Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Naomi Shihab Nye, American poet and writer, was born of a Palestinian Muslim father and an American Christian mother. This excerpt is from an essay on their stay/visits to Jerusalem, where her father's family still lives in a village:

"My father and I hike to the tomb of Sheikh Omar, high on a hill. We must overstep the lentil fields to get there. My father stoops to pluck a handful of fresh green lentils, saying, "Once you eat them raw, you never forget the taste." Sometimes I feel this way about my whole life. Who was Omar, when did he live? My father says he was a disciple of Mohammed. He lived a long time ago. The villagers know this is his tomb, so they have built a rugged mound of a mosque to honour him.

Inside, faded prayer rugs cover the floors. A ring of half-burnt candles stands in one corner. We take off our shoes and kneel. I don't really know how to pray like a Muslim, but I know there is something very affecting about people putting down their shovels and brooms five times a day to do this. I like how life continues in the rooms where someone is praying. No one stops talking or stares; it is part of life, the denominator. Everything else is a dancing away."

Page 57, 'One Village', from 'Never in a Hurry, Essays on People and Places', by Naomi Shihab Nye

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The ethos of Individualism

"Pre-industrial societies have little notion of a person as a separate entity. A Nigerian psychiatrist told me that, when a psychiatric clinic was first set up in a rural district of Nigeria to treat the mentally ill, the family invariably accompanied the sufferer and insisted upon being present at the patient's interview with the psychiatrist. The idea that the patient might exist as an individual apart from the family, or that he might have personal problems which he did not want to share with them, did not occur to Nigerians who were still living a traditional village life.

In his book Social Anthropology, Sir Edmund Leach refers to "the ethos of individualism which is central to the contemporary Western society but which is notably absent from most of the societies which social anthropologists study."

Page 78, 'The Significance of the Individual', from 'Solitude', Anthony Storr

The anchor, the ocean, the forgetting to be who I am

What is Lost
Jorge Luis Borges

I wonder where my life is, the one that could
have been and never was, the daring one
or the one of gloomy dread, that other thing
which could as well have been the sword or shield
but never was? I wonder where is my lost
Persian or Norwegian ancestor,
where is the chance of my not being blind,
where is the anchor, the ocean, where the forgetting
to be who I am? I wonder where the pure
night is that the unlettered working day
entrusts to the rough laborer so that he
can also feel the love of literature.
I also think about a certain mate
who waited for me once, perhaps still waits.

The audience of alternate selves

Note Autobiographical

"Every time he speaks of himself you sense something missing, something not quite true. It's not that you doubt his sincerity - on the contrary, you know he's making every effort to be honest. It's just that by putting himself in the spotlight he has blinded himself to his own shadow, to the audience of alternate selves who watch him from the wings. He tells you what he sees, but all the while the real self remains invisible, like light seen from the inside of a bulb.

It's like the difference between the way you picture yourself and your face in a photograph. The way you hold your breath at immigration, waiting to see if the man examining your passport will accept you for who you are."

Aseem Kaul, 'Etudes'

Monday, November 28, 2011

Most dangerous is the death of our dreams

Sabse khatarnak hota hai hamaare sapnon ka mar jaana

Sabse khatarnak hota hai murda shanti se bhar jana,
Na hona tadap ka, sab kuch sahan kar jana,
Ghar se nikalna kaam par, aur kaam se loutkar ghar aana,
Sabse khatarnak hota hai,
Hamare sapno ka mar jana.


Most dangerous is the death of our dreams

Most dangerous is
To be filled with dead peace
Not to feel agony and bear it all,
Leaving home for work
And from work return home
Most dangerous is the death of our dreams.

By Paash
(Paash was the pen name of Avtar Singh Sandhu (September 9, 1950 - March 23, 1988), an Indian poet. His strongly left-wing views were reflected in his poetry.He was killed by Khalistani terrorists in 1988 when he was on holiday in his home state, Punjab )

I am not done with my changes

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.

