These are random thoughts, silly meaningless phrases, ideas, definitions, quotes, etc. Does it matter where they come from? I cite sources when I can. The soul, whatever that is, seems to need these interstices, room to stretch, degrees of freedom, mental doodles if you will, whatever you want to call them. Don’t look for deeper meanings. There are none.
Anticipation is always more vivid than reality
The world is full of all sorts of absurdities (David Lynch (after reading Gogol’s The Nose)
by Franz Kafka
Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir
What are we to do with these spring days that are now fast coming on? Early this morning the sky was gray, but if you go to the window now you are surprised and lean your cheek against the latch of the casement. The sun is already setting, but down below you see it lighting up the face of the little girl who strolls along looking about her, and at the same time you see her eclipsed by the shadow of the man behind overtaking her. And then the man has passed by and the little girl’s face is quite bright.
Butterflies, Bats and Hummingbirds
At four o’clock in the morning the bats flit around wandering here and there. They find their nests at dawn and during the day turn into butterflies and hummingbirds.
Beehive, Andrei Sinyavsky
”The West reminds me of a beehive because its structure is both very light and very solid, with each cell linked to the other. If you destroy one cell of a beehive, everything else survives. But Soviet society is a sack tied with a knot and, if you make a hole, everything falls out.”
A Little Consideration
by Tony Hoagland
After the rain washes some of the pollution out of the air
the workmen with their shovels and their picks
stand along the street
—Just before the elections and the roads are being paved
because the governor wants us to remember him
in the dark of the voting booth next month—
In Beijing this year I hear the fashionable women
are wearing four and five-inch heels,
driving the Chinese feminists crazy,
some say in emulation of the West,
some say in a renaissance
of ancient foot binding tradition.
The problem is that they feel beautiful,
and how do you disagree with that?
I am thinking about this
while on hold with the phone company,
waiting to speak to the person stationed like a punching bag
at the gate of that major corporation.
Their power is to add a mysterious charge to my bill;
my power is to shout at their least powerful employee.
Maybe you really want people to be happy,
but you also want to be thanked for it.
Maybe you’ve memorized the names of your mailman’s kids,
because you like getting your mail.
I don’t want to be the one to mention
what should be already obvious,—
but the world could give a fig about your soul.
Just pay your bills on time,
and spread some flattery around.
Just set the mousetrap in the basement
with a dab of peanut butter—the extra crunchy kind.
Big news flash: That’s all that people want these days.
We don’t need to be pampered, or lectured, or adored.
We’re not goddamn babies anymore.
We just want to be manipulated
with a little fucking consideration.
Clouds: Clouds are what’s left over after the stars burn out. They are whatever you think they are but only when they are ready.
The cyclist, thus, possesses an extraordinary freedom: he is invisible. The only declared enemy of the cyclist is the dog, an animal obscenely programmed to chase any object that moves faster than itself. (Valeria Luiselli–compare David Byrne in Bicycle Diaries). The difference between flying in an airplane, walking, and riding a bicycle is the same as that between looking through a telescope, a microscope, and a movie camera.
Life is a Dream
Pedro Calderon de la Barca
We live, while we see the sun,
Where life and dreams are as one;
And living has taught me this,
Man dreams the life that is his,
Until his living is done.
The king dreams he is king, and he lives
In the deceit of a king,
Commanding and governing;
And all the praise he receives
Is written in wind, and leaves
A little dust on the way
When death ends all with a breath.
Where then is the gain of a throne,
That shall perish and not be known
In the other dream that is death?
Dreams the rich man of riches and fears,
The fears that his riches breed;
The poor man dreams of his need,
And all his sorrows and tears;
Dreams he that prospers with years,
Dreams he that feigns and foregoes,
Dreams he that rails on his foes;
And in all the world, I see,
Man dreams whatever he be,
And his own dream no man knows.
And I too dream and behold,
I dream I am bound with chains,
And I dreamed that these present pains
Were fortunate ways of old.
What is life? a tale that is told;
What is life? a frenzy extreme,
A shadow of things that seem;
And the greatest good is but small,
That all life is a dream to all,
And that dreams themselves are a dream.
Echoes from the past, echoes from the future, no echoes from the present.
Entropy: Seems to me that “entropy” is a relative term; one entity’s chaos is another entity’s perfect order. For all we know. As for that state that Epicurus is all about, well….here’s a little excerpt of my own on that topic: “And anyway, happiness is fragile and airy compared to sorrow, which has the durability and atomic density of lead. But happiness has its own peculiar occasional qualities. It’s been known to soar, to create its own upward-wafting, gravity-defying thermal currents under its wings.” (Eleanor Cooney)
Failure: It is always amazing to me how we forget our failures. I guess if we didn’t, we could not survive. But perhaps it is no bad thing to take a little time to go back over failures, not to glory in them but just to remind ourselves. In the forgetting it is not vainglory that bothers me but simply that things neglected as not done well slip away as though they never had happened. (John Steinbeck)
Fish: large silver salmon with red flesh, fat oval albacore socked through with edible oil, a zoo of rockfish the color of an ocean rainbow.
