Thursday, April 30, 2009

The fire and the rose

Textured Fire Sunflower, Nadine Rippelmeyer
The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.


Quick now, here, now, always-
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

~ T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Well, gosh all fish-hooks!" (Babbitt ends)

THE Good Citizens' League had spread through the country, but nowhere was it so effective and well esteemed as in cities of the type of Zenith, commercial cities of a few hundred thousand inhabitants, most of which--though not all--lay inland, against a background of cornfields and mines and of small towns which depended upon them for mortgage-loans, table-manners, art, social philosophy and millinery.

To the League belonged most of the prosperous citizens of Zenith. They were not all of the kind who called themselves "Regular Guys." Besides these hearty fellows, these salesmen of prosperity, there were the aristocrats, that is, the men who were richer or had been rich for more generations: the presidents of banks and of factories, the land-owners, the corporation lawyers, the fashionable doctors, and the few young-old men who worked not at all but, reluctantly remaining in Zenith, collected luster-ware and first editions as though they were back in Paris. All of them agreed that the working-classes must be kept in their place; and all of them perceived that American Democracy did not imply any equality of wealth, but did demand a wholesome sameness of thought, dress, painting, morals, and vocabulary.

~ Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Babbitt begins

Shades of Sunset, Navin Joshi
THE towers of Zenith aspired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods. They were neither citadels nor churches, but frankly and beautifully office-buildings.

The mist took pity on the fretted structures of earlier generations: the Post Office with its shingle-tortured mansard, the red brick minarets of hulking old houses, factories with stingy and sooted windows, wooden tenements colored like mud. The city was full of such grotesqueries, but the clean towers were thrusting them from the business center, and on the farther hills were shining new houses, homes--they seemed--for laughter and tranquillity.

Over a concrete bridge fled a limousine of long sleek hood and noiseless engine. These people in evening clothes were returning from an all-night rehearsal of a Little Theater play, an artistic adventure considerably illuminated by champagne. Below the bridge curved a railroad, a maze of green and crimson lights. The New York Flyer boomed past, and twenty lines of polished steel leaped into the glare.

~ Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dreams, in dark directed

When most I wink then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected,
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou whose shadow shadows doth make bright -
How would thy shadow's form, form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made,
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

~ Shakespeare, Sonnet XLIII

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Eva Cassidy Live at Blues Alley

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Language of God

The meaning of human existence, the reality of God, the possibility of an afterlife, and many other spiritual questions lie outside of the reach of the scientific method. While an atheist may claim that those questions are therefore unanswerable and irrelevant, that does not resonate with most individuals' experience. John Polkinghorne (Belief in God in an Age of Science) argues this point cogently by a comparison to music:

The poverty of an objectivistic account is made only too clear when we consider the mystery of music. From a scientific point of view, it is nothing but vibrations in the air, impinging on the eardrums and stimulating neural currents in the brain.

How does it come about that this banal sequence of temporal activity has the power to speak to our hearts of an eternal beauty? The whole range of subjective experience, from perceiving a patch of pink, to being enthralled by a performance of the Mass in B Minor, and on to the mystic's encounter with the ineffable reality of the One, all these truly human experiences are at the center of our encounter with reality, and they are not to be dismissed as epiphenomenal froth on the surface of a universe whose true nature is impersonal and lifeless.

Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it possible.

- Francis S. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

Friday, April 24, 2009

Guan Yin - Bodhisattva of Compassion

Thousand Hand Guan Yin Performance by China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe. The Power of Teamwork and Perfect Co-ordination.

In the 15 days after Spring Festival, Tai Lihua, a dancer with the China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe, accepted interviews from 85 various media outlets. On her busiest day, Tai met with 15 media.

What brought the 29-year-old dancer so much media attention was her performance in "The Thousand-handed Goddess of Mercy," a dance routine presented by 21 deaf and mute dancers during CCTV's popular Spring Festival Gala Show on February 8. Tai was the lead dancer of the piece. Because of the nature of the dance, most of the time Tai's face was the only one the audience could see.

Read the rest of the story here

Thursday, April 23, 2009


JoAnne Bird, Homeland

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mandelbrot set. Do the math (I can't)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The right instructions

And so Nathan required me to think a thought that has stayed with me a long time and has traveled a long way. It passed through everything I know and changed it all. The chance you had is the life you've got. You can make complaints about what people, including you, make of their lives after they have got them, and about what people make of other people's lives, even about your children being gone, but you mustn't wish for another life. You mustn't want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks." I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.

~ Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Good News

My hut lies in the middle of a dense forest;
Every year the green ivy grows longer.
No news of the affairs of men,
Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
The sun shines and I mend my robe.
When the moon comes out, I read Buddhist poems.
I have nothing to report my friends.
If you want to find meaning, stop chasing after so many things.

~ Ryokan

The news we hear is full of grief for that future,
but the real news inside here
is there's no news at all.

~ Jalaluddin Rumi

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

~ William Carlos Williams

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Beauty's Form

Mine eye hath played the painter and hath stelled
Thy beauty's form in table of my heart.
My body is the frame wherein 'tis held,
And perspective it is best painter's art,
For through the painter must you see his skill
To find where your true image pictured lies,
Which in my bosom's shop is hanging still,
That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes.
Now see what good turns eyes for eyes have done.
Mine eyes have drawn thy shape, and thine for me
Are windows to my breast, where-through the sun
Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee.
Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art;
They draw but what they see, know not the heart.

~ Shakespeare, Sonnet XXIV

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Us Good People

It is a queer and fantastic world. Why can't people have what they want? The things were all there to content everybody; yet everybody has got the wrong thing. Perhaps you can make head or tail of it; it is beyond me.

Is there any terrestrial paradise where, amidst the whispering of the olive-leaves, people can be with whom they like and have what they like and take their ease in shadows and in coolness? Or are all men's lives like the lives of us good people - like the lives of the Ashburnhams, of the Dowells, of the Ruffords - broken, tumultuous, agonized, and unromantic lives, periods punctuated by screams, by imbecilities, by deaths, by agonies? Who the devil knows?

Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

Friday, April 17, 2009


Kindness by Thomas Vorce
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye, Kindness

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Invisible Men

I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.

It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves.

All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naïve. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization that everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself.

~ Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Her visitor, she saw as she opened the door, was seated in the armchair before the fire, dozing it would seem, with his bandaged head drooping on one side. The only light in the room was the red glow from the fire — which lit his eyes like adverse railway signals, but left his downcast face in darkness — and the scanty vestiges of the day that came in through the open door. Everything was ruddy, shadowy, and indistinct to her, the more so since she had just been lighting the bar lamp, and her eyes were dazzled. But for a second it seemed to her that the man she looked at had an enormous mouth wide open, — a vast and incredible mouth that swallowed the whole of the lower portion of his face. It was the sensation of a moment: the white-bound head, the monstrous goggle eyes, and this huge yawn below it. Then he stirred, started up in his chair, put up his hand. She opened the door wide, so that the room was lighter, and she saw him more clearly, with the muffler held to his face just as she had seen him hold the serviette before. The shadows, she fancied, had tricked her.

~ H. G. Wells, The Invisible Man

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~ Wendell Berry, The Peace of Wild Things

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The great Ramses II meets the Great Leveler


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley ~

Monday, April 13, 2009

Garden of Senses - Jon Anderson

From Page of Life

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Imperishable Body of the Risen Lord

The records represent Christ as passing after death (as no man had ever passed before) neither into a purely, that is negatively, 'spiritual' mode of existence nor into a 'natural' life such as we now know, but into a life which has its own new Nature. It represents Him as withdrawing six weeks later, into some different mode of existence. It says - He says - that He goes 'to prepare a place for us.' This presumably means that He is about to create that whole new Nature which will provide the environment or conditions for His glorified humanity and, in Him, for ours. The picture is not what we expected - though whether it is less or more probable and philosophical on that account is another question. It is not the picture of an escape from any and every kind of Nature into some unconditioned and utterly transcendent life. It is the picture of a new human nature, and a new Nature in general, being brought into existence. We must, indeed, believe the risen body to be extremely different from the mortal body: but the existence, in the new state, of anything that could in any sense be described as 'body' at all, involves some sort of spatial relations and in the long run a whole new universe. That is the picture - not of unmaking but of remaking. The old field of space, time, matter and the sense is to be weeded, dug and sown for a new crop. We may be tired of that old field: God is not.

