Friday, December 30, 2022

Winds of the Heavens

"Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow."

Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Liminal State of Awareness

"There is another place that can be summoned through practice that is not the imagination, but more a secondary positioning of your mind with regard to spiritual matters… It is a kind of liminal state of awareness, before dreaming, before imagining, that is connected to the spirit itself. It is an “impossible realm” where glimpses of the preternatural essence of things find their voice. Arthur lives there. Inside that space, it feels a relief to trust in certain glimpses of something else, something other, something beyond."

- Nick Cave (1957 - )
Faith, Hope and Carnage

Wednesday, December 28, 2022


 "The nitrogen in our DNA,
the calcium in our teeth,
the iron in our blood,
the carbon in our apple pies
were made in the interiors
of collapsing stars.
We are made of starstuff.
Science is not only compatible with spirituality;
it is a profound source of spirituality."

Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996)

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Beyond Mere Doctrine

"All beings by nature are Buddha,
As ice by nature is water.
Apart from water there is no ice;
Apart from beings, no Buddha.
How sad that people ignore the near
And search for truth afar:
Like someone in the midst of water
Crying out in thirst,
Like a child of a wealthy home
Wandering among the poor.
Go far beyond mere doctrine.
Here effect and cause are the same,
The Way is neither two nor three.
With form that is no-form,
Going and coming, we are never astray,
With thought that is no-thought,
Singing and dancing are the voice of the Law.
Boundless and free is the sky of Samádhi!
Bright the full moon of wisdom!
Truly, is anything missing now?
Nirvana is right here, before our eyes,
This very place is the Lotus Land,
This very body, the Buddha"

- Hakuin Ekaku (c.1686 - c.1769)
 The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin

Monday, December 26, 2022

I Am a Dreamer

 "I am a dreamer.
I know so little of real life
that I just can’t help re-living
such moments as these in my dreams,
for such moments are something
I have very rarely experienced.
I am going to dream about
you the whole night,
the whole week,
the whole year."

- Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 - 1881)

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Connecting Patterns

"We have been trained to think of patterns, with the exception of those of music, as fixed affairs. It is easier and lazier that way but, of course, all nonsense. In truth, the right way to begin to think about the pattern which connects is to think of it as primarily (whatever that means) a dance of interacting parts and only secondarily pegged down by various sorts of physical limits and by those limits which organisms characteristically impose. "

Gregory Bateson (1904 - 1980)

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Beyond the Tangible

"Abstraction allows man to see
with his mind what he cannot
see physically with his eyes...
Abstract art enables the artist
to perceive beyond the tangible,
to extract the infinite out of the finite.
It is the emancipation of the mind.
It is an exploration into unknown areas."

- Arshile Gorky (1904 - 1948)

Friday, December 23, 2022

The Sound of the Sea

"There is, one knows not what
sweet mystery about this sea,
whose gently awful stirrings seem to
speak of some hidden soul beneath..."

Herman Melville (1819 - 1891)

"The immeasurable depth of
the sea beneath your feet;
the immeasurable depth of
heavens above your head.
A gust of wind hardly moved the sail.
The dark masses of water shifted
like a great slithering beast under
the boat, rocking it softly, gently."

- Witold Makowiecki (1902 - 1946)

"I felt once more how simple
and frugal a thing is happiness:
a glass of wine,
a roast chestnut,
a wretched little brazier,
the sound of the sea.
Nothing else."

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Reality of the Infinite

"... for as the reality of light cannot be proved or described in terms of visible shape, the reality of the infinite cannot be proved in terms of the finite. For this reason every attempt to prove the existence of God by logic is a foregone failure. Logic cannot reach God. It may travel backwards in time from effect to cause, effect to cause, but as long as it stays in time, as it must, it cannot touch the eternal. That which doesn't not begin with the infinite cannot end with it."

Alan Watts (1915 - 1973)

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Islands in the Sea

"We are like islands in the sea,
separate on the surface
but connected in the deep."

- William James (1842 - 1910)

Monday, December 19, 2022

Bewilderments of the Eyes

"To them, I said, the truth
would be literally nothing but
the shadows of the images.
Anyone who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter light, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other; or, if he has a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light into the den."

