Monday, July 31

"What is the meaning of life? That was all - a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one."
 - Virginia Woolf
To the Lighthouse

Saturday, July 29

I become each day more reckless,
too impatient for summer, the unbearable heat,
the calm that comes with it. There are no hills here,
not one, and I'm bored with the stillness

of the yellow field outside my window. And you,
who cannot keep still, who can never
look back, where will you go next?
How will I find you?

Can you feel the world pull
apart, the seams loosen?
What, tell me, will keep it whole,

if not you? if not me?
Send a postcard, picture, tell me
how you've been.
 - Blas Falconer
from Dear Friend
A Question of Gravity and Light

Friday, July 28

"No wonder we cannot appreciate the really central Kafka joke: that the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from the horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home."
 - David Foster Wallace

Thursday, July 27

"We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or hate, to see or to be blind. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then become the story-teller."
 - Rebecca Solnit

Wednesday, July 26

"I went to sleep somewhat sad. But I awoke happy, purely animal. When I opened the bedroom windows and looked out onto the cool, calm garden in the first rays of sunlight, I was certain there was nothing to do but live."
 - Clarice Lispector

Tuesday, July 25

"if we watch ourselves we are many people. All day long our field of consciousness is entered by autonomous complexes. If you can recognize them as such, you can steer them, either to keep them out of your system, or by going along with it and knowingly putting it aside again. But if you are possessed, so to speak, it means the complexes enter you involuntary and you act them out involuntary."
 - Maire Louise Von Franz
zen humanism

Monday, July 24

My Name
I guess you are kind of curious as to who I am, but I am one of those who do not have a regular name. My name depends on you. Just call me whatever is in your mind.
If you are thinking about something that happened a long time ago: Somebody asked you a question and you did not know the answer.
That is my name.
Perhaps it was raining very hard.
That is my name.
Or somebody wanted you to do something. You did it. Then they told you what you did was wrong - "Sorry for the mistake," - and you had to do something else.
That is my name.
Perhaps it was a game you played when you were a child or something that came idly into your mind when you were old and sitting in a chair near the window.
That is my name.
Or you walked someplace. There were flowers all around.
That is my name.
Perhaps you stared into a river. There was somebody near who loved you. They were about to touch you. You could feel this before it happened. Then it happened.
That is my name.
Or you heard someone calling from a great distance. Their voice was almost an echo.
That is my name.
Perhaps you were lying in bed, almost ready to go to sleep and you laughed at something, a joke unto yourself, a good way to end the day.
That is my name.
Or you were eating something good and for a second forgot what you were eating, but still went on, knowing it was good.
That is my name.
Perhaps it was around midnight and the fire tolled like a bell inside the stove.
That is my name.
Or you felt bad when she said that thing to you. She could have told it to someone else: Somebody who was more familiar with her problems.
That is my name.
 - Richard Brautigan
In Watermelon Sugar

Saturday, July 22

I've Been Known
to spread it on thick to shoot off my mouth to get it off my chest
to tell him where
to get off
to stay put to face the music to cut a shine to go under to sell
myself short to play
myself down
to paint the town to fork over to shell out to shoot up to pull a
fast one to go haywire
to take a shine to
to be stuck on to glam it up to vamp it up to get her one better to
eat a little higher
on the hog
to win out to get away with to go to the spot to make a stake to
make a stand to
stand for something to stand up for
to snow under to slip up to go for it to take a stab at it to try out
to go places to play
up to get back at
to size up to stand off to slop over to be solid with to lose my
shirt to get myself off
to get myself off the hook
 - Denise Duhamel

Friday, July 21

"Man seeks to escape himself in myth, and does so by any means at his disposal. Drugs, alcohol, or lies. Unable to withdraw into himself, he disguises himself. Lies and inaccuracy give him a few moments of comfort, the trifling feeling of escape experienced at a masked ball. He distances himself from that which he feels and sees. He invents. He transfigures. He mythifies. He creates. He fancies himself an artist. He imitates, in his small way, the painters he claims are mad."
 - Jean Cocteau

Thursday, July 20

"We cannot live in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening. To use our own voice. To see our own light."
 - Hildegard of Bingen

Wednesday, July 19

"How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?"

"Finally, I set out to look for Meno. I had thought that his question would be part of a collection of aphorisms or fragments, like the fragments of Heraclitus. I had a clear picture of a book that doesn't exist. If I'd ever known, I'd forgotten that Meno is the title of one of Plato's dialogues. Socrates faces off with the sophist Meno, and as always in Plato's rigged boxing contests, demolishes his opponent. Sometimes while walking I catch sight of what at a little distance looks like a jewel or flower and turns out a few steps later to be trash. Yet before it is fully revealed, it looks beautiful. So does Meno's question, though it might only be so in the flowery translation I first encountered, out of context."
 - Rebecca Solnit

