morning' of plasticity, but an 'afternoon' and an 'evening' as well."

In fact, older brains may have an advantage. She discovered that more highly developed neurons respond even better to intellectual enrichment than less developed ones do. The greatest increase in dendritic length occurred in the outermost dendritic branches, as a reaction to new information.

As she poetically describes it: "We began with a nerve cell, which starts in the embryo as just a sort of sphere. It sends its first branch out to overcome ignorance. As it reaches out, it is gathering knowledge and it is becoming creative. Then we become a little more idealistic, generous, and altruistic; but it is our six-sided dendrites which give us wisdom."


come quickly come
run run
with me now
jump shout(laugh
dance cry

sing)for it's Spring


and in
earth sky trees
where a miracle arrives


you and i may not
hurry it with
a thousand poems
my darling
but nobody will stop it

With All The Policemen In The World.


It might be you

Ending of the last chapter of "Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche", by Haruki Murakami

"In order that a second, and a third Ikuo Hayashi does not crop up, it is critical for our society to stop and consider, in all their ramifications, the questions brought to the surface so tragically by the Tokyo gas attack. Most people have put this incident behind them. "That' s over and done with", they say. "It was a major incident, but with the culprits all arrested it's wrapped up and doesn't have anything more to do with us."

However, we need to realize that most of the people who join cults are not abormal; they are not disadvantaged, they're not eccentrics. Thet are the people who live average lives (and maybe from the outside, more than average lives) who live in my neighbourhood. And in yours.

Maybe they think about things a little too seriously. Perhaps there's some pain they're carrying around inside. They're not good at making their feelings known to others and are somewhat troubled. They can't find a suitable means to express themselves, and bounce back and forth between feelings of pride and inadequacy.

They might very well be me. It might be you."

Yes, indeed :)

Lucy to Charlie Brown on the baseball field:
"I am sorry I missed that easy fly ball, Captain. I suddenly remembered all the ones I had missed earlier, and the past got into my eyes."

I am reaching here

"How do you remember your own name? Is it possible ever to forget it? The memory trace, or engram, "feels" like it is stored permanently in the brain and it will never be forgotten.
Indeed, the current view of memory is that, at the molecular level, new proteins are manufactured, in a process known as translation, and it is these newly synthesized proteins that subsequently stabilize the changes underlying the memory. Thus, every new memory results in a permanent representation in the brain.

But Northwestern University neuroscientist Aryeh Routtenberg has presented a provocative new theory that takes issue with that view. Routtenberg, with doctoral student Jerome L. Rekart, outlined the new theory on memory storage in the January issue of the journal Trends in Neuroscience.

Rather than permanent storage, there is a "dynamic, meta-stable" process, the authors said. Our subjective experience of permanence is a result of the re-duplication of memories across many different brain networks.

For example, one's name is represented in innumerable neural circuits; thus, it is extremely difficult to forget. But each individual component is malleable and transient, and as no particular neural network lasts a lifetime, it is theoretically possible to forget one's own name.
This is seen in the most advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease, the researchers stated."

Lost the link :(

The beauty in the world is growing

"We can take pleasure in such concise, elegant expressions as Maxwell's formulae for electromagnetism. But we can never know whether we could express them even more concisely. Not until the day we do so. Life will forever be open to us. We will never know that it cannot be expressed more beautifully. The beauty in the world is growing."

Infinite Algorithms.
'The User Illusion – Cutting Consciousness Down to Size" – Tor Norretranders

Walkabout & Songlines

Walkabout refer to a rite of passage where Australian Aborigines would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months. In this practice they would trace the paths, or "songlines", that their people's ceremonial ancestors took, and imitate, in a fashion, their heroic deeds.

Songlines, also called Dreaming tracks by Indigenous Australians, are an ancient cultural concept, meme and motif perpetuated through oral lore and singing and other storytelling modalities such as dance and painting. Songlines are an intricate series of song cycles that identify landmarks and subtle tracking mechanisms for navigation. For the Aborigines all land is sacred and alive. Their ancestors gave life in singing, gave them life through song, and dwell in the land still. The songs must be continually sung to keep the land "alive". In singing they preserve the land/story/dreaming of their ancestors, and recreate it in their oneness of past, present and future.