- Plato (c.424 - 348 BC)
Republic, "The Allegory of the Cave" 

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Dimensionality of Time

"In this world, time has three dimensions, like space. Just as an object may move in three perpendicular directions, corresponding to horizontal, vertical, and longitudinal, so an object may participate in three perpendicular futures. Each future moves in a different direction of time. Each future is real. At every point of decision, the world splits into three worlds, each with the same people, but different fates for those people. In time, there are an infinity of worlds."

Alan Lightman (1948 - )
Einstein's Dreams

Friday, December 16, 2022

Illimitable Universe

"As our mother earth is a mere speck in the sunbeam in the illimitable universe, so man himself is but a tiny grain of protoplasm in the perishable framework of organic nature. Nothing seems to me better adapted than this magnificent cosmological perspective to give us the proper standard and the broad outlook which we need in the solution of the vast enigmas that surround us. It not only clearly indicates the true place of man in nature, but it dissipates the prevalent illusion of man's supreme importance, and the arrogance with which he sets himself apart from the illimitable universe, and exalts himself to the position of its most valuable element... Only when we have abandoned this untenable illusion, and taken up the correct cosmological perspective, can we hope to reach the solution of the 'riddles of the universe.'"

- Ernst Haeckel (1834 - 1919) 
The Riddle of the Universe

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Limited Piece of the Whole

"A human being is a spatially and
temporally limited piece of the whole,
what we call the 'Universe.'
He experiences himself and his
feelings as separate from the rest,
an optical illusion of his consciousness.
The quest for liberation from this bondage
[or illusion] is the only object of true religion.
Not nurturing the illusion but only overcoming
it gives us the attainable measure of inner peace."

Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
Google's translation of Einstein’s original quotation 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022


"Another problem of fragmentation is that thought divides itself from feeling and from the body. Thought is said to be the mind; we have the notion that it is something abstract or spiritual or immaterial. Then there is the body, which is very physical. And we have emotions, which are perhaps somewhere in between. The idea is that they are all different. That is, we think of them as different. And we experience them as different because we think of them as different."

 - David Bohm (1917 - 1992)
Thought as a System

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Ambiguous Dream

"Time weighs down on you
like an old, ambiguous dream.
You keep on moving,
trying to sleep through it.
But even if you go to
the ends of the earth,
you won't be able to escape it.
Still, you have to go there-
 to the edge of the world.
There's something you can't
do unless you get there."

- Haruki Murakami (1949 - )
Kafka on the Shore 

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Transcendent Logic

"Universe, therefore, is only a mythological expression. The thoughts suggested by this word are perfectly irregular, entirely independent. As soon as we leave the bounds of the moment, as soon as we try to increase and extend our presence outside of itself, we exhaust ourselves in our liberty. We are surrounded by all the disorder of our knowledge, of our faculties. We are besieged by what is remembered, what is possible, what is imaginable, calculable, all the combinations of our ideas in all degrees of probability, in every phase of precision. How can we form a concept of something that is opposed to nothing, rejects nothing, resembles nothing? If it resembled something, it would no longer be the whole. If it resembles nothing... And, if this totality is equivalent in power to one's mind, the mind has no hold over it. All the objections that rise against an active infinity, all the difficulties encountered when one attempts to draw order out of multiplicity, here assert themselves. No proposition can be advanced about this subject so disordered in its richness that all attributes apply to it. Just as the universe escapes intuition, in the same way it is transcendent to logic.

As for its origin—in the beginning was fable.
It will be there always."

Paul Valery (1871 - 1945)
"On Poe's Eureka" in Selected Writings of Paul Valéry

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Plenum Model of the Ground

"The proposal I am making here - that the I which lies behind or inside all matter is an underlying substance, or 'original substance' underlying all matter - partially reunites us, part of the way, not all the way, towards a world of spirit. It does not make a separation between spirit and matter. Rather it asserts and insists that matter is not a purely mechanical material, but rather a spirit-like, Self-like substance, a material grounded in I, hence a different kind of substance from the space-time of Descartes and Einstein which were both postulated in the mechanistic tradition.
The plenum model of the Ground - the idea that the I is actually real in the universe, not only in the mind - is harder to accept... In this view we see the same ground - but we now think of it as a great thing in the universe, far beyond ourselves, haunting, otherworldly, ultimate in its beauty and light. It is reached only when a great work breaks through it."

