Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale
by Dan Albergotti
Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.
from Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation
by Frederick Buechner
Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.
γένοι᾿, οἷος ἐσσὶ μαθών.
Become such as you are, having learned what that is.
(Pythian Odes 2, line 72)
from Aphorisms, Notebook J (1789-1793)
by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
We cannot remember too often that when we observe nature, and especially the ordering of nature, it is always ourselves alone we are observing.
from The Life We Prize (1951)
by D. Elton Trueblood
A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.
And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” which is ‘be opened’.
Editorial: Another quote dump. Should be the last one for a while. The only theme I see here is self-awareness, except for the floating bodies, which for me is about patience.
If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!
— James Baldwin (1963)
If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.
— Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
While an adolescent remains inconsistent and unpredictable in her behavior, she may suffer, but she does not seem to me to be in need of treatment. I think that she should be given time and scope to work out her own solution. Rather, it may be her parents who need help and guidance so as to be able to bear with her. There are few situations in life which are more difficult to cope with than an adolescent son or daughter during the attempt to liberate themselves.
— Anna Freud (1958)
Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.
— Albert Einstein (1926)
If you stand on the banks of the river long enough, the dead bodies of your enemies will float by.
Editorial: When the winds of war start to rise (North Korea, Afghanistan) I reread All Quiet on the Western Front to help me think about war. This is a grim bit, but telling too. Life is at an end
(p. 117) We see men living with their skulls blown open; we see soldiers run with their two feet cut off, they stagger on their splintered stumps into the next shell-hole; a lance-corporal crawls a mile and a half on his hands dragging his smashed knee after him; another goes to the dressing station and over his clasped hands bulge his intestines; we see mean without mouths, without jaws, without faces; we find one man who has held the artery of his arm in his teeth for two hours in order not to bleed to death. The sun goes down, night comes, the shells whine, life is at an end.
Still the little piece of convulsed earth in which we lie is held. We have yielded no more than a few hundred yards of it as a prize to the enemy. But on every yard there lies a dead man.
Also after this reading I watched for the first time the 1930 film adaptation. Who knew old movies were so goofy, even ones about the horrors of WWI that won two Oscars? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Quiet_on_the_Western_Front_(1930_film)
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
The Once and Future King, by T.H. White
Filed under Praxis, Quotes
All there is to thinking is seeing something noticeable which makes you see something you weren’t noticing which makes you see something that isn’t even visible.
Time is slipping away from me, running through my fingers like sand while I do what? Clean floors, wash clothes, make dinner, wash up, go shopping, play with the children in the play areas, bring them home, undress them, bathe them, look after them until it is bedtime, tuck them in, hang some clothes to dry, fold others, and put them away, tidy up, wipe tables, chairs and cupboards.
My Struggle: Book Four, by Karl Ove Knausgaard,
If I become popular when I grow up I’m going to fake my own retirement.
Preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass.
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
Si Dieu n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer.
Editorial: If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. Voltaire wrote this famous (and largely misunderstood) aphorism in 1768 in an epistle denouncing a group of atheists. Taken out of context it seems weirdly pragmatic and even cynical, and at odds with Voltaire’s faith in the sublime (in his words, the bridle to the wicked) and in a shared order in society (created by a heavenly architect). For those of us with less confidence than Voltaire, the question is not whether you might believe God actually exists, but rather whether the act of believing in a god is a right and good thing.
Addendum: A little anthropology will help with any confusion lurking out there. Anthropology maintains that religious beliefs and the gods they create are extensions of old magic. Therefore the human product of religion necessarily flows from economics, politics, relationships of power, and other such human idiosyncrasies. As such you might even say that God is dead.
Editorial: Yekaterina Samutsevich is the defendant in a criminal case against the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot. Her closing statement is well worth reading especially if you study the formation and maintenance of state power apparati:
“Some of the factors that have contributed to the drastic decline of the art of bringing phrases to closure are clear enough. They include the wholesale de-formalization of poetry in our time and the consequent premium placed on enjambment; our dogmatic insistence on open-endedness and the bland tones of everyday language; our predilection for understatement and uneasiness about rhetorical display; our aversion to affirmation and our cult of the whisper.” -Robert Pogue Harrison
The New York Review of Books, Volume 59, Number 2 · February 9, 2012. ‘The Book From Which Our Literature Springs’, by Robert Pogue Harrison.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
from A Case of Exploding Mangoes
By Mohammed Hanif
Behind the cordons set up along the road by the police for this VIP procession, people stood and waited and guessed: a teenager anxious to continue his first ride on a Honda 70, a drunk husband ferociously chewing betel nuts to get rid of the smell before he got home, a horse buckling under the weight of too many passengers on the cart, the passengers cursing the cart driver for taking this route, the cart driver feeling the pins and needles in his legs begging for their overdue opium dose, a woman covered in a black burqa–the only body part visible her left breast feeding her infant child–a boy in a car trying to hold a girl’s hand on their first date, a seven-year-old selling dust-covered roasted chickpeas, an old water carrier hawking water out of a goatskin, a heroin addict eyeing his dealer stranded on the other side of the road, a mullah who would be late for the evening prayer, a gypsy woman selling bright pink baby chickens, an air force trainee officer in uniform in a Toyota Corolla being driven by a Dunhill-smoking civilian, a newspaper hawker screaming the day’s headlines, Singapore Airline’s crew in a van cracking jokes in three languages, a pair of home-delivery arms dealers fidgeting with their suitcases nervously, a third-year medical student planning to end his life by throwing himself on the rail tracks in anticipation of the Shalimar Express, a husband and wife on a motorbike returning from a fertility clinic, an illegal Bengali immigrant waiting to sell his kidney so that he could send money back home, a blind woman who had escaped prison in the morning and had spent all day trying to convince people that she was not a beggar, eleven teenagers dressed in white impatient to get to the field for their night cricket match, off-duty policemen waiting for free rides home, a bride in a rickshaw on her way to the beauty salon, an old man thrown out of his son’s home and determined to walk to his daughter’s house fifty miles away, a coolie from the railway station still wearing his red uniform and in a shopping bag carrying a glittering sari he’d change into that night, an abandoned cat sniffing her way back to her owner’s house, a black-turbaned truck driver singing a love song about his lover at the top of his voice, a bus full of trainee Lady Health Visitors headed for their night shift at a government hospital; as the smoke from idling engines mixed with the smog that descends on Islamabad at dusk, as their waiting hearts got to bursting point with anxiety, they all seemed to have one question on their minds: “Which one of our many rulers is this? If his security is so important, why don’t they just lock him up in the Arm House?”
Editorial: This colloquialism describes the rush actors get on stage. I love its poetry and the gist it evokes.
I am bowled over by the amount of energy we humans spend on our daily performances. We have so many roles to play: deli customer, brother-in-law, subway rider, employee, professor, sports fan, sonbrotherhusbandfather. It is endless. I find that in some instances I slide right into roles effortlessly—because they just are. Other times I need to pause and reset before the show can go on. Problems arise if I make the transition from role to role too quickly, for instance I can be too brusque when I go from coworker to adviser or from subway rider to father. But in all these roles, no matter how ordinary or extraordinary, if you can remember to breadth in, if you can remember to open your ears, the thrill of life (the smell… the roar…) is palpable.
The scale of the human socio-economic-political complex system is so large that it seriously interferes with the biospheric complex system upon which it is wholly dependent, and cultural evolution has been too slow to deal effectively with the resulting crisis.