AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

23 February 2017

Meteor.

New.


Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today.

1980.


"Too Much Pressure"

Dreaming.


Dreaming, we are the mad
who swear by the blood of trees
and speak with the tongues of streams
through props of steel and sawdust,
a colony of souls
ravaged by visions, bound
to some wild, secret cove
not yet possessed, a place
still innocent of us.

Lisel Mueller, from "The Lonesome Dream"

Happy birthday, Handel.

Denner, Handel, 1727


George Frideric Handel was born on this day in 1685.

Sonata in A, Op.1, No. 4, performed by Frans Brüggen ...

22 February 2017

Nice.

Schilder, Nightfall, 1917


G@d d@#n it, there are nice things in the world -- and I mean nice things.  We're all such morons to get so sidetracked.

J.D. Salinger

Thanks, hopeleslie.

Desireless.

Heyn, Little Horse, 1899


Let’s ask God to help us to self-control:
for one who lacks it, lacks His Grace.

The undisciplined person doesn’t wrong himself alone—
but sets fire to the whole world.

Discipline enabled Heaven to be filled with light;
discipline enabled the angels to be immaculate and holy.

The peacock’s plumage is his enemy.

The world is the mountain,
and each action, the shout that echoes back.

This discipline and rough treatment are a furnace
to extract the silver from the dross
The spiritual path wrecks the body
and afterwards restores it to health.

Anger and lust make a man squint;
When self-interest appears, virtue hides:
Fortunate is he who does not carry envy as a companion.

If ten lamps are present in one place,
each differs in form from another;
yet you can’t distinguish whose radiance is whose
when you focus on the light.

In the field of spirit there is no division;
no individuals exist.

The idol of your self is the mother of all idols.

To regard the self as easy to subdue is a mistake.

If you wish mercy, show mercy to the weak.

The stoppered jar, though in rough water,
floated because of its empty heart.

When the wind of poverty is in anyone,
she floats in peace on the waters of this world.

As long as desires are fresh, faith is not;
for it is these desires that lock that gate.

The tongue of mutual understanding is quite special:
to be one of heart is better than to have a common tongue.

If you dig a pit for others to fall into,
you will fall into it yourself.

Many of the faults you see in others, dear reader,
are your own nature reflected in them.

With will, fire becomes sweet water.

The lion who breaks the enemy’s ranks
is a minor hero
compared to the lion who overcomes himself.

O son, only those whose spiritual eye has been opened
know how compulsive we are.

Whoever gives reverence receives reverence.

The intellectual quest,
though fine as pearl or coral,
is not the spiritual search.

The intelligent desire self-control;
children want candy.

Since in order to speak, one must first listen,
learn to speak by listening.

When, with just a taste, envy and deceit arise,
and ignorance and forgetfulness are born,
know you have tasted the unlawful.

Know that a word suddenly shot from the tongue
is like an arrow shot from the bow.

O tongue, you are an endless treasure.

O tongue, you are also an endless disease.

I am burning.

If any one lacks tinder,
let him set his rubbish ablaze with my fire.

Although your desire tastes sweet,
doesn’t the Beloved desire you
to be desireless?

The world’s flattery and hypocrisy is a sweet morsel:
eat less of it, for it is full of fire.

Forgetfulness of God, beloved,
is the support of this world;
spiritual intelligence its ruin.

For Intelligence belongs to that other world,
and when it prevails, this material world is overthrown.

Were there no men of vision,
all who are blind would be dead.

All these griefs within our hearts
arise from the smoke and dust
of our existence and vain desires.

Whoever lives sweetly dies painfully:
whoever serves his body doesn’t nourish his soul.

Your thinking is like a camel driver,
and you are the camel:
it drives you in every direction under its bitter control.

If you are wholly perplexed and in straits,
have patience, for patience is the key to joy.

Fast from thoughts, fast:
thoughts are like the lion and the wild ass;
men’s hearts are the thickets they haunt.

If you are irritated by every rub,
how will your mirror be polished?

Anyone in whom the troublemaking self has died,
sun and cloud obey.

If you wish to shine like day,
burn up the night of self-existence.