When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.

Friday, November 25, 2011

One of the sons was sad sometimes...

Interview, Saudi Arabia

The fathers do not know
what the sons have done.
They are waiting for the sons to call home,
to say it was a mistake,
it was not me.
Somewhere on another street
their boys in short white pants
are walking proudly
in a world they love.
Oranges peeled by hand,
frying onions,
marbles in dust.
Whatever might happen
is shiny, strong.

One of the sons was sad sometimes.
No one knew why.
There is no way, says his brother,
he could fly a plane.

The fathers blink back tears.
They have no evidence at all.
Please tell them something better.
Their sons went to school,
were normal, good.
Whatever would happen
might still be changed.

'You and Yours', Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye

The Sunday After

Beautiful music, from this young Viennese composer, Albors Askari:

Breath. The Sunday After. It's Alright. Too much rain. Code Name - Dark Matter.

Playing on Repeat since the day I heard it first. I start the day with this. This music is a morning prayer. During the day, it brings me a certain stillness and peace amidst all the stress.
And in the evening, it becomes a lullaby.

Found him here.

On Facebook:

* Photo from Google Images.

Kagemu à Paris

An incredible art/dance piece by artist Nobuyuki Hanabusa and dancer Katsumi Sakakura, together known as Kagemu.

'Black Sun' is a a combination of traditional and contemporary Japanese dance/martial arts with exquisitely choreographed motion-graphics:


Read the interview of the duo: Kagemu's 'Black Sun' Synchronizes Projected Video With Japanese Dance.

Found it here: - thank you, David.

* Photo from Google Images.


Such beauty, that you almost stop breathing.

The Causes
Jorge Luis Borges

The sunsets and the generations
The days and none was first.
The freshness of water in Adam's
Throat. Orderly paradise.
The eye deciphering the darkness.
The love of wolves at dawn.
The word. The hexameter. The mirror.
The Tower of Babel and pride.
The moon which the Chaldeans gazed at.
The uncountable sands of the Ganges.
Chuang Tzu and the butterfly that dreams him.
The golden apples on the islands.
The steps in the wandering labyrinth.
Penelope's infinite tapestry.
The circular time of the Stoics.
The coin in the mouth of the dead man.
The sword's weight on the scale.
Each drop of water in the water clock.
The eagles, the memorable days, the legions.
Caesar on the morning of Pharsalus.
The shadow of crosses over the earth.
The chess and algebra of the Persians.
The footprints of long migration.
The sword's conquest of kingdoms.
The relentless compass. The open sea.
The clock echoing in the memory.
The king executed by the ax.
The incalculable dust that was armies.
The voice of the nightingale in Denmark.
The calligrapher's meticulous line.
The suicide's face in the mirror.
The gambler's card. Greedy gold.
The forms of a cloud in the desert.
Every arabesque in the kaleidoscope.
Each regret and each tear.
All those things were made perfectly clear
So our hands could meet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

And where you are is where you are not

They are selling calendars at the traffic signals.
Calendars for 2012.
No. Not again.
Not another year.
You are so tired.

                                  "..You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
    You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
    You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
    You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
    You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not."

T.S.Eliot, 'East Coker' from 'The Four Quartets'


...A universe that includes you
can't be all bad, but
does it? At this distance
you're a mirage, a glossy image
fixed in the posture
of the last time I saw you.
Turn you over, there's the place
for the address. Wish you were
here. Love comes
in waves like the ocean, a sickness which goes on
and on, a hollow cave
in the head, filling & pounding, a kicked ear.

Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Kiro, the best student of a karate master of the shotokan style in Nagasaki, easily defeated a long-haired young man in an August Moon festival karate tournament. Later that night, he sees the young man being chased by the villagers for stealing a piglet which he held under his arm. Kiro goes to confront the young man. Without dropping the pig, the young man fought ferociously and with a side kick sent Kiro spinning backwards and on to the ground. After he escapes the astounded Kiro asks his master how a weaker opponent, with a pig under one arm, and tired after being chased, managed to fight so well and defeat him.

