Good Friday or Christmas Day, this message rings in the season. In this clip, the film producers spent the day talking with people who were going to spend their Christmas on the streets. You can find more on The Dream Dealer here.
Here’s the “Meaning of Life.” ~9,000,000 people have watched this video in the past 2 weeks and seem to agree. I’m one of them. I was moved by this short film. (Be sure to check out Ana’s wonderful blog. She’s from Portugal. Her blog’s name is “Sol de Dezembro” (“December Sun”).
I have never wanted anything more than the wild creatures have, a broad waft of clean air, a day to lie on the grass at times, with nothing to do but to slip the blades through my fingers, and look as long as I pleased at the whole blue arch, and the screens of green and white between; leave for a month to float and float along the salt crests and among the foam, or roll with my naked skin over a clean long stretch of sunshiny sand; food that I liked, straight from the cool ground, and time to taste its sweetness, and time to rest after tasting; sleep when it came, and stillness, that the sleep might leave me when it would, not sooner … This is what I wanted,—this, and free contact with my fellows … not to love and lie, and be ashamed, but to love and say I love, and be glad of it; to feel the currents of ten thousand years of passion flooding me, body to body, as the wild things meet. I have asked no more.
~ Voltairine De Cleyre (1866-1912)
“How does that happen?” Matthiessen asked me rhetorically, posing the question of the novel. He referred back to the novel’s epigraph, a poem by Anna Akhmatova that wonders, when we are surrounded by so much death, “Why then do we not despair?” Matthiessen looked at me, eyes dancing, beating on his leg in time as he said, “Something, something, something,” unable to name the mysterious life force that allows us to rejoice…
~ Jeff Himmelman
Peter Matthiessen, 86, died last night. R.I.P.
The quote above is an excerpt from Himmelman’s April 3, 2014 NY Times Magazine article titled Peter Matthiessen’s Homegoing.
From today’s front page story in the NY Times Peter Matthiessen, Lyrical Writer and Naturalist, Is Dead at 86:
“Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake,” he told the British newspaper The Guardian in 2002. “We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past. Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past, and there is no reality apart from the here and now.”
Matthiessen was an American novelist, naturalist, and wilderness writer. He was a three-time National Book Award-winner for The Snow Leopard and Shadow Country. He was also a prominent environmental activist. According to critic Michael Dirda, “No one writes more lyrically [than Matthiessen] about animals or describes more movingly the spiritual experience of mountaintops, savannas, and the sea.”
Matthiessen’s new book, In Paradise, is scheduled for release on April 8, 2014.
I’m rumbling down I-95.
Dave Matthews is blaring through the speakers. And has been joining me on the morning ride all week.
You’ve been off. Haven’t found your rhythm. It’s back. You’re burning it from both ends. The adrenaline – - it’s pumpin’.
I look down at the gas gauge. And then to the estimate of the mileage remaining. Annoyed at the interruption. Need to stop. Better stop. I pull over to the Mobile station.
I’m listening to the clicks on the pump. And find myself drifting off. There’s mist coming from my nose, rising up, and then disappearing into the darkness. I breathe in deeply. Exhale through the nose. And watch the show again. Magic. A Miracle. My morning moment of meditation. And like the wisp of air, Pessoa’s disquiet rushes to fill the stillness.
You’re more comfortable moving. You find peace in motion. Yet, you know it ain’t peace.
It’s hanging on my bulletin board in the office: “business is the art of getting people to where they need to be faster than they would get there without you.” A Hugh McLeod illustration. A Big red hand with index finger pointing up – #1. There it is. Your strength. Your core competence. The transference of your disquiet to others. Pushing the pace. Injecting your adrenaline. More. Better. FASTER.
I’m on the train, returning home, and rifling through blog posts on my reader.
My index finger pauses. Then stops.
You are perfect.
You are perfect.
I am Perfect.
I am Perfect?
Who believes this nonsense?
No breakfast: And 1 granola bar for lunch. (No calorie diet after weekend gorging.)
No 8 glasses of water a day: Try zero. Zero liquids. (A head scratcher. Is that even possible? Are you a camel? An Android?)