Dissolve in the Being who is everything.

There is no worse sickness for the soul,
O you who are proud, than this pretense of perfection.

The heart and eyes must bleed a lot
before self-complacency falls away.

Can the water of a polluted stream
clear out the dung?

Can human knowledge sweep away
the ignorance of the sensual self?

How does a sword fashion its own hilt?

Go, entrust the cure of this wound to a surgeon,
Many are the unbelievers who long for submission,
but their stumbling block
is reputation and pride and continual desires.

I’m the devoted slave
of anyone who doesn’t claim
to have attained dining with God
at every way station.

Rumi

Trust.


Build your house on granite. By granite I mean your nature that you are torturing to death, the love in your child's body, your wife's dream of love, your own dream of life when you were sixteen. Exchange your illusions for a bit of truth. Throw out your politicians and diplomats! Take your destiny into your own hands and build your life on rock. Forget about your neighbor and look inside yourself! Your neighbor, too, will be grateful. Tell you're fellow workers all over the world that you're no longer willing to work for death but only for life. Instead of flocking to executions and shouting hurrah, hurrah, make a law for the protection of human life and its blessings. Such a law will be part of the granite foundation your house rests on. Protect your small children's love against the assaults of lascivious, frustrated men and women. Stop the mouth of the malignant old maid; expose her publicly or send her to a reform school instead of young people who are longing for love. Don't try to outdo your exploiter in exploitation if you have a chance to become a boss. Throw away your swallowtails and top hat, and stop applying for a license to embrace your woman. Join forces with your kind in all countries; they are like you, for better or worse. Let your child grow up as God intended. Don't try to improve on nature. Learn to understand it and protect it. Go to the library instead of the prizefight, go to foreign countries rather than to Coney Island. And first and foremost, think straight, trust the quiet inner voice inside you that tells you what to do. You hold your life in your hands, don't entrust it to anyone else, least of all to your chosen leaders. BE YOURSELF! Any number of great men have told you that.

Wilhelm Reich

Choices.


It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

Aldus Dumbledore

Doing.

Chardin, Young Student Drawing, 1739


Art resides in the quality of doing; process is not magic. 

Charles Eames

Happy birthday, Peale.

Peale, R., Self-portrait, 1928


Rembrandt Peale was born on this day in 1778.

Men at Work, "Down by the Sea"

Listen to your heart
Screamin' at the sky
Can't you feel it tremble?
Don't you wonder why?

Today.

1976.


"Run with the Pack"


Rescue.


“Percy Manning was very interested in collecting disappearing ways of life and customs, and objects that were going out of use,” said curator of the display, Michael Heaney, a former staff member of the Bodleian Libraries. “The display features prints, drawings, photographs, sketches, plans, brass rubbings and documentary material on the people and places of the county ranging from the halls of academia to rural communities.  He pursued this kind of ‘rescue archaeology’ before it became popular and his collections provide unique insights into social history and everyday life. Manning collected items from more than 400 localities in the county; I doubt there's a community in Oxfordshire not represented in his collections.”

CONNECT

21 February 2017

Rising.


The LADDER of ST. AUGUSTINE

Saint Augustine! well hast thou said, 
      That of our vices we can frame 
A ladder, if we will but tread 
      Beneath our feet each deed of shame! 

All common things, each day's events, 
      That with the hour begin and end, 
Our pleasures and our discontents, 
      Are rounds by which we may ascend. 

The low desire, the base design, 
      That makes another's virtues less; 
The revel of the ruddy wine, 
      And all occasions of excess; 

The longing for ignoble things; 
      The strife for triumph more than truth; 
The hardening of the heart, that brings 
      Irreverence for the dreams of youth; 

All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds, 
      That have their root in thoughts of ill; 
Whatever hinders or impedes 
      The action of the nobler will; — 

All these must first be trampled down 
      Beneath our feet, if we would gain 
In the bright fields of fair renown 
      The right of eminent domain. 

We have not wings, we cannot soar; 
      But we have feet to scale and climb 
By slow degrees, by more and more, 
      The cloudy summits of our time. 