The Badjos

The Badjos are a tribe of constantly wandering people who live on small boats called leppas in the Indian Ocean. They are very difficult to find as they keep moving to new places rapidly, sometimes every day. Their origins are a mystery to ethnologues. A French ethnologue, after 2 years of studying them, manages to learn from their shaman that long ago they were displaced from an island by a tsunami, after which they have been floating ever since.

Translated from an article in Le Figaro

Do the Badjos have a word for "insecurity"?

..the jazz cap, and one hand on the wheel

Aimless Love

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor's window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam on the door-
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor-
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

Billy Collins

The Unicorn

"The Chinese unicorn is a sacred animal of portent. It ranks along with the dragon, the phoenix, and the tortoise as one of the Four Auspicious Creatures, and merits the highest status amongst the Three-Hundred-Sixty-Five Land Animals. Extremely gentle in temperament, it treads with such care that even the smallest living thing is unharmed, and eats no growing herbs but only withered grass. It lives a thousand years, and the visitation of a unicorn heralds the birth of a great sage. So we read that the mother of Confucius came upon a unicorn when she bore the philosopher in her womb:

Seventy years later, some hunters killed a qilin, which still had a bit of ribbon around its horn that Confucius' mother had tied there. Confucius went to look at the Unicorn and wept because he felt what the death of this innocent and mysterious animal foretold, and because in that ribbon lay his past.

The qilin appears again in Chinese history in the thirteenth century. On the eve of a planned invasion of India, advance scouts of Genghis Khan encounter a unicorn in the middle of the desert. This unicorn had the head of a horse and the body of a deer. Its fur is green and it speaks in a human tongue: "Time is come for you to return to the kingdom of your lord."

One of the Genghis's Chinese ministers, upon consultation, explained to him that the animal was a jiao-shui, a variety of qilin. "For four hundred years the great army has been warring in western regions, " he said. "Heaven, which has a horror of bloodshed, gives warning through the jiao-shui. Spare the Empire for Heaven's sake; moderation will give boundless pleasure." The Emperor desisted in his war plans."

Page 96,
'Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World', Haruki Murakami

"...The unicorn is the only fabulous beast that does not seem to have been conceived out of human fears. In even the earliest references he is fierce yet good, selfless yet solitary, and always mysteriously beautiful. He could be captured only by unfair means, and his single horn was said to neutralize poison."

Friday, May 22, 2009

The way back to Eden

"....The myth of the "happy savage" is based on the observation that when free of external threats, preliterate people often display a serenity that seems enviable to the visitor from more differentiated cultures. But the myth tells only half the story: when hungry or hurting, the "savage" is no more happy than we would be; and he may be in that condition more often than we are.

The inner harmony of technologically less advanced people is the positive side of their limited choices and of their stable repertory of skills, just as the confusion in our soul is the necessary consequence of unlimited opportunities and constant perfectibility. Goethe represented the dilemma in the bargain Doctor Faustus, the archetype of the modern man, made with Mephistopheles: the good doctor gained knowledge and power, but at the price of introducing disharmony in his soul. ...........

Few would argue that a simpler consciousness, no matter how harmonious, is preferable to a more complex one. While we might admire the serenity of the lion in repose, the tribesman's untroubled acceptance of his fate, or the child's wholehearted involvement in the present, they cannot offer a model for resolving our predicament.

The order based on innocence is now beyond our grasp. Once the fruit is plucked from the tree of knowledge, the way back to Eden is barred forever."

Page 228. 'Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience'Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labour in the weekday weather, made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Robert Hayden

Social Intelligence

"...Unfortunately, what he calls the "inexorable technocreep" of contemporary culture threatens such meaningful connection. Presciently remarking on the TV set in 1963, poet T.S. Eliot noted that this techno-shredder of the social fabric "permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome."

And as Goleman points out, this "constant digital connectivity" can deaden us to the people around us. Social intelligence, he says, means putting down your BlackBerry, actually paying full attention—showing people that they're being experienced—which is basically what each of us wants more than anything. Scientists agree that such connection—or lack of it—will determine our survival as a species: "Empathy," writes Goleman, "is the prime inhibitor of human cruelty."
"We're Wired to Connect"By Mark Matousek, January & February 2007

Vlad Gerasimov

Graphic art. Extraordinary. You don't want to miss this guy.


