Think of your body as a brilliant tool. Create an inventory of
all the things you can do with this body (e.g., lift furniture,
carry heavy groceries, hike, carry babies, remove a splinter with a
needle...) Impressive, huh?
Inhabit your body as a source of pleasure. What do you
enjoy doing? What gives this body joy? Put on those sneaks and go
for a five-minute walk.
Imagine being a little more okay with yourself right now.
Know that you have your own style, your own verve, your own beauty.
There is no one else exactly like you.
Count your blessings, not your blemishes. I saw a man with
no legs yesterday, just after whining that mine were too fat.
Start saying to yourself, “Life is too short to waste my time
and energy disliking my body.”
Beauty is only skin deep. The most physically beautiful
folks are often the most unhappy. Your true nature, your essence is
divinely gorgeous. Your soul has no wrinkles.
Dance, sweat, shake, twirl, spin and release those
negative beliefs. Shout and feel gratitude for this body that gets
to experience so much joy! Get ouf of your head and into your feet.
Get out in nature. It’s hard to be miserable when we are
inhabiting our true selves. Your body craves moments as well as
weeks in the outdoors. Nourish yourself with green living.
You are perfect, loveable, stunning. We spend our lives
believing what we have been told years ago by people we would trust
for street directions today. Don’t believe the lies.
If you had a year to live, how important would your body
image and appearance be? Know anyone who is dead now? How much did
you care what they weighed?
Celebrate being alive; breathing, resting, laughing. Notice all that
this body gifts to you. And if all this reads as nonsense to you,
call me. I care and I will not allow you to torture yourself. (415)
“We are creatures of habit...If we were not such creatures of habit
as we are, we shouldn’t have reason to be astonished half so
often...It’s this same habit that confirms some of us, who are capable
of better things, in Lucifer’s own pride and stubbornness—that confirms
and deepens others of us in villainy—more of us in indifference—that
hardens us from day to day, according to the temper of our clay, like
images, and leaves us as susceptible as images to new impressions and
“How will many things that are familiar, and quite matters of course
to us now, look, when we come to see them from that new and distant
point of view which we must all take up, one day or other? ”
— Mr. Morfin of
Son, speaking words put in his mouth by Charles Dickens
22 August 2011
The source of all that is
The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that any isolated system
becomes more and more disordered over time, until the available energy
spreads out and animates every particle therein with its equal share.
This state of undistinguished uniformity is called ‘thermodynamic
How can it be that the universe started out in thermodynamic equilibrium
with a maximum entropy, and yet entropy has grown larger and larger as
the universe expands? In fact, the process of creating new entropy (in a
universe that started out having as much as it was possible to have) is
responsible for everything that’s interesting in our universe: stars,
galaxies, chemistry, life...
The topic may sound too esoteric for you to be interested, but it is, in
the end, the subject that offers deep insights into what is, and
suggestions about the long-term future. Physicists can’t agree on how to
apply thermodynamic ideas in the presence of gravity. (This was the
subject of a famous bet between uber-physicists Stephen Hawking and Kip
Thorne.) The essential issue (as this unter-physicist sees it) is that
the science of thermodynamics was developed in the context where there
is a fixed total amount of energy. This is, in fact, called the ‘First
Law of Thermodynamics.’ But with gravity, you can get more and more
energy, the closer things approach to each other. The expansion of the
universe is continually creating opportunities for things to come (back)
together and create new, usable energy for free.
If classical physics held sway, the amount of this energy source would
be infinite. Once any body of mass collapsed under its own gravitation
beyond a certain point, there would be no force that could resist its
further collapse, down to a point of zero size, yielding an infinity of
free energy in the process. But with the modified law of gravitation
discovered by Einstein, the collapse is to a black hole of finite size,
and the total energy released is enormous but finite.
What is the entropy of a black hole? Can the mass/energy tied up in a
black hole ever escape? And if it ever does, does it retain any memory
whatever of its history before it fell into the black hole? These
questions have become subject for obsessive rumination and meticulous
computation by the dazzling and increasingly isolated mind of Stephen
— Josh Mitteldorf
21 August 2011
May we reveal our abundance without shame.