Tuesday, July 18

"How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?" I carried Meno's question around with me for years and then, when everything was going wrong, friends came bearing stories, one after another, and they seemed to provide, if not answers, at least milestones and signposts. Out of the blue, May sent me a long passage by Virginia Woolf she'd copied in round black letters on thick unlined paper. It was about a mother and wife alone at the end of the day: "For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of - to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless . . . Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by. Her horizon seemed to her limitless."
That passage from To the Lighthouse echoed something of Woolf's I already knew, her essay about walking that declared, "As we step out of the house on a fine evening between four and six, we shed the self our friends know us by and become part of that vast republican army of anonymous trampers, whose society is so agreeable after the solitude of one's room . . . Into each of these lives one could penetrate a little way, far enough to give one the illusion that one is not tethered to a single mind, but can put on briefly for a few minutes the bodies and minds of others."
 - Rebecca Solnit

Monday, July 17

Evening Talk
Everything you didn't understand
Made you what you are. Strangers
Whose eye you caught on the street
Studying you. Perhaps they were all-seeing
Illuminati? They knew what you didn't,
And left you troubled like a strange dream.

Not even the light stayed the same.
Where did all that hard glare come from?
And the scent, as if mythical beings
Were being groomed and fed stalks of hay
On these roofs drifting among the evening clouds.

You didn't understand a thing!
You loved the crowds at the end of the day
That brought you so many mysteries.
There was always someone you were meant to meet
Who for some reason wasn't waiting.
Or perhaps they were? But not here, friend.

You should have crossed the street
And followed that obviously demented woman
With the long streak of blood-red hair
Which the sky took up like a distant cry.
 - Charles Simic

Sunday, July 16

"I want you to stop running from thing to thing to thing, and to sit down at the table, to offer the people you love something humble and nourishing, like soup and bread, like a story, like a hand holding another hand while you pray. We live in a world that values us for how fast we go, for how much we accomplish, for how much life we can pack into one day. But I'm coming to believe it's in the in-between spaces that our lives change, and that the real beauty lies there."
 - Shauna Niequist
A New Approach to the Table
life is full of beauty

Saturday, July 15

"There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings."
 - Wendell Berry

Friday, July 14

"Even in childhood I watched the hours flow, independent of any reference, any action, any event, the disjunction of time from what was not itself, its autonomous existence, its special status, its empire, its tyranny. I remember quite clearly that afternoon when, for the first time, confronting the empty universe, I was no more than a passage of moments reluctant to go on playing their proper parts. Time was coming unstuck from being - at my expense."
 - Emil Cioran
The Trouble with Being Born

"A zoologist who observed gorillas in their native habitat was amazed by the uniformity of their life and their vast idleness. Hours and hours without doing anything. Was boredom unknown to them? This is indeed a question raised by a human, a busy ape. Far from fleeing monotony, animals crave it, and what they most dread is to see it end. For it ends, only to be replaced by fear, the cause of all activity. Inaction is divine; yet it is against inaction that man has rebelled. Man alone, in nature, is incapable of enduring monotony, man alone wants something to happen at all costs - something, anything . . . Thereby he shows himself unworthy of his ancestor: the need for novelty is the characteristic of an alienated gorilla."
 - Emil Cioran

Thursday, July 13

"Though stingy, the life force is not an absolute miser, and occasionally it allows us to experience a fuller, broader, deeper consciousness. These are our poetic and mystical experiences, the "all is good" feeling that brings a sense of "absurd affirmation." For some reason, during them, our blinders are temporarily removed and reality is let in. Our doors of perception are opened, but only for a moment. Then they shut again. Yet these moments tell us that reality is not meaningless. In fact it is dripping with meaning, so much meaning that if we experienced it in full, we would most likely blow a psychic fuse; any number of accounts of mystical experiences suggest this. This tells us two things. One is that the world we perceive most of the time is not the world as it really is, but a highly edited version of it. The second is that our doors of perception are not permanently locked. They can open. The question then becomes, how can we open them just enough to allow more reality into consciousness, so we are not taken in by gloomy pronouncements about its meaninglessness, but not so much that we are overwhelmed by it?"
 - Gary Lachman
Beyond the Robot

Wednesday, July 12

"Meditation is another dimension of natural beauty. People talk about appreciating natural beauty - climbing mountains, seeing giraffes and tigers in Africa, and all sorts of things. But nobody seems to appreciate this kind of natural beauty of ourselves. This is actually far more beautiful than flora and fauna, far more fantastic, far more painful and colorful and delightful."
 - Chögyam Trungpa
Glimpses of Abhidharma

Tuesday, July 11

"Maturity begins with the capacity to sense and, in good time and without defensiveness, admit to our own craziness. If we are not regularly deeply embarrassed by who we are, the journey to self-knowledge hasn't begun."
 - Alain de Botton

Monday, July 10

Don't think just now of the trudging forward of thought,
But of the wing-drive of unquestioning affirmation.
It's summer, you never saw such a blue sky,
And here they are, those white birds with quick wings,
Sweeping over the waves, chattering and plunging,
Their thin beaks snapping, their hard eyes
Happy as little nails
The years to come - this is a promise -
Will grant you ample time
To try the difficult steps in the empire of thought
Where you seek for the shining proofs you think you must have.
But nothing you ever understand will be sweeter, or more binding,
Than this deepest affinity between your eyes and the world.
The flock thickens
Over the rolling, salt brightness. Listen,
Maybe such devotion, in which one holds the world
In the clasp of attention, isn't the perfect prayer,
But it must be close, for the sorrow, whose name is doubt,
Is thus subdued, and not through the weaponry of reason,
But of pure submission. Tell me, what else
Could beauty be for? And now the tide
Is at its very crown,
The white birds sprinkle down,
Gathering up the loose silver rising
As if weightless. It isn't instruction, or parable.
It isn't for any vanity or ambition
Except for the one allowed, to stay alive.
It's only a nimble frolic
Over the waves. And you find, for hours,
You cannot even remember the questions
That weigh so in your mind.
 - Mary Oliver

