Friday, December 23, 2016

Father Chrismyth

"Father Christmas is not an allegory of snow and holly; he is not merely the stuff called snow afterwards artificially given a human form, like a snowman. He is something that gives a new meaning to the white world and the evergreens; so that snow itself seems to be warm rather than cold. The test therefore is purely imaginative. But imaginative does not mean imaginary. It does not follow that it is all what the moderns call subjective, when they mean false. Every true artist does feel, consciously or unconsciously, that he is touching transcendental truths; that his images are shadows of things seen through the veil. In other words, the natural mystic does know that there is something there; something behind the clouds or within the trees; but he believes that the pursuit of beauty is the way to find it; that imagination is a sort of incantation that can call it up."
~G. K. Chesterton,  "Man and Mythologies" 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Gone But Not Forgotten

(September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016)
"There’s a line in “The Future”: “When they said repent, I wonder what they meant.” I understood that they forgot how to build the arch for several hundred years. Masons forgot how to do certain kinds of arches, it was lost. So it is in our time that certain spiritual mechanisms that were very useful have been abandoned and forgot. Redemption, repentance, resurrection. All those ideas are thrown out with the bath water. People became suspicious of religion plus all these redemptive mechanisms that are very useful."   ~Leonard Cohen

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Roots of Meditation

"The roots of meditation are the ancient warrior professions,” Roth explains. “That was hand-to-hand combat, and to perform, you couldn’t act out of anger or fear or impulsivity. You had to be clear-thinking at all times. When he talks about how meditation improves his performance, Ray talks about inner equanimity and being a ninja. It’s made to order for people in the finance industry.”  ~The Om of Wall Street
The warrior "roots" of meditation are actually in the Aryan culture that brought the Vedic religion into India. See THE ASSASSIN LOTUS.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Riddle

 
The sieve of time, it's said, will sift
Which writers' work is set to last:
Who has a true, enduring gift,
Who's history when their moment's passed.

But from this sieving who's to say
This later verdict will be just?
Which residue will new scales weigh--
The solids or the filtered dust?

~Bill Webster

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The One

Rob Gonsalves (via John Magee)
The experience of transcendence and the concept of "Oneness" is largely attributed to Eastern religious and philosophical traditions, but there is a long Western mystic tradition that began in ancient Greece with the transcendent Idealism of Plato and developed over subsequent centuries. The most famous neo-Platonist was a 3rd Century philosopher born in Egypt named Plotinus. His work had a huge influence on the development of Christian theology. In the following passage Plotinus explains why we find the experience of "the One" so elusive.
Plotinus (born c 205 - died 270)
"The chief difficulty is this: awareness of The One comes to us neither by knowing nor by the pure thought that discovers the other intelligible things, but by a presence transcending knowledge. When the soul knows something, it loses its unity, it cannot remain simply one because knowledge implies multiplicity. The soul then misses The One and falls into number and multiplicity. 
"Therefore we must go beyond knowledge and hold to unity. We must renounce knowing and knowable, every object of thought, even Beauty, because Beauty, too, is posterior to The One and is derived from it as, from the sun, the daylight. That is why Plato says of The One, ‘It can neither be spoken of nor written about.’ If nevertheless we speak of it and write about it, we do so only to give direction, to urge towards that vision beyond discourse, to point out the road to one desirous of seeing.  
"As The One does not contain any difference, it is always present and we are present to it when we no longer contain difference. The One does not aspire to us, to move around us; we aspire to it, to move around it. Actually, we always move around it; but we do not always look.  We are like a chorus grouped around a conductor who allow their attention to be distracted by the audience. If, however, they were to turn towards their conductor, they would sing as they should and would really be with him. We are always around The One. If we were not, we would dissolve and cease to exist. Yet our gaze does not remain fixed upon The One. When we look at it, we then attain the end of our desires and find rest. Then it is that, all discord past, we dance an inspired dance around it.
"In this dance the soul looks upon the source of life, the source of The Intelligence, the origin of Being, the cause of the Good, the root of the Soul."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Happy Birthday, Waldo!

Ralph Waldo Emerson
born May 25, 1803
"Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. […] Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Time Stopped

The warmth of my skin fades to cold,
Just like my father's did moments ago.
The sweet sound of his smooth-beating heart,
Was replaced with the tic and toc of his wristwatch.
The sound echoed through my mind and seemed to stop,
Along with the colorful thoughts that turned to rock.
My vision turned black and the last thing I saw was the purple and blue skin
Of my daddy's left and right arm.
I could not stop shaking and my lungs didn't work,
My eyes were filled with tears and my heart with hurt.

