Friday, September 30, 2022

Subjective Wholes

"As we analyze a thing into its parts or into its properties, we tend to magnify these, to exaggerate their apparent independence, and to hide from ourselves (at least for a time) the essential integrity and individuality of the composite whole. We divided the body into its organs, the skeleton into its bones, as in very much the same fashion we make a subjective analysis of the mind, according to the teaching of psychology, into component factors: but we know very well that judgement and knowledge, courage or gentleness, love or fear, have no separate existence, but are somehow mere manifestations, or imaginary coefficients, of a most complex integral."

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Relation Between Observer and Thing

"The real world gives the subset of what is; the product space represents the uncertainty of the observer. The product space may therefore change if the observer changes; and two observers may legitimately use different product spaces within which to record the same subset of actual events in some actual thing. The “constraint” is thus a relation between observer and thing; the properties of any particular constraint will depend on both the real thing and on the observer. It follows that a substantial part of the theory of organization will be concerned with properties that are not intrinsic to the thing but are relational between the observer and thing."

- W. Ross Ashby (1903 - 1972)

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Peaceful Moments

"How peaceful it was, with the light evening breeze stirring the small leaves of the grapevine that clustered around the electric bulb, making the shadows move and change on the yellow mat below. For a moment he pushed aside the thought of money. From time to time the dark water beside them rippled audibly, as if a tiny fish had come to the surface for an instant and then darted beneath. It was in peaceful moments such as this, his father had said, that men were given to know just a little of what paradise was like, so that they might yearn for it with all their soul, and strive during their time on earth to be worthy of going there."

- Paul Bowles (1910 - 1999) 
The Spider's House

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Materializing the Invisible

"Art resides even in things
with no artistic intentions.
Photography is making a copy of reality,
but when it is photographed twice
it goes back to the reality again.
That is my theory.
Art is technique: a means by which
to materialize the invisible
realm of the mind.
Photography is like a found object.
A photographer never makes an actual subject;
they just steal the image from the world…
Photography is a system of saving memories.
It’s a time machine, in a way,
to preserve the memory,
to preserve time.
I’m inviting the spirits
into my photography.
It’s an act of God."

- Hiroshi Sugimoto (1948 - )

Monday, September 19, 2022

Little Ripples


"The waves of the sea, the little ripples on the shore, the sweeping curve of the sandy bay between the headlands, the outline of the hills, the shape of the clouds, all these are so many riddles of form, so many problems of morphology.
Our own study of organic form, which we call by Goethe's name of Morphology, is but a portion of that wider still Science of Form which deals with the forms assumed by matter under all aspects and conditions, and, in a still wider sense, with forms which are theoretically imaginable.
We rise from the conception of form to an understanding of the forces which gave rise to it... in the representation of form we see a diagram of forces in equilibrium, and in the comparison of kindred forms we discern the magnitude and the direction of the forces which have sufficed to convert the one form into the other.
We have come to the
edge of a world of which
we have no experience, and
where all our preconceptions
must be recast."

- D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860 - 1948)
On Growth and Form

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Metaphorical Thought

"In asking philosophical questions, we use a reason shaped by the body, a cognitive unconscious to which we have no direct access, and metaphorical thought of which we are largely unaware. The fact that abstract thought is mostly metaphorical means that answers to philosophical questions have always been, and always will be, mostly metaphorical. In itself, that is neither good nor bad. It is simply a fact about the capacities of the human mind. But it has major consequences for every aspect of philosophy. Metaphorical thought is the principal tool that makes philosophical insight possible and that constrains the forms that philosophy can take."

- George Lakoff (1941 - )

Friday, September 16, 2022

All Things End in the Tao

"The Tao is nameless and unchanging.
Although it appears insignificant,
nothing in the world can contain it.

If a ruler abides by its principles,
then her people will willingly follow.
Heaven would then reign on earth,
like sweet rain falling on paradise.
People would have no need for laws,
because the law would be written on their hearts.

Naming is a necessity for order,
but naming cannot order all things.
Naming often makes things impersonal,
so we should know when naming should end.
Knowing when to stop naming,
you can avoid the pitfall it brings.

All things end in the Tao
just as the small streams and the largest rivers
flow through valleys to the sea."

- Lao Tzu (6th century – 4th century BCE)
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 32

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Time and Space as Dreams

"The reason why we want to remember an image varies: because we simply ‘love it,’ or dislike it so intensely that it becomes compulsive, or because it has made us realize something about ourselves, or has brought about some slight change in us. Perhaps the reader can recall some image, after the seeing of which he has never been quite the same.
...insight, vision, moments of revelation. During those rare moments something overtakes the man and he becomes the tool of a greater Force; the servant of, willing or unwilling depending on his degree of awakeness. The photograph, then, is a message more than a mirror, and the mans a messenger who happens to be a photographer.
Camera and eye are together a time machine with which the mind and human being can do the same kind of violence to time and space as dreams."