May we peel back our sleeping wintery layers
like snakeskins, like the silk chrysalis,
like clothing cast off during love.
May we unravel with abandon like lovers’ knots
before knitting ourselves back to the heart.
May we settle into our own rhythms as tides do-
within the borders of the moon’s calling.
May the music of our souls
be accompanied by grand gestures
and the persistent clapping of hummingbirds’ wings.
May the milky fingers of the moon
reach down nightly to cherish and unveil us.
May we turn our bodies generously in its light
like tranquil fish glinting underwater,
like precious stones.
When we open our mouths to sing
may the seasons pause in their long journey
to listen and applaud.
— Lisa Colt
20 August 2011
born this day in 1881, composed passionate, mysterious sounds
characteristic of Romanian folk music.
Listen to his student, Yehudi Menuhin, and Menuhin’s sister Hepzibah
play the Violin Sonata #3, Op 25.
19 August 2011
Computer searches for drug applications
‘Bringing a new drug to market typically takes about $1 billion, and
many years of research and development,’ said Rochelle M. Long, Ph.D.,
who directs the NIH Pharmacogenomics Research Network. ‘If we can find
ways to repurpose drugs that are already approved, we could improve
treatments and save both time and money.’
For the first time ever, scientists are using computers and genomic
information to predict new uses for existing medicines. They’re
using a database of gene expression associated with various diseases,
matching that against the gene expression profile in response to known
medications. Where the two are nearly complementary, there is a
good chance a new use will be found for an old drug.
So far, Long and her team have produced some candidate uses for drugs
that pan out in animal tests and petri dishes. ‘This work is still
at an early stage, but it is a promising proof of principle for a
creative, fast and affordable approach to discovering new uses for drugs
we already have in our therapeutic arsenal,’ Long said.
I would rather be beaten and be a man than to be
elected and be a little puppy dog. I have always supported measures and
principles and not men. I have acted fearless[ly] and independent and I
never will regret my course. I would rather be politically buried than
to be hypocritically immortalized.
Davy Crockett, born this day in 1785, was not re-elected to
Congress after he opposed President Andrew Jackson’s program of
“removing” Native Americans from lands that American settlers wished to
I leave this rule for others when I’m dead:
Be always sure you’re right, then go ahead!
17 August 2011
Definition: an eruption of the sacred into everyday realms
Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine, wind that takes its course through the chaos of the
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge
Driven by invisible blows,
The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the
Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul,
I would be a good fountain, a good well-head,
Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.
What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody wants to do us harm.
No, no, it is the three strange angels.
Admit them, admit them.
* The Hesperides are three nymphs who tend a sacred garden at the
edge of the world in the West. Their garden has a tree that produces
magical golden apples of immortality. The three nymphs are usually
associated with night, the mystery and magic of night. They embody all
that the imagination envisions at the precipice of existence, the edge
of the world, the edge of the night, the edge of life and death. It
would take a heroic journey just to reach their garden, but it might
open us to wonders.
15 August 2011
40 years ago, Thomas Nagel responded in an essay
Absurd to the thrust of the French Existential movement.
Life’s absurdity is the passion and inventive energy with which we go
about pursuing temporary escapes from our mortality, or following the
dictates of a logic built on arbitrary premises.
Camus maintains in
The Myth of Sisyphus that the absurd arises
because the world fails to meet our demands for meaning. This suggests
that the world might satisfy those demands if it were different. But now
we can see that this is not the case. There does not appear to be any
conceivable world (containing us) about which unsettlable doubts could
In other words, every conceivable world must be absurd.
This seems to me to be a failure of imagination. Would we feel life
was meaningless if our minds were engaged with multiple others in a
never-ending intellectual expansion, merger and discovery? Would we take
time to worry about absurdity if life served us continual orgasmic
pleasure? Would we complain about insubstantial logical foundations if
our intuitive faculties were continually being trained and developed to
sense new dimensions of reality and ever finer subtleties of existence?
