Monday, June 22, 2009

There's No Forgetting (Sonata)

If you should ask me where I've been all this time
I have to say 'Things happen.'
I have to dwell on stones darkening the earth,
on the river ruined in its own duration:
I know nothing save things the birds have lost,
the sea I left behind, or my sister crying.
Why this abundance of places? Why does day lock
with day? Why the dark night swilling round
in our mouths? And why the dead?

Should you ask me where I come from, I must talk
with broken things,
with fairly painful utensils,
with great beasts turned to dust as often as not
and my afflicted heart.

These are not memories that have passed each other
nor the yellowing pigeon asleep in our forgetting;
these are tearful faces
and fingers down our throats
and whatever among leaves falls to the ground:
the dark of a day gone by
grown fat on our grieving blood.

Here are violets, and here swallows,
all things we love and which inform
sweet messages seriatim
through which time passes and sweetness passes.

We don't get far, though, beyond these teeth:
Why waste time gnawing the husks of silence?
I know not what to answer:
there are so many dead,
and so many dikes the red sun breached,
and so many heads battering hulls
and so many hands that have closed over kisses
and so many things that I want to forget.

Pablo Neruda

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A suffusion of yellow

From "The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul", Douglas Adams

"A suffusion of yellow." (A calculator's response to the question of any math problem with an answer larger than four.)

The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it which the merely improbable lacks.

It was his subconscious which told him this - that infuriating part of a person's brain which never responds to interrogation, merely gives little meaningful nudges and then sits humming quietly to itself, saying nothing.

Dennis Hutch had stepped up into the top seat when its founder had died of a lethal overdose of brick wall, taken while under the influence of a Ferrari and a bottle of tequila.

Certes, aujourdh’hui

Certes, aujourdh’hui mes soirées
Ne se passent plus en réunions

J’aime mieux rester dans le silence de mon bureau
Même si sans doute je me sens un peu coupable
De ne passer mon temps qu’à cultiver des états d’âme
Vaguement à l’écoute des rares bruits de la nuit

D’une corne de brume par exemple
Lorsqu’un bateau quitte l’estuaire
Et le refrain de son moteur lent
Saluant de sourdes vibrations
Les fondations de la maison
Semble ausculter les profondeurs nocturnes…..

J’habite ici, Jean-Claude Pinson

And where do we fit in?

Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, 'We are All Writing God's Poem'
by Barbara Crooker

Today, the sky's the soft blue of a work shirt washed
a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step. On the interstate listening
to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist
say, "The universe is not only stranger than we
think, it's stranger than we can think."

I think
I've driven into spring, as the woods revive
with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudys
carves flung over bark's bare limbs. Barely doing
sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound,
and aren't we just?

Just yesterday,
I read Li Po: "There is no end of things
in the heart," but it seems like things
are always ending—vacation or childhood,
relationships, stores going out of business,
like the one that sold jeans that really fit—

And where do we fit in? How can we get up
in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do,
put one foot after the other, open the window,
make coffee, watch the steam curl up
and disappear.

At night, the scent of phlox curls
in the open window, while the sky turns red violet,
lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons.
The moon spills its milk on the black tabletop
for the thousandth time.

Memory and Fear

In today's excerpt - memory and fear. The emotion of each memory is chemically encoded in the brain's amygdala. And each memory is changed - chemically altered - each time we retrieve it, for better or for worse. Therapists try and use this in helping patients overcome fears:

"Learned fears [such as stage-fright] are acquired in part in circuitry centering on the amygdala, which Joseph LeDoux likes to call the brain's 'Fear Central.' LeDoux knows the neural terrain of the amygdala intimately; he's been studying this clump of neurons for decades at the Center for Neural Science at New York University. The cells in the amygdala where sensory information registers, and the adjacent areas that acquire fear, LeDoux has discovered, actually fire in new patterns at the moment a fear has been learned.

"Our memories are in part reconstructions. Whenever we retrieve a memory, the brain rewrites it a bit, updating the past according to our present concerns and understanding. At the cellular level, LeDoux explains, retrieving a memory means it will be 'reconsolidated,' slightly altered chemically by a new protein synthesis that will help store it anew after being updated.