Minor White (1908 - 1976)

Postscript. The "Minor White: The Eye That Shapes" exhibit was hosted by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 1989, with an accompanying book and catalog, edited by Peter C. Bunnell (used copies of which are sometimes still available, though they are not cheap: e.g., $80 from Amazon). Amazingly, MoMA has made a pdf of Bunnell's 322 page book available for free (it is a 62Mb download)! Kudos, MoMA 😊

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Trust in Nature

"If you trust in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge."

- Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926)
Letters to a Young Poet 

Monday, September 12, 2022

The Incomprehensible Void

"We all move on the fringes of eternity and are sometimes granted vistas through fabric of illusion. Many refuse to admit it: I feel a mystery exists. There are certain times, when, as on the whisper of the wind, there comes a clear and quiet realization that there is indeed a presence in the world, a nonhuman entity that is not necessarily inhuman.
My private glimpses of some ideal reality create a lasting mood that that has often been recalled in some of my photographs... the subtle change of light across a waterfall moved me as did a singular vista of a far-off mountain under a leaden sky. Others might well have not responded at all. Deep resonances of spirit exist, giving us glimpses of a reality far beyond our general appreciation, and knowledge... no matter how many stars we see in a clear mountain sky, we now know that they are but a minuscule fragment of the total population of suns and planets in the billions of galaxies out there in the incomprehensible void.
The only things in my life that compatibly exist with this grand universe are the creative works of the human spirit.
I have often had a retrospective vision where everything in my past life seems to fall with significance into logical sequence. Intuition, suspicion, or confidence in new ventures; there is a strange strain within me when advantage is not taken of some situation, the immediacy of recognition of the rightness or wrongness of a mood, a response, a decision - they are so often valid that I am increasingly convinced that we have yet to grasp the reality of existence."

Ansel Adams (1902 - 1984)

Sunday, September 11, 2022



"The life of contemplation implies two levels of awareness: first, awareness of the question, and, second, awareness of the answer. Though these are two distinct and enormously different levels, yet they are in fact an awareness of the same thing. The question is, itself, the answer. And we ourselves are both. But we cannot know this until we have moved into the second kind of awareness. We awaken, not to find an answer absolutely distinct from the question, but to realize that the question is its own answer. And all is summed up in one awareness - not a proposition, but an experience: "I AM"."

Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968)

Saturday, September 10, 2022

It is All Transcendental

"The syntactical nature of reality,
the real secret of magic,
is that the world is made of words.
And if you know the words
that the world is made of,
you can make of it
whatever you wish.
There is a transcendental
dimension beyond language...
It's just hard as hell to talk about!
Reality is, you know,
the tip of an iceberg of irrationality
that we've managed to drag
ourselves up onto for a
few panting moments before
we slip back into the
sea of the unreal.
It is the imagination that
argues for the Divine Spark
within human beings.
It is literally a decent of
the World's Soul into all of us.
We live in condensations of our imagination.
The main thing to understand is
that we are imprisoned in
some kind of work of art.
There is no mundane dimension really,
if you have the eyes to see it,
it is all transcendental."

Terence McKenna (1946 - 2000)

Friday, September 09, 2022

The Sage's Heart-Mind Mirror

"It is its own source, its own root. Before Heaven and earth existed it was there, firm from ancient times. It gave spirituality to the spirits of God; it gave birth to Heaven and to earth. It exists beyond the highest point, and yet you cannot call it lofty; it exists beneath the limit of the six directions, and yet you cannot call it deep. It was born before Heaven and earth, and yet you cannot say it has been there for long; it is earlier than the earliest of time, and yet you cannot call it old.
The sage is still not because he takes stillness to be good and therefore is still. The ten thousand things are insufficient to distract his mind - that is the reason he is still. Water that is still gives back a clear image of beard and eyebrows; reposing in the water level, it offers a measure to the great carpenter. And if water in stillness possesses such clarity, how much more must pure spirit. The sage's heart-mind in stillness is the mirror of Heaven and earth, the glass of the ten thousand things."

Chuang Tzu (c.369 B.C. - c.286 B.C.)

Thursday, September 08, 2022

The Subtle Gāthās of Rock and Water

"Zen master Jingcen of Changsha [Zhaoxian] was once asked by a monastic, 'How do you turn the mountains, rivers, and great earth and return to the self?' Changsha said, 'How do you turn the self and return to the mountains, rivers, and great earth?'

Commentary. Responding to the myriad things from the perspective of the self is delusion. Manifesting the self from the perspective of the myriad things is enlightenment. From ancient times to the present, people have regarded the myriad things as separate from themselves, not realizing that the universe is the body of the Buddha—this very body and mind itself. What do you see when you behold the mountain? Can you see the real form of truth? What do you hear when you listen to the river sounds? Can you hear the subtle gāthās of rock and water? Or are you trapped in the superficiality of sound and form? Mountains, rivers, and the great earth are ceaselessly manifesting the teachings, yet they are not heard with the ear or seen with the eye. They can only be perceived with the whole body and mind. Be that as it may, how do you turn the self and return to the mountains, rivers, and the great earth? What is it that you are calling mountains, rivers, and the great earth? Indeed, where do you find your self?"