Running a marathon is one of the most absurd endeavors commonly
undertaken by members of our species, and yet marathon runners are
seldom paralyzed by existential concerns.
My hypothesis is that people feel ennui or despair, and intellectualize
it as “absurdity”, when they are not engaged in a vibrant community that
puts their resources to use for the commonwealth, challenges individual
strength and skills and demands that they stretch their intellects.
Above all, we feel absurd when we feel alone.
I have a friend, an analytic philosopher and convinced atheist, who
told me that she sometimes wakes in the middle of the night, anxiously
turning over a series of ultimate questions: “How can it be that this
world is the result of an accidental big bang? How could there be no
design, no metaphysical purpose? Can it be that every life—beginning
with my own, my husband’s, my child’s, and spreading outward—is
cosmically irrelevant?” In the current intellectual climate, atheists
are not supposed to have such thoughts. We are locked into our rival
certainties—religiosity on one side, secularism on the other—and to
confess to weakness on this order is like a registered Democrat
wondering if she is really a Republican, or vice versa.
These are theological questions without theological answers, and, if
the atheist is not supposed to entertain them, then, for slightly
different reasons, neither is the religious believer...
— read more from James Wood, writing in the
New Yorker this week
12 August 2011
Words for departure
Be together; eat, dance, despair,
Sleep, be threatened, endure.
You will know the way of that.
But at the end, be insolent;
Be absurd—strike the thing short off;
Be mad—only do not let talk
Wear the bloom from silence.
Dolphins have frequent encounters with sharks, it turns out, and they
are well-adapted to recover from them. They don’t lose much blood,
they don’t suffer a great deal of pain, and their mauled and mangled
bodies recover within weeks to smooth, un-scarred perfection.
We associate this kind of ability to regenerate new and healthy
tissue with axolotls and zebrafish; but here is a ‘higher’ animal that
can recover quickly and fully from devastating injuries.
man’s thoughts is like the winds, and nobody can’t answer for ’em
for certain, any length of time together.’
— Charles Dickens, speaking through the character of Captain
Cuttle, (Dombey & Son)
Quite often we find ourselves with many negative thoughts going
through our mind. These trains of thoughts can become very powerful as
we endlessly repeat them in our mind. The problem is that that the more
we focus on the thoughts, the more powerful they become. Therefore, it
can become very difficult to stop these endless cycles of thoughts.
However, it is definitely possible and these are a few tips to control
1. Make a conscious decision to Stop the thoughts
2. Look upon the Thoughts as being Outside of yourself.
3. Who is it who listens to thoughts? This is a technique to try and discover the origination of your
thoughts. Whenever a
thought appears, just ask yourself, who is it who
is thinking this? What we do is to try
and discover the source of
4. Catch thoughts as soon as they appear.
5. Concentrate on Something else.
6. Meditation “The mind has its own power, and right now this power is stronger than
eagerness and determination to meditate. But if you can get
help from your heart, then
gradually you will be able to control your
mind. The heart, in turn, gets constant
assistance from the soul, which
is all light and all power.”
Does reason possess innate validity, or is it merely a human faculty
among others, evolved for its usefulness in a historic domain of
experience? What gives us confidence that correct reasoning about the
world will lead to correct conclusions?
The story of science is that we have sought to apply our intelligence
far outside the realm in which it was evolved to function, and it has
served us unaccountably well. This has encouraged us to extend its
application yet further, and well we might do so, full of hope and
optimism until that day on which its limits become all too obvious. At
that point we may be glad that we have simultaneously nurtured within
ourselves an appreciation of mystery.
— Josh Mitteldorf
7 August 2011
The Fifth Precept
Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry. Do not take as the
aim of your life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure. Live simply
and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in
— Thich Nhat Hahn
This is an area of my life in which I have little clarity and much
ambivalence. I have a sense that not all the confusion is my own,
because the rules and social organization around wealth in America are
not conducive to peace of mind, and they complicate the cultivation of
personal virtues. I give you Thich’s words without comment, and invite
you to write and share stories of what has worked for you.