~ C. S. Lewis, The Business of Heaven

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Unswept stone, sluttish time

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room,
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that your self arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

~ Shakespeare, Sonnet LV

Friday, April 10, 2009

Robbie Robertson

and the Red Road Ensemble

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Garden of Symmetry

Hubble image of Galaxy Triplet ARP 274

The widespread success of science is too significant an issue to be treated as if it were a happy accident that we are free to enjoy without enquiring more deeply into why this is the case. Achieving scientific success is a special ability possessed by humankind, exercised in the kind of universe that we inhabit. I believe that a full understanding of this remarkable human capacity for scientific discovery ultimately requires the insight that our power in this respect is the gift of the universe's Creator who, in that ancient and powerful phrase, has made humanity in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Through the exercise of this gift, those working in fundamental physics are able to discern a world of deep and beautiful order - a universe shot through with signs of mind. I believe that it is indeed the Mind of that world's Creator that is perceived in this way. Science is possible because the universe is a divine creation.

~ John Polkinghorne, Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wheat field under stormy skies

Stratfield Saye, Hampshire, England.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

- Derek Walcott

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Once in the sun-fierce badlands of the west
in that strange country of volcanic ash and cones,
runneled by rains, cut into purgatorial shapes,
where nothing grows, no seeds spring, no beast moves,
we found a sabertooth, most ancient cat,
far down in all those cellars of dead time.
What was it made the mystery there? We dug
until the full length of the striking saber showed
beautiful as Toledo steel, the fine serrations still
present along the blade, a masterpiece of murderous art conceived
by those same forces that heaved mountains up
from the flat bottoms of Cretaceous seas.

Attentive in a little silent group we squatted there.
This was no ordinary death, though forty million years
lay between us and that most gaping snarl.
Deep-driven to the root of a fractured scapula
hung on the mighty saber undetached; two beasts
had died in mortal combat, for the bone
had never been released; there was no chance
this cat had ever used its fangs again or eaten -
died there, in short, though others of its kind
grew larger, larger, suddenly were gone
while the great darkness went about its task. . .

There were the great teeth snarling in the clay, the bony crests
that had once held the muscles for this deed,
perfect as yesterday.
I looked a little while, admiring how
that marvelous weapon had been so designed
in unknown darkness, where the genes create
as if they planned it so.
I wondered why
such perfect fury had been swept away, while man,
wide-roaming dark assassins of its kind,
had sprung up in the wake
of such perfected instruments as these.
They lived long eras out, while we
in all this newborn world of our own violence show
uncertainties, and hopes unfostered when
the cat's sheer leap wrenched with his killing skill
his very self from life.

On these lost hills that mark the rise of brain,
I weep perversely for the beauty gone.
I weep for man who knows this antique trade
but is not guiltless,
is not born with fangs,
has doubts,
suppresses them as though he knew
nature had other thoughts, inchoate, dim,
but that the grandeur of great cats attracted him -
envy, perhaps, by a weak creature forced to borrow
tools from the earth, growing, in them, most cunning
upon an outworn path.

- Loren Eiseley, The Innocent Assassins, (1973)

Monday, April 6, 2009


Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end,
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave, doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.
And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

Shakespeare, Sonnet LX

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday

The Light of Christ
Almighty and everlasting God, who, of Thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent Thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be make partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

~ Book of Common Prayer, Palm Sunday
From 2000 Years of Classic Christian Prayers, pg. 223
(thanks Clint)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lastavica of the Mountains

Perhaps out there in the world wherever poems are still read, there is a child who would stare at him obliquely if they happened to meet, yet who is like Josip as he once was, testing his damaged soul against the insurmountable. Does he plunge in and learn to swim against the current at the command of an inner voice, or in response to messages delivered by unlikely prophets, or impelled solely by the exigencies of youth? And does he, in winter, roam the heights, dreaming before the vast fields of heaven and hell, a child extremely sensitive to the metaphysical impressions provided by natural phenomena? Is there one such child in each station of the human dream? Filled with inarticulate longings, indifferent to the ordinary dreams of warriors and drawn beyond them to less visible conflicts, the existence of which he can only dimly apprehend? And is there a confraternity of these few, scattered like seed throughout all nations, ensuring the preservation of man's diversity?

Perhaps it is so. Perhaps not. He will hope for it nonetheless.

~ Michael D. O'Brien, Island of the World

Friday, April 3, 2009

On the creative spirit

JoAnne Bird, Transformation
The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before. Everyone can create. You don't need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty. Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty.

~ Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Martha Argerich

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.3, 1st Movement

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Injurious distance

Shakespeare, Sonnet XLIV

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then, despite of space, I would be brought
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land,
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But, ah, thought kills me that I am not thought
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time's leisure with my moan.
Receiving naught by elements so slow,
But heavy tears, badges of either's woe.

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