~Ashley Angsten

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Male/Female - the Eternal Facts

Camille Paglia
"I have found the words masculine and feminine indispensable for my notations of appearance and behavior, but I apply them freely to both sexes, according to mood and situation. Here are my conclusions, after a lifetime of observation and reflection. Maleness at its hormonal extreme is an angry, ruthless density of self, motivated by a principle of ‘attack.’ Femaleness at its hormonal extreme is first an acute sensitivity of response, literally thin-skinned (a hormonal effect in women), and secondly a stability, composure, and self-containment, a slowness approaching the sultry. Biologically, the male is impelled toward restless movement; his moral danger is brutishness. Biologically, the female is impelled toward waiting, expectancy; her moral danger is stasis. Androgen agitates; estrogen tranquilizes—hence the drowsiness and ‘glow’ of pregnancy. Most of us inhabit not polar extremes but a constantly shifting great middle. However, a preponderance of gray does not disprove the existence of black and white. Sexual geography, our body image, alters our perception of the world. Man is contoured for invasion, while woman remains the hidden, a cave of archaic darkness. No legislation or grievance committee can change these eternal facts."

Monday, April 11, 2016

Black Narcissus (1947)

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Cinematography: Jack Cardiff
One of the most striking movie images ever. I just love it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Silence Disturbed

Uncertainty

“Without a measureless and perpetual uncertainty, the drama of human life would be destroyed.”   ~Winston Churchill

Sunday, April 3, 2016

How to Properly Hold a Belief

I told my friend Tom Payne that this quote from Jeffrey D. Long seemed to encapsulate the spirit of the BE HERE NOW  blog:
"The problem, it seems, is not so much with the content of a belief as the attitude with which it is held. All of our beliefs need to be held in a way that allows us–indeed, that encourages us–to interact lovingly with our fellow beings, not in a way that creates hatred and lingering ill will. It is not our beliefs that are the problem, so much as inappropriate attachment to them."
Tom said this reminded him of 1 Corinthians 13. This magnificent verse seems to cut through all the accouterments of belief--the authority, righteousness and vanity--to express the one essential element: 
"13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Originalist

"The Field Has Eyes, the Wood Has Ears"
Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516)
Next to nothing is known about the life or the thinking of the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. He left behind no diaries or letters. This drawing is the illustration of a proverb meaning "keep quiet about your business." At the top is an inscription--the only statement we have that was written by the artist. It reads: 
"Poor is the mind that always uses the inventions of others and invents nothing itself."
Here is his four-panel painting of two places no living man has ever seen. Click to enlarge: 
"Visions of the Hereafter" (1490)

Art, like History, repeats itself

Film Meets Art from Vugar Efendi on Vimeo.

Friday, March 25, 2016

What is Truth?

Antonio Ciseri, 1871
In honor of Good Friday, this selection of paintings (click to enlarge) depicts what for me is the most fascinating event of that day--Christ's trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. The scene takes place after Christ has been scourged and mocked by the soldiers, and the crowd gathered outside the judgment hall has called for his crucifixion.
Hieronymus Bosch, 1480
A remarkable exchange ensues: 


Quintin Massys,1520
JOHN 33-38: 
"Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, 'Are you the King of the Jews?'  Jesus answered, 'Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?'  Pilate answered, 'Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?'  


Andrea Mantegna, 1500
Jesus answered, 'My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.'  Pilate said to him, 'So you are a king?'  Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.'   Pilate said to him, 'What is truth?'"
Master L. Cz, 1500

It's a taunt more than a question, cynical and dismissive, and brings their conversation abruptly to an end. But the conversation continues to echo down through history, and Pilate's scoff reverberates even more loudly today. 
What is truth?
Here is the Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart on the question:
"It is worth asking ourselves what this tableau, viewed from the vantage of pagan antiquity, would have meant. A man of noble birth, representing the power of Rome, endowed with authority over life and death, confronted by a barbarous colonial of no name or estate, a slave of the empire, beaten, robed in purple, crowned with thorns, insanely invoking an otherworldly kingdom and some esoteric truth, unaware of either his absurdity or his judge’s eminence. Who could have doubted where, between these two, the truth of things was to be found?  But the Gospel is written in the light of the resurrection, which reverses the meaning of this scene entirely. If God’s truth is in fact to be found where Christ stands, the mockery visited on him redounds instead upon the emperor, all of whose regal finery, when set beside the majesty of the servile shape in which God reveals Himself, shows itself to be just so many rags and briars."
Frans Halsmuseum, 1560

Monday, March 21, 2016

Happy Birthday Bach!

Johann Sebastian Bach
March 21, 1685 - July 28, 1750
When eminent biologist and author Lewis Thomas was asked what message he would choose to send from Earth into outer space in the Voyager spacecraft, he answered, "I would send the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach." After a pause, he added, "But that would be boasting."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wordsworth

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy! 


From Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, William Wordsworth 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Presence and "the Spirit of the Stairs"


With a total of 31,905,370 total views Amy Cuddy's TED Talk is the second most watched  of all time. Here she describes l'esprit d'escalier or afterwit:

"Eighteenth-century French philosopher and writer Denis Diderot was at a dinner party, engaged in debate over a topic that he knew well. But perhaps he wasn't himself on that evening -- a bit self-conscious, distracted, worried about looking foolish. When challenged on some point, Diderot found himself at a loss for words, incapable of cobbling together a clever response. Soon after, he left the party.

