Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Island Nature



"No man, proclaimed Donne, is an Island, and he was wrong. If we were not islands, we would be lost, drowned in each other's tragedies. We are insulated (a word that means, literally, remember, made into an island) from the tragedy of others, by our island nature, and by the repetitive shape and form of the stories. The shape does not change: there was a human being who was born, lived, and then, by some means or another, died. There. You may fill in the details from your own experience. As unoriginal as any other tale, as unique as any other life. Lives are snowflakes—forming patterns we have seen before, as like one another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in a pod? I mean, really looked at them? There's not a chance you'd mistake one for another, after a minute's close inspection), but still unique."

- Neil Gaiman (1960 - )

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Cosmic Mind


"I hope you had a most delightful trip in the High Country, and that you were benefited in mind and soul and body by the divine influence of the mountains. I think nothing can be compared to the Hills for the elevation of spirit, and peace of mind, which they produce in man when he lives intelligently among them. All aspects of nature lead to elevation and knowledge when you once have the idea. The commonplace growth of weeds beneath a pile of refuse appear to shine with the divine light when you know the meaning of the world and sense the unity of all things. In a great city the buildings, the machinery, the works of art, everything produced by man, are naught but the material expression of ideas. We look on lines and forms and masses of what we call matter, and we know these things existed in the mind of man in the form of ideas before they were expressed in the physical world in the form of matter. I look on the lines and forms of the mountains and all other aspects of nature as if they were but the vast expression of ideas within the Cosmic Mind, if such it can be called. With that outlook, I am assured there is nothing in the Universe that is not the expression of mind or of life."

- Ansel Adams (1902 - 1984)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Ideas and Perceptions


"We create the world that we perceive, not because there is no reality outside our heads, but because we select and edit the reality we see to conform to our beliefs about what sort of world we live in. The man who believes that the resources of the world are infinite, for example, or that if something is good for you then the more of it the better, will not be able to see his errors, because he will not look for evidence of them. For a man to change the basic beliefs that determine his perception - his epistemological premises - he must first become aware that reality is not necessarily as he believes it to be. Sometimes the dissonance between reality and false beliefs reaches a point when it becomes impossible to avoid the awareness that the world no longer makes sense. Only then is it possible for the mind to consider radically different ideas and perceptions."

- Gregory Bateson (1904 - 1980)

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Music of my Soul


"I don’t know why I was born
with this belief in something
deeper and larger than we can
see. But it’s always called. Even as
a boy, I knew that trees and light
and sky all point to some timeless
center out of view. I have spent my
life listening to that center and filtering
it through my heart. This listening
and filtering is the music of my soul,
of all souls. After sixty years, I’ve run
out of ways to name this. Even now,
my heart won’t stand still. In a moment
of seeing, it takes the shape of my eye.
In a moment of speaking, the
shape of my tongue. In a moment of
silence, it slips back into the lake of
center. When you kiss me, it takes
the shape of your lip. When our dog
sleeps with us, it takes the shape of
her curl. When the hummingbird
feeds her baby, it takes the shape
of her beak carefully dropping
food into our throats."

- Mark Nepo (1951 - )

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Remains of the Day


"It was under English trees that I meditated on that lost labyrinth: I pictured it perfect and inviolate on the secret summit of a mountain; I pictured its outlines blurred by rice paddies, or underwater; I pictured it as infinite—a labyrinth not of octagonal pavillions and paths that turn back upon themselves, but of rivers and provinces and kingdoms....I imagined a labyrinth of labyrinths, a maze of mazes, a twisting, turning, ever-widening labyrinth that contained both past and future and somehow implied the stars. Absorbed in those illusory imaginings, I forgot that I was a pursued man; I felt myself, for an indefinite while, the abstract perceiver of the world. The vague, living countryside, the moon, the remains of the day did their work in me; so did the gently downward road, which forestalled all possibility of weariness. The evening was near, yet infinite."