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins


Naturally it is night.
Under the overturned lute with its
One string I am going my way
Which has a strange sound.

This way the dust, that way the dust.
I listen to both sides
But I keep right on.
I remember the leaves sitting in judgment
And then winter.

I remember the rain with its bundle of roads.
The rain taking all its roads.

Young as I am, old as I am,

I forget tomorrow, the blind man.
I forget the life among the buried windows.
The eyes in the curtains.
The wall
Growing through the immortelles.
I forget silence
The owner of the smile.

This must be what I wanted to be doing,
Walking at night between the two deserts,

W.S. Merwin

Temperature and Gender

"The fact that some kinds of animals rely on environmental forces to determine sex shows that specific sex genes are not even necessary. In many reptile species, for example, the incubation temperature of their eggs dictates whether their offspring will be male or female. Temperature changes appear to trigger the release of hormones that sway the developing embryo's sex one way or another.

A good example of this phenomenon occurred in 1999. About a quarter of a million endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles showed up at the world's largest known nesting site, the Bhitarkarnika sanctuary on the east coast of India. The turtles usually arrive in January, but they held off until April, possibly because the females had been deterred by fishing trawlers.

The delay, along with unseasonably warm spring temperatures, meant that they laid their eggs in beach sands about 12 degrees warmer than normal. The effect was that the hatchlings were almost all female. Climatic variability over the years helps to balance the sex ratio in the populations of such long-lived species. "

Page 75.
'Men, From Stone Age to Clone Age: The Science of Being Male'
Bob Beale

Never look back

"The descent to the Underworld of Orpheus is paralleled in other versions of a worldwide theme: the Japanese myth of Izanagi and Izanami, the Akkadian/Sumerian myth of Inanna's Descent to the Underworld, and Mayan myth of Ix Chel and Itzamna.

The Nez Perce tell a story about the trickster figure, Coyote, that shares many similarities with the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. The mytheme of not looking back, an essential precaution in Jason's raising of chthonic Brimo Hekate under Medea's guidance, is reflected in the Biblical story of Lot's wife when escaping from Sodom.

The warning of not looking back is also found in the Grimms' folk tale "Hansel and Gretel." More directly, the story of Orpheus is similar to the ancient Greek tales of Persephone captured by Hades and similar stories of Adonis captive in the underworld. However, the developed form of the Orpheus myth was entwined with the Orphic mystery cults and, later in Rome, with the development of Mithraism and the cult of Sol Invictus."

To see, really see

La Strada
by George Bilgere

A dollar got you a folding chair
in the drafty lecture hall
with a handful of other wretched grad students.

Then the big reels and low-tech chatter
of a sixteen-millimeter projector.

La Strada. Rashomon. HMS Potemkin.
La Belle e Ie Béte, before
Disney got his hands on it.

And The Bicycle Thief, and for God's sake,
La Strada.

You can't find them
at the video store anymore. Only the latest
G-rated animated pixilated computer-generated prequels.

That's just the way it goes.

Even if you could,
you'd see them on DVD,
restored, colorized, scratch-free,
on a plasma-screen TV. With your wife,
your dog, your degree. You'd get up
to answer the phone, check on the baby.

You're just not young enough,
or poor enough, or miserable
enough anymore to see—really see

Les Enfants du Paradis, or Ikiru,
or The 400 Blows. Or, for God's sake,
La Strada.

What's logic got to do with it?

"...But all of these old conceptions of morality are based on a fundamental mistake. Neuroscience can now see the substrate of moral decisions, and there's nothing rational about it. 'Moral judgment is like aesthetic judgment,' writes Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist at the University of Virginia. 'When you see a painting, you usually know instantly and automatically whether you like it. If someone asks you to explain your judgment, you confabulate ... Moral arguments are much the same: Two people feel strongly about an issue, their feelings come first, and their reasons are invented on the fly, to throw at each other.'"

