Thursday, August 30, 2012

Walk Away

In the dead of the night Siddhartha got up and walked away, from everything he knew. You often think of people who disappear, who go away on their own will, vanish. All of them may never see the light, return with riches, not even be aware of what it is that they seek. Most of them, probably, will just unravel. It kills you.

You who only ever wanted to be the catcher in the rye, going about the soul-deadening drill of earning your food, while thousands fall off the ledge, every day. There are people who want to receive, and those who want to give, probably in equal numbers. But so rarely do their paths cross. In the meanwhile, for so many, there is nothing left, but to Walk Away.

"Every year thousands of men and women disappear. I don't mean the ones who sell up, move away, remarry, get a job in Acapulco, go into a nursing home or mental hospital, or even out on to the streets. I mean the ones who are never seen again. The ones untraced and untraceable. Faded photographs, out of date clothes, the years piling up in the place left behind. The place where they walked away, without a suitcase or a passport, bank account untouched, appointments still fresh in the diary.

I think of a see-saw. At one end, life's accumulations, at the other end, the self.  For many, perhaps for most, the balance can be maintained. The not too unpleasant ups and downs of day to day, a little loss here, a little gain there, the occasional giddy soar or painful crash.

What happens when the accumulated life becomes so heavy that it pitches the well-balanced self into thin air? All the things that I had and knew, crashing to the floor, myself shattered upwards, outwards, over the roof tops, over the familiar houses, a ghost among ghosts. I might as well be dead.

I shall be treated as dead. The dead have no rights, no feelings, the present deals with the past just as it likes. I shall become a thing of the past, worse than dead, a living dead, to be avoided or forgotten, to be abused because I shall have revealed myself as someone who can't cope.

We have to cope, don't we? Get on with life, pull ourselves together, be positive, look ahead. Therapy or drugs will be freely offered. I can get help. We live in a very caring society.

It cares very much that we should all be seen to cope."

Page 194, 'The Green Square', from 'The World and Other Places' by Jeannette Winterson (absolutely stunning writing)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Say burning bush. Say stone.

Trying to Raise the Dead
Dorianne Laux

Look at me. I’m standing on a deck
in the middle of Oregon. There are
friends inside the house. It’s not my

house, you don’t know them.
They’re drinking and singing
and playing guitars. You love

this song, remember, “Ophelia,”
Boards on the windows, mail
by the door. I’m whispering

so they won’t think I’m crazy.
They don’t know me that well.
Where are you now? I feel stupid.

I’m talking to trees, to leaves
swarming on the black air, stars
blinking in and out of heart-

shaped shadows, to the moon, half-
lit and barren, stuck like an axe
between the branches. What are you

now? Air? Mist? Dust? Light?
What? Give me something. I have
to know where to send my voice.

A direction. An object. My love, it needs
a place to rest. Say anything. I’m listening.
I’m ready to believe. Even lies, I don’t care.

Say burning bush. Say stone. They’ve
stopped singing now and I really should go.
So tell me, quickly. It’s April. I’m

on Spring Street. That’s my gray car
in the driveway. They’re laughing
and dancing. Someone’s bound

to show up soon. I’m waving.
Give me a sign if you can see me.
I’m the only one here on my knees.

What To Remember When Waking

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

David Whyte

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stand still

David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are nor lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. Listen, it answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.


"In your mind there is a blocked door. You have to work hard not to go near that door. Parties, lovers, career, charity, babies, who cares what it is, so long as you avoid the door.

There are times, when I am on my own, fixing a drink, walking upstairs, when I see the door waiting for me. I have to stop myself pulling the bolt and turning the handle. Why? On the other side of the door is a mirror, and I will have to see myself. I'm not afraid of what I am. I am afraid I will see what I am not."

Page 96, 'The World and Other Places', Jeannette Winterson

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On reading the Koran

Lesley Hazleton: On reading the Koran

"And then there was the language, the rhythmic cadence of it, reminding me of evenings spent listening to Bedouin elders recite hours-long narrative poems entirely from memory. And I began to grasp why it's said that the Koran is really the Koran only in Arabic.

Take the Fatihah, the seven-verse opening chapter that is the Lord's Prayer and the Shema Yisrael of Islam combined. It's just 29 words in Arabic, but anywhere from 65 to 72 in translation. And yet the more you add, the more seems to go missing. The Arabic has an incantatory, almost hypnotic, quality that begs to be heard rather than read, felt more than analyzed. It wants to be chanted out loud, to sound its music in the ear and on the tongue. So the Koran in English is a kind of shadow of itself, or as Arthur Arberry called his version, "an interpretation."

A beautiful Fatihah I found on the Net, I have no idea which ones are the best:

A night in August

Reply to a Letter

In the bottom drawer I find a letter which arrived for the first time twenty- six years ago. A letter written in panic, which continues to breathe when it arrives for the second time.

A house has five windows; through four of them daylight shines clear and still. The fifth window faces a dark sky, thunder and storm. I stand by the fifth window. The letter.

Sometimes a wide abyss separates Tuesday from Wednesday, but twenty-six years may pass in a moment. Time is no straight line. but rather a labyrinth. and if you press yourself against the wall, at the right spot, you can hear the hurrying steps and the voices, you can hear yourself walking past on the other side.

Was that letter ever answered? l don`t remember, it was a long time ago. The innumberable thresholds of the sea continued to wander. The heart continued to leap from second to second, like the toad in the wet grass of a night in August.