The master, in answer, narrated this Zen story:

"A Zen master was out walking with his student. The student saw the fox chasing a rabbit and said to his master, “I wonder which one will win?"
"According to an old fable", his master replied, "the rabbit will get away from the fox."
"Surely not, the fox is faster".
"But the rabbit will still escape", insisted the Zen master.
"Why are you so certain?” asked the student.
"Because the fox is running for his dinner but the rabbit is running for his life."

Page 68. 'Beaten by a Novice'
from 'Myths and Legends of the Martial Arts' by Peter Lewis

Monday, November 21, 2011

A View of Delft

A view of Delft, by Johannes Vermeer

In that town,
across the water
where all has been seen
and the bricks are cherished like sparrows,
in that town like a letter from home
read again and again in a port,
in that town with its library of tiles
and its addresses recalled by Johannes Vermeer
who died in debt,
in that town across the water
where the dead take the census
and there are no vacant rooms
for his gaze occupies them all,
where the sky is waiting
to have news of a birth,
in that town which pours from the eyes
of those who left it,
between two chimes of the morning,
when fish are sold in the square
and the maps on the walls
show the depth of the sea,
in that town
I am preparing for your arrival.

Page 100, 'And our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos' by John Berger

Photo from Google Images

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sacred Time

From Mircea Eliade's 'The Sacred and the Profane, The Nature of Religion':

Profane Duration and Sacred Time

For religious man, time too, like space, is neither homogeneous nor continuous. On the one hand, there are the intervals of a sacred time, the time of the festivals (by far the greater part of which are periodical); on the other there is profane time, ordinary temporal duration, in which acts without religious meaning have their setting. Between these two kinds of time there is, of course, solution of continuity; but by means of rites religious man can pass without danger from ordinary temporal duration to sacred time.

One essential difference between these two qualities of time strikes us immediately: by its very nature sacred time is reversible in the sense that, properly speaking, it is a primordial mythical time made present. Every religious festival, any liturgical time, represents the reactualization of a sacred event that took place in a mythical past, "in the beginning". Religious participation in a festival implies emerging from ordinary temporal duration and reintegration of the mythical time reactualized by the festival itself.

Friday, November 18, 2011

At the edge where there is no I or not-I

This Only

A valley and above it forests in autumn colors.
A voyager arrives, a map leads him there.
Or perhaps memory. Once long ago in the sun,
When snow first fell, riding this way
He felt joy, strong, without reason,
Joy of the eyes. Everything was the rhythm
Of shifting trees, of a bird in flight,
Of a train on the viaduct, a feast in motion.

He returns years later, has no demands.
He wants only one, most precious thing:
To see, purely and simply, without name,
Without expectations, fears, or hopes,
At the edge where there is no I or not-I.

Czeslaw Milosz
(The Collected Poems, 1931-1987, trans. by Robert Has)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Imperfect Thirst

If your eyes are not deceived by the mirage
do not be proud of the sharpness of your understanding.
It may be your freedom from this optical illusion
is due to the imperfectness of your thirst.

Suhrawardi (1155–1191), Iranian Philosopher

The Historian of the Hunted

"There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. That did not come to me until much later. Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian. It's not one man's job. It's not one person's job. But it is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail — the bravery, even, of the lions."

Chinua Achebe, Nigerian writer, author of 'Things Fall Apart'

Sunday, November 13, 2011


This is now.  Now is,
all there is.  Don't wait for Then;
strike the spark, light the fire.
Sit at the Beloved's table,
feast with gusto, drink your fill
then dance
the way branches
of jasmine and cypress
dance in a spring wind.
The green earth
is your cloth;
tailor your robe
with dignity and grace.