All of Thich’s precepts have the potential to be all-consuming if
they are taken literally, but I don’t believe that they were written
simply to hold out an unattainable ideal.
6 August 2011
The Real Work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
To be sane in a mad time is bad for the brain, worse for the heart. -
5 August 2011
Holding for takeoff - turtles on the runway
On June 29, more than 150 diamondback terrapins scuttled across
Runway No. 4 [at JFK airport], delaying landings, halting takeoffs,
foiling air traffic controllers, crippling timetables and snarling
traffic for hours...
The myth of our sprawly, paved-over cities and towns is that we’ve
driven native animals out and stolen their habitat. Not entirely true.
We may drain the marshes, level forests and replace meadows with malls,
exiling some animals. But, because we also need nature, we create a new
ecology that happens to be very hospitable to wild animals. In some
ways, it’s more inviting than wilderness. We install ponds, lawns,
groves of edible trees. We leave garbage on the curb and design
flowerbeds that are well-watered and well-fed, serving a smorgasbord of
We can’t help ourselves; we evolved to feel part of nature’s web.
Le premier qui, ayant enclos un terrain, s’avisa de dire: Ceci est à
moi, et trouva des gens assez simples pour le croire, fut le vrai
fondateur de la société civile. Que de crimes, de guerres, de meurtres,
que de misères et d’horreurs n’eût point épargnés au genre humain celui
qui, arrachant les pieux ou comblant le fossé, eût crié à ses semblables:
Gardez-vous d’écouter cet imposteur; vous êtes perdus, si vous oubliez
que les fruits sont à tous, et que la terre n’est à personne.
The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought
himself of saying: This is mine, and found people simple enough to
believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many
crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might
not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up
the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this
imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth
belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.
— Jean-Jacques Rousseau
3 August 2011
Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.
~ Denise Levertov
2 August 2011
Why is it so hard?
We may be stuck forever trying to appreciate the voice of Marian
Anderson or Caruso through noisy, wobbly recordings. But for piano
masters of the past there is, in theory, a remedy.
A human voice carries a continuous range of subtle inflection, tone
color, intonation and volume from one moment to the next. A
clarinet or violin voice is able to express with just as much control
and continuity. But a piano sound, in theory, can be simply
represented. For each note there are just three numbers (1) the
time of the attack, (2) the velocity of the hammer when it strikes the
string, and (3) the time of the release (when the damper falls back to
the string, stopping the sound). If a typical 4-minute piano piece
has 2,000 notes in it, then any performance with all its subtlety should
be completely captured in a computer file of just 6,000 numbers.
For comparison, an mp3 file of this 4-minute performance might contain a
Zenph is a company that has tried to take this idea and run with it.
There are many thousands of scratchy, noisy old mono recordings of the
great pianists of the 20th Century - Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff,
Rubenstein, Dohnanyi. With computer analysis of the sound, it
should be possible to extract from these recordings the times and
velocity for each note, and to play them back on a modern Diskclavier,
exactly as the original artist had performed them. A recording can be
made of a 1920 performance, perfectly recreated in a modern sound
The results are pretty good — but not perfect. When I read
Edward Rothstein’s review in the NYTimes, I thought his complaints
must be at a finer level of nuance than I was capable of hearing.
But no — he’s correct. There’s still something missing in the
original pianist’s artistry that is not captured in these recordings.
Rothstein suggests that it is the feedback between artist and acoustic
environment that is missing: every competent pianist — let a lone a
master — continually adjusts his pressure on the key based on what he
hears. He automatically plays a piano more lightly when it is too
loud, and shortens notes if the instrument and room are too resonant.
Could it be that this is what we are missing?
Every day we navigate dozens of commercial interactions, ritualized
negotiations with strangers that enable us to buy a quart of milk or
turn left at a crowded intersection. More complicated is the tact
required at work: avoiding the wrath of a vindictive boss or the
subversion of a jealous colleague. We’ve learned well the rules of
engagement, and we survive reliably, even when we grumble.