Kant and his followers thought the rational brain acted like a scientist: we used reason to arrive at an accurate view of the world. This meant that morality was based on objective values; moral judgments described moral facts. But the mind doesn't work this way. When you are confronted with an ethical dilemma, the unconscious automatically generates an emotional reaction. (This is what psychopaths can't do.) Within a few milliseconds, the brain has made up its mind; you know what is right and what is wrong. These moral instincts aren't rational. ..."

It's only after the emotions have already made the moral decision that those rational circuits in the prefrontal cortex are activated. People come up with persuasive reasons to justify their moral intuition. When it comes to making ethical decisions, human rationality isn't a scientist, it's a lawyer. This inner attorney gathers bits of evidence, post hoc justifications, and pithy rhetoric in order to make the automatic reaction seem reasonable. But this reasonableness is just a facade, an elaborate self- delusion. Benjamin Franklin said it best in his autobiography: 'So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.'"'

In other words, our standard view of morality - the philosophical consensus for thousands of years - has been exactly backward. We've assumed that our moral decisions are the byproducts of rational thought, that humanity's moral rules are founded in such things as the Ten Commandments and Kant's categorical imperative. Philosophers and theologians have spilled lots of ink arguing about the precise logic of certain ethical dilemmas. But these arguments miss the central reality of moral decisions, which is that logic and legality have little to do with anything."

Jonah Lehrer, How We Decide, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, Copyright 2009 by Jonah Lehrer, Kindle Loc. 1922-79. (not read, an excerpt from the Net)

Friday, May 15, 2009


Of Being

I know this happiness
is provisional:

the looming presences-
great suffering, great fear-

withdraw only
into peripheral vision:

but ineluctable, this shimmering
of wind in the blue leaves:

this flood of stillness
widening the lake of sky:

this need to dance,
this need to kneel:this mystery.

Denise Levertov

Bear Treaty

From Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods, Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail", Page 17:

"..And how foolish must one be to be reassured by the information that no bear has killed a human in Vermont or New Hampshire in 200 years? That's not because the bears have signed a treaty, you know. There's nothing to say they won't start a modest rampage tomorrow.

So let us imagine a bear does go for us out in the wilds. What are we to do? Interestingly, the advised stratagems are exactly opposite for grizzly and black bear. With a grizzly, you should make for a tall tree, since grizzlies aren't much for climbing. If a tree is not available, then you should back off slowly, avoiding direct eye contact.

All the books tell you that if the grizzly comes for you, on no account should you run. This is the sort of advice you get from someone who is sitting at a keyboard when he gives it. Take it from me, if you are in an open space with no weapons and a grizzly comes for you, run. You may as well. If nothing else, it will give you something to do with the last seven seconds of your life."

George Carlin, on Abortion

"Boy, these Conservatives are really something, aren't they? They're all in favor of the unborn, they will do anything for the unborn. But once you're born, you're on your own. Conservatives are obsessed with the foetus from conception to nine months - but after that they don't want to know about you, they don't want to hear from you, no, nothing. No neo-natal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing.

If you are pre-born, you're fine, if you're pre-school, you're f.....d".


".......There is, however, another kind of symbolism, belonging to the earliest-known sacred traditions, that is also connected with the periods of transition in a person's life. They point to man's need for liberation from any state of being that is too immature, too fixed or final. In other words, they concern man's release from - or transcendence of - any confining pattern of existence, as he moves towards a superior or more mature stage in his development. ........
It is similar to cases reported among the simple food-gathering tribes, which are the least family-conscious groups we know. In these societies the young initiate must take a lonely journey to a sacred place (in Indian cultures of the North Pacific coast, it may actually be a crater lake) where, in a visionary trance-like state, he encounters his "guardian spirit" in the form of an animal, a bird, or natural object. He closely identifies himself with this "bush soul" and thereby becomes a man. Without such an experience he is regarded, as an Achumaui medicine man put it, as "an ordinary Indian, nobody."
Symbols of Transcendence
Part 2: Ancient Myths and Modern Man - Joseph L.Henderson

from the book 'Man and his Symbols'
Edited, with an introduction, by Carl Gustav Jung

Mathias Duplessy

Heard this most astounding French musician - Mathias Duplessy.