"Thus each time we bring a memory to mind, we adjust its very chemistry: the next time we retrieve it, that memory will come up as we last modified it. The specifics of the new consolidation depend on what we learn as we recall it. If we merely have a flare-up of the same fear, we deepen our fearfulness.

"But, ... if at the time of the fear we tell ourselves something that eases its grip, then the same memory becomes reencoded with less power over us. Gradually, we can bring the once-feared memory to mind without feeling the rush of distress all over again. In such a case, says LeDoux, the cells in our amygdala reprogram so that we lose the original fear conditioning. One goal of therapy, then, can be seen as gradually altering the neurons for learned fear.

"Treatments sometimes actually expose the person to whatever primes their fear. Exposure sessions begin with getting the person relaxed, often through a few minutes of slow abdominal breathing. Then the person confronts the threatening situation, in a careful gradation culminating in the very worst version.

"[For example], one New York City traffic officer confided that she had flown into a rage at a motorist who called her a 'low-life bitch.' So in her exposure therapy that phrase was repeated to her, first in a flat tone, then with increasing emotional intensity, and finally with added obscene gestures. The exposure succeeds when, no matter how obnoxious the repeated phrase, she can stay relaxed - and presumably when back on the street she can calmly write a traffic ticket despite insults."

Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence, Bantam, Copyright 2006, pp. 78-79.


"...The automobile was important to Los Angeles, a city more technology-dependent than any in the world. Los Angeles could not survive without the automobile, as it could not survive without water piped in from hundreds of miles away, and as it could not survive without certain building technologies. This was a fact of the city's existence, and had been true since early in the century.

But in recent years Ross had begun to recognize the subtle psychological effects of living your life inside an automobile. Los Angeles had no sidewalk cafes, because no one walked; the sidewalk café, where you could stare at passing people, was not stationary but mobile. It changed with each traffic light, where people stopped, stared briefly at each other, and then drove on. But there was something inhuman about living inside a cocoon of tinted glass and stainless steel, air-conditioned, carpeted, stereophonic tape-decked, power-optioned, isolated. It thwarted some deep human need to congregate, to be together, to see and be seen.

Local psychiatrists recognized an indigenous depersonalization syndrome. Los Angeles was a town of recent emigrants and therefore strangers; cars kept them strangers, and there were few institutions that served to bring them together. Practically no one went to church, and work groups were not entirely satisfactory. People became lonely; they complained of being cut off, without friends, far from families and old homes. Often they became suicidal – and a common method of suicide was the automobile. The police referred to it euphemistically as "single unit fatalities". You picked your overpass, and hit it at eighty or ninety, foot flat to the floor. Sometimes it took hours to cut the body out of the wreckage…"

Page 147. The Terminal Man
Michael Crichton

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The mind gets used to things. It expands to contain, and profit from, what it is made to endure. And what once wrenched your guts out with pain can later become a necessity.

Alexander Selkirk (on whom Robinson Crusoe was modeled) was stranded on the island of Juan Fernandez off the coast of Chile for 4 and a half years.

After his rescue, ...."Selkirk eventually returned to his home in Scotland, where he became quite a celebrity. Though he did get married, he never quite recovered from his stay on the island. Spending much of his time alone, he didn't feel comfortable living indoors and built a sort of cave or bower behind his father's house that he stayed in. He also trained two cats to perform little feats, like he did on the island.

Eventually he returned to the sea and he died of fever off the coast of Africa in 1721 at the age of 45."

Why isn't everyone creative?

From the chapter 'The Childlike Adult'. Page 148, 'The Human Zoo' by Desmond Morris:

"In any thriving super-tribal city all the citizens should be potential 'inventors'. Why, then, do so few of them indulge in active creativity, while the others are satisfied to enjoy their inventions second-hand, watching them on television or are content to play simple games and sports with strictly limited possibilities for inventiveness?

Part of the answer is that children are subordinate to adults. Inevitably, dominant animals try to control the behaviour of their subordinates. Much as adults may love their children, they cannot help seeing them as a growing threat to dominance. They know that with ultimate senility they will have to give way to them, bu they do everything they can to postpone the evil day. There is therefore a strong tendency to suppress inventiveness in members of the community younger than oneself. An appreciation of the value of their 'fresh eyes' and their new creativeness works against this, but it is an uphill struggle.