Talk to me

Listening to a conversation between people in Tech Support in a US office, you learn that during Christmas time they get a lot of calls from people, who don't really have any technical problem to report, but just want to talk, because they are so terribly lonely. And the other one adds, Oh I get calls like that even on ordinary days, but it's more around Christmas.

Such loneliness that you would call Tech Support, just to hear someone speak to you nicely for a few short minutes?

You remember this scene from a German movie, a lonely man who calls random numbers from the telephone directory every day, hoping that at least one person will not bang the phone down after "Sorry, wrong number", but will stay on to have a conversation with him.

7 billion people. And not one person to talk to.


There will always be suffering
It flows through life like water
I put my hand over hers
Down in the lime-tree arbour.

Nick Cave (Australian musician)

Quoted in 'Another Side of Desire', from 'Hold Everything Dear, Dispatches on Survival and Resistance' by John Berger, 2007

All that is left

"Month by month, millions leave their homelands. They leave because there is nothing there, except their everything, which does not offer enough to feed their children. Once it did. This is the poverty of the new capitalism.

After long and terrible journeys, after they have experienced the baseness of which others are capable, after they have come to trust their own incomparable and dogged courage, emigrants find themselves waiting on some foreign transit station, and then all they have left of their home continent is themselves: their hands, their eyes, their feet, shoulders, bodies, what they wear and what they pull over their heads at night to sleep under, wanting a roof.

In some photos taken in the Red Cross shelter for refugees and emigrants at Sangatte (near Calais) by Anabell Guerrero we can take account of how a man's fingers are all that remain of a plot of tilled earth, his palms what remain of some riverbed, and how his eyes are a family gathering he will not attend."

Page 114, 'Ten Dispatches about Place', from 'Hold Everything Dear, Dispatches on Survival and Resistance' by John Berger, 2007

Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.

These are the most beautiful lines I have come across in ages. Sent by a stranger on a mailing group. I didn't know words could express this state of being.

The Art of Disappearing
Naomi Shihab Nye

When they say Don't I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say We should get together
say why?

It's not that you don't love them anymore.
You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven't seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don't start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time. 

Lying on our backs, looking up at the night sky

Once in a Story

We are both storytellers. Lying on our backs, we look up at the night sky. This is where stories began, under the aegis of that multitude of stars which at night filch certitudes and sometimes returns them as faith. Those who first invented and then named the constellations were storytellers. Tracing an imaginary line between a cluster of stars gave them an image and an identity. The stars threaded on that line were like events threaded on a narrative. Imagining the constellations did not of course change the stars, nor did it change the black emptiness that surrounds them. What it changed was the way people read the night sky.

The problem of time is like the darkness of the sky. Every event is inscribed in its own time. Events may cluster and their times overlap, but the time in common between events does not extend as law beyond the clustering.

A famine is a tragic cluster of events. To which the Great Plough is indifferent, existing as it does in another time.

Page 8, 'And our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos', John Berger

Leave the familiar for a while

All the Hemispheres

Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadow and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.
Make a new watermark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.
Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of

Hafez, Persian Poet

Buy Hyacinths to Feed Thy Soul

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

Attributed to the Gulistan of Moslih Eddin Saadi,
a Mohammedan sheik and Persian poet who lived about 1184-1291

The poem is a sort of energy

I think that the poem is a sort of energy that transforms and goes farther away from the writer. And the important thing is not if it's still the same poem, but if it still gives some of its energy to the reader, even if by then, it is rather distorted.

Tomas Transtromer, Swedish Poet, Nobel Prize for Literature, 2011

Notebook, 1989

Friday, November 11, 2011

There is a thread you follow

The Way It Is

There is a thread you follow.
It goes among things that change.
But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what
things you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and grow old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
But you don’t ever let go of the thread.

William Stafford

A Sense of Peace

"What reconciles me to my own death more than anything else is the image of a place: a place where your bones and mine are buried, thrown, uncovered, together. They are strewn there pell-mell. One of your ribs leans against my skull. A metacarpal of my left hand lies inside your pelvis. (Against my broken ribs your breast like a flower.) The hundred bones of your feet are scattered like gravel.