Christopher Alexander (1936 - 2022)
The Nature of Order: Luminous Ground

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

The concept of a World

"The concept of a world in the [Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics] MWI is based on the layman’s conception of a world; however, several features are different. Obviously, the definition of the world as everything that exists does not hold in the MWI. 'Everything that exists' is the Universe, and there is only one Universe. The Universe incorporates many worlds similar to the one the layman is familiar with. A layman believes that our present world has a unique past and future. According to the MWI, a world defined at some moment of time corresponds to a unique world at a time in the past, but to a multitude of worlds at a time in the future."

- Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics,
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Friday, December 02, 2022

Helping Preserve the "Bullock Family Photography Archive"

"Light to me is perhaps the most profound truth in the universe.
My thinking has been deeply affected by the belief that
everything is some form of radiant energy."
- Wynn Bullock (1905 - 1975)

As I have written many times on my blog throughout the years, Wynn Bullock holds a special place in my heart. Although (sadly) I never had a chance to meet him, everything that I have learned about him - whether through his own writings and images, what others have written about him, and/or memories that one of his daughters, Barbara Bullock-Wilson, has kindly shared with me - makes me want to step into some alternate reality where he is still alive. I see myself pulling up a chair beside him near a cozy fireplace, settling in with a hot cup of coffee and just reveling in his presence, chatting away into the night about art, photography, science, the magic of light, and whatever else moves our spirits. 

My correspondence with Barbara began shortly after I received an email from her about a blog entry I published in Jan 2012 discussing my "discovery" of her dad's magnificent color light abstractions. Barbara has recently informed me of a crowdsourcing effort she's organized to help preserve this masterful work (that continues to inspire me, and, I suspect, all others that come across it and/or just see the works - or their reproductions - for themselves!). The goal of the "Bullock Family Photography Archive" project (recently launched at UC Santa Cruz) is to raise at least $30,000 to help UCSC acquire the rest of the Wynn Bullock Color Light Abstraction traveling exhibit as well as add a few black-and-white vintage photographs to their Bullock holdings. IMHO, this is an important effort that doesn't just enhance the Bullock collection at the University, but helps preserve Bullock's legacy for future generations! The crowdsourcing homepage includes a formal description and includes a short promotional video you can watch. I gently urge all of my humble followers to take a peek, and consider donating to Barbara's effort.

Postscript. The image at the top of this blog entry was captured in (what, for me, is typically) "serendipitously synchronistic" fashion, given the topic of this blog entry and Bullock's own close association with light and pattern: as I was walking past my eldest son's room while going to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee to jump-start my brain prior to writing this blog entry, I was struck by the "Bullockian light patterns" dancing across my son's bed. Of course, I had to rush back to my study and get my camera (heck, it was so mesmerizing, I even forgot to get my coffee)! It is as if Bullock himself reached out from that alternate reality in which he and I are schmoozing about life and art to gift me a bit of "light" to accompany my text 😊

Monday, November 28, 2022

Skeleton of Truth

"So there it is in words
And if you read between the lines
You will find nothing there
For that is the discipline I ask
Not more, not less
Not the world as it is
Not ought to be –
Only the precision
The skeleton of truth
I do not dabble in emotions
Hint at implications
Evoke the ghosts of old forgotten creeds.
All that is for the preacher
The hypnotist, therapist and missionary
They will come after me
And use the little that I said
To bait more traps
For those who cannot bear
The lonely
of Truth"

Gregory Bateson (1904 - 1980) and Mary Catherine Bateson (1939 - 2021)

Friday, November 25, 2022

Abstract ETCs

"Irrespective of the possibility that the Galileo Project may discover additional, or even extraordinary evidence for ETCs [Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations], at a minimum the Galileo Project will gather rich data sets that may foster the discovery of — or better scientific explanations for — novel interstellar objects with anomalous properties, and for potential new natural atmospheric phenomena, or in some instances terrestrial technology explanations for many of the presently inexplicable UAP."