The mighty pyramids of stone 
      That wedge-like cleave the desert airs, 
When nearer seen, and better known, 
      Are but gigantic flights of stairs. 

The distant mountains, that uprear 
      Their solid bastions to the skies, 
Are crossed by pathways, that appear 
      As we to higher levels rise. 

The heights by great men reached and kept 
      Were not attained by sudden flight, 
But they, while their companions slept, 
      Were toiling upward in the night. 

Standing on what too long we bore 
      With shoulders bent and downcast eyes, 
We may discern — unseen before — 
      A path to higher destinies, 

Nor deem the irrevocable Past 
      As wholly wasted, wholly vain, 
If, rising on its wrecks, at last 
      To something nobler we attain.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sting, "Heavy Cloud No Rain"

Unlimited.

People who dream when they sleep at night know of a special kind of happiness which the world of the day holds not, a placid ecstasy, and ease of heart, that are like honey on the tongue. They also know that the real glory of dreams lies in their atmosphere of unlimited freedom. It is not the freedom of the dictator, who enforces his own will on the world, but the freedom of the artist, who has no will, who is free of will. The pleasure of the true dreamer does not lie in the substance of the dream, but in this: that there things happen without any interference from his side, and altogether outside his control. Great landscapes create themselves, long splendid views, rich and delicate colours, roads, houses, which he has never seen or heard of.

Karen Blixen, from Out Of Africa

Happy birthday, Auden.


W.H. Auden was born on this day in 1907.

MUSEE de BEAUX ARTS

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

W.H. Auden

20 February 2017

Ignore.


Decent people should ignore politics; if only they could be confident that politics would ignore them.

William F. Buckley Jr.

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

Silence.


Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence.

Wallace Stegner

Happy birthday, Adams.

Adams, Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958


Ansel Adams was born on this day in 1902.

Wilderness, or wildness, is a mystique.  A religion, an intense philosophy, a dream of ideal society—these are also mystiques.  As the fisherman depends upon the river, lakes and seas, and the farmer upon the land for his existence, so does mankind depend upon the beauty of the world about him for his spiritual and emotional existence.

Ansel Adams

American Experience: Ansel Adams

One.


FOR the CHILDREN

The rising hills, the slopes, 
of statistics 
lie before us. 
The steep climb 
of everything, going up, 
up, as we all 
go down. 

In the next century 
or the one beyond that, 
they say, 
are valley, pastures, 
we can meet there in peace 
if we make it. 

To climb these coming crests 
one word to you, to 
you and your children: 

stay together 
learn the flowers 
go light

Gary Snyder

Light.


Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one's hand.

Ezra Pound

Today.

1984.


"I Don't Owe You Anything"

Bold.

van Eyck, Portrait of a Man, 1433


“Red,” writes historian Michel Pastoureau in Red: The History of a Color, “is the archetypal color, the first color humans mastered, fabricated, reproduced, and broke down into different shades.” As such, it dominated visual culture for centuries. With the advent of the Protestant Reformation, however, people began to view the shade as gaudy, even immoral, and its preeminence began to fade. Today, both blue and green surpass red as the West’s favorite colors.

But the bold hue—whether crimson, vermilion, cardinal, or scarlet—still retains power. Red artworks fetch the highest prices at auction. Red is the color of revolution, of seduction. And its story is far from over. The scientists who last year announced the discovery of a new blue pigment are now hunting for a never-before-seen red. From some of humanity’s earliest cave paintings to Mark Rothko’s immersive abstract canvases, here is a brief history of red in art.


Blue ... HERE.

19 February 2017

Courageous.


It is easy to be courageous from a distance.

Lakota proverb

Thanks, Mom.

Vivaldi.

Giovanni Antonini leads Il Giardino Armonico in string concertos by Vivaldi, featuring Luca Pianca, lute, and Enrico Onofri, principal violin ...

Lt. General Harold G. Moore, R.I.P.


Lt. General Harold G. Moore has passed.

CONNECT

Lt. General Moore on leadership ...

16 February 2017

Search.