The unanswered letters gather up above, like cirrostratus clouds foreboding a storm. They dim the rays of the sun. One day l shall reply. One day when l am dead and at last free to collect my thoughts. Or at least so far away from here that l can rediscover myself. When recently arrived I walk in the great city. On 25th Street, on the windy streets of dancing garbage.

Prose poem, by Tomas Transtromer

Friday, August 24, 2012


Brought in a chair one day,
Stood on it, took my life down from the shelf
And blew the dust away.

Boris Pasternak, Poetry, August 1947

Last rites

"Friendship does not die suddenly; it dies slowly, agonizing all those involved. The death of friendship does not have last rites, the death of friendship does not offer you a chance to say your final words or to make amends. It just is."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

And the smell of fresh bread

Note to Reality
Tony Hoagland

Without even knowing it, I have
believed in you for a long time.

When I looked at my blood under a microscope
                I could see truth multiplying over and over.
—Not police sirens, nor history books, not stage-three lymphoma
                                                                                     persuaded me
but your honeycombs and beetles; the dry blond fascicles of grass
                                                              thrust up above the January snow.
Your postcards of Picasso and Matisse,
                                         from the museum series on European masters.
When my friend died on the way to the hospital
                                           it was not his death that so amazed me
but that the driver of the cab
                                              did not insist upon the fare.

Quotation marks: what should we put inside them?
Shall I say “I”  “have been hurt” “by”  “you,”  you neglectful monster?
I speak now because experience has shown me
                                 that my mind will never be clear for long.
I am more thick-skinned and male, more selfish, jealous, and afraid
                                   than ever in my life.
“For my heart is tangled in thy nets;
                              my soul enmeshed in cataracts of time...”

The breeze so cool today, the sky smeared with bluish grays and whites.
The parade for the slain police officer
goes past the bakery
and the smell of fresh bread
makes the mourners salivate against their will.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

You must change your life

Archaic Torso of ApolloRainer Maria Rilke
translated by Stephen Mitchell

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

For now, though

Going home
Wisława Szymborska

He came home. Said nothing
it was clear, though, that something had gone wrong.
He lay down fully dressed
pulled the blanket over his head
tucked up his knees.
he's nearly forty, but not at the moment
he exists just as he did inside his mother's womb
clad in seven walls of skin, in sheltered darkness
tomorrow he'll give a lecture
on homeostasis in metagalactic cosmonautics
for now, though, he has curled up and gone to sleep.

Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Saving rivers

A friend cycled all the way to Sivagange to attend this event where Ramon Magsaysay award winner Rajendra Singh, popularly known as ‘Water Man of India’ (credited for having rejuvenated seven rivers in Rajasthan) delivered a lecture about the need to rejuvenate the Kumudavati river. I like it that they are reaching out to children too, building awarenes at that level.

Save Arkavathi, Kumudvathi basins, says Rajendra Singh

Photos: Mayank's photos of the event, and the volunteer desilting activity that followed:

Mayank Rungta:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A continuing act of creation

"Dreams are not without sense, nor are they best understood to be expressions of infantile wishes. They are the result of the interconnectedness of new experience with that already stored in memory networks. But memory is never a precise duplicate of the original; instead, it is a continuing act of creation.

Dream images are the product of that creation. They are formed by pattern recognition between some current emotionally valued experience matching the condensed representation of similarly toned memories. Networks of these become our familiar style of thinking, which gives our behavior continuity and us a coherent sense of who we are. Thus, dream dimensions are elements of the schemas, and both represent accumulated experience and serve to filter and evaluate the new day’s input."

The Science of Sleep: Dreaming, Depression, and How REM Sleep Regulates Negative Emotions
Maria Popova

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Independence Day

What are you doing this Independence Day? Help build our country, become a Rang De social investor!

Three years down the line, as investor and volunteer, there is nothing that gives me more happiness, more purpose, nothing that makes me feel so connected to the exhilarating process of nation-building.

Rang De! - what you receive is much more than what you lend.

Friday, August 10, 2012


"I mean, isn't it odd--how you can buy a lap dance,
phone sex, or blowjob in a snap, but can't
pay a person a dollar to just sit next to you
on a park bench and simply hold your hand?"

Jeffrey McDaniel

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Oh Phaedrus

While rightful immigrant angst bursts out in fire, while people starve in remote places, while villagers lose their long-awaited crop and their hopes to floods, while yet another child is sold to prostitution, you cut orange carrots and soft yielding mushrooms and sharp pungent lilac onions and frilly-skirted green cabbages to make dinner, and plan what to make for breakfast.

Life is such.

Oh Phaedrus, brother.

This way, at least you live

The Fist
Derek Walcott

The fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved
past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.

Hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Mary Oliver

I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It's like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
full of moonlight.

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

Eating bread, while filling up on hunger

What’s it like to be a human
the bird asked

I myself don’t know
it’s being held prisoner by your skin
while reaching infinity
being a captive of your scrap of time
while touching eternity
being hopelessly uncertain
and helplessly hopeful
being a needle of frost
and a handful of heat
breathing in the air
and choking wordlessly
it’s being on fire
with a nest made of ashes
eating bread
while filling up on hunger
it’s dying without love
it’s loving through death
That’s funny said the bird
and flew effortlessly up into the air.

'Funny' by Anna Kamieńska, in Astonishments (translated by G. Drabik and D. Curzon)

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