- Galileo Project, Harvard University

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Simplest Thing

 "Even the simplest thing
is as important as the
things we consider important.
I consider a fallen leaf as
important as the Grand Canyon.
It's all important;
it's all connected.
One couldn't be
without the other."

- Ruth Bernhard (1905 - 2006)

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Unclouded by Preconceived Ideas

"Watching as things arrange
themselves in the changing light,
the photographer with unobstructed
vision sees them as they are.
Appropriate images appear without
struggle, moving with the flow of light
like leaves in a stream,
to be immediately reflected in
a mind unclouded by
preconceived ideas."

- Benjamin Hoff (1946 - )

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Chain of Connection

"In considering the study of physical phenomena, not merely in its bearings on the material wants of life, but in its general influence on the intellectual advancement of mankind, we find its noblest and most important result to be a knowledge of the chain of connection, by which all natural forces are linked together, and made mutually dependent upon each other; and it is the perception of these relations that exalts our views and ennobles our enjoyments."

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Admiring Light's Beauty

"Look at light and admire its beauty.
Close your eyes, and then look again:
what you saw is no longer there;
and what you will see later is not yet. "

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519)

Friday, November 11, 2022

Improvisational Nature

"Perhaps the answers to these questions require fundamental advances at the interface of physics, the arts, and neuroscience. The deep links between musical form and physical form may be unveiled by understanding how both kinds of knowledge-music and physics-arise together in human brains and nowhere else. After all, brains, regardless of how mysterious they are, are the most complex structures in the universe.
It is amusing to speculate that the reason why music has the ability to move us so deeply is that it is an auditory allusion to our basic connection to the universe. If our cosmic origins are seated in sound patterns, is it too far-fetched to think that music viscerally enables us to tap into those origins?
What if there were a vibrational pattern
in the early universe capable of
generating the current complex
structure that we live in,
the complex structures that we are?
And what if these structures
had an improvisational nature."

- Stephon Alexander (1971 - )
The Jazz of Physics

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Vibration of Spirit

"The vibration of Spirit is at such an infinite rate of intensity and rapidity that it is practically at rest — just as a rapidly moving wheel seems to be motionless. And at the other end of the scale, there are gross forms of matter whose vibrations are so low as to seem at rest. Between these poles, there are millions upon millions of varying degrees of vibration. From corpuscle and electron, atom and molecule, to worlds and universes, everything is in vibratory motion. This is also true on the planes of energy and force (which are but varying degrees of vibration); and also on the mental planes (whose states depend upon vibrations); and even on to the spiritual planes. An understanding of this Principle, with the appropriate formulas, enables Hermetic students to control their own mental vibrations as well as those of others. The Masters also apply this Principle to the conquering of Natural phenomena, in various ways. 'He who understands the Principle of Vibration, has grasped the sceptre of Power,' says one of the old writers.
...the differences between different
manifestations of Matter, Energy,
Mind, and even Spirit, result
largely from varying rates of Vibrations...
...the higher the vibration,
the higher the position in the scale."

Postscript. In February of this year, I wrote about how the morning walks my wife and I took together during the pandemic (which we could do since I did not have to commute to my regular office; something which, sadly, I've had to resume doing recently) gave me an opportunity to see and appreciate how much beauty our local neighborhood offers. Back then, I was mesmerized with the "hosta-leaf corpses" that littered the sidewalks near our house, and which appeared to glow with a preternatural inner light. To communicate a sense of what first drew me to them (i.e., their radiance), I rendered them using reversed black and white tones (a small portfolio is here). Almost a year later, as we approach late autumn, I find my eye/I drawn to the radiance - or, better, to the colorful afterglow - of decaying maple leaves. Just as the all-but-decayed hosta leaves stubbornly clung to life with a mysterious and inexhaustible energy, the just-starting-to-decay maple leaves are now doing the same, but are suffused in an ineffably iridescent brilliance! There is a palpable fire burning inside that refuses to let go! I've tried to capture this ethereal energy by placing the leaves on a light table (using one that is sufficiently bright to illuminate the veins of the leaves), and rendering the final image on a dark backdrop in Photoshop. Although, as with the hostas, my maple macros only partly convey the excitement I felt as I encountered individual leaves, much of my raw emotion remains (albeit only in "Stieglitzian Equivalent" form). The image above is an amalgam of the photographs in a new "maple autumn macros" portfolio. Enjoy 😊