Frida Kahlo: I don’t think Frida was a communist. I think that Frida was a pantheist. I think Frida was in love with the world, with everything that was alive. Her love for the little dogs and the flowers and the monkeys and all the things that appear in her painting. She sort of sacrilizes the world. She wants to sacrilize everything she touches. Carlos Fuentes
Geometry: There is geometry in thought and design but it doesn’t always play out in life. It does in art. I think we reinvent it as a symmetry that brings meaning, a form of healing. In my life it does. (James Maxwell) Geometry is not inherent in nature. (Carlos Fuentes)
Heart: The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. (Pascal)
Hubris: The calm before the storm
Inspiration: Inspiration is not the exclusive privilege of poets or artists. There is, there has been, there will always be a certain group of people whom inspiration visits. It’s made up of all those who’ve consciously chosen their calling and do their job with love and imagination. It may include doctors, teachers, gardeners—I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it. Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem that they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous “I don’t know.” (Wizlawa Szymborska)
Jobs: There are no good jobs in bad firms.
Know Thyself: We can never really know the entire story of another person. Just to know ourselves, the Delphic challenge, is difficult enough. The more confidence we have in what we think we know, the more important it is to consider contrary opinions carefully. Darwin knew this as the famous investor Warren Buffett often points out. So did William Blake: “Without contraries is no progression.” (Jason Zweig)
Lies: “You have a choice,” she told the class. “The whorish emptiness of lies or the straightlaced horrors of truth.” Lorrie Moore, Anagrams
Lightning: In my first winter in Mendocino I watched the lightning strike the ocean in the bay from the windows at the Sea Gull. I knew then that I had found my home. Later in Wind, Lightning, Thunder, Rain I found another home. I ask you, are two homes better than one?
The aim of literature is to help man to understand himself, to strengthen the trust in himself, and to develop in him the striving toward truth; it is to fight meanness in people, to learn how to find the good in them, to awake in their souls shame, anger, courage; to do all in order that man should become nobly strong. (Maxim Gorky)
Love: “I was so happy when I was writing this book, to a certain degree, rediscovering the existentialists, Camus and Sartre, and remembering how life-affirming they are, to use an incredibly cheesy phrase. They take away absolutely everything. But it’s not misanthropic, it’s not cynical. Camus is the least cynical man on Earth, the most positive, the most life-grabbing. He loved men, he loved women, he loved food, he loved Algeria, he loved France. He was nothing but love for existence, for what there was. And that’s the kind of writer I would like to be, without being sentimental. He wasn’t sentimental. He was intellectually rigorous. It was a different kind of vision. It doesn’t have to be this split between this arid intellectualism, which doesn’t even want to deal with the fact that humans exist, and this overindulgent self-defense for humanity, which a lot of fiction takes on. I just felt there was a way to say, “I don’t know anything. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know what’s going on-but it’s okay.” The bottom line is: You’re going to die. You’re gonna be dead forever. It’s an infinitely longer time than you ever were alive. And it’s painful, but of course, the thing is, it’s just intensely beautiful, too. Because infinite life, as even dogs in the street know, would be the hell that never ended. So it’s this extraordinary, beautiful gift.” (Zadie Smith)
Love: A single gesture, I felt, would be enough to shatter this crystal in which the world’s face was smiling. (Camus. Love of Life)
Life: When he was young he had two gruesome picture books of the World Wars. There were buildings devastated by bombs, trenches full of the dead, starving prisoners in the concentration camps. Everywhere he looked, he saw total devastation. It was the first time Eric was aware of death. He couldn’t help but think about all those millions killed during the war while he was a child. He was spared. He was given a life. Why? What had he done with it? (from Behind the Locked Door)
Monkey: When men by way of their conventions have got themselves into difficulties, then let the monkey in, he will find the unattainable solution. (Isak Dinesen)
Nagual: a nagual or nahual (both pronounced [na’wal]) is a human being who has the power to transform either spiritually or physically into an animal form.
Nature: the seasons are not guaranteed to remain constant.