He played the guitar and a Mongolian instrument (morin khuur) at the Alliance last week, performed throat singing which he learned in Mongolia - all 3 styles, sang French song from the medeival ages, peppy Spanish songs, African songs - it was magical watching the range of sounds he produced with the guitar. Among other things, he also played percussion on it, and his fingers were so fast his hand was all a blur.

So much energy, so much depth and understanding in his appreciation of other cultures. Like he said - "There is a story behind every face, I try to find that". He stayed back and interacted with the audience, that was very interesting.

His site -

Kakgda is my favorite song from the Mathias Duplessy Trio CD.
You can google and get some of his music on you tube and also on my space. But nothing comes close to the live performance. If he ever performs in your city, don't miss him.

About Friends

The good thing about friends
is not having to finish sentences.

I sat a whole summer afternoon with my friend once
on a river bank, bashing heels on the baked mud
and watching the small chunks slide into the water
and listening to them - plop plop plop.
He said, 'I like the twigs when know...
like that.' I said, 'There's that branch...'
We both said, 'Mmmm'. The river flowed and flowed
and there were lots of butterflies, that afternoon.

I first thought there was a sad thing about friends
when we met twenty years later.
We both talked hundreds of sentences,
taking care to finish all we said,
and explain it all very carefully,
as if we'd been discovered in places
we should not be, and were somehow ashamed.

I understood then what the river meant by flowing.

Brian Jones


"Originally home meant the center of the world - not in the geographical, but in the ontological sense. Mircea Eliade has demonstrated how home was the place from which the world could be founded. A home was established, as he says, "at the heart of the real". In traditional societies, everything that made sense of the world was real; the surrounding chaos existed and was threatening, but it was threatening because it was unreal. Without a home at the centre of the real, one was not only shelterless, but also lost in non-being, in unreality. Without a home everything was fragmentation.

Home was the centre of the world because it was the place where a vertical line crossed with a horizontal one. The vertical line was a path leading upwards to the sky and downwards to the underworld. The horizontal line represented the traffic of the world, all the possible roads leading across the earth to other places. Thus, at home, one was nearest to the gods in the sky and to the dead in the underworld. This nearness promised access to both. And at the same time, one was at the starting point and, hopefully, the returning point of all terrestrial journeys.

The crossing of the two lines, the reassurance their intersection promises, was probably already there, in embryo, in the thinking and beliefs of nomadic people, but they carried the vertical line with them, as they might carry a tent pole. Perhaps at the end of this century of unprecedented transportation, vestiges of the reassurance still remain in the unarticulated feelings of many millions of displaced people.

Emigration does not only involve leaving behind, crossing water, living amongst strangers, but, also, undoing the very meaning of the world and - at its most extreme - abandoning oneself to the unreal which is the absurd."

Page 55,
John Berger - 'And our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos', 1984

The Mother

The Virgin Punishing the Infant
After the painting by Max Ernst

He spoke early. Not the goo goo goo of infancy,
but I am God. Joseph kept away, carving himself
a silent Pinocchio out in the workshed. He said
he was a simple man and hadn't dreamed of this.

She grew anxious in that second year, would stare
at stars saying Gabriel? Gabriel? Your guess.
The village gossiped in the sun. The child was solitary,
his wide and solemn eyes could fill your head.

After he walked, our normal children crawled. Our wives
were first resentful, then superior. Mary's child
would bring her sorrow...better far to have a son
who gurgled nonsense at your breast. Googoo. Googoo.

But I am God. We heard him through the window,
heard the smacks which made us peep. What we saw
was commonplace enough. But afterwards, we wondered
why the infant did not cry. And why the Mother did.

Carol Ann Duffy
Page 51, Selected Poems.

Svante Henryson

Re-discovered Svante Henryson, Swedish cello player and composer, whom I heard live in Bangalore a very very long time ago - an introduction to the cello that left a lasting impression.

Black Run -

The need to travel

"...I have often noticed that the eyes of sailors and hillmen are free and quiet. Countrymen, too, when they walk among their fields, and women who surround themselves with love in their homes and think rather little of what lies beyond, old men contented with the end of their journey, and painters, carpenters and all makers, when happy in their jobs - these and many others, men and women who have found their true vocations, share the same atmosphere of certainty and peace.

