This tree witnessed sunlit, snow-covered mountain in the distance.
“Our Earth is degenerate in these later days; there are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end; bribery and corruption are common; children no longer obey their parents; every man wants to write a book and the end of the world is evidently approaching.” – from an Assyrian clay tablet, circa 2800 B.C.E.
“For the new year. — I still live, I still think: I still have to live, for I still have to think. Sum, ergo cogito: cogito, ergo sum. Today everybody permits himself the expression of his wish and his dearest thought; hence I, too, shall say what it is that I wish from myself today, and what was the first thought to run across my heart this year — what thought shall be for me the reason, warranty, and sweetness of my life henceforth. I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Of Mere Being
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
- Wallace Stevens (American poet, 1879-1955)
We were sitting there, and
I made a joke about how
it doesn't dovetail: time,
one minute running out
faster than the one in front
it catches up to.
That way, I said,
there can be no waste.
Waste is virtually eliminated.
To come back for a few hours to
the present subject, a painting,
looking like it was seen,
half turning around, slightly apprehensive,
but it has to pay attention
to what's up ahead: a vision.
Therefore poetry dissolves in
brilliant moisture and reads us
A faint notion. Too many words,
The Best Thing in the World
What's the best thing in the world?
June-rose, by May-dew impearled;
Sweet south-wind, that means no rain;
Truth, not cruel to a friend;
Pleasure, not in haste to end;
Beauty, not self-decked and curled
Till its pride is over-plain;
Love, when, so, you're loved again.
What's the best thing in the world?
--Something out of it, I think.
– Elizabeth Barrett Browning (English poet, 1806-1861)
Part of Speech
...and when "the future" is uttered, swarms of mice
rush out of the Russian language and gnaw a piece
of ripened memory which is twice
as hole-ridden as real cheese.
After all these years it hardly matters who
or what stands in the corner, hidden by heavy drapes,
and your mind resounds not with a seraphic "doh",
only their rustle. Life, that no one dares
to appraise, like that gift horse's mouth,
bares its teeth in a grin at each
encounter. What gets left of a man amounts
to a part. To his spoken part. To a part of speech.
– Joseph Brodsky (Russian-American poet, 1940-1996)
At Wilshire & Santa Monica I saw an opossum
Trying to cross the street. It was late, the street
Was brightly lit, the opossum would take
A few steps forward, then back away from the breath
Of moving traffic. People coming out of the bars
Would approach, as if to help it somehow.
It would lift its black lips & show them
The reddened gums, the long rows of incisors,
Teeth that went all the way back beyond
The flames of Troy & Carthage, beyond sheep
Grazing rock-strewn hills, fragments of ruins
In the grass at San Vitale. It would back away
Delicately & smoothly, stepping carefully
As it always had. It could mangle someone’s hand
In twenty seconds. Mangle it for good. It could
Sever it completely from the wrist in forty.
There was nothing to be done for it. Someone
Or other probably called the LAPD, who then
Called Animal Control, who woke a driver, who
Then dressed in mailed gloves, the kind of thing
Small knights once wore into battle, who gathered
Together his pole with a noose on the end,
A light steel net to snare it with, someone who hoped
The thing would have vanished by the time he got there.
A city denizen was out in the countryside and encountered a sturdy Quaker farmer. After ascertaining that the man was a Quaker, he asked the farmer if he believed in turning the other cheek.
“Yes, Friend, I accept that biblical instruction.”
Whereupon the city man struck the farmer on the left cheek. The farmer simply turned his head. Then the city man struck him on the right cheek.
Whereupon the farmer dropped his hoe and started to roll up his sleeves. Now since the farmer was larger and far more physically fit that the city fellow, the latter started to worry, and blurted out, “What are you doing? I thought you said you believed in following the Biblical command to turn the other cheek?”
“Oh, yes, Friend”, the Quaker farmer replied, “I do. But the Bible is silent on what to do when the other cheek is struck, and now I am going to chastise Thee for being an obnoxious oaf.”
In all my years as a pedestrian
serving juice to guests, it never occurred to me
thoughtfully to imagine how a radish feels.
She merely arrived. Half-turning
in the demented twilight, one feels a
sour empathy with all that went before.
That, needless to say, was how we elaborated
ourselves staggering across tracts:
Somewhere in America there is a naked person.
Somewhere in America adoring legions blush
in the sunset, crimson madder, and madder still.
Somewhere in America someone is trying to figure out
how to pay for this, bouncing a ball
off a wooden strut. Somewhere
in America the lonely enchanted eye each other
on a bus. It goes down Woodrow Wilson Avenue.
Somewhere in America it says you must die, you know too much.
The current president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, worked as an actor and as a comedian before becoming president.
In this very short bit, he and another comedian review the history of Ukraine-Russia relations.
– Ukraine has always conned Russia!
– Oh, please, it can’t be understood.
– Ukraine has Russia one day…
– and Russia has Ukraine the next!
I don’t very often spend time on youtube, but after finding that short video clip, I ended up spending more than an hour watching some of Zelenskyy’s oeuvre, including an episode of the sitcom that he produced and starred in (in which he plays an everyman that becomes president) that propelled him, via a bewildering life-imitates-art trajectory, to the presidency.
I learned this aphorism from my book of Korean aphorisms.
베어도 움 돋이
be.eo.do um dod.i
cut-INF-CONCES bud sprout-ADV
Though [it's] cut, [it sprouts] like a bud sprouting.
This has an interesting grammar as far as I can figure out – there’s no main verb, really. The main verb (at the end) is instead in an adverbial form (the -이 ending). So really it’s something like “Though you cut it, the bud a-sproutingly…”. That’s the most I can get out of my grammar book – though I concede I’m a bit rusty on navigating these things – this is my first Korean aphorism in a year and a half.