Sunday, July 9

"A Russian cosmonaut and a Russian brain surgeon were once discussing Christianity. The brain surgeon was a Christian, but the cosmonaut wasn't. 'I have been in outer space many times,' bragged the cosmonaut, 'but I have never seen any angels.' The brain surgeon stared in amazement, but then he said, 'And I have operated on many intelligent brains, but I have never seen a single thought.'"
 - Jostein Gaarder

Saturday, July 8

"Throughout the entire history of philosophy, philosophers have sought to discover what man is - or what human nature is. But Sartre believed that man has no such eternal nature to fall back on. It is therefore useless to search for the meaning of life in general. We are condemned to improvise. We are like actors dragged onto the stage without having learned our lines, with no script and no prompter to whisper stage directions to us. We must decide for ourselves how to live."
 - Jostein Gaarder

Friday, July 7

A Place in the Forest
On the way there a pair of startled wings clattered up - that was all. You go alone. A tall building that consists entirely of cracks, a building that is perpetually toppling but can never collapse. The thousandfold sun floats in through the cracks. In this play of light an inverted law of gravity prevails: the house is anchored in the sky and whatever falls, falls upward. There you can turn around. There you are allowed to grieve. You can dare to face certain old truths kept packed, in storage. The roles I have, deep down, float up, hang like dried skulls in the ancestral cabin on some out-of-the-way Melanesian islet. A childlike aura circles the gruesome trophies. So mild it is, in the forest.
 - Tomas Tranströmer

Thursday, July 6

Seven in the Woods
Am I as old as I am?
Maybe not. Time is a mystery
that can tip us upside down.
Yesterday I was seven in the woods,
a bandage covering my blind eye,
in a bedroll Mother made me
so I could sleep out in the woods
far from people. A garter snake glided by
without noticing me. A chickadee
landed on my bare toe, so light
she wasn't believable. The night
had been long and the treetops
thick with a trillion stars. Who
was I, half-blind on the forest floor
who was I at age seven? Sixty-eight
years later I can still inhabit that boy's
body without thinking of the time between.
It is the burden of life to be many ages
without seeing the end of time.
 - Jim Harrison

Wednesday, July 5

"Imagine that one day you are out for a walk in the woods. Suddenly you see a small spaceship on the path in front of you. A tiny Martian climbs out the spaceship and stands on the ground looking up at you . . .
What would you think? Never mind, it's not important. But have you ever given any thought to the fact that you are a Martian yourself?
It is obviously unlikely that you will ever stumble upon a creature from another planet. We do not even know that there is life on other planets. But you might stumble upon yourself one day. You might suddenly stop short and see yourself in a completely new light. On just such a walk in the woods.
I am an extraordinary being, you think. I am a mysterious creature.
You feel as if you are waking from an enchanted slumber. Who am I? you ask. You know that you are stumbling around on a planet in the universe. But what is the universe?
If you discover yourself in this manner you will have discovered something as mysterious as the Martian we just mentioned. You will not only have seen a being from outer space. You will feel deep down that you are yourself an extraordinary being."
 - Jostein Gaarder
Sophie's World

Tuesday, July 4

"Fishing provides that connection with the whole living world. It gives you the opportunity of being totally immersed, turning back into yourself in a good way. A form of meditation, some form of communion with levels of yourself that are deeper than the ordinary self."
 - Ted Hughes

Monday, July 3

"There is the inner life of thought which is our world of final reality. The world of memory, emotion, feeling, imagination, intelligence and natural common sense, and which goes on all the time consciously or unconsciously like the heartbeat.

There is also the thinking process by which we break into that inner life and capture answers and evidence to support the answers out of it.

And that process of raid, or persuasion, or ambush, or dogged hunting, or surrender, is the kind of thinking we have to learn, and if we don't somehow learn it, then our minds lie in us like the fish in the pond of a man who can't fish."
 - Ted Hughes

Saturday, July 1

The Mystic Life
"lifetime's solitary thread"
for Charles Wright

It's like fishing in the dark,
If you ask me:
Our thoughts are the hooks,
Our hearts the raw bait

We cast the line over our heads,
Past all faith, past all believing,
Into the starless midnight sky,
Until it's lost to sight.

The line's long unraveling,
Rising in our throats like a sigh
Of a long day's weariness,
Soul-searching and revery

One thought against the Supreme

How about that?

Loony-tunes, fishing in the dark
Out of an empty sleeve
With a mourning band on it.

The fly and the spider on the ceiling
Looking on, brother.
 - Charles Simic
poetry foundation

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