I have noticed, too, that the business of these people is never such that it makes them consciously share in the wounding of their fellows, whether through rivalries, or vanities, greed or envy; not only are they free of such impulses in themselves, but the happiness of their condition is such that they are largely exempted from watching this strife in others, either through the solitude of their lives or through the absorbing interest of what they care for.

For it is to be hoped, and I think believed, that the worried look visible on so many city faces is more due to the constant witnessing than to the constant infliction of pain - though both must take their share in a competitive life. Those who are so happily free from this affliction have no need to travel; they can sit quietly and continue to be philosophers at home.

"Page 5, "The Philosophy of Travel", by Freya Stark
Views from Abroad, The Spectator Book of Travel Writing

maggie and milly and molly and may

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea.

E. E. Cummings

The Desert

"...The desert is not remote in southern tropics,
The desert is not only around the corner,
The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you,
The desert is in the heart of your brother."

Page 149. Choruses from 'The Rock', 1934
T.S. Eliot

The Just

A man who cultivates his garden, as Voltaire wished.
He who is grateful for the existence of music.
He who takes pleasure in tracing an etymology.
Two workmen playing, in a café in the South, a silent game of chess.
The potter, contemplating a color and a form.
The typographer who sets his page well, though it may not please him.
A woman and a man, who read the last tercets of a certain canto.
He who strokes a sleeping animal.
He who justifies, or wishes to, a wrong done to him.
He who is grateful for the existence of Stevenson.
He who prefers others to be right.
These people, unaware, are saving the world.

Page 455. Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Poems
Translated from the Spanish

Nine billion light-years away

"Early in the morning of January 23, 1999, a robotic telescope in New Mexico picked up a faint flash of light in the constellation Corona Borealis. Though just barely visible through binoculars, it turned out to be the most brilliant explosion ever witnessed by humanity. We could see it nine billion light-years away, more than halfway across the observable universe.

If the event had taken place a few thousand light-years away, it would have been as bright as the midday sun, and it would have dosed Earth with enough radiation to kill off nearly every living thing. ..."The flash was another of the famous gamma-ray bursts, which in recent decades have been one of astronomy's most intriguing mysteries. ...

Before 1997, most of what we knew about gamma-ray bursts was based on observations from the Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE) onboard the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. BATSE revealed that two or three gamma-ray bursts occur somewhere in the observable universe on a typical day."

Neil Gehrels,, Scientific American, Majestic Universe, 2004,
"The Brightest Explosions in the Universe", pp. 65-6.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


"At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.

...The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless."

from'Four Quartets'T.S.Eliot


So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.

When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.

I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.

They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.

Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.

Raymond Carver


"....In simple terms, what does karma mean? It means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with its consequences. Even a little poison can cause death and even a tiny seed can become a huge tree. ....
As Buddha said, "What you are is what you have been, what you will be is what you do now."

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Page 96.Sogyal Rinpoche


"…..When I was 20, I wondered what it would be like to be 50. None of my guesses were close. I assumed that "aging" was automatically bad, so I didn't look forward to it. No one told me that having more friends and fewer zits would feel like a good tradeoff. And if you told me I could have my twenty-year old body again, but I had to take my twenty-year old brain with it, I'd pass."

A Ray of Sunshine and a Free Bench

"We spend our life trying to bring together in the same instant a ray of sunshine and a free bench."

Beckett, Texts for Nothing


"...Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much... the wheel, New York, wars, and so on, whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely the dolphins believed themselves to be more intelligent than man for precisely the same reasons."

Douglas Adams
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Controlling Consciousness

"..It has been claimed, for instance, that the reason there are more poets per capita in Iceland than in any other country of the world is that reciting the sagas became a way for the Icelanders to keep their consciousness ordered in an environment exceedingly hostile to human existence.

For centuries the Icelanders have not only preserved in memory but also added new verses to the epics chronicling the deeds of their ancestors. Isolated in the freezing night, they used to chant their poems huddled around fires in precarious huts, while outside the winds of the interminable arctic winters howled. If the Icelanders had spent all those nights in silence listening to the mocking wind, their minds would have soon filled with dread and despair.