I think the best contemporary parallel aphorism in English is the infamous whack-a-mole meme. You can’t get rid of a problem by hacking off buds – you’ve got to tackle it by the roots.
I took the dog on a walk this morning – first in a week, as the road has been so icy and slippery I haven’t felt inspired to attempt it. The dog was pleased to take a long walk, and was on best behavior. I suspect that’s just coincidence – I don’t think she really thinks things through at that level, being a fairly impulsive beast.
Here are some pictures of the dog – walking.
She pulled hard on her leash till I let her off it.
She found a deer-carcass skeleton – but she didn’t get carried away with it, as dogs sometimes do with disgusting dead things.
She stood still for a brief moment for the camera. Not usual.
Meanwhile, here is a handy way to solve hard problems, as attributed to the famous physicist, Richard Feynman.
The Feynman Algorithm. “The steps are as follows: Write down the problem. Think real hard. Write down the solution. Easy!”
This World is not Conclusion
This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond -
Invisible, as Music -
But positive, as Sound -
It beckons, and it baffles -
Philosophy, don't know -
And through a Riddle, at the last -
Sagacity, must go -
To guess it, puzzles scholars -
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown -
Faith slips - and laughs, and rallies -
Blushes, if any see -
Plucks at a twig of Evidence -
And asks a Vane, the way -
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit -
Strong Hallelujahs roll -
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul -
I walked the dog yesterday after a long break from dogwalking due to excessively icy roads and my own under-the-weatherness over the New Years weekend – mostly it was burnout from the hard push of extra hours working at the gift shop up to and through Christmas. She behaved quite well yesterday.
Today I walked the dog again, but she was quite badly behaved. She decided to chase a car, and pursued it at least as far as the shooting range – about a mile from our house. I had to walk to catch up to her, in very cold weather and calling for the dog. Then when I found her, I had to convince her to come close to me so I could catch her and put her leash back on. That was time consuming and difficult.
Then we made the trek back to her house, on the leash rather than letting her run free.
She seems to realize the leash is a problem, and frequently pauses and engages the leash in a game of tug-of-war to show her feelings.
It was a longer walk than usual, anyway. Probably good for me.
I had a thought about solitude. Actually, the following quote is my own modification of something I must have run across somewhere online, which I have been unable to track down.
I like being alone. I have full control over my own life and my imagination has free rein. Therefore, in order to win me over, your presence has to feel better than my solitude. You’re not competing with another person, you are competing with my own mental landscape.
The style will often be strange, incorrect, overburdened, and loose, and almost always strong and bold. Writers will be more anxious to work quickly than to perfect details. Short works will be commoner than long books, wit than erudition, imagination than depth. There will be a rude and untutored vigor of thought with great variety and singular fecundity. Authors will strive to astonish more than to please, and to stir passions rather than to charm taste. – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835)
At the store today things were moving very, very slow. Wayne (the owner) came in and we stood around talking for almost 30 minutes. He said something memorable, which he attributed to an old logger he used to know down in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. “Anybody can get old, but you have to be tough to stay old.”
Albert (an old Native American guy) came in at a different time and told some of his never-ending and entirely implausible stories about Sasquatches, the “Waterfall Mafia” (Waterfall is a major resort down the island a way), and the Murkoswki family’s criminal empire.
The field of computer programming is not immune from the coming automation-of-everything.
In this video, some guys demonstrate the current state-of-the-art in computer programs that are able to write computer programs. Which sounds weird and tautological. But it’s kind of cool to watch.
At the end, they use their computer programming computer program to use Microsoft Word, which long ago became too complicated for humans to use effectively anyway. So now… they have made a program that can operate Microsoft Word in response to your instructions. Progress!
This quote is relevant, and I like it a lot, by one of my favorite contemporary bloggers:
“Computers are just going to get better and better at stuff, and at some point probably they’ll be as good as humans at various things, and if you ask them if they’re self-aware they’ll give some answer consistent with their programming, which for all I know is what we do too.” – Scott Alexander
The Apparition(A Retrospect)
Convulsions came; and, where the field
Long slept in pastoral green,
A goblin-mountain was upheaved
(Sure the scared sense was all deceived),
Marl-glen and slag-ravine.
The unreserve of Ill was there,
The clinkers in her last retreat;
But, ere the eye could take it in,
Or mind could comprehension win,
It sunk!—and at our feet.
So, then, Solidity’s a crust—
The core of fire below;
all may go well for many a year,
But who can think without a fear
Of horrors that happen so?
I read a short story just now, that I enjoyed. It’s… difficult. It’s speculative fiction, of a sort. It reeks of Borges and postmodernism and pays homage to the recent developments in neural-net “artificial intelligence” (GPT-3 – not yet intelligent, but definitely something new and emergent).
Give it a try if you want. This is not a recommendation (in the spirit of the story itself). The link: Tropic of Zamza
Tropic of Zamza is only a book. It contains many words—92,581 of them, to be exact—but it is, mercifully, only a book. Being only a book, it lacks the capacity to physically injure you. You should remind yourself of this fact regularly, in the event that you make the horrible mistake of reading it.
Aunque le pregunte al aire
Miro al aire y se convierte
en una calle invertida,
que se transforma en un río
de libros, rostros, pañuelos,
que se pone en pie y se vuelve
esbelta torre, que sube
y se troca en arcoíris,
que se transmuta en escala
por la que desciende una
luz vertical y amarilla
por la que camine - y cierro,
por no cegar, los ojos -
y ya no lo vuelvo a ver,
aunque le pregunte al aire.
- Ángel Crespo (poeta español, 1926-1995)