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Signatura Regrum

"All perceiving is also thinking,
all reasoning is also intuition,
all observation is also invention.
Man’s striving for order, of which art is but one manifestation, derives from a similar universal tendency throughout the organic world; it is also paralleled by, and perhaps derived from, the striving towards the state of simplest structure in physical systems.
Both art and science are bent on the understanding of the forces that shape existence, and both call for a dedication to what is. Neither of them can tolerate capricious subjectivity because both are subject to their criteria of truth. Both require precision, order, and discipline because no comprehensible statement can be made without these. Both accept the sensory world as what the Middle Ages called signatura regrum, the signature of things, but in quite different ways."

Rudolf Arnheim (1904 - 2007)

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Theory of Emptiness

"The theory of emptiness… is the deep recognition that there is a fundamental disparity between the way we perceive the world, including our own existence in it, and the way things actually are.
According to the theory of emptiness, any belief in an objective reality grounded in the assumption of intrinsic, independent existence is untenable. All things and events, whether material, mental, or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective independent existence. To possess such independent, intrinsic existence would imply that things and events are somehow complete unto themselves and are therefore entirely contained.
If on the quantum level, matter is revealed to be less solid and definable than it appears, then it seems to me that science is coming closer to the Buddhist contemplative insights of emptiness and interdependence.

Dalai Lama XIV, (1935 - )

Friday, November 04, 2022

A Tiny Piece of the Whole

"In our constant search for meaning in this baffling and temporary existence, trapped as we are within our three pounds of neurons, it is sometimes hard to tell what is real. We often invent what isn’t there. Or ignore what is. We try to impose order, both in our minds and in our conceptions of external reality. We try to connect. We try to find truth. We dream and we hope. And underneath all of these strivings, we are haunted by the suspicion that what we see and understand of the world is only a tiny piece of the whole."

Alan Lightman (1948 - )

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Raw Essence

"Photography, used as a fine art, is what any artist makes of it. For the analytical artist, photography is a tool to record his visual curiosity, his visual understanding, and his visual contemplation of the world. For the objective artist, photography can reveal the meanings of things and render surfaces with love and beauty. The subjective artist can use photography as a means of self-expression – simply by dissociating the subject from its connotations. When photography is used in this manner, the unconscious mind can be reached through the reading of the photograph’s design. Discarding the connotations of subjects leaves them symbols that can be read like dreams. The world of the unconscious mind is turned into the raw material of art.
To reach essence, the photographer cannot work as the painter does. The photographer cannot pile up characteristics until an essence is synthesized. He must wait until a face, gesture, or place goes ‘transparent’ and thereby reveals the essence underneath. This exact instant, when the subject bares its inner core is a transitory and fleeting moment. It is never repeated exactly. The expressive function of the camera is to make photographs that reveal the essence of the subject along with the facts."

Minor White (1908 - 1976)
Quoted in The Aesthetic Theories Of Minor White,
by Stuart Oring

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Going with the Flow

"A Taoist story tells of an old man who accidentally fell into the river rapids leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive. 'I accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived.'"

- The Daily Zen Journal:
A Creative Companion for a Beginner's Mind 

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Passing Through the Present

"We pass through the present
with our eyes blindfolded.
We are permitted merely to
sense and guess at what we
 are actually experiencing.
Only later when the cloth is untied
can we glance at the past and find
out what we have experienced
and what meaning it has."

- Milan Kundera (1929 - ) 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Di-Eclectic Eyes

"My mind is an attic full of crazy dreams that never quit or disappoint me, and I have been blessed with these eyes to see things differently and have people see me in a different way.