"Once outside, on his way down the staircase, Diderot contin­ued to replay that humiliating moment in his mind, searching in vain for the perfect retort. Just as he reached the bottom of the stairs, he found it. Should he turn around, walk back up the stairs, and return to the party to deliver his witty comeback? Of course not. It was too late. The moment -- and, with it, the opportunity -- had passed. Regret washed over him. If only he'd had the presence of mind to find those words when he needed them.

"Reflecting on this experience in 1773, Diderot wrote, 'A sensi­tive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument leveled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs.'

"And so he coined the phrase l'esprit d'escalier -- the spirit of the stairs, or staircase wit. In Yiddish it's trepverterGermans call it treppenwitz. It's been called elevator wit ... My personal favorite is afterwit. But the idea is the same -- it's the incisive remark you come up with too late. It's the hindered comeback. The orphaned retort. And it carries with it a sense of regret, disappointment, humiliation. We all want a do-over. But we'll never get one.

"Apparently everyone has had moments ...  even eighteenth-century French philosophers. Rajeev, one of the first strangers to write to me after my TED talk was posted, described it like this: 'In so many situations in life, I don't walk away feeling like I have given my all and put everything on the table, so to speak. And it always eats at me later, when I analyze it over and over again in my head, and (it] ulti­mately leads to feelings of weakness and failure.' ...

"But how did we get there? We probably were worrying what others would think of us, but believing we already knew what they thought; feeling powerless, and also consenting to that feeling; clinging to the outcome and attributing far too much importance to it instead of focusing on the process. These worries coalesce into a toxic cocktail of self-defeat. That's how we got there.

"Before we even show up at the doorstep of an opportunity, we are teeming with dread and anxiety, borrowing trouble from a future that hasn't yet unfolded. When we walk into a high­-pressure situation in that frame of mind, we're condemned to leave it feeling bad. ...

"We can't be fully engaged in an interaction when we're busy second-guessing ourselves and attending to the hamster wheel in our heads -- the jumbled, frentic, self-doubting analysis of what we think is happening in the room. ... As Alan Watts wrote in The Wisdom of Insecurity, 'To understand music, you must listen to it. But as long as you are thinking "I am listening to this music," you are not listening.'

Author: Amy Cuddy
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Copyright 2015 by Amy Cuddy
Pages 16-18

Monday, February 15, 2016

Antonin Scalia on Heaven, Hell, and the Devil

Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016)
You believe in heaven and hell?
Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?
No.
Oh, my.
Does that mean I’m not going?
[Laughing.] Unfortunately not!
Wait, to heaven or hell? 
It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.
But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe in it? 
Of course not!
Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t even know whether Judas Iscariot is in hell. I mean, that’s what the pope meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He may have recanted and had severe penance just before he died. Who knows?
Can we talk about your drafting process—
[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.
You do?
Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.
Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
No.
It’s because he’s smart.
So what’s he doing now?
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.
That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the ­Devil’s work?
I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.
Well, you’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.
Right.
What happened to him?
He just got wilier.
He got wilier.
Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.
~from a conversation with Jennifer Senior, New York Magazine, October 6, 2013 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bequest

 
Knowing he was ill
he offered a free choice of the books on his shelves,
but for every one wanted said,
'Couldn't bear to let that go',
and died two weeks later.
~Roy Kelly

Begin Again

Seamus Heaney by Tai-Shan Schierendberg
"Getting started, keeping going, getting started again — in art and in life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm not only of achievement but of survival, the ground of convinced action, the basis of self-esteem and the guarantee of credibility in your lives, credibility to yourselves as well as to others."
~Seamus Heaney

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Among the Ruins

“A spell of peace lives in the ruins of ancient Greek tem­ples. As the trav­eller leans back among the fallen cap­i­tals and allows the hours to pass, it emp­ties the mind of trou­bling thought and anx­i­eties and slowly refills it, like a ves­sel that has been drained and scoured, with a quiet ecstasy. Nearly all that has hap­pened fades to a limbo of shad­ows and insignif­i­cance and is pain­lessly replaced by an inti­ma­tion of radi­ance, sim­plic­ity and calm which unties all knots and solves all rid­dles and seems to mur­mur a benev­o­lent and unim­pe­ri­ous sug­ges­tion that the whole of life, if it were allowed to unfold with­out hin­drance or com­pul­sion or search for alien solu­tions, might be lim­it­lessly happy.”
 Mani: Trav­els in the South­ern Pelo­pon­nese, by Patrick Leigh Fer­mor. New York Review Books 1958

Friday, January 1, 2016

Old Advice for a New Year

"Do not act as if you were going to live for 10,000 years. Death hangs over you."
~Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.) Stoic philosopher and Emperor of Rome