By the time the new generation has matured to the point where its members could be wildly inventive, childlike adults, they are already burdened with a heavy sense of conformity. Struggling against this as hard as they can, they in turn are then faced with the threat of another younger generation coming up beneath them, and the suppressive process repeats itself.

Only those rare individuals who experience an unusual childhood, from this point of view, will be able to achieve a level of great creativity in adult life. How unusual does such a childhood have to be? It either has to be so suppressive that the growing child revolts against the traditions of its elders in a big way (many of our greatest creative talents were so-called delinquent children), or it has to be so un-suppressive that the heavy hand of conformity rests lightly on its shoulder....

The vast majority of children will, of course, receive a more balanced mixture of punishment and reward for their inventiveness and will emerge into adult life with personalities that are both moderately creative and moderately conformist.Their attitude to the childlike adults will be ambivalent; on the one hand they will applaud them for providing the much-needed sources of novelty, but on the other they will envy them.

The creative talent will therefore find himself alternately praised and damned by society in a bewildering way, and will be constantly in doubt about his acceptance by the rest of the community. "


".................for memory to function well, it needs constant practice: if recollections are not evoked again and again, in conversations with friends, they go. Emigrés gathered together in compatriot colonies keep retelling to the point of nausea the same stories, which thereby become unforgettable.

But people who do not spend time with their compatriots, like Irena (character in the novel) or Odysseus, are inevitably struck with amnesia. The stronger the nostalgia, the emptier of recollections it becomes. The more Odysseus languished, the more he forgot.

For nostalgia does not heighten memory's activity, it does not awaken recollections; it suffices unto itself, unto its own feelings, so fully absorbed is it by its suffering and nothing else."

'Ignorance' (page 33)
Milan Kundera

Burn, Burn, Burn

"...They rushed down the street together, digging everything in the early way they had, which later became so much sadder and perceptive and blank.

But then they danced down the street like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like the fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centrelight pop and everybody goes "Awww!'."

Page 11,
"On the Road", Jack Kerouac

Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication :)

It said: "The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.

"For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question How can we eat? the second by the question Why do we eat? and the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?"

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams's_Guide_to_the_Galaxy

Frameless Reality

"..You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness. "


As Bill Atterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, said in his speech to students at Kenyon College, his alma mater:

"...Reading those turgid philosophers here in these remote stone buildings may not get you a job, but if those books have forced you to ask yourself questions about what makes life truthful, purposeful, meaningful, and redeeming, you have the Swiss Army Knife of mental tools, and it's going to come in handy all the time....

Your preparation for the real world is not in the answers you've learned, but in the questions you've learned how to ask yourself."


"...For what gives value to travel is fear. It breaks down a kind of inner structure we have. One can no longer cheat - hide behind the hours spent at the office or at the plant (those hours we protest so loudly, which protect us so well from the pain of being alone).
I have always wanted to write novels in which my heroes would say:" What would I do without the office?" or again: "My wife has died, but fortunately I have all these orders to fill for tomorrow." '

Love of Life
'from' Lyrical and Critical Essays' by Albert Camus
Translated by Ellen Conroy Kennedy


"Dheere Dheere Re Mana, Dheere Sub Kutch Hoye
Mali Seenche So Ghara, Ritu Aaye Phal Hoye."

Slowly slowly O mind, everything happens in its own pace
The gardener may pour a hundred buckets,
the fruit arrives only in its season.

Kabir 1398-1518

Certes, aujourdh’hui

Certes, aujourdh’hui mes soirées
Ne se passent plus en réunions

J’aime mieux rester dans le silence de mon bureau
Même si sans doute je me sens un peu coupable

De ne passer mon temps qu’à cultiver des états d’âme
Vaguement à l’écoute des rares bruits de la nuit

D’une corne de brume par exemple
Lorsqu’un bateau quitte l’estuaire

Et le refrain de son moteur lent
Saluant de sourdes vibrations
Les fondations de la maison
Semble ausculter les profondeurs nocturnes…..