Hall, Lessons in Disappearance, undated


LII

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself

15 February 2017

The Flatlanders, "If You were a Bluebird"

Lyle Lovett, "Nobody Knows Me"

Indirections.

del Caso, Escaping Criticism, 1874


3.

1.
Laws for Creations,
For strong artists and leaders—for fresh broods of
teachers, and perfect literats for America,
For diverse savans, and coming musicians.

2.
All must have reference to the ensemble of the
world, and the compact truth of the world;
There shall be no subject too pronounced—All works
shall illustrate the divine law of indirections.

3.
What do you suppose creation is?
What do you suppose will satisfy the Soul, except to
walk free, and own no superior?
What do you suppose I have intimated to you in a
hundred ways, but that man or woman is as
good as God?
And that there is no God any more divine than Your-
self?
And that you or any one must approach Creations
through such laws?

Walt Whitman

Natalie Merchant, "Everyday is like Sunday"

Will.

Doisneau, The Clock, 1956


Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the "good" of its victims may be the most oppressive. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

C.S. Lewis

Happy birthday, Praetorius.


Michael Praetorius was born on this day in 1571.

Capriccio Stravagante Renaissance Orchestra and Collegium Vocale Gent under the direction of Skip Sempé perform a program of Praetorius cantatas (with a Bach piece in the middle) ...

Intricately.


The minimal beauties are far more important to our daily lives, and far more intricately involved in our own rational decisions, than the great works which (if we are lucky) occupy our leisure hours. It is far more important to achieve order in the things surrounding us, and to ensure that the eyes, the ears and the sense of fittingness are not repeatedly offended.

Roger Scruton

Debate.


Tracy Chevalier and Simon Schama debate Vermeer and Rembrandt ...

Rembrandt van Rijn is the best known of all the Dutch masters. His range was vast, from landscapes to portraits to Biblical scenes; he revolutionised every medium he handled, from oil paintings to etchings and drawings. His vision encompassed every element of life – the sleeping lion; the pissing baby; the lacerated soles of the returned prodigal son.

Making the case for him in this debate will be Simon Schama. For him Rembrandt is humanity unedited: rough, raw, violent, manic, vain, greedy and manipulative. Formal beauty was the least of his concerns, argues Schama, yet he attains beauty through his understanding of the human condition, including to be sure, his own.

But for novelist Tracy Chevalier it can all get a little exhausting. Rembrandt’s paintings, she believes – even those that are not his celebrated self-portraits – are all about himself. Championing Vermeer, she will claim that his charm lies in the very fact that he absents himself from his paintings. As a result they are less didactic and more magical than Rembrandt’s, giving the viewer room to breathe.

Chevalier has been obsessed with Vermeer since the age of 19, when she first saw his Girl with a Pearl Earring. The girl’s startled eyes and luscious, inviting mouth produce a tantalising sense of mystery and contradiction.

An other-worldly mystery also veils Vermeer’s Delft street scenes and interiors. Apparently so everyday, they are lifted to a higher sphere by the indirect gaze and the turned back, all bathed in that fuzzy, filmic Vermeer veneer. And so often they, too, ask a question. Who wrote the letter that the woman in blue reads so attentively? Who does the girl in the gold jacket strum her guitar for? The questions are never answered but we are lured back again and again in search of an answer.

Lost.

Apologize.

Gifford, A Gorge in the Mountains, 1862


The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us. We must always apologize for talking painting. 

Paul Valery

Today.

1975.


"Fly by Night/In the Mood"

Freely.


While playing billiards with a small group of students, Reagan discussed minorities, small government, and how to win in Vietnam. Reagan succeeded in opening the minds of some of them to other points of view: When the all-white male students in the billiards room complained to Reagan about how society was treating blacks, Reagan pointed out that in California, there was a different minority group, Americans of Mexican descent, that had far worse problems; he said that he was trying to help them. When the students wondered where Reagan was getting his Vietnam advice and why had he not sought out elite thinkers from the Ivy League, Reagan answered that he had been discussing the war — with leaders from Cal Tech, California’s aerospace and defense leaders, and Stanford. The students seemed shocked that there might be other points of view besides those originating from within liberal eastern academia.

