Saturday, October 24, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Letter to Peter Benchley, Sag Harbour, 1956 from 'A Life in Letters' - John Steinbeck
Or are ant communities good Christians and will they welcome him warmly and just say "Step in line, pardner!" because they remember that "I was a stranger and you took me in" (Mathew 25:35 ), and "Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, so also you do unto me" (Mathew 25: 40), and "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:1-2) ? Have been wondering about this for years.
One day at school he learns about number locks. That a combination of numbers can be used as an unlocking mechanism. He remembers the strange numbers branded on Grandpa's arm. (By the Gestapo, but he does not know that). So one evening, alone with Grandpa in his dimly lit stuffy basement room, he sits in front of the old man and repeats the numbers in a quiet slow voice, like a magician, trying out all possible permutations. Hoping one of them will unlock Grandpa, the secret world that he inhabits. But Grandpa continues to smile unseeing, talking in a strange mumble as always, lost beyond comprehension.
In the end the boy gives up in frustration. He realizes, with a feeling of suddenly having grown up, that Grandpa has closed himself in a world where nothing, not even the magic of numbers, can free him.
Birds. They fly across our lives, unobtrusive, light, mute witnesses. They are of the earth, and of the sky. Connected, yet not connected. Roots, and freedom. Closeness, and space.
A fine balance we seek to attain, all our lives.
A call had come from her brother Harold,
who was spoken of only in whispers
and despised by those with a talent
for never changing their minds.
But Mother loved him.
Somehow I learned that my uncle
had forged checks and spent time in prison.
And I knew he played the saxophone
in small jazz bands.
In late afternoon the doorbell rang.
My uncle stood in the hall.
A tall man slightly stooped, he shook snow
from his long brown overcoat. He had a high
hooked nose and wavy brown hair
that fell across his forehead,
and he carried packages wrapped in Christmas paper.
My stepfather signaled: disappear.
In early evening Uncle Harold
knocked on my door with a gift for me:
jazz records, the first I'd seen.
Fats Waller beaming from the album cover
is clearer to me now than my uncle's face.
"I can't give you anything but love, baby."
A mourning sax backing Lee Wiley:
"Once in a while, will you give just
one little thought to me…"
At first light my uncle was gone,
His footprints vanishing in a fresh fall of snow.
by Mark Perlberg
Remembered this old Anglo-Indian lady I saw the other day at K.C Das. I saw her from the distance standing in front of the shop, thought she might be waiting for someone. I was going in when she asked me whether I could help her get down the small step on to the pavement. The step was so low, I would not have even noticed it. But she was standing there waiting for someone to come and help her down.
The helplessness of old age, the diminishing of your faculties that nothing can stop. How ill-prepared you are for it, how unimaginable that one day you could be standing on city roads seeking the help of strangers. Strangers who will never see, beyond the wrinkled skin and sagging muscles, the strong, agile, fiercely independent young person you once were.
Thought of their families far away in small villages waiting for these slips of paper.
Most of them did not even have slippers and looked rather lost in the huge vaulted GPO hall with its majestic dome and giant pillars and surrounded by the rest of us educated well-dressed confident city people.
What different worlds we inhabit, living shoulder to shoulder in this vast country.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
"...I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown."
From 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' by T.S.Eliot
It is but natural, come to think of it. When someone cares enough to listen to our stories, we become young again.
It is not age, but the weight of the untold stories of our days, that bends our backs.
"What did we ever own that hadn't
the quality of seasons
their numerous dyings?"
Winter Song, Brian Patten
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It is not the growing older that bothers you, but the realization that proportionally the older people who are dear to you are also growing older and therefore more vulnerable - each time the phone rings with that long-distance tone, you freeze in terror.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
A buddhist ritual where they make an elaborate beautiful rangoli/mandala [colorful design] on the ground, and then the sand is brushed together, collected, and dispersed in flowing water.
To re-inforce one of the basic principles of life, and of Buddhism - the impermanence of things.
Monday, October 12, 2009
...Douglas Adams has his character Ford Prefect describe Somebody Else's Problem in Life, the Universe and Everything, the third book of the five-book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy:
"..An SEP is something we can't see, or don't see, or our brain doesn't let us see, because we think that it's somebody else's problem.... The brain just edits it out, it's like a blind spot. If you look at it directly you won't see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye."
Sunday, October 11, 2009
...One absurdly precise study estimates that 28 percent of prominent scientists, 60 percent of composers, 73 percent of painters, 77 percent of novelists, and an astonishing 87 percent of poets have shown some degree of mental disturbance.
As John Nash, the Princeton mathematician, said after recovering from 30 years of schizophrenia and accepting a Nobel Prize for his work on game theory, the interludes of rationality between his psychotic episodes were not welcome at all. "Rational thought imposes a limit on a person's concept of his relation to the cosmos."
The psychiatrist Randolph Nesse of Michigan speculates that schizophrenia may be an example of an evolutionary "cliff effect", in which the mutations in different genes are all beneficial, except when they all come together in one person, or evolve just too far, at which point they suddenly combine to produce a disaster.
Perhaps schizophrenia is the result of too much of a good thing: too many genetic and environmental factors that are usually good for brain function all coming together in one individual. This would explain why the genes predisposing people to schizophrenia do not die out; so long as they do not combine, they each benefit the survival of the carrier."
Page 122, 'The Agile Gene, How Nature turns on Nurture' by Matt Ridley, author of 'Genome'
Going for a walk with a dog, unleashed. He runs ahead of you smelling, exploring, marking. Far ahead of you. You are alone, yet not. Narrow country road, deserted hillsides once again being reclaimed by the night. There's just you, and somewhere ahead, a dog. You stop to hear a stream gurgle under a small bridge. And when you want to return, you shout out to him. He's gone ahead the bend in the road. And he pretends to not hear you. So you turn back and start walking. Like a lightning shot, he's turned back and run far ahead of you. And he stops to pant and look back at you. And then again you lose him in his explorations among the tall grass and the trees.
And when you finally turn in towards the house, you think you have lost him. But he comes in from among the grass, covered with seeds, happy. He runs ahead to the house. He is there first. When you turn into the verandah, he's there, with that smug look on his face - "Look, she's coming home so late." And you still want to hug him.
05 Jan 2007
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