'J’habite ici' , Jean-Claude Pinson


"...But in Buddhist science, karma has nothing to do with fate - it is an impersonal, natural process of cause and effect. Our karma at a given moment of life or death or the between is the overall pattern of causal impulses resulting from former actions connected with our life-continuum. These form a complex that impresses its effects on our bodies, actions, and thoughts. In turn, our ongoing actions of body, speech and mind form new causal impulses, which determine the nature and quality of our lives in the future. This complex can be called our evolutionary momentum.

There is an old Tibetan saying, "Don't wonder about your former lives; just look carefully at your present body! Don't wonder about your future lives; just look at your mind in the present!" This expresses the sense that our present body has evolved from a long evolution driven by former actions, and our future embodiments will be shaped by how we think and what we decide to do in our present actions."

Page 28. The Tibetan Book of the Dead [The Bardo Thodol]
Translated & Introduced by Robert A.F. Thurman


"...Growing detachment from the world is of course the experience of many writers as they grow older, grow cooler or colder. The texture of their prose becomes thinner, their treatment of character and action more schematic. The syndrome is usually ascribed to a waning of creative power; it is not doubt connected with the attenuation of physical powers, above all the power of desire.

Yet from the inside the same development may bear a quite different interpretation: as a liberation, a clearing of the mind to take on more important tasks.

The classic case is that of Tolstoy. No one is more alive to the real world than the young Leo Tolstoy, the Tolstoy of War and Peace. After War and Peace, if we follow the standard account, Tolstoy entered upon a long decline into didacticism that culminated in the aridity of the late short fiction.

Yet to the older Tolstoy the evolution must have seemed quite different. Far from declining, he must have felt, he was ridding himself of the shackles that had enslaved him to appearances, enabling him to face directly the one question that truly engaged his soul: how to live."

Page 193. 'Diary of a Bad Year' by J.M.Coetzee [Nobel Prize, 2003]


"You will not be a mystic until you are like the earth - both the righteous and the sinner tread upon it - and until you are like the clouds - they shade all things - and until you are like the rain - it waters all things, whether it loves them or not."

Bayazid Bistami

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 (excerpt from


"...He waved us away, shaking his heid and screwing his eyes up. Ah sais nae mair. Whin ye feel like he did, ye dinnae want tae talk or be talked at. Ye dinnae want any f... fuss at aw. A didnae either. Sometimes ah think that people become junkies just because they subconsciously crave a wee bit ay silence."

Page 7, Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh


The Japanese are the masters of understatement. Watch Hana-bi by Takeshi Kitano - ruthless, violent, yet poetic, minimalist, lyrical. Such style, such elegance. Not one extra gesture, not one unnecessary word.

Class, the Japanese way. And what a guy, Kitano - director, actor, stunning painter.

This one won the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Nachiketa is the main character of the Katha Upanishad.

Once when his father Vajasravasa was donating cows to gain religious merit, Nachiketa, who was just a teenage boy, asks him - "What merit can one obtain by giving away cows that are too old to give milk?" His father does not pay heed to his questions, and is irritated that his young son is seeing through his hypocrisy, and spelling it out too. To make his father realize the meaninglessness of this false ritual, he asks, "To whom will you offer me?" He asks this again and again. Angered, his father blurts out ,"To death I give you!"

So the obedient Nachiketa goes to meet Yama, the God of Death, and waits until he gets an audience with him. All of Katha Upanishad is the dialogue between Yama and Nachiketa - the latter answering the questions on life and death, posed by the young, respectful, but clear-thinking, intelligent young boy.

Read it in Eknath Eswaran's words - " ...As for the student, we can only pause in admiration of this ancient civilization whose hero is a teenager who has not learned the rudimentary grace of civilized existence - to hold his peace in the presence of hypocrisy. Nachiketa is an attractive character who cannot go along with sham; but he is not an obstreperous rebel: he is more sincere about convention than his father (including the convention of obedience to a father, even when the latter has lost his temper) and his first wish [Yama grants him 3 boons] is for reconciliation with him.

At no point does he lack respect. But that is just the point; he forces the issue by taking the demands of religion seriously when the majority have long since allowed external observance to paper it over, making of it a dead letter that no longer communicates anything about personal struggle. But by poking holes in society's shroud of complacency, he represents, again, what it would take to awaken any and all of us.