By mastering the orderly cadence of meter and rhyme, and encasing the events of their own lives in verbal images, they succeeded in taking control of their experiences. In the face of chaotic snowstorms they created songs with form and meaning."

Page 128.
'Flow - The Psychology of Optimal Experience'
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


"...I looked out the window. He was alone in the doorway, digging the street. Bitterness, recriminations, advice, morality, sadness - everything was behind him, and ahead of him was the ragged and ecstatic joy of pure being..."

Sal, on the indomitable Dean Moriarty, in "On the Road", by James Keruoac

Hollow Victories

"...Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster. Now we're paying the price. When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you almost never make it. And even if you do it's a hollow victory. In order to sustain the victory you have to prove yourself again and again in some other way, and again and again and again, driven forever to fill a false image, haunted by the fear that the image is not true and someone will find out. That's never the way.

Phaedrus wrote a letter from India about a pilgrimage to holy Mount Kailas, the source of the Ganges and the abode of Shiva, high in the Himalayas, in the company of a holy man and his adherents.

He never reached the mountain. After the third day he gave up, exhausted, and the pilgrimage went on without him. He said he had the physical strength but that physical strength wasn't enough. He had the intellectual motivation but that wasn't enough either. He didn't think he had been arrogant but thought he was undertaking the pilgrimage to broaden his experience, to gain understanding for himself.

He was trying to use the mountain for his own purposes and the pilgrimage too. He regarded himself as the fixed entity, not the pilgrimage or the mountain, and thus wasn't ready for it. He speculated that the other pilgrims, the ones who reached the mountain, probably sensed the holiness of the mountain so intensely that each footstep was an act of devotion, an act of submission to this holiness. The holiness of the mountain infused into their own spirits enabled them to endure far more than anything he, with his greater physical strength, could take."

'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' Robert M Pirsig

Bachianas Brasilieras

Mezzo soprano (middle soprano) with 8 cellos

Heitor Villa Lobos, Brazilian composer:


"The Greek word for "return" is nostos. Algos means "suffering". So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return. To express that fundamental notion most Europeans can utilize a word derived from Greek (nostalgia, nostalgie) as well as other words with roots in their national languages: anoranza, say the Spaniards; saudade, say the Portugese.

In each language these words have a different semantic nuance. Often they mean only the sadness caused by the impossibility of returning to one's country: a longing for country, for home. What in English is called "homesickness". Or in German: Heimweh. In Dutch: heimwee. But this reduces that great notion to just its spatial element. One of the oldest European languages, Icelandic (like English) makes a distinction between two terms: soknuour: nostalgia in its general sense; and heimpra: longing for the homeland. Czechs have the Greek-derived nostalgie as well as their own noun, stesk, and their own verb; the most moving Czech expression of love: styska se mi po tobe ("I yearn for you," "I'm nostalgic for you"; "I cannot bear the pain of your absence")

In Spanish anoranza comes from the verb anorar (to feel nostalgia), which comes from the Catalan enyorar, itself derived from the Latin word ignorare (to be unaware of, not know, not experience; to lack or miss). In that etymological light nostalgia seems something like the pain of ignorance, of not knowing. You are far away, and I don't know what has become of you. My country is far away, and I don't know what is happening there."

Page 5, "Ignorance"Milan Kundera


"We are part human, part stories.""

It is through the fictions and stories we tell ourselves and others that we live the life, hide from it, harmonise it, canalise it, have a relationship with it, shape it, accept it, are broken by it, redeem it, or flow with the life.

"In a fractured age, when cynicism is god, here is a possible heresy: we live by stories, we also live in them. One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, or we are also living the stories we planted-knowingly or unknowingly-in ourselves. We live stories that either give our lives meaning or negate it with meaninglessness.

If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives.

"'A Way of Being Free', Ben Okri

Warm Presence, Eyes

(With acknowledgements to Susan Musgrave, whose "Strawberry" poems started it all)

"Most cats, with the exception of Burmese, do not celebrate their birthdays. Rather, they are extremely sentimental about Palm Sunday and Labour Day, at which times they survive solely on white lace and baloney sandwiches.

Cats on the whole are loath to discuss God.

