Friday, December 14

"It is not a question of loving myself as I may love others but of being more dependent on this silent partner I carry within myself, more at his mercy, as it were, than is perhaps the case with anybody else. The fear of losing oneself is legitimate, for it is the fear of no longer being able to talk with oneself. And not only grief and sorrow but also joy and happiness and all the other emotions would be altogether unbearable if they had to remain mute, inarticulate.

Even if we are by ourselves, when we articulate or actualize this being-alone we find that we are in company, in the company of ourselves. Loneliness, that nightmare which, as we all know, can very well overcome us in the midst of a crowd, is precisely this being deserted by oneself, the temporary inability to become two-in-one, as it were, while in a situation where there is no one else to keep us company. Seen from this viewpoint, it is indeed true that my conduct towards others will depend on my conduct toward myself. Only no specific content, no special duties and obligations are involved, nothing indeed but the sheer capacity of thought and remembrance, or its loss."
 - Hannah Arendt
Responsibility and Judgment

Thursday, December 13

On Bitching
after Catullus

Listen, Hilarius, you've got to snap out of it.
I know you're in your fifties now,
but don't let yourself give in to bitterness.
Sure, when you were younger the muse
used to visit more often, sprawling across your lap
and whispering in your ear, but at least
she treats you now and then to an idea
or plants a stanza in your head as you're waking up.
And stop bitching about editors
who keep publishing each other's poems
in Pretension Quarterly or The Moribund Review.
Try not to let it bother you so much.
Why waste your energy enumerating
all the petty injustices that have gone on
since ancient times and are bound to continue
for centuries to come? And there's no point
in envying the poets who swagger into rooms,
charging every molecule with their need
to be important. So, let them be important.
And if, sometimes, you feel as if you
hardly exist, well, as a great poet once said,
be secret and exult . . . instead of sulking.
Believe me, I agree with you, it's too bad
things sometimes work the way they do,
but it's exasperating to listen to you
after you've had a few too many cups of wine
railing against the zealously self-promoting
postmodern obfuscators, the hip ironists revved up
on their own cleverness, the tedious fundamentalists
of rhyme and meter, or the one you call
the formalist narcissist Stalinist surrealist.
Not bad, Hilarius, but you need to get over it.
You didn't want power, remember?
You wanted to write poems. So, write them.
And the next time some self-satisfied preener
wins a prize, don't dwell on it, but remind yourself
of all the poems that didn't get away, the poems
of your friends and how they've borne you up
and spurred you on with a better envy,
and remember the friends themselves, laboring
alone at their desks, mostly under the radar
(unlike the "famous poets" you call the oxymorons),
and giving you what literary life you have
which if not dazzling is at least genuine -
and thank the gods to the end of your days
for the time they've granted you to spend
on making poems, even if they come to nothing.
 - Jeffrey Harrison

Wednesday, December 12

"Most of the time we go through the day, through our activities, our work, our relationships, our conversations, and very rarely do we ground ourselves in an awareness of our bodies. We are lost in our thoughts, our feelings, our emotions, our stories, our plans.

Pay attention to those times when you feel like you are rushing. Rushing does not have to do with speed. You can rush moving slowly, and you can rush moving quickly. We are rushing when we feel we are toppling forward. Our minds run ahead of ourselves; they are out there where we want to get to, instead of being settled back in our bodies. The feeling of rushing is good feedback. Whenever we are not present, right then, in that situation, we should stop and take a few breaths. Settle into the body again. Feel yourself sitting. Feel the step of a walk. Be in your body.

The Buddha made a very powerful statement about this: "Mindfulness of the body leads to nirvana." Such awareness is not a superficial practice. Mindfulness of the body keeps us present."
 - Joseph Goldstein

Monday, December 10

I am doing something I learned early to do, I am
paying attention to small beauties,
whatever I have - as if it were our duty to
find things to love, to bind ourselves to this world.
 - Sharon Olds
from Little Things
The Gold Cell

Sunday, December 9

"Suddenly: the word most used by Dostoevsky. Somebody told me that. Some Dostoevsky expert. Suddenly. As though any kind of action could be drawn into words: Suddenly music. Suddenly turning. Suddenly silent. Suddenly. As though I never saw the process.

Everyone in the old house is sick but me. Silence, except for the snoring, coughing, and occasional trips to the bathroom. Snow everywhere through the windows. You can't look out without seeing it. Suddenly winter. Frozen rivers. Bitter cold. Barren trees. Small silver plane etched out against a chalk, still sky. Suddenly, completely alone."
 - Sam Shepard
Day Out of Days

Friday, December 7

"Am I free? There's something that still restrains me. Or am I fastening myself to it? Either way, it's like this: I'm not completely free because I'm tied to everything. In fact, a person is everything. It's not a heavy burden to carry by yourself because it isn't simply carried: one is everything.
It seems to me that for the first time I'm gaining in understanding about things. The impression is that I don't try anymore to come closer to things so I won't go beyond myself. I have a certain fear of myself, I'm not to be trusted and I distrust my false power.
This is the word of someone who cannot.
I don't control anything. Not even my own words. But it isn't sad: it's humble happiness. I, who live to the side, I'm to the left of whoever comes in. And within me trembles the world."
 - Clarice Lispector
Agua Viva  |  The Stream of Life

Thursday, December 6

"In many ways, large and small, as we live our lives, we find ourselves confronted with a brute fact about how little we can know about our futures, just when it is most important to us that we do know. For many big life choices, we only learn what we need to know after we've done it, and we change ourselves in the process of doing it. I'll argue that, in the end, the best response to this situation is to choose based on whether we want to discover who we'll become.

Unless you've had the relevant experiences, what it is like to be a person or an animal very different from yourself is, in a certain fundamental way, inaccessible to you. It isn't that you can't imagine something in place of the experience you haven't had. It's that this act of imagining isn't enough to let you know what it is really like to be an octopus, or to be a slave, or to be blind. You need to have the experience itself to know what it is really like.

This brings out another, somewhat less familiar fact about the relationship between knowledge and experience: just as knowledge about the experience of one individual can be inaccessible to another individual, what you can know about yourself at one time can be inaccessible to you at another time."
 - L.A. Paul
Transformative Experience
brain pickings

  • ". . . as I have said often enough, I write for myself in multiplicate,
    a not unfamiliar phenomenon on the horizon of shimmering deserts."
    - Vladimir Nabokov