The function of my comedy is not to provide answers, but to postulate questions, impertinent questions and therefore finally, pertinent questions. Not to open doors, merely to unlock them. To not invade the boundaries of probability but stand a cool guard this side of the boundaries. Somewhere between there's a thesis. To pump up the muscle of dialectic (or in my case Di-Eclectic!) against the brawn of surrealistic solution.

I play not Hamlet,
but the second gravedigger,
not Lear but the fool."

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Aesthetic Devolution

"The tides of time should be able to imprint the passing of the years on an object. The physical decay or natural wear and tear of the materials used does not in the least detract from the visual appeal, rather it adds to it. It is the changes of texture and color that provide the space for the imagination to enter and become more involved with the devolution of the piece. Whereas modern design often uses inorganic materials to defy the natural ageing effects of time, wabi sabi embraces them and seeks to use this transformation as an integral part of the whole. This is not limited to the process of decay, but can also be found at the moment of inception, when life is taking its first fragile steps toward becoming."


Saturday, October 29, 2022


"I regard consciousness as fundamental.
I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.
We cannot get behind consciousness.
Everything that we talk about,
everything that we regard as existing,
postulates consciousness."

- Max Planck (1858 - 1947)

Friday, October 28, 2022

Mirror to Mirror

"From mirror to mirror — this is what I happen to dream of — the totality of things, the whole, the entire universe, divine wisdom could concentrate their luminous rays into a single mirror. Or perhaps the knowledge of everything is buried in the soul, and a system of mirrors that would multiply my image would then reveal to me the soul of the universe, which is hidden in mine."

Italo Calvino (1923 - 1985)
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Effulgent Forms

"That inner Self, as the primeval Spirit, Eternal, ever effulgent, full and infinite Bliss, Single, indivisible, whole and living, Shines in everyone as the witnessing awareness. That self in its splendor, shining in the cavity of the heart This self is neither born nor dies, Neither grows nor decays, Nor does it suffer any change. When a pot is broken, the space within it is not, And similarly, when the body dies the Self in it remains eternal."

- Ramana Maharshi (1879 - 1950)

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Ryutan's Candle

"Tokusan once called on Ryutan to ask for instruction and stayed until night fell. Ryutan said, 'It is getting late; you had better leave.' At last Tokusan said good-bye, lifted up the door curtain, and went out. Noticing that it was dark, he turned back and said, 'It is dark outside.' Ryutan thereupon lit a candle and handed it to him. Tokusan was about to take it when Ryutan blew it out. At this Tokusan was all of a sudden enlightened. He made a bow. Ryutan asked, 'What realization do you have?' Tokusan replied, 'From now on I will not doubt the sayings of any of the great Zen Masters in the world.'

The next day Ryutan mounted the rostrum and declared, 'Among the monks here there is a fellow whose fangs are like swords, and whose mouth is like a bowl of blood. You may strike him with a stick but he will not turn his head. Some day in the future, he will establish his way on a steep and lofty peak.' 

Tokusan then took out his notes and commentaries on the Diamond Sutra and in front of the monastery hall he held up a burning torch and said, 'Even though one masters various profound philosophies, it is like placing a single strand of hair in the great sky; even if one gains all the essential knowledge in the world, it is like throwing a drop of water into a deep ravine.' Taking up his notes and commentaries, he burned them all. Then he left with gratitude."

- Zen Koan (Gateless Barrier, #28/page 201)

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Whirling Light

"Rotating systems often break axisymmetry; were it not so, there would be no hurricanes. There are steadier examples: the skirts of the 'whirling dervish' carry cusped wave patterns which seem to defy gravity and common sense.
We consider a rotating, conically symmetric surface made out of a sheet of material that is constrained not to stretch or compress in two dimensions, but is perfectly flexible with respect to bending in the third. The symmetry of the surface permits an additional material flow to be superimposed on the rotation of the surface, leading to Coriolis forces. The equations describing this system yield a three-parameter family of exact solutions, some of which bear a close resemblance to the patterns on a dervish's skirt. We find that the Coriolis terms that arise from the additional flow are crucial for these types of patterns to exist.
The results widen our understanding of the dynamics of flexible objects and of pattern formation in rotating systems. They may also shed some light on previously known instabilities of turbine disks and hard disks. Finally, they bring a bit of science into the otherwise nebulous world of the mystic, and address a phenomenon that has been observed with aesthetic pleasure for hundreds of years."