Open Channel: Through all ages men have tried to fathom the meaning of life. They have realized that if some direction or meaning could be given to our actions, great human forces would be unleashed. So, very many answers must have been given to the question of the meaning of it all. But they have been of all different sorts, and the proponents of one answer have looked with horror at the actions of the believers in another. Horror, because from a disagreeing point of view all the great potentialities of the race were being channeled into a false and confining blind alley. In fact, it is from the history of the enormous monstrosities created by false belief that philosophers have realized the apparently infinite and wondrous capacities of human beings. The dream is to find the open channel. What, then, is the meaning of it all? What can we say to dispel the mystery of existence? If we take everything into account, not only what the ancients knew, but all of what we know today that they didn’t know, then I think that we must frankly admit that we do not know. But, in admitting this, we have probably found the open channel. (Richard Feynman)
Ocean breeze: The ocean breeze arrives like the melted wind to bring joy on a hot day.
Oyster: Like a big oyster on the bottom of the sea shore. He has burrowed inside himself and locked the door, and he’s doing some serious thinking. (Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicled)
Politics: Certainly, she would run a mile from politics. When I ask about Barack Obama, she shudders and expresses her horror at his drone strikes, and the ‘inhuman’ decisions that anyone who enters politics must make. ‘Any artist who aligns themselves with a politician is making a category error,’ she asserts, ‘because what politicians do is not on a human scale, it is on a geopolitical scale. Individual humans are being killed by anonymous planes in the air, and artists should be interested in individual humans. I would no more give support to Obama than I would to David Cameron — the decisions they have to make are not conceivable to me.’ (Zadie Smith)
Past: This is the reason why the Past has such magical power. The beauty of its motionless and silent pictures is like the enchanted purity of late autumn, when the leaves, though one breath would make them fall, still glow against the sky in golden glory. (Bertrand Russell, A Free Mans Worship)
by Paula Bohince
In the copse
of her mind, a fluster
of quail, tonic
of quail, each her own
boozy and flushed
from briar by a panic
gripped from kin
so they hover—
mother and daughter
Cloud of quail, eying
her covey backlit
and looming, huge
when it balloons
down, scribbling earth
with its landings.
They tell a tranquil-
days of luckless
labor and sadnesses
too frail to utter.
Shoulder to shoulder,
the quail of her
actual and the quail
of her oblivion.
Rainbows: Why a pot of gold? Why not a melting pot?
Rain: sheets, pellets, blops, trickles, patters, drips—wind off the ocean so fierce it pulls the roofs off buildings.
Revolution: There have been a lot of revolutions already and no one is satisfied
The Rich: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Rich Boy)
Snow: The snow was intense. It fell in thick white swirls. Donald could hardly see the lodge. His legs were stiff and he nearly slipped when he tried to walk. He went first. Henry followed. They were like two ghosts walking in a fog. Donald wanted to step in his old footprints, but they were covered up in new snow so he had to guess where they had been. It was tricky trying to relive the past. It was even trickier trying to change it. He stopped and closed his eyes. Suddenly his father pulled up alongside him. The dog was there too. It turned bright outside. They walked back together, arm in arm, singing songs.
Soufflés: On a chilly February afternoon in 1959, Carson McCullers, Marilyn Monroe and Isak Dinesen had lunch. The place was Carson’s rambling, white clapboard Victorian home overlooking the Hudson River in Nyack, New York. The menu was raw oysters, champagne, grapes, and soufflé.
Sex: Laughter is clearly important to us. It seems to be carefully coordinated with speech, perhaps by necessity. Laughter is instinctive behavior programmed by our genes. People have been known to laugh while having sex. Most laughter follows speech and usually doesn’t mix with it for obvious reasons although there are examples of laughspeak, “a form of blended, laughing speech that communicates emotional tone”.
Thunder: Wind, Lightening, Thunder, Rain
Universe: flat, curved, infinite, finite, one, many … we don’t know
Valley: “Seekers of gold and lovers of old followed an old mountain trail.” My father used to sing that song to me when I was a child. A historical marker is posted at the spot where the emigrant trail passes through Emigrant Gap before descending to Bear Valley along Highway 20. There the trail split, the 1850 Nevada City Trail leading along today’s Highway 20 route and the main Truckee-Donner Trail continuing along Lowell Hill Ridge on a route 1.5 miles north of – and paralleling – Interstate 80.
Wind: March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. So they say. I think it has to do with the wind that blows dust in my eyes at the start of baseball season.
Xochimilco: The Nahuatl word for “place of flowers,” the home of many MesoAmerican cultures for hundreds of years south of Mexico City, Xochimilco is also one of the oldest neighborhoods in Oaxaca.
You can leave the prison whenever you want
by Rus Khomutoff
Annex the corporeal night
holy antrum laminating the postmedial push
in an endless series of rituals
that ward off rather than
dive into the monster versal
hollow earth, abyss & apex, virgin keen
the sprawl of new immaterialities, interruptions
ruin, allegory, melancholy
nonsensuous reality rendering everything
as an instrument toward the end of a spectacle
deep breath asylum whim surge
this zenith temptation