It is strange that this image of our proximity, concerning as it does mere phosphate of calcium, should bestow a sense of peace. Yet it does. With you I can imagine a place where to be phosphate of calcium is enough."

The ending of 'And our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos', by John Berger

Monday, November 7, 2011


Disconnect like dusk.
Like the unknown dervish.

Hold Everything Dear

"There are 8000 political prisoners in Israeli jails, 350 of them under eighteen years old. A period in prison has become a normal phase to be undergone, once or several times, in a man's life. Throwing stones can lead to a sentence or two and a half years or more.

Prison for us is a sort of education, a strange sort of university. The man speaking has glasses, is about fifty and is wearing a business-lunch suit. You learn how to learn there. He's the youngest of five brothers and imports coffee-machines. You learn how to struggle together and become inseparable. Certain conditions have improved over the last forty years - improved thanks to our hunger strikes. The most I did was twenty days. We won a quarter of an hour more exercise time each day. In the long-sentence prisons they used to mask the windows so there was no sunshine in the cells. We won back some sunshine. We got one body-search removed from the daily routine. Otherwise we read and discuss what we read, teach each other different languages. And come to know certain soldiers and some of the guards.

In the streets it's the language of bullets and stones between us. Inside it's different. They're in prison just as we are. The difference is we believe in what's got us there, and they mostly don't, because they are just there to earn a living. I know of some friendships that began like that.

The stance of undefeated despair works like this."

Page 16, 'Undefeated Despair', from 'Hold Everything Dear, Dispatches on Survival and Resistance' by John Berger, 2007

Kafka, and the Schizoid Dilemma

"When mothers both threaten their infants and also reject physical contact with them, they place them in an impossible position. Threats of any kind, from any source, simulate an intense need for attachment on the part of the infant, because the prime function of attachment is protection from the threat of danger. But if the source of the threat is the very person to whom the infant must turn for protection, the infant is faced with a conflict which cannot be resolved. Placed in such a situation, the infant exhibits vacillation between approach, avoidance, and angry behaviour. This disorganization of behaviour can only be alleviated by the infant turning away from everything to do with the mother.

It is clear that avoidance implies a deeper disturbance in the relation between the infant and its mother than does compliance. This may be connected with the fact that avoidance is manifested at an earlier stage in the infant's development than the more sophisticated behaviour of compliance. Avoidance is connected with the fear of being damaged or destroyed by hostility. Compliance is concerned with the fear of love being withdrawn. Avoidance suggests doubt as to whether love has ever been proffered. Compliance implies recognition that love is available, but doubts whether it will last.

.....One of the most characteristic traits of the people whom psychiatrists label schizoid is their inability to make close relationships with people without feeling threatened. The typical schizoid dilemma is a desperate need for love combined with an equally desperate fear of close involvement. Kafka was a writer who vividly portrayed this dilemma in extreme form, and who also used avoidance in adult life in order that he could employ his writing as a means of preventing 'behavioural disorganization'.

Although Kafka, during his brief life, made a number of friends who were deeply fond of him and who sometimes idealized him, he said that, even with his closest friend and later biographer, Max Brod, he had never been able to hold a prolonged conversation in which he had really revealed himself."

Page 100, 'Solitude', Anthony Storr

Sunday, November 6, 2011


"Philosophy is really homesickness, it is the urge to be at home everywhere."


Page 54, 'And our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos', John Berger

These Hills Called Home

Temsula Ao. Poet, short story writer and ethnographer. Nagaland, India

Yet another beautiful collection of stories from Temsula Ao. Mind-opening too. We see what we choose to see. How much more effective these stories are in sensitizing us to what is going on in Nagaland, than newspaper/TV reports full of statistics.

Available on, for delivery within India. I had written about her earlier, here.