..........Then follows the encounter of Nachiketa with Death, and its dramatic reversal when he passes Death's severe test and changes him from a gruff and off-putting deity to a delighted teacher." *

* 'The Upanishads', by Eknath Eswaran, Penguin Books

The Five Hundred Gold Pieces

One of Junaid's followers came to him with a purse containing five hundred gold pieces.

"Have you any more money than this?", asked the Sufi.
"Yes, I have."
"Do you desire more?"
"Yes, I do."
"Then you must keep it, for you are more in need than I; for I have nothing and desire nothing. You have a great deal and still want more."

Page 72. Chapter: Attar of Nisharpur.
'The Way of the Sufi' by Idries Shah

Madras Central

The black train pulls in at the platform,
Hissing into silence like hot steel in water.
Tell the porters not to be so precipitate-
It is good, after a desperate journey,
To rest a moment with your perils upon you.

The long rails recline into a distance
Where tomorrow will come before I know it.
I cannot be in two places at once:
That is axiomatic. Come, we will go and drink
A filthy cup of tea in a filthy restaurant.

It is difficult to relax. But my head spins
Slower and slower as the journey recedes.
I do not think I shall smoke a cigarette now.
Time enough for that. Let me make sure first
For the hundredth time, that everything's complete.

My wallet's in my pocket; the white nylon bag
With the papers safe in its lining-fine;
The book and my notes are in the outside pocket;
The brown case is here with all its straps secure.

I have everything I began the journey with,
And also a memory of my setting out
When I was confused, so confused. Terrifying
To think we have such power to alter our states,
Order comings and goings: know where we're not wanted
And carry our unwantedness somewhere else.

Vijay Nambisan

Going to take betel nut

“The basic concept of [the Khasi] religion rests mainly on the three doctrines: ban Tip Briew Tip Blei, ban Tip Kur Tip Kha and ban Kamai ia ka Hok: to know Man, to know God, to know the maternal and paternal relations and to earn righteousness.

...It follows from this, therefore, that Man lives in the world to earn righteousness and having so earned it, he then returns to his Maker when he dies. The Khasis call this return "leit bam kwai sha iing U Blei" - going to take betel nut in the House of God."

‘Around the Hearth - Khasi Legends’ , by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih
Penguin Books. Folktales of India series

Everything is really FINE!

So Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise have hitched this ride East from San Francisco with a "tall, thin fag who drove with extreme care" in a car that Dean called "a 'fag Plymouth'; it had no pickup and no real power". In the front seat are this couple, and in the back seat Dean and Sal are having this crazy conversation full of real and imagined stories and laughing like hyenas....

"...We were telling these things and both sweating. We had completely forgotten the people up front who had begun to wonder what was going on in the back seat. At one point the driver said, "For God's sakes, you're rocking the boat back there." Actually we were; the car was swaying as Dean and I both swayed to the rhythm and the IT of our final excited joy in talking and living to the blank tranced end of all innumerable riotous angelic particulars that had been lurking in our souls all our lives.

"Oh, man! man! man!" moaned Dean. "And it's not even the beginning of it - and now we are at last going east together, we've never gone east together, Sal, think of it, we'll dig Denver together and see what everybody's doing although that matters little to us, the point being that we know what IT is and we know TIME and we know that everything is really FINE".

Then he whispered, clutching my sleeve, sweating, "Now you just dig them in front. They have worries, they're counting the miles, they're thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they'll get there - and all the time they'll get there anyway, you see. But they need to worry and betray time with urgencies false and otherwise, purely anxious and whiny, their souls really won't be at peace unless they can latch on to an established and proven worry and having once found it they assume facial expressions to fit and go with it, which is, you see, unhappiness, and all the time it all flies by them and they know it and that too worries them no end."......

"Man, you dig all this." He was poking me furiously in the ribs to understand. I tried my wildest best. Bing, bang, it was all Yes! Yes! Yes! in the back seat and the people up front were mopping their brows with fright and wishing they'd never picked us up at the travel bureau. It was only the beginning, too.

...It was with a great deal of silly relief that these people let us off the car at the corner of 27th and Federal. Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life."

Page 194, "On the Road" Jack Kerouac

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Well I've been...

"...Well I've been to the mountain
And I've been in the wind
I've been in and out of happiness
I have dined with kings, I've been offered wings
And I've never been too impressed..."