What happens when we get home and we long to reach out and touch
someone? The rules that keep us from strangling each other in
utilitarian interactions have become a habit, and they tend to insulate
us from the deeper interactions that nourish our
souls. Social relationships float comfortably on the surface.
We need help breaking through a formality that has become all too
comfortable, and we
need encouragement to trust and to drop our façades of courteous but
Inviting intimacy without exposing those around you to discomfort is an art.
Inevitably, there will be times when you frighten people inadvertently.
Experiment. Keep laughing. Find ways to be vulnerable yourself without imposing on your
invitee. Be aware of signals from people around you, however awkward, that suggest they may be open to a deeper level of connection.
— Josh Mitteldorf
31 July 2011
The art of whimsy meets the art of recycling
Leo Sewell grew up near a dump. He has played with junk now for fifty
years and has developed his own assemblage technique. His works are
collected by corporations, museums and individuals throughout the world.
Leo continues to cull the refuse of Philadelphia out of which he
fashions pieces of all sizes, from a lifesize housecat to a 40 foot
His sculptures are composed of recognizable objects of plastic, metal
and wood. These objects are chosen for their color, shape, texture,
durability and patina; then they are assembled using nails, bolts, and
screws. The outdoor sculptures are constructed of stainless steel,
brass, or aluminum found objects which are welded together.
“Pray as though everything depended on God.
Work as though everything
depended on you.”
— Saint Augustine
29 July 2011
I awoke in the Midsummer not to call night, in the white and the walk
of the morning:
The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe of a finger-nail held to
Or paring of paradisaical fruit, lovely in waning but lustreless,
Stepped from the stool, drew back from the barrow, of dark Maenefa the
A cusp still clasped him, a fluke yet fanged him, entangled him, not
This was the prized, the desirable sight, unsought, presented so easily,
Parted me leaf and leaf, divided me, eyelid and eyelid of slumber.
— Gerard Manley Hopkins, born this day in 1844
28 July 2011
Among the meditative practices I’ve explored, Vipassana seems the one
that is most easily seen as a principled way of exploring the structure
of one’s experience and the one most easily separated from a religious
or soteriological context...
The general principle in Vipassana is to train one’s attention through
focus on a particular object and, once this is well-trained, to use it
to observe the unfolding of experience. It’s effectively a systematic
way of noticing experience. The breath is typically the chosen focus. As
far as I can tell, this choice is semi-arbitrary but has a number of
advantages. Apart from the comforting stamp of tradition, the breath is
both ever-present but also changes with emotional and mental state,
giving a good starting ground both for training concentration and for
training mindfulness of the multiple aspects of one’s state.
— from an article by Richidev Chaudhuri
Read more at
27 July 2011
What if all that mattered in a life, all that stuck in the mind or
pulled at the heart, were the well-defined events and decisions: where
to live, what to do for a living, when to get married, whether to go to
war? What would we miss? Almost everything that makes a life worth
living. We want not just actions and consequences, victories and
defeats, but dragonflies and paperclips, daydreams and counterfactual
syllogisms. And perhaps poetry—that verbal art form without obvious
consequence, whose shapes are not the shapes of events and plots—best
suits those apparently negligible phenomena: if it cannot preserve them,
it can at least show how we care.
The mysterious manner in which this growing sense of unity commingles
with a sense of utter goodness is worth noting. It arises by no effort
of mine; rather does it come to me out of I know not where. Harmony
appears gradually and flows through my whole being like music. An
infinite tenderness takes possession of me, smoothing away the harsh
cynicism which a reiterated experience of human ingratitude and human
treachery has driven deeply into my temperament. I feel the fundamental
benignity of Nature despite the apparent manifestation of ferocity. Like
the sounds of every instrument in an orchestra that is in tune, all
things and all people seem to drop into the sweet relationship that
subsists within the Great Mother’s own heart.
Suggest to your subconscious the changes that you consciously seek.