"More than half a century of bloodshed has marked the history of the Naga people who live in the troubled northeastern region of India. Their struggle for an independent Nagaland and their continuing search for identity provides the backdrop for the stories that make up this unusual collection.

Describing how ordinary people cope with violence, how they negotiate power and force, how they seek and find safe spaces and enjoyment in the midst of terror, the author details a way of life under threat from the forces of modernization and war. No one—the young, the old, the ordinary housewife, the willing partner, the militant who takes to the gun, and the young woman who sings even as she is being raped—is untouched by the violence.

Theirs are the stories that form the subtext of the struggles that lie at the internal faultlines of the Indian nation-state. These are stories that speak movingly of home, country, nation, nationality, identity, and direct the reader to the urgency of the issues that lie at their heart."

Of Birds, and Beauty

This girl never ceases to amaze me. I don't know anyone else who takes such brilliant photos, and also writes so beautifully. She really sees. And makes us see too.

See this beautiful online book she has created, with her photos and her text, you can flip through the entire book online:

The Bird Hours:

Found it on her amazing blog, full of birds and beautiful writing -

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Come. We must go deeper.

Michael Ondaatje, Booker Prize 1992

"Everything is biographical, Lucian Freud says. What we make, why it is made, how we draw a dog, who it is we are drawn to, why we cannot forget. Everything is collage, even genetics. There is the hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly. We contain them for the rest of our lives, at every border we cross.
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

"What he would say, he cannot say to this woman whose openness is like a wound, whose youth is not mortal yet. He cannot alter what he loves most in her, her lack of compromise, where the romance of the poems she loves still sits with ease in the real world. Outside these qualities he knows there is no order in the world."
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

"We die containing the richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if in rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if into trees, fears we have hidden in as if in caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography- to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience. All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.”
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

"Come. We must go deeper, with no justice and no jokes."  

Who in the world am I?

"I wonder if I've been changed in the night?

Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different.

But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!'"

Lewis Carroll, 'Alice in Wonderland'

They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again

Sometimes, I Am Startled Out of Myself,

like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.

Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.

You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.

All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.

They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.

Barbara Crooker

The Day Flies Off Without Me

The Day Flies Off Without Me
John Stammers

The planes bound for all points everywhere etch lines on my office window.
From the top floor London recedes in all directions, and beyond:
the world with its teeming hearts.

I am still, you move,
I am a point of reference on a map;
I am at zero meridian as you consume the longitudes.

The pact we made to read our farewells
exactly at two in the afternoon
with you in the air
holds me like a heavy winter coat.

Your unopened letter is in my pocket, beating.

I never hear a complaint here

At the University College of North Wales at Bangor

by Gerald Locklin

Most of my students here are very poor.

I seldom see them in the pubs: they
Cannot really afford the prices.

As winter hits they have to decide whether

To spend their shillings on the coin-operated heaters
Or on food.

I suspect that heat often wins—you can
Freeze to death quicker than you will starve.

Their incentive is that they will presumably
Have more comfortable lives if they survive
The minimalist conditions of college.

The government gives them a small grant
From which to buy books.
We are encouraged to require
Very few books.

A book is a valued art object here.

I never hear a complaint here
And no one misses a tutorial
Without the most profuse and formal
Of apologies.

In California my students and I and everyone else,
Also including the movie stars and politicians and

Seldom stop for breath
In the midst of a constant bitching.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I want to resume the life of a shy person

"I want to resume the life of a shy person." Garrison Keillor

"Shyness is a kink in the soul, a special category, a dimension that opens out into solitude. Moroever, it is an inherent suffering, as if we had two epidermises, and the one underneath rebelled and shrank from life. Of the things that make up a man, this quality, this damaging thing, is a part of the alloy that lays the foundation, in the long run, for the perpetuity of the self."