Bob Dylan

Pratchett Speak :)

"Intellectually, Ridcully maintained his position for two reasons. One was that he never, ever, changed his mind about anything. The other was that it took him several minutes to understand any new idea put to him, and this is a very valuable trait in a leader, because anything anyone is still trying to explain to you after two minutes is probably important and anything they give up after a mere minute or so is almost certainly something they shouldn't have been bothering you with in the first place."


Tortoise: "How many talking tortoises have you met?"
Brutha: "I don't know." Tortoise: "What d'you mean, you don't know?"
Brutha: "Well, they might all talk. They just might not say anything when I'm there."

Terry Pratchett


"...There are three conditions which often look alike
Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:

Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment
From self and from things and from persons;
and, growing between them, indifference
Which resembles the others as death resembles life,
Being between two lives—unflowering, between
The live and the dead nettle.

This is the use of memory:
For liberation—not less of love but expanding
Of love beyond desire, and so liberation
From the future as well as the past..."

T.S. Eliot
Little Gidding. The Four Quartets

On Defining Oneself

Michael Crichton climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. And says:“…..

What I learned was this: that I had defined myself as a person who didn't like heights or cold, a person who didn't like to be dirty, a person who didn't like physical exertion or discomfort. And here I had spent five days cold, dirty, and exhausted; I had lost twenty pounds; and I had had a wonderful experience.

I realized that I had defined myself too narrowly.

The experience of climbing Kilimanjaro affected me so powerfully that, for a long time afterward, if I caught myself saying, “I am not a person who likes to do that activity, eat that food, listen to that music, " I would automatically go out and do what I imagined I didn't like. Generally I found I was wrong about myself-I liked what I thought I wouldn't like. And even if I didn't like the particular experience, I learned I liked having new experiences.”

Chapter: Kilimanjaro
from'Travels' by Michael Crichton

Suicide and Murder

"Views concerning the main causes of suicide have differed widely, but hardly anyone denies that re-directed aggression is a major factor. ..

There is a lower rate of suicide during times of war. The suicide curves for the present century show two huge dips during the periods of the two world wars. In other words, why kill yourself if you can kill someone else? It is the inhibitions about killing the people who are dominating and frustrating the potential suicide that force him to re-direct his violence. He has the choice of killing a less daunting scapegoat, or himself. In peace-time, inhibitions about killing make him turn most often towards himself, but during war-time he is ordered to kill, and the suicide rate goes down.

The relationship between suicide and murder is a close one. To a certain extent they are two sides of the same coin. Countries with a high murder rate tend to have a low suicide rate, and vice versa. It is as if there is just so much intense aggression to be let loose, and if it does not take the one form it will take the other. Which way it goes will depend on how inhibited a particular community is about committing murder. If the inhibitions are weak, then the suicide rate goes down. It is similar to the war-time situation, where inhibitions against killing were actively and purposely reduced."

Page 40, 41. "The Human Zoo", by Desmond Morris


"Will and I could hardly wait for the morning to come, to get at something that interested us. That's happiness."
-- Orville Wright, co-inventor of the airplane

Acquainted with the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
O luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Robert Frost
From "New Hampshire", 1923

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Globalization and the Loss of Identity

"...The sobering lesson to be learnt from all this is that the ancient biological need of the human species for a distinct tribal identity is a powerful force that cannot be subdued. As fast as one super-tribal split is visibly mended, another one appears. Well-meaning authorities talk airily about 'hopes for a global society'. They see clearly the technical possibility of such a development, given the marvels of modern communication, but they stubbornly overlook the biological difficulties.

...Theoretically there is no good reason why small groupings, satisfying the requirements of tribal identity, should not be constructively interrelated inside thriving super-tribes, which, in turn, constructively interact to form a massive, global mega-tribe.

Failures to date have largely been due to attempts to suppress the existing differences between the various groups, rather than to improve the nature of these differences by converting them into more rewarding and peaceful forms of competitive social interaction.

Attempts to iron out the whole world into one great expanse of uniform monotony are doomed to disaster. This applies at all levels, from breakaway nations to tearaway gangs. When the sense of social identity is threatened, it fights back."

Page 34, Status and Super-Status, "The Human Zoo". by Desmond Morris

Blog Archive