- Jorge Luis Borges (1899 - 1986)

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Winds of Consciousness


"And it's a disquieting thought that not even the past is done with, even that continues to change, as if in reality there is only one time, for everything, one time for every purpose under heaven. One single second, one single landscape, in which what happens activates and deactivates what has already happened in endless chain reactions, like the processes that take place in the brain, perhaps, where cells suddenly bloom and die away, all according to the way the winds of consciousness are blowing."

- Karl Ove Knausgård (1968 - )

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Geometry


"Euclid's Elements has been for nearly twenty-two centuries the encouragement and guide of that scientific thought which is one thing with the progress of man from a worse to a better state. The encouragement; for it contained a body of knowledge that was really known and could be relied on, and that moreover was growing in extent and application. For even at the time this book was written—shortly after the foundation of the Alexandrian Museum—Mathematics was no longer the merely ideal science of the Platonic school, but had started on her career of conquest over the whole world of Phenomena. The guide; for the aim of every scientific student of every subject was to bring his knowledge of that subject into a form as perfect as that which geometry had attained. Far up on the great mountain of Truth, which all the sciences hope to scale, the foremost of that sacred sisterhood was seen, beckoning for the rest to follow her"

- William Kingdon Clifford (1845 - 1879)

Monday, September 30, 2019

Dream Within a Dream


"Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?"

- Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ghostly Objects


"Reality is a very subjective affair. I can only define it as a kind of gradual accumulation of information; and as specialization. If we take a lily, for instance, or any other kind of natural object, a lily is more real to a naturalist than it is to an ordinary person. But it is still more real to a botanist. And yet another stage of reality is reached with that botanist who is a specialist in lilies. You can get nearer and nearer, so to speak, to reality; but you never get near enough because reality is an infinite succession of steps, levels of perception, false bottoms, and hence unquenchable, unattainable. You can know more and more about one thing but you can never know everything about one thing: it’s hopeless. So that we live surrounded by more or less ghostly objects."

- Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Inseparability


"Our minds have no real or absolute boundaries; on the contrary, we are part of an infinite field of intelligence that extends beyond space and time into realities we have yet to comprehend. The beyul and their dakini emissaries are traces of the original world, inviting us to open to the abiding mystery at the heart of all experience, the inseparability that infuses every action, thought, and intention."

- Ian Baker (1957 - )

Monday, September 23, 2019

Noetic Quality


"But along with the feeling of ineffability, the conviction that some profound objective truth has been disclosed to you is a hallmark of the mystical experience, regardless of whether it has been occasioned by a drug, meditation, fasting, flagellation, or sensory deprivation. William James gave a name to this conviction: the noetic quality. People feel they have been let in on a deep secret of the universe, and they cannot be shaken from that conviction."

- Michael Pollan (1955 - )

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Listening to Trees


"For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness."

- Hermann Hesse (1877 - 1962)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Imaginatively Malleable Spaces


"We lack - we need - a term for those places where one experiences a 'transition' from a known landscape... into 'another world': somewhere we feel and think significantly differently. They exist even in familiar landscapes: there when you cross a certain watershed, recline or snowline, or enter rain, storm or mist. Such moments are rites of passage that reconfigure local geographics, leaving known places outlandish or quickened, revealing continents within counties.

The unknown is so inflammatory to the imagination because it is an imaginatively malleable space: a projection-screen onto which a culture or an individual can throw their fears and their aspirations. Like Echo's cave, the unknown will answer back with whatever you shout at it.

We cannot navigate and place ourselves only with maps that make the landscape dream-proof, impervious to the imagination. Such maps – and the road-map is first among them – encourage the elimination of wonder from our relationship with the world. And once wonder has been chased from our thinking about the land, then we are lost."

- Robert Macfarlane (1976 - )

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Creative Energy


"The thoughts, words, and emotions that human beings emit from moment to moment are constantly streaming forth from their bodies, forming creative fields that are visible in various colors, forms, and shapes. Some of these creative fields are hazy and cloudy in appearance, and they hover around the person in indeterminate patterns. Others are extremely tenacious, and they twine tightly around the person like a resilient string.

Each thought or emotion holds its own unique form of creative energy, and thoughts having a similar frequency band together to form a homogeneous creative field around the person who emitted them.