Pablo Neruda, 'Memoirs'

Photo: The Touch-Me-Not plant, my nickname at school :)

"The biblical Latin phrase Noli me tangere which appears in John 20:17 is translated as "Touch me not"."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I grok you

This word has always fascinated me:

To grok is to intimately and completely share the same reality or line of thinking with another physical or conceptual entity. Author Robert A. Heinlein coined the term in his best-selling 1961 book Stranger in a Strange Land. In Heinlein's view, grokking is the intermingling of intelligence that necessarily affects both the observer and the observed. From the novel:
Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man.
 According to the book, drinking is a central focus on Mars where water is scarce. Martians use the merging of their bodies with water as a simple example or symbol of how two entities can combine to create a new reality greater than the sum of its parts. The water becomes part of the drinker, and the drinker part of the water. Both grok each other. Things that once had separate realities become entangled in the same experiences, goals, history, and purpose. Within the book, the statement of divine immanence verbalized between the main characters, "Thou Art God", is logically derived from the concept inherent in the term grok.

Rang De

Kokila Devi, a widow from Jharkhand, one of the 18 people I have given loans to so far, through Rang De. Eight people had lent money to meet her need of Rs.10,000, and she has repaid 75% of the loan already!

Her profile:

"Kokila is a homemaker and is the sole provider for her children since the death of her husband. Training to become a village level service center has given her new hope and is ready to set up her grocery store. This store will provide her with a regular income and also serve the community by imparting health, insurance and other useful services. She is happy that she will be providing for her children and helping her village. Please note the loan tenure is 1yr and will be repaid in 4 equal installments."

On another note, a few kilometers from Jungle Lodges, Kabini, 200 kms from Bangalore, live communities that have never seen electricity, earning a max of Rs. 7,000 to Rs. 10,000 in an entire year.

Rang De is trying to create alternate sources of income for them. I am a volunteer with the Bangalore Chapter of Rang De. Looking forward to field trips to visit these communities, and hoping we can make a difference to these people.

Knock out Poverty. Become a Social Investor.

Rang De:
On Facebook:

We're just a bit of pollution :)

In today's excerpt - astronomers and physicists are now grappling with evidence that suggests that all the things we can observe in the universe with even the most powerful telescopes is only four percent of what is there. The rest, they posit, is dark matter and dark energy:

"... 'Dark,' cosmologists call it, in what could go down in history as the ultimate semantic surrender. This is not 'dark' as in distant or invisible. This is not "dark" as in black holes or deep space. This is 'dark' as in unknown for now, and possibly forever: 23 percent something mysterious that they call dark matter, 73 percent some­thing even more mysterious that they call dark energy. Which leaves only 4 percent the stuff of us. 

As one theorist likes to say at public lectures, 'We're just a bit of pollution.' Get rid of us and of every­thing else we've ever thought of as the universe, and very little would change. 'We're completely irrelevant,' he adds, cheerfully. 


From 'Markings' by Dag Hammarskjold, foreword by W.H.Auden. His personal diary, which reveals a totally different side to the former Secretary-General of the United Nations.

"Not to encumber the earth - No pathetic Excelsior, but just this: not to encumber the earth" *

"You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming wholly animal, play with falsehood without forfeiting your right to truth, play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind. He who wants to keep his garden tidy does not reserve a plot for weeds."

"There is a pride of faith, more unforgivable and dangerous than the pride of the intellect. It reveals a split personality in which faith is "observed" and appraised, thus negating that unity born of a dying-unto-self, which is the definition of faith."

"Even in the most intense activity, this feeling of unreality - in you who have never come "close" to another. The old fairy-tale: the one who has been made invisible or transformed into a beast can only regain his human shape through somebody else's love."

"If only I may grow: firmer, simpler - quieter, warmer."

*"The thought is taken from the posthumously published papers of Bertil Ekman (1894-1920) who died on a mountain-climbing expedition. His idealism and rigorist Kierkegaardian ethics exerted a powerful influence on H as a young man. W.H.A"

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