John Daido Loori (1931 - 2009)
The True Dharma Eye 

Monday, September 05, 2022

Landscapes and Time

"I start with two proposals. The first: Landscape is time materialized. Or, better, Landscape is time materializing: landscapes, like time, never stand still. The second: Landscapes and time can never be out there: they are always subjective.

The first: In contemporary Western discourse... landscape may be defined in many different ways, but all incorporate the notion of time passing. Thus landscape as solid geology (as in a granitic landscape, a karst landscape) speaks to evolutionary time, aeons of time: all history in a grain of sand. Landscape as land form or topography (a desert landscape, a riverine landscape), again, has great time depth but may involve human interventions, human histories. With landscape as mantled (as in a landscape of peat and moor, a tropical landscape) the processes quicken, sometimes invoking seasonal transience. Landscape as land use (an arable landscape, a country house landscape, a plantation landscape) speaks of things done to the land action and movement, the effects of historically specific social/political/cultural relationships.
The time that passes in these scapes is not uniform. Sometimes a linear notion is implied: units of time clipped together, uniformly ticking over as the years, centuries, millennia, and much more, go by.
The second proposal follows from the first. Landscapes and time are not objective, not a given, not neutral... This is not to say that the world does not exist outside of human understanding, of course it does. When we have bombed ourselves out of existence or made the world unlivable for human beings, the world will (probably) still exist and will go on changing. The point is simply that it is we, through our embodied understanding, our being in the world, who create the categories and the interpretations: Human beings cope with the phenomena they encounter by slotting them in to the understanding of the world which they have already developed: nothing is perceived without being perceived as something. If there was no person, there would still be rocks, trees, mountains but no one to recognize them as such or to call them by those names"

- Barbara Bender, Time and Landscape

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Luminous Beings

"'Don’t try to hurry,' he said. 'You’ll know in due time and then you will be on your own, by yourself.' 'Do you mean that I won’t see you any more, don Juan?' 'Not ever again,' he said. 'Genaro and I will be then what we always have been, dust on the road.' I had a jolt in the pit of my stomach. 'What are you saying, don Juan?' 'I’m saying that we all are unfathomable beings, luminous and boundless. You, Genaro and I are stuck together by a purpose that is not our decision.' 'What purpose are you talking about?' 'Learning the warrior’s way. You can’t get out of it, but neither can we. As long as our achievement is pending you will find me or Genaro, but once it is accomplished, you will fly freely and no one knows where the force of your life will take you.' 'What is don Genaro doing in this?' 'That subject is not in your realm yet,' he said. 'Today I have to pound the nail that Genaro put in, the fact that we are luminous beings. We are perceivers. We are an awareness; we are not objects; we have no solidity. We are boundless. The world of objects and solidity is a way of making our passage on earth convenient. It is only a description that was created to help us. We, or rather our reason, forget that the description is only a description and thus we entrap the totality of ourselves in a vicious circle from which we rarely emerge in our lifetime.'"

Carlos Castaneda (1925 - 1998)
Tales of Power 

Saturday, September 03, 2022


"Every act of experience, whatever it may be that is experienced in the proper sense as it comes into view, has eo ipso, necessarily, a knowledge and potential knowledge having reference to precisely this thing, namely, to something of it which has not yet come into view. This preknowledge is indeterminate as to content, or not completely determined, but it is never completely empty; and were it not already manifest, the experience would not at all be experience of this one, this particular, thing. 

Every experience has its own horizon; every experience has its core of actual and determinate cognition, its own content of immediate determinations which give themselves; but beyond this core of determinate quiddity, of the truly given as 'itself-there,' it has its own horizon. This implies that every experience refers to the possibility... of obtaining, little by little as experience continues, new determinations of the same thing... And this horizon in its indeterminateness is copresent from the beginning as a realm (Spielraum) of possibilities, as the prescription of the path to a more precise determination, in which only experience itself decides in favor of the determinate possibility it realizes as opposed to others."

- Edmund Husserl (1859 - 1938)
Experience and Judgment 

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Ephemeral Sights

"This is life. It is everywhere, and it is here for the taking. I am alive and I know this, now, in a more profound way than when I am doing anything else. These sights are ephemeral, fleeting treasures that have been offered to me and to me alone. No other person in the history of the world, anywhere in all of time and space, has been granted this gift to be here in my place. And I am privileged, through the camera, to take this moment away with me. That is why I photograph."

- Bill Jay (1940 - 2009)

"And so castles made of sand slips into the sea, eventually."

- Jimi Hendrix (1942 - 1970)

"All is ephemeral, both what remembers and what is remembered."

- Marcus Aurelius (121 - 180)