Where does our creative energy come from in the first place? Pure energy is always emitting from the source of the universe, brimming with infinite potential. This energy supports all forms of life, big or small. Each human being receives a steady supply of this same universal energy, and each of us assigns a shape to that energy by means of our words, thoughts, and emotions. This is the process of creation. The energy of any thought, whatever it might be, holds the potential for generating a creative field."

- Ervin Laszlo (1932 - )

Monday, September 16, 2019

Heart of the World


“As long as I live, 
I'll hear waterfalls and 
birds and winds sing. 
I'll interpret the rocks,
learn the language of flood,
storm, and the avalanche. 
I'll acquaint myself with the
glaciers and wild gardens,
 and get as near the heart
of the world as I can."

- John Muir (1838 - 1914)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Anaesthetic of Familiarity


"There is an anaesthetic of familiarity, a sedative of ordinariness which dulls the senses and hides the wonder of existence. For those of us not gifted in poetry, it is at least worth while from time to time making an effort to shake off the anaesthetic. What is the best way of countering the sluggish habitutation brought about by our gradual crawl from babyhood? We can't actually fly to another planet. But we can recapture that sense of having just tumbled out to life on a new world by looking at our own world in unfamiliar ways."

- Richard Dawkins (1941 - )

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Time Doesn't Pass


"In magic - and in life - there is only the present moment, the now. You can't measure time the way you measure the distance between two points. 'Time' doesn't pass. We human beings have enormous difficulty in focusing on the present; we're always thinking about what we did, about how we could have done it better, about the consequences of our actions, and about why we didn't act as we should have. Or else we think about the future, about what we're going to do tomorrow, what precautions we should take, what dangers await us around the next corner, how to avoid what we don't want and how to get what we have always dreamed of."

- Paulo Coelho (1947 - )

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Meditation


"Meditation has nothing to do with achieving a result. It is not a matter of breathing in a particular way, or looking at your nose, or awakening the power to perform certain tricks, or any of the rest of that immature nonsense…. Meditation is not something apart from life. When you are driving a car or sitting in a bus, when you are chatting aimlessly, when you are walking by yourself in a wood or watching a butterfly being carried along by the wind—to be choicelessly aware of all that is part of meditation."

- Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

Monday, September 09, 2019

Well Conceived Forms


"If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see divers combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well conceived forms."

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519)

Sunday, September 08, 2019

A Train of Moods


"Dream delivers us to dream, 
and there is no end to illusion. 
Life is like a train of moods
like a string of beads, 
and, as we pass through them, 
they prove to be many-colored lenses 
which paint the world their own hue..."

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Silence


"The reality that is present to us and in us: call it being...Silence. And the simple fact that by being attentive, by learning to listen (or recovering the natural capacity to listen) we can find our self engulfed in such happiness that it cannot be explained: the happiness of being at one with everything in that hidden ground of Love for which there can be no explanations.... May we all grow in grace and peace, and not neglect the silence that is printed in the center of our being. It will not fail us."

- Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968)

Sunday, September 01, 2019

An Unexpected Kindness


"Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken." - Maria Popova (1985 - )

Looking back over the life of my humble little blog, which I started in 2004 as an unsure, tentative "toe dip" into (what at the time) was still an untested world of on-line media, it has evolved into a quiet little oasis for me to spend time in, away from the stresses of life and job. Though it used to be replete with essays (something I look forward to getting back to, as time permits in the coming months), it has steadfastly remained a place for me to share my thoughts (albeit mostly via others' quotations in recent years) and images. Much to my surprise (and delight!), my blog has attracted (a still growing list of) people who find enough value in what I post here to "follow" my entries as they arise. I was reminded of this kindness - a fragile gift in this world that I try never to take for granted - while on vacation with my family in the Pacific Northwest (during which the image above was captured, on a beach on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula).

One beautiful morning during our stay, my wife and I were sipping coffee and "nature watching” with our binoculars in the solarium of a wonderful Airbnb home we had rented for our vacation. In-between numerous sightings of dolphins, sea-otters, eagles, and the like (each, an even more precious and fragile gift), I would occasionally glance at my iPad to continue reading my book-of-the week-vacation-reading biography (which on that day, happened to be of William Henry Jackson, whose photographs of the American West in the 19th century were, in part, responsible for the congressional vote that established Yellowstone National Park in 1872; but I digress). My iPad alerted me that I had a new email. I almost didn't look (and normally do not when on vacation), but look I did.