Affirmations can be repeated aloud with the encouragement of a friend;
or they can be repeated during meditation, as a mantra; or they can be
written out longhand, over and over, with or without verbal
A good affirmation will contradict your conditioned, pessimistic
beliefs. As you say or write it, you will feel silly, and think
the opposite. Notice that that is happening, without letting it
get in your way.
You can create affirmations for yourself, but it is best to get help
from a friend whose hang-ups are quite different from your own.
Devising your own affirmation, it might come out,
My leg is healing quickly.
while a friend who is completely outside your mode of thought might suggest instead:
I am dancing, light and free!
Affirmations about the outside world may seem a bit more mystical, or
even superstitious. The truth is that the line between inside and out is
not so clearly defined, and affirmations about outside circumstances —
even political events — are well worth a try.
Think big. Think broadly. Go beyond what will ‘solve
your problem’ to what will provide lasting satisfaction and deep
I will win the lottery.
I am engaged and effective. People everywhere appreciate my contribution.
Don’t be careful to limit yourself to realistic goals, but stretch
your imagination instead.
People everywhere are realizing their shared
vision, finding their common destiny in peace and cooperation.
— Josh Mitteldorf
24 July 2011
A message from the emperor
The emperor—it is said—sent to you, the one apart, the wretched subject,
the tiny shadow that fled far, far from the imperial sun, precisely to
you he sent a message from his deathbed. He bade the messenger kneel by
his bed, and whispered the message in his ear. So greatly did he cherish
it that he had him repeat it into his ear. With a nod of his head he
confirmed the accuracy of the messenger’s words. And before the entire
spectatorship of his death—all obstructing walls have been torn down and
the great figures of the empire stand in a ring upon the broad, soaring
exterior stairways—before all these he dispatched the messenger. The
messenger set out at once; a strong, an indefatigable man; thrusting
forward now this arm, now the other, he cleared a path though the crowd;
every time he meets resistance he points to his breast, which bears the
sign of the sun; and he moves forward easily, like no other. But the
crowds are so vast; their dwellings know no bounds. If open country
stretched before him, how he would fly, and indeed you might soon hear
the magnificent knocking of his fists on your door. But instead, how
uselessly he toils; he is still forcing his way through the chambers of
the innermost palace; never will he overcome them; and were he to
succeed at this, nothing would be gained: he would have to fight his way
down the steps; and were he to succeed at this, nothing would be gained:
he would have to cross the courtyard and, after the courtyard, the
second enclosing outer palace, and again stairways and courtyards, and
again a palace, and so on through thousands of years; and if he were to
burst out at last through the outermost gate—but it can never, never
happen—before him still lies the royal capital, the middle of the world,
piled high in its sediment. Nobody reaches through here, least of all
with a message from one who is dead. –You, however, sit at your window
and dream of the message when evening comes.
— Kafka, in a new translation by Mark Harman
23 July 2011
Who among us hasn’t had this experience? A moment of clarity, a
transcendent vision, the sudden realization that life is an unexpected,
stupefying wonder, and that everything requisite for bliss is already
available to us. - Ed
BEHOLD, I walked abroad at early morning,
The fields of June were bathed in dew and lustre,
The hills were clad with light as with a garment.
The inexpressible auroral freshness,
The grave, immutable, aerial heavens,
The transient clouds above the quiet landscape,
The heavy odor of the passionate lilacs,
That hedged the road with sober-colored clusters,
All these o’ermastered me with subtle power,
And made my rural walk a royal progress,
Peopled my solitude with airy spirits,
Who hovered over me with joyous singing.
‘Behold!’ they sang, ‘the glory of the morning.
Through every vein does not the summer tingle,
With vague desire and flush of expectation?
‘To think how fair is life! set round with grandeur;
The eloquent sea beneath the voiceless heavens,
The shifting shows of every bounteous season;
‘Rich skies, fantastic clouds, and herby meadows,
Gray rivers, prairies spread with regal flowers,
Grasses and grains and herds of browsing cattle:
‘Great cities filled with breathing men and women,
Of whom the basest have their aspirations,
High impulses of courage or affection.