- J. Guven, J. Hanna and M. Müller,
"Whirling skirts and rotating cones,"
New Journal Of Physics (Nov, 2013)

Postscript. The images in the diptych that I took with my iPhone recently (of light reflecting off of cars parked onto the walls of a local garage) reminded me of Rumi's "Whirling Dervishes," about which you can read here and here (in considerably less technical detail than the one you'll find if you follow the link to the physics journal!)

“You are water, whirling water,
Yet still water trapped within,
Come, submerge yourself within us,
We who are the flowing stream.
We came whirling out of nothingness,
scattering stars like dust...
The stars made a circle,
and in the middle,
we dance.”

Rumi (1207 - 1273

Monday, October 24, 2022

Leaves and Paths

"In a forest of a hundred thousand trees,
no two leaves are alike.
And no two journeys along
the same path are alike."

Paulo Coelho (1947 - )

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Between Grief and Geometry

"Geometry is a way to organize our models of the world, its shapes and dynamics. But isn’t this all contingent, balanced on a knife’s edge? Could our models have turned out very differently? If the fractal geometry of Mandelbrot had been discovered before the geometry of Euclid, would manufacture be the same? If you think the question is far-fetched, consider the iterated branching of our pulmonary, circulatory, and nervous systems, or the recursive folding of our DNA, or the large surface area and small volume of our lungs and our digestive tract. Evolution has discovered and uses fractal geometry. If people had looked more closely at the geometry of nature, rather than emulating the 'celestial perfection' imposed by the church’s interpretation of the works of Euclid and Aristotle, our constructions could be very different now.
Beauty is a bridge between grief and geometry.
Beauty and grief are next-door neighbors, or maybe grief is beauty in a dark mirror… To see beauty is to glimpse something deeper; to grieve is to glimpse a loss whose consequences we will not unpack for years, and maybe never. The beauty of geometry likewise involves great emotional weight, irreversibly alters our perceptions, and is transcendent. For we don’t see all of geometry, only a hint, a shadow of something much deeper."

- Michael Frame (1951 - )
Geometry of Grief

Friday, October 21, 2022

Harmony of Autumnal Colors

"When the eye sees a color it
is immediately excited,
and it is its nature,
spontaneously and of necessity,
at once to produce another,
which with the original colour
comprehends the whole chromatic scale.
A single color excites,
by a specific sensation,
the tendency to universality.
In this resides the fundamental
law of all harmony of colors.
Should your glance on mornings lovely
Lift to drink the heaven's blue
Or when sun, vieled by sirocco,
Royal red sinks out of view -
Give to Nature praise and honour.
Blithe of heart and sound of eye,
Knowing for the world of color
Where its broad foundations lie."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Autumnal Tints

"I am struck by the simplicity of
light in the atmosphere in the autumn,
as if the earth absorbed none,
and out of this profusion of
dazzling light came the
autumnal tints."

Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Monday, October 17, 2022

Serendipitous Geometry

"The artist is a collector of things imaginary or real. He accumulates things with the same enthusiasm that a little boy stuffs his pockets. The scrap heap and the museum are embraced with equal curiosity. He takes snapshots, makes notes and records impressions on tablecloths or newspapers, on backs of envelopes or matchbooks. Why one thing and not another is part of the mystery, but he is omnivorous."