Generally speaking, cats have no money, although some of them secretly collect rare and valuable coins.

Cats believe that all human beings, animals and plants should congregate in a huge heap in the centre of the universe and promptly fall asleep together.

Of all the cats I have known, the ones I remember most are: Bumble Bee, Buttonhole, Chocolate Bar, Molten Lava and Mushroom. I also remember Tabby who was sane as a star and spent all his time lying on his back in the sink, thinking up appropriate names for me.

Cats see their Keepers as massive phantoms, givers of names and the excellent gravy of their days.

Cats who have been robbed of balls and claws do not lament. They become their Keeper's keepers.

When cats are hosts to fleas they assume the fleas are guests.

Most cats would rather be covered with live fleas than dead ones.

Cats hold no grudges and have no future. They invade nets of strangers with their eyes.

The patron saint of cats is called: Beast of the Skies, Warm Presence, Eyes.

Cats do not worry about the gurgling horrors of the disease listed in catbooks, some of which are Hairballs Enteritis and Bronchitis. But they do become very upset about Symptoms, which is the worst disease of all.

When cats grow listless (i.e. lose their list) they cease to entertain fleas. They mumble darkly about radishes and death. They listen to Beethoven and become overly involved in Medieval History.

When cats decide to die they lie alone lost among leaves beneath the dark winds and broad thunders of the world and pray to the Beast of the Skies, Warm, Presence, Eyes.
Broadly speaking, cats do not read Gothic novels, although they tend to browse through Mary Shelley on the day before Christmas.

The only reason cats do not carry passports is because they have no pockets.

When a black cat crosses your path it usually means that he is trying to get to the other side of the street.

Cats never get baptized. They lose their dry.

Cats only perspire during Lent.

Cats have no memory and no future. They are highly allergic to Prime Ministers, radishes, monks, poets, and death."
Magic and Madness
Magic CatsFrom Magic Animals: Selected Poems Old and NewMacmillan, Toronto - 1974


"In the midst of the plain
Sings the skylark
Free of all things....."

Matsuo Basho

Railway Station

".... In a railway station the impersonal and the intimate co-exist. Destinies are played out. The trains run regularly, according to printed timetables. The lines are inexorable. But for each passenger or for each person who comes to meet or see off a traveler, the train in question has its own portent. The portents can be read close-up, in faces, in details of luggage, in the welcomes and partings as people embrace on the platform.

On that late spring afternoon, few people had come. I was the only one to climb the railings and there, clinging on with one arm, to wait for the train to draw in. In the coaches which passed me, I saw people crowding round the doors, impatient to jump down.

Among the first were some Spaniards, relatives of migrant workers already installed in the city. Their small children, deposited on the platform, looked less bemused than their parents, as if for the children one city was much the same as another, equally familiar and equally unknowable. From a rear coach a man with two Alsatian dogs clambered down. The locomotive, now uncoupled, was driven off, leaving the train stranded.

At that moment I saw you at the end of the platform. You were wearing trousers. On the long platform beside the stranded train, in the vast white diffused late-afternoon light of the rift valley, you looked very small. With your appearance everything changed. Everything from the passage under the railway tracks to the sun setting, from the Arabic numerals on the board which announced the times of the trains, to the gulls perched on a roof, from the invisible stars to the taste of coffee on my palate. The world of circumstance and contingency, into which, long before, I had been born, became like a room.

I was home."

John Berger 'And our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos '


"...Unlike Parmenides, Beethoven apparently viewed weight as something positive. Since the German word schwer means both "difficult" and "heavy", Beethoven's "difficult resolution" may also be construed as a "heavy" or "weighty resolution". The weighty resolution is at one with the voice of Fate ("Es muss sein!"); necessity, weight, and value are three concepts inextricably bound: only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value.

This is a conviction born of Beethoven's music, and although we cannot ignore the possibility (or even probability) that it owes its origins more to Beethoven's commentators than to Beethoven himself, we all more or less share it: we believe that the greatness of man stems from the fact that he bears his fate as Atlas bore the heavens on his shoulders. Beethoven's hero is a lifter of metaphysical weights."

Page 33, 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being', Milan Kundera

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