‘And on this brave earth still those finer spirits,
Heroic Valor, admirable Friendship,
And Love itself, a very god among you.
‘All these for thee, and thou evoked from nothing,
Born from blank darkness to this blaze of beauty,
Where is thy faith, and where are thy thanksgivings?’
The world is his who can behold it rightly,
Who hears the harmonies of unseen angels
Above the senseless outcry of the hour.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
22 July 2011
Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present
every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation;
but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
21 July 2011
A time to dance
Some set out to explore
earth’s limit, and little they recked if
Never their feet came near it
outgrowing the need for glory:
Some aimed at a small objective
but the fierce updraught of their spirit
Forced them to the stars.
Are honoured in public who built
The dam that tamed a river;
or holding the salient for hours
Against odds, cut off and killed,
are remembered by one survivor
All these. But most for those
whom accident made great,
As a radiant chance encounter
of cloud and sunlight grows
Immortal on the heart:
whose gift was the sudden bounty
Of a passing moment, enriches
the fulfilled eye for ever.
Their spirits float serene
above time’s roughest reaches.
But their seed is in us and over
our lives they are evergreen.
We have known for a few years that dolphins, and probably whales as
well have individual names. Specifically, these are unique sound
utterances, chosen by the parents, with which the individual animal
identifies himself to others. Now we learn that parrots, too, are
given names by their parents that they use through a lifetime.
Evolutionary game theorists tell us that if individual animals can
positively identify one another, a whole range of cooperative
enterprises can evolve that are probably impossible if they remain
anonymous. With anonymity, cheating is just too tempting.
Learning to recognize other individuals by their appearance or their
voice has big evolutionary rewards.
Complexity of human speech may or may not be unique. Wouldn’t
we love to know what dolphins say to each other?
Practitioners of feng shui seek to create physical
environments that are conducive to peace and harmony and flourishing
creativity. Raymond Murray Schafer suggested more than 30 years
ago that it would be worthwhile to pay as much attention to our sonic
environment. The World
Soundscape Project has been a lifelong engagement for Schafer.
R. Murray Schafer, beloved Canadian composer and philosopher of
aesthetics is 78 years old today.
‘Still the noise in the mind: that is the first task - then
everything else will follow in time.’
18 July 2011
To look on our world from a vantage of humility, mystery, and
Remember how smug were the intellectuals of the European
Enlightenment. They were proud to have discovered a rational
framework for dispelling superstition and agreeing on scientific truth.
But these people knew nothing of atoms or galaxies or evolution, let
alone quantum mechanics. They could not have conceived the changes
in our circumstances that would be wrought by jet travel or television
or email, and their faith in Christianity appears to us naive.
Think how impoverished their world view appears to us from a
twenty-first century vantage.
It is likely that during the next two centuries, our fundamental
understanding of the world will be re-conceived at least as radically as
in the past two.
Imagine ourselves from a crow’s nest in the twenty-third century.
When we allow a sense of wonder and humility to wash over our
perceptions, we may be closer to Truth than when we look out from a
vantage atop the impressive understandings amassed since the dawn of
— Josh Mitteldorf
17 July 2011
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines. Going where I
list, my own master, total and absolute. Listening to others, and considering well
what they say. Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating. Gently but with
undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
16 July 2011
When a deer in the meadow notices you approaching, it instantly stops
grazing and looks at you motionlessly. The white tail, used to
signal danger to other deer, twitches slightly now and then, ready to
flash at any time. If you come too close or move too abruptly, up
goes the tail like a torch and the animal bounds gracefully into the
woods for cover. For us humans no presence of genuine physical
dnager is needed for the whole body to be flooded by waves of anxiety.
All it takes is one scary thought, one fearful memory, one threatening
image to trigger physical light or fight or freeze reactions.
Imagining we are alone and isolated, abandoned, causes immediate pain
and sorrow. Deer most likely don’t ruminate about being separate
creatures – it spares them a lifetime of mental grief!
— Toni Packer, from Being Bodies - Buddhist women on the paradox