- Paul Rand (1914 - 1996)
Paul Rand: A Designer's Art

Postscript. It has been said that the lifeblood of photography is serendipity. While none of the images that make up the triptych above are particularly praiseworthy (beyond, I hope, simply being "interesting" to look at for a a few seconds), the fact that they exist at all is serendipitous. As seems to happen so often, what I planned to photograph and what I found myself photographing this past Sunday are unrelated except that the latter followed naturally - if unpredictably - from the former. Waking up to see a completely overcast sky I rushed to the kitchen to pour a bit of coffee into my commuter cup and took off in my car to go to one of my favorite "cloudy day" parks (Great Falls park in northern VA), about an hour from home. The closer I got to the park, the more "blue sky" was elbowing the clouds away, until, finally, literally as I arrived, the sky had become crystal clear and a strong sun was beating down overhead; far from the quiet diffused light I expected and was rushing over to compose in. Nothing to do but turn around and head back home. Which is what I did, but not before listening to my muse and stopping by the parking lot my wife and I leave our car at when we go to the farmer's market held nearby on Saturdays. Since it was Sunday, the parking lot was deserted, and I had plenty of time to commiserate over a failed trip to Great Falls, rekindle the quiet joy of just being "mindfully in the moment," and rediscover the simple pleasure of looking for "geometric designs" with my camera. As I said, nothing spectacular or noteworthy, and a far cry from what I originally planned to do, but a thoroughly delightful outing nonetheless 😊

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Unobstructed Flow

"The great Tao flows unobstructed in every direction.
All things rely on it to conceive and be born,
and it does not deny even the smallest of creation.
When it has accomplishes great wonders,
it does not claim them for itself.
It nourishes infinite worlds,
yet it doesn't seek to master the smallest creature.
Since it is without wants and desires,
it can be considered humble.
All of creation seeks it for refuge
yet it does not seek to master or control.
Because it does not seek greatness;
it is able to accomplish truly great things. "

Lao Tzu (6th century – 4th century BCE)
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 34

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Light, Shadow, and Geometry

"The phenomenon which I have now briefly mentioned appears to me to partake of the character of the marvelous, almost as much as any fact which physical investigation has yet brought to our knowledge. The most transitory of things, a shadow, the proverbial emblem of all that is fleeting and momentary, may be fettered by the spells of our "natural magic," and may be fixed for ever in the position which it seemed only destined for a single instant to occupy.

This remarkable phenomenon, of whatever value it may turn out in its application to the arts, will at least be accepted as a new proof of the value of the inductive methods of modern science, which by noticing the occurrence of unusual circumstances (which accident perhaps first manifests in some small degree), and by following them up with experiments, and varying the conditions of these until the true law of nature which they express is apprehended, conducts us at length to consequences altogether unexpected, remote from usual experience, and contrary to almost universal belief. Such is the fact, that we may receive on paper the fleeting shadow, arrest it there, and in the space of a single minute fix it there so firmly as to be no more capable of change, even if thrown back into the sunbeam from which it derived its origin."

- Henry Fox Talbot (1800 - 1877)
Some Account of the Art of Photogenic Drawing 

Friday, October 14, 2022


"That which offers no resistance,
Overcomes the hardest substances.
That which offers no resistance
Can enter where there is no space.
Few in the world can comprehend
The teaching without words, or
Understand the value of non-action."

Lao Tzu (6th century – 4th century BCE)
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 43

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Dreams and Mirrors

"I, who have felt the horror of mirrors
Not only in front of the impenetrable crystal
Where there ends and begins, uninhabitable,
An impossible space of reflections,

But of gazing even on water that mimics
The other blue in its depth of sky,
That at times gleams back the illusory flight
Of the inverted bird, or that ripples,

And in front of the silent surface
Of subtle ebony whose polish shows
Like a repeating dream the white
Of something marble or something rose,

Today at the tip of so many and perplexing
Wandering ears under the varying moon,
I ask myself what whim of fate
Made me so fearful of a glancing mirror.


It is strange to dream, and to have mirrors
Where the commonplace, worn-out repertory
Of every day may include the illusory
Profound globe that reflections scheme.

God (I keep thinking) has taken pains
To design that ungraspable architecture
Reared by every dawn from the gleam
Of a mirror, by darkness from a dream.

God has created nighttime, which he arms
With dreams, and mirrors, to make clear
To man he is a reflection and a mere
Vanity. Therefore these alarms."

Jorge Luis Borges (1899 - 1986)
“Mirrors,” in Dreamtigers