30 November 2008

What is the difference?

Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi

To which groups are our identities opposed? Who do we place outside of ourselves so that we may draw a boundary around ourselves and know that boundary to be safe? There is no mystery in ourselves; we know what we are not. I know what I am not--I am not you. At least I am not you. There are five castes.

There are five senses. Everything you perceive must come through one of these or it is a fantasy. There are seven colors in the rainbow. A wave of light stretches from red to violet in six violent jerks as if it is falling down the stairs.

An evicted Roma family (Budapest, 2000)

- Tell me more about the village where your grandmother lives.
- It is a very nice village, 120 kilometers from here. There is a lake on the edge of a forest.
- How many people live there?
- It is a small village, 3,000 people. And no gypsies!

I have been thinking ...
I have been thinking of the difference between water
and the waves on it. Rising,
water's still water, falling back,
it is water, will you give me a hint
how to tell them apart?

Because someone has made up the word
"wave," do I have to distinguish it
from water?

There is a Secret One inside us;
the planets in all the galaxies
pass through his hands like beads.

That is a string of beads one should look at with luminous eyes.

-Kabir, 13th Century

27 November 2008

On boiling

"I show you light now. It burns bright forever.
No more blue tomorrows. You’re on high now, love."

People overthink all sorts of things. The truth boils underneath like an underground lake.

Art causes the soul to boil. Interpreting and reading and thinking about this boiling is a way of turning the heat down. "Cinema is a language that can say abstractions."

24 November 2008



Read the items in the list one at a time. Close your eyes and picture each one vividly as you can. Imagine it in whatever context comes to you. Picture it with every feeling it brings with it. When your picture is complete, count to ten. Then move on to the next thing on the list.


dark night sky

red brick

a silhouette in a window

white lights on a marble theatre

copper-green statues

shadows on the wall

This is an experiment in showing you the inside of my head. It is an explanation, but not the kind you find in books. Dreams are an explanation of your mind. This is something like a dream I have had every day for the last week.

It is not poetry unless the inside of my head is poetry.

Imagine asking for directions in a country where no one speaks your language. You have to communicate somehow. When you open your mouth, sounds come out. You disassociate from yourself because you are too embarrassed to take responsibility for what you are saying. You watch yourself as if from the outside. You gesture wildly. It is raining. There is no time to think about it. You speak from your gut. Somehow, you make yourself understood.

18 November 2008

Strange divination

(What follows refers to the I Ching, or Book of Changes, an ancient Chinese divinatory & philosophical text. Here is a wonderful introduction to the I Ching; the section on moving lines is particularly relevant.)

An interesting reading: Lake over Lake, all 6 lines moving, therefore changing to Mountain over Mountain.

#58 - Joy/Pleasing/Joyous Pleasure


Lakes resting one on the other:
The image of THE JOYOUS.
Thus the superior man joins with his friends
For discussion and practice.

A lake evaporates upward and thus gradually dries up; but when two lakes are joined they do not dry up so readily, for one replenishes the other. it is the same in the field of knowledge. Knowledge should be a refreshing and vitalizing force. It becomes so only through stimulating intercourse with congenial friends with whom one holds discussion and practices application of the truths of life. in this way learning becomes many-sided and takes on a cheerful lightness, whereas there is always something ponderous and one-sided about the learning of the self-taught.

THE LINES [selections]

We often find ourselves associating with inferior people in whose company we are tempted by pleasures that are inappropriate for the superior man. To participate in such pleasures would certainly bring remorse, for a superior man can find no real satisfaction in low pleasures.

Those who lack inner stability and therefore need amusement, will always find opportunity of indulgence. They attract external pleasures by the emptiness of their natures. Thus they lose themselves more and more, which of course has bad results.

Only when he clearly recognizes that passion brings suffering, can he make up his mind to turn away from the lower pleasures and strive for the higher.

#52 - Keeping Still


Mountains standing close together:
The image of KEEPING STILL.
Thus the superior man
Does not permit his thoughts
To go beyond his situation

The heart thinks constantly. this cannot be changed, but the movements of the heart - that is, a man’s thoughts - should restrict themselves to the immediate situation. All thinking that goes beyond this only makes the heart sore.

THE LINES [selections]

The beginning is the time of few mistakes. ... Not yet influenced by obscuring interests and desires, one sees things intuitively as they really are. A man who halts at the beginning, so long as he has not yet abandoned truth, finds the right way.

...in exercises in meditation and concentration, one ought not to try to force results. Rather, calmness must develop naturally out of a state of inner composure. If one tries to induce calmness by means of artificial rigidity, meditation will lead to very unwholesome results.

...injudicious speech easily leads to situations that subsequently give much cause for regret. However, if a man is reserved in speech, his words take ever more definite form, and every occasion for regret vanishes. [Cf. line 2 in #58.]

One is at rest, not merely in a small, circumscribed way in regard to matters of detail, but one has also a general resignation in regard to life as a whole, and this confers peace and good fortune in relation to every individual matter.

There is a wide difference of opinion on how best to interpret moving lines, particularly multiple moving lines. Six moving lines presents an interesting case. Is the second hexagram more important? Is there an implication that the first hexagram is a warning, something to be avoided?

In this example I have found it most useful to interpret the change chronologically. Joy can be achieved in the short term, but must eventually give way to Stillness. In striving after Joy, one should always remember that Stillness is on the horizon, making Joy possible.

With regard to my present situation and this particular consultation, it also makes sense to see Joy as something that can be achieved within stillness, without the necessity of major movement or change. One must recognize that movement is not necessary for happiness. Indeed, if one is unhappy, it might even be better to purposely keep still and make as few life changes so that the external forces (warned about in #58) don't get in the way or confuse the situation. Once joy has been achieved, life changes can be productive because they won't be based in brute force (warned about in both hexagrams).

(I Ching text from the Wilhelm-Baynes translation, as transcribed at theAbysmal.)

15 November 2008

Jean CocteauTo be gifted is to be lost, unless one sees clearly in time to level the slopes instead of sliding down them all. How to conquer a gift should be the main study of anyone who recognizes one in himself
And what a complex matter it is to be clear-sighted, since gifts assume the first shape they meet and this shape might perchance be the right one.

-Jean Cocteau, La Difficulté d'Etre