It was a lovely email from a recent "follower" who politely inquired about whether I'd abandoned my blog (reminding me that I had not posted anything new since the beginning of June!). While I post whenever I have the chance (and have new images to share), but have simply had no time for new work in recent months (a not uncommon occurrence throughout the 15 years I've had my blog), it didn't occur to me that I might actually have followers who'd miss my posts enough to send an email! The day this email arrived was already special - what, with a preternatural display of nature's beauty just outside our beachfront rental? - but my new follower's heartfelt concern for my blog's future (it is emphatically not abandoned), and the kindness he bestowed in taking the time to reach out to me, made the day that much more memorable. The impersonal sterility of our modern world makes it easy to forget (sometimes, but not on this day), that what connects us all are simple, genuine, human gestures, like one photographer reaching out to another over the technological ether to ask, "I enjoy seeing your pictures; you haven't stopped posting have you?" No, kind reader, I have not. And thank you so much for asking!

PS (to the person who sent me the email): You mentioned that you were also taking a trip, in your case to the Adirondacks in New York. I had emailed you a few "early" essays to tie you over until such time as I got back to posting, but forgot to include an old entry from a trip I made to the Adirondacks back in 2008. The entry - "Boinga, Boinga, Boinga" Shots - recounts a timeless experience that all photographers go through at one time or another. I have learned quite a bit in the time since I wrote that entry (in regards to the subject matter described therein), and will be sharing some thoughts in future posts.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Unbroken Movement


“There is a universal flux that cannot be defined explicitly but which can be known only implicitly, as indicated by the explicitly definable forms and shapes, some stable and some unstable, that can be abstracted from the universal flux. In this flow, mind and matter are not separate substances. Rather, they are different aspects of our whole and unbroken movement.” 

David Bohm (1917 - 1992) 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Hearing with the Eye



"Once a monastic asked the Tang Dynasty Chinese National Teacher, Nanyang, 'Do the insentient understand the expressing of the Way?' The National Teacher said, 'They express the Way continually, energetically, ceaselessly.' The monastic said, 'Why can't I hear it?' The National Teacher replied, 'The fact that you don't hear it has nothing to do with others hearing it.' The monastic said, 'I don't understand. What kind of person can hear it?' The National Teacher said, 'All the holy ones can hear it.' The monastic asked, 'Do you hear it?' The National Teacher said, 'I do not hear it.' The monastic said, 'If you do not hear it, how do you know that the insentient can express the Way?' The National Teacher said, 'Fortunately I do not hear it. If I did, I would be one of the holy ones and you would not be able to hear me expressing the Way.' The monastic said, 'In that case, sentient beings can't hear it.' The National Teacher said, 'I express the Way for the sake of sentient beings, not for the sake of the holy ones.' The monastic said, 'Then what happens when sentient beings do hear you?' The National Teacher said, 'At that moment they are not sentient beings.'" 

- John Daido Loori (1931 - 2009)

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Mystery and Confusion


"We are the representatives of the cosmos; we are an example of what hydrogen atoms can do, given fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution. And we resonate to these questions. We start with the origin of every human being, and then the origin of our community, our nation, the human species, who our ancestors were and then the riddle of the origin of life. And the questions: where did the Earth and Solar System come from? Where did the galaxies come from?

Every one of those questions is deep and significant. They are the subject of folklore, myth, superstition, and religion in every human culture. But for the first time we are on the verge of answering many of them. I don’t mean to suggest that we have the final answers; we are bathing in mystery and confusion on many subjects, and I think that will always be our destiny. The universe will always be much richer than our ability to understand it."

- Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996)

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Life Itself


"As human beings, we are part of the whole stream of life. We have been human beings for perhaps a million years. But life itself — passes on something of itself to other life — that mysterious entity that moves and is aware of itself and its surroundings, and so is distinguished from rocks or senseless clay — [from which] life arose many hundreds of millions of years ago. Since then it has developed, struggled, adapted itself to its surroundings, evolved an infinite number of forms. But its living protoplasm is built of the same elements as air, water, and rock. To these the mysterious spark of life was added. Our origins are of the earth. And so there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity."

- Rachel Carson (1907 - 1964)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Beauty and Mystery


"Some people believe that there is no distinction between the spiritual and physical universes, no distinction between the inner and the outer, between the subjective and the objective, between the miraculous and the rational. I need such distinctions to make sense of my spiritual and scientific lives. For me, there is room for both a spiritual universe and a physical universe, just as there is room for both religion and science. Each universe has its own power. Each has its own beauty, and mystery."

- Alan Lightman (1948 - )

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Limitless Aleph


"All language is a set of symbols whose use among its speakers assumes a shared past. How, then, can I translate into words the limitless Aleph, which my floundering mind can scarcely encompass? Mystics, faced with the same problem, fall back on symbols: to signify the godhead, one Persian speaks of a bird that somehow is all birds; Alanus de Insulis, of a sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere; Ezekiel, of a four-faced angel who at one and the same time moves east and west, north and south. (Not in vain do I recall these inconceivable analogies; they bear some relation to the Aleph.) Perhaps the gods might grant me a similar metaphor, but then this account would become contaminated by literature, by fiction. Really, what I want to do is impossible, for any listing of an endless series is doomed to be infinitesimal. In that single gigantic instant I saw millions of acts both delightful and awful; not one of them occupied the same point in space, without overlapping or transparency. What my eyes beheld was simultaneous, but what I shall now write down will be successive, because language is successive. Nonetheless, I'll try to recollect what I can."

- Jorge Luis Borges (1899 - 1986)

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Mind As Passage


"The utmost mission of Mind
is to train our obscure consciousness
which has emerged out of the
dark prison of Matter,
to enlighten its blind instincts,
random intuitions,
vague perceptions till it shall
become capable of this greater light
and this higher ascension.
Mind is a passage,
not a culmination."

- Sri Aurobindo (1872 - 1950)

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Organic Unfoldment


"Photography! 
Summation of the life experience
Exquisite focal point of all being
Aromatic distillation
Inmost
And ultimate
Light.

From out of darkness
Ascending, once again
God alone.

Photography?
Realization,
Identity,
My religion of
Organic Infoldment.

Spatiously
In the lap of
Mother alone
Full blown as a rose,
Organic Unfoldment."

- Edmund Teske (1911 - 1996)

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Revere What is Unknowable


"Science of nature has one goal:
To find both manyness and whole.
Nothing 'inside' or 'Out There,'
The 'outer' world is all 'In Here.'
This mystery grasp without delay,
This secret always on display.
The true illusion celebrate,
Be joyful in the serious game!
No living thing lives separate:
One and Many are the same."
...
We can never directly see
what is true, that is, identical with
what is divine: we look at it
only in reflection, in example,
in the symbol, in individual
and related phenomena.
We perceive it as a life
beyond our grasp,
yet we cannot deny
our need to grasp it.
...
The highest achievement
of the human being
as a thinking being is to
have probed what is
knowable and quietly to
revere what is unknowable."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Confrontation With Mystery


"That everything may be conceived as an illusion does not exclude the concept that all illusion is reality. Any aspect of it can be considered reality or illusion. Illusion is the game we artists play (and sleight of hand as well)... this confrontation with mystery exists all the time. Mystery, power, and the concept of going beyond one's corporeal reality. If you can't expand beyond your own limitations physically then it becomes attractive to expand your own limitations by way of mental process, spirituality, or mysticism. Mysticism is on display everywhere."

- Bruce Conner (1933 - 2008)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Unaccountable Truth


"...to 'listen' is to be in a position where hearing is impossible--or deceptive. It is the wrong kind of listening: listening for a limited message, an objective sound, a sensible meaning. Actually one decides one's life by responding to a word that is not well defined, easily explicable, safely accounted for. One decides to love in the face of an unaccountable void, and from the void comes an unaccountable truth. By this truth one's existence is sustained in peace--until the truth is too firmly grasped and too clearly accounted for. Then one is relying on words, i.e., on one's own understanding and one's own ingenuity in interpreting existence and its "signs." Then one is lost and has to be found once again in the patient Void."

- Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Existence Itself


"If you awaken from this illusion,
and you understand that
black implies white,
self implies other,
life implies death.
You can feel yourself,
not as a stranger in the world,
not as something here on probation,
not as something that has
arrived here by fluke,
but you can begin to feel
your own existence as
absolutely fundamental.
What you are basically,
deep, deep down,
far, far in,
is simply the fabric
and structure of
existence itself."

- Alan Watts (1915 - 1973)

Monday, March 11, 2019

What You See


"The question is not what you look at, but what you see. It is only necessary to behold the least fact or phenomenon, however familiar, from a point a hair's breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance."

- Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Limits of Perception


"Phenomena unfold on their own appropriate scales of space and time and may be invisible in our myopic world of dimensions assessed by comparison with human height and times metered by human lifespans. So much of accumulating importance at earthly scales ... is invisible by the measuring rod of a human life. So much that matters to particles in the microscopic world of molecules ... either averages out to stability at our scale or simply stands below our limits of perception. "

-  Stephen Jay Gould (1941 - 2002)

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Unexpected Meeting of Objects


"Mathematicians attach great importance to the elegance of their methods and their results. This is not pure dilettantism. What is it indeed that gives us the feeling of elegance in a solution, in a demonstration? It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details. But this is exactly what yields great results, in fact the more we see this aggregate clearly and at a single glance, the better we perceive its analogies with other neighboring objects, consequently the more chances we have of divining the possible generalizations. Elegance may produce the feeling of the unforeseen by the unexpected meeting of objects we are not accustomed to bring together; there again it is fruitful, since it thus unveils for us kinships before unrecognized. It is fruitful even when it results only from the contrast between the simplicity of the means and the complexity of the problem set; it makes us then think of the reason for this contrast and very often makes us see that chance is not the reason; that it is to be found in some unexpected law. In a word, the feeling of mathematical elegance is only the satisfaction due to any adaptation of the solution to the needs of our mind, and it is because of this very adaptation that this solution can be for us an instrument. Consequently this esthetic satisfaction is bound up with the economy of thought."

- Henri Poincare (1854 - 1912)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Appearances


"The rules of the universe that we think
we know are buried deep
in our processes of perception.
It is as if the stuff of which
we are made were totally transparent
and therefore imperceptible and
as if the only appearances of which
we can be aware are cracks and planes
of fracture in that transparent matrix.
Dreams and percepts and stories
are perhaps cracks and irregularities
in the uniform and timeless matrix.
Was this what Plotinus meant
by an 'invisible and unchanging
beauty which pervades all things'?"

- Gregory Bateson (1904 - 1980)

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Namelessness


"There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. This mysterious unity and integrity is wisdom, the mother of us all, "natura naturans." There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fountain of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness, and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being."

- Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968)

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Impermanence


"I don’t know why we long so for permanence, why the fleeting nature of things so disturbs. With futility, we cling to the old wallet long after it has fallen apart. We visit and revisit the old neighborhood where we grew up, searching for the remembered grove of trees and the little fence. We clutch our old photographs. In our churches and synagogues and mosques, we pray to the everlasting and eternal. Yet, in every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away. All that we see around us, including our own bodies, is shifting and evaporating and one day will be gone. Where are the one billion people who lived and breathed in the year 1800, only two short centuries ago?"

- Alan Lightman (1948 - )

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Extraordinary Ordinary


"Quit trying to find beautiful objects to photograph.
Find the ordinary objects so you can
transform them by photographing them."

- Morley Baer (1916 - 1995)

Postscript. When I do photography (that is, when I am lucky enough to have some time to squeeze photography in between my day-job responsibilities), I am decked out with the usual "photographer's paraphernalia" (i.e., camera + vertical grip, tripod, an assortment of lenses, filters, ...). For subject matter, almost without exception, I find myself either perusing landscapes in a local park (that I know the trails of about as well as I know the layout of my home), or exploring color light abstractions in a make-shift studio I've built in my basement. The exceptions are when traveling with my family (when I do essentially the same thing anyway - photographically speaking - but just don't know the trails as well:), and when not in possession of my "real" camera or the bag-full-of-paraphernalia that accompanies it. 