The high point of Reagan’s weeklong visit was his final speech, at the Yale Political Union, where there was an overflow crowd. Reagan did not deliver his usual campaign and fundraising speech about bringing small government to Washington, D.C. Instead, he analyzed the entire controversy of his visit and the intolerance of the Left. Reagan addressed the issue head-on. He looked directly at the few professors in the audience and forcefully told them and all the students that their job was not to indoctrinate. Their job, and the mission of the university, was to expose their students to many different points of view and to let the students decide for themselves.

Reagan clearly saw that if conservatism were allowed the chance to compete freely in the arena of ideas, its major tenets of individual freedom and small government would almost always win. But if young minds were exposed only to leftist ideology, then conservatism wouldn’t have much chance. At the end of his speech, Ronald Reagan indeed had succeeded in changing minds: He received a standing ovation.

Eagles, "How Long"

I'll be doing fine and then some.

Directly.


Beauty demands to be noticed; it speaks to us directly like the voice of an intimate friend. If there are people who are indifferent to beauty, then it is surely because they do not perceive it.

Roger Scruton 

14 February 2017

Joys.

Lafebvre, Odalisque, 1874


To HIS MISTRESS GOING to BED

Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy, 
Until I labour, I in labour lie. 
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight, 
Is tir’d with standing though he never fight. 
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s Zone glistering, 
But a far fairer world encompassing. 
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear, 
That th’eyes of busy fools may be stopped there. 
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime, 
Tells me from you, that now it is bed time. 
Off with that happy busk, which I envy, 
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh. 
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals, 
As when from flowery meads th’hill’s shadow steals. 
Off with that wiry Coronet and shew 
The hairy Diadem which on you doth grow: 
Now off with those shoes, and then safely tread 
In this love’s hallow’d temple, this soft bed. 
In such white robes, heaven’s Angels used to be 
Received by men; Thou Angel bringst with thee 
A heaven like Mahomet’s Paradise; and though 
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know, 
By this these Angels from an evil sprite, 
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright. 
    Licence my roving hands, and let them go, 
Before, behind, between, above, below. 
O my America! my new-found-land, 
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d, 
My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie, 
How blest am I in this discovering thee! 
To enter in these bonds, is to be free; 
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be. 
    Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee, 
As souls unbodied, bodies uncloth’d must be, 
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use 
Are like Atlanta’s balls, cast in men’s views, 
That when a fool’s eye lighteth on a Gem, 
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them. 
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made 
For lay-men, are all women thus array’d; 
Themselves are mystic books, which only we 
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify) 
Must see reveal’d. Then since that I may know; 
As liberally, as to a Midwife, shew 
Thy self: cast all, yea, this white linen hence, 
There is no penance due to innocence. 
    To teach thee, I am naked first; why then 
What needst thou have more covering than a man. 

John Donne

Guy Clark, "Coat from the Cold"

All.

Watt, Sabine, 2002


The SUN RISING

Busy old fool, unruly sun,
               Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?
               Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
               Late school boys and sour prentices,
         Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride,
         Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

               Thy beams, so reverend and strong
               Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;
               If her eyes have not blinded thine,
               Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
         Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
         Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.

               She's all states, and all princes, I,
               Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honor's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
               Thou, sun, art half as happy as we,
               In that the world's contracted thus.
         Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
         To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.

John Donne

13 February 2017

Again.


Overflowing heavens of squandered stars
flame brilliantly above your troubles. Instead
of into your pillows, weep up toward them.
There, at the already weeping, at the ending visage,
slowly thinning out, ravishing
worldspace begins. Who will interrupt,
once you force your way there,
the current? No one. You may panic,
and fight that overwhelming course of stars
that streams toward you. Breathe.
Breathe the darkness of the earth and again
look up! Again. Lightly and facelessly
depths lean toward you from above. The serene
countenance dissolved in night makes room for you.

Rainer Maria Rilke 

Fela Kuti, "Teacher, Don't Teach Me No Nonsense"

Happy birthday, Wood.

Wood, Breaking the Prairie Sod, 1937


Grant Wood was born on this day in 1891.

All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.

Grant Wood