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

Consciousness


"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 - )
Aleph

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


"Philosophy is written in this all-encompassing book that is constantly open to our eyes, that is the universe; but it cannot be understood unless one first learns to understand the language and knows the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures; without these it is humanly impossible to understand a word of it, and one wanders in a dark labyrinth."

- Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642)
Il Saggiatore

"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

Non-Action


"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

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Nature's Calligraphy


"In my calligraphy,
there is ink, tea, breathing,
mindfulness and concentration.
This is meditation.
This is not work.
Suppose I write ‘breathe’;
I am breathing at the same time.
To be alive is a miracle
and when you breathe in
mindfully, you touch the
miracle of being alive."

Thich Nhat Hanh (1926 - 2022)

Monday, October 10, 2022

No Such Thing as Time


"Another way to look at meditation is to view thinking itself as a waterfall, a cascading of thought. In cultivating mindfulness, we are going beyond or behind our thinking, much the way you might find a vantage point in a cave or depression in the rock behind a waterfall. We still see and hear the water, but we are out of the torrent."

- Jon Kabat-Zinn (1944 - )

"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)

"Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?" That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future."

Hermann Hesse (1877 - 1962)

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Idea Chasing


"Chaos is what we’ve lost touch with. This is why it is given a bad name. It is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is Ego, which clenches because its existence is defined in terms of control...
The creative act is a letting down of the net of human imagination into the ocean of chaos on which we are suspended, and the attempt to bring out of it ideas.  It is the night sea journey, the lone fisherman on a tropical sea with his nets, and you let these nets down – sometimes, something tears through them that leaves them in shreds and you just row for shore, and put your head under your bed and pray.  At other times what slips through are the minutiae, the minnows of this ichthyological metaphor of idea chasing. But, sometimes, you can actually bring home something that is food, food for the human community that we can sustain ourselves on and go forward."

Terence McKenna (1946 - 2000)

Friday, October 07, 2022

Unfolding of the Universe

"We are agents who alter the unfolding of the universe."

Stuart A. Kauffman (1939 - )

"Did I live? The human world is like a vast musical instrument on which we play our individual part while simultaneously listening to the compositions of others in an effort to contribute to the whole. We don't chose whether to engage, only how to; we either harmonize or create dissonance. Our words, our deeds, our very presence create and leave impressions in the minds of others just as a writer makes impressions with their words. Who you are is an unfolding narrative. You came from nothing and will return there eventually. Instead of taking ourselves so seriously all the time, we can discover the playful irony of a story that has never been told in quite this way before."

- Stephen Batchelor (1953 - )

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Latent Divinity


"Divinity reveals herself in all things.
Everything has Divinity latent within itself.
For she enfolds and imparts herself
even unto the smallest beings,
and from the smallest beings,
according to their capacity.
Without her presence nothing
would have being, because she
is the essence of the existence of
the first unto the last being."

- Giordano Bruno (1548 - 1600)

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Sameness and Novelty


"A rhythm involves a pattern and to that extent is always self-identical. But no rhythm can be a mere pattern; for the rhythmic quality depends equally upon the differences involved in each exhibition of the pattern. The order of rhythm is therefore a structure of deviating repetitions... The essence of rhythm is the fusion of sameness and novelty; so that the whole never loses the essential unity of the pattern, while the parts exhibit the contrast arising from the novelty of their detail."

- Alfred North Whitehead (1861 - 1947) 

Sunday, October 02, 2022

One Side of a Mirror

"There are two worlds. The world you understand and the world you don’t. These worlds exist side by side, sometimes only centimeters apart, and the great majority of people spend their entire lives in one without being aware of the other. It’s like living in one side of a mirror: you think there is nothing on the other side until one day a switch is thrown and suddenly the mirror is transparent. You see the other side."

- Anthony Horowitz (1955 - )

Saturday, October 01, 2022

Perceptive Play


"The essential activity of science consists of thought, which arises in creative perception and is expressed through play. This gives rise to a process in which thought unfolds into provisional knowledge which then moves outward into action and returns as fresh perception and knowledge. This process leads to a continuous adaptation of knowledge which undergoes constant growth, transformation, and extension. Knowledge is therefore not something rigid and fixed that accumulates indefinitely in a steady way but is a continual process of change. Its growth is closer to that of an organism than a data bank."

 - David Bohm (1917 - 1992)
Science, Order and Creativity