While all photographers strive to transform the "ordinary into the extraordinary" (ala Morley Baer's admonition, and in deference to Minor White's dictum to take pictures of "what else" a thing is), it is often the case that just recognizing that something is sufficiently "ordinary" to warrant training one's camera on is itself hard enough, let alone the task of transforming that "ordinary thing" into something "else." A (far from original) trick I use is to force myself into a more receptive frame-of-mind by deliberately not having my camera at the ready. When the (clichéd) "best camera is the one you're carrying" is not my usual "go to" camera of choice, my mind's eye is free to discover (perhaps otherwise invisible?) patterns, realities, and the myriad extraordinary ordinary things we spend our lives immersed in.

And so, the "rest of the story" behind the images you see assembled in the 3-by-3 polyptych shown above, is that these are some recent examples of the magical "extraordinary ordinary" reality that my iPhone - not my Nikon D810 - consistently and generously reveals to me. The more banal descriptions of what these images are really images of, are, in no particular order: staircases in the building I work in 5 days a week, lights at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (in Washington, DC), the ceiling at a Department for Motor Vehicles service center, light fixtures at a local Mall and restaurant, and a skylight at a supermarket. The extraordinary ordinary indeed.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Palimpsests and Dreams


"I will write in words of fire. I will write them on your skin. I will write about desire. Write beginnings, write of sin. You’re the book I love the best, your skin only holds my truth, you will be a palimpsest lines of age rewriting youth. You will not burn upon the pyre. Or be buried on the shelf. You’re my letter to desire: And you’ll never read yourself. I will trace each word and comma As the final dusk descends, You’re my tale of dreams and drama, Let us find out how it ends."

- Neil Gaiman (1960 - )

Monday, January 14, 2019

Time Has No Divisions


"Time has no divisions to mark its passage,
there is never a thunder-storm or
blare of trumpets to announce the
beginning of a new month or year. 
Even when a new century begins
it is only we mortals who
ring bells and fire off pistols."

- Thomas Mann (1875 - 1955)

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Expansive Existence


"There was an epoch in the Night of Time, when a still-existent Being existed—one of an absolutely infinite number of similar Beings that people the absolutely infinite domains of the absolutely infinite space. It was not and is not in the power of this Being—any more than it is in your own—to extend, by actual increase, the joy of his Existence; but just as it is in your power to expand or to concentrate your pleasures (the absolute amount of happiness remaining always the same) so did and does a similar capability appertain to this Divine Being, who thus passes his Eternity in perpetual variation of Concentrated Self and almost Infinite Self-Diffusion. 

What you call The Universe is but his present expansive existence. He now feels his life through an infinity of imperfect pleasures—the partial and pain-intertangled pleasures of those inconceivably numerous things which you designate as his creatures, but which are really but infinite individualizations of Himself. All these creatures—all—those which you term animate, as well as those to whom you deny life for no better reason than that you do not behold it in operation—all these creatures have, in a greater or less degree, a capacity for pleasure and for pain:—but the general sum of their sensations is precisely that amount of Happiness which appertains by right to the Divine Being when concentrated within Himself. 

These creatures are all, too, more or less conscious Intelligences; conscious, first, of a proper identity; conscious, secondly and by faint indeterminate glimpses, of an identity with the Divine Being of whom we speak—of an identity with God. Of the two classes of consciousness, fancy that the former will grow weaker, the latter stronger, during the long succession of ages which must elapse before these myriads of individual Intelligences become blended—when the bright stars become blended—into One. 

Think that the sense of individual identity will be gradually merged in the general consciousness—that Man, for example, ceasing imperceptibly to feel himself Man, will at length attain that awfully triumphant epoch when he shall recognize his existence as that of Jehovah. In the meantime bear in mind that all is Life—Life—Life within Life—the less within the greater, and all within the Spirit Divine."

- Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)