No waiting for Walk Signals: I jaywalk in a criss-crossing of Manhattan streets, sheets of freezing rain slapping my trench coat. Eye glasses wet and fogging. (March 31. Please, Please make it Be Spring.)
No shortage of stupidity. I rub the rain-splashed-grime off the toe caps of my shoes with my hands, and instinctively reach for my suit pants. Black shoe polish. (I look around to see if anyone is watching. Just me. Who does this?)
No breaks: No pauses. No eye rests. No at-your-desk toe and leg stretches. (An accomplished All-Pro Back at the sedentary position.)
No Enjoyment of the Warming Evening Sun: Head down, as the crow flies, walk-running cross-town to catch the 6:30 pm Metro North. (Aware of no one. Aware of nothing. But the shot clock. More March Madness.)
No Perfection: Just another Imperfect Manic Monday.
Charles Murray’s 5 Rules For A Happy Life:
- Consider Marrying Young
- Learn How to Recognize Your Soul Mate
- Eventually Stop Fretting About Fame and Fortune (Fame and wealth do accomplish something: They cure ambition anxiety. But that’s all. It isn’t much…)
- Take Religion Seriously
- Watch “GroundHog Day” Repeatedly
#4: Now that we’re alone, here’s where a lot of you stand when it comes to religion: It isn’t for you. You don’t mind if other people are devout, but you don’t get it. Smart people don’t believe that stuff anymore. I can be sure that is what many of you think because your generation of high-IQ, college-educated young people, like mine 50 years ago, has been as thoroughly socialized to be secular as your counterparts in preceding generations were socialized to be devout…I am describing my own religious life from the time I went to Harvard until my late 40s. I still describe myself as an agnostic, but my unbelief is getting shaky…Start by jarring yourself out of unreflective atheism or agnosticism. A good way to do that is to read about contemporary cosmology. The universe isn’t only stranger than we knew; it is stranger and vastly more unlikely than we could have imagined, and we aren’t even close to discovering its last mysteries. That reading won’t lead you to religion, but it may stop you from being unreflective. Find ways to put yourself around people who are profoundly religious. You will encounter individuals whose intelligence, judgment and critical faculties are as impressive as those of your smartest atheist friends—and who also possess a disquieting confidence in an underlying reality behind the many religious dogmas.
Read all five rules here.
What’s with the mustache?
Have you ever shaved it off?
How long have you had it?
(Pause) It’s older than you are.
Why don’t you shave it off?
So. Why don’t you shave it off?
(Pause) It’s foliage.
(Silence) (I catch the stare. Then the flash of understanding, of empathy. The eyes avert. The awkward step backward to create space.)
I turn my back and walk away.
Image Source: Thank you Carol
“You are meant to fight. When you are sick, your body fights for its right to function. When you hold your breath, your body fights for its right to breathe. There are billions of tiny events—from the surface of your skin, down to the very cells of your body—that have to happen in order for you to be simply sitting here today. If your most minuscule parts haven’t given up yet,
Why should you?”
There’s no remedy, I suppose — this body
just made from the beginning to be shocked,
constantly surprised, perpetually stunned,
poked and prodded, shaken awake,
shaken again and again roughly, rudely,
then left, even more bewildered,
even more amazed.
—Pattiann Rogers, closing lines to “Till My Teeth Rattle.”
- Pattiann Rogers Bio.
- Poem from Firekeeper: New and Selected Poems.
- Poem Source: The Poet Reflects. Image Source: Alexander Khokhlov Photography
- Image Credit
- Notable NY Times: You Can’t Take It With You, But You Still Want More
Suddenly, I wonder – is all hardness justified because we are so slow in realizing that life was meant to be heroic? Greatness is required of us. That is life’s aim and justification, and we poor fools have for centuries been trying to make it convenient, manageable, pliant to our will. It is also peaceful and tender and funny and dull. Yes, all that.
~ Florida Scott-Maxwell, The Measure of My Days
“The world, whatever we might think about it, terrified by its vastness and by our helplessness in the face of it, embittered by its indifference to individual suffering – of people, animals, and perhaps also plants, for how can we be sure that plants are free of suffering; whatever we might think about its spaces pierced by the radiation of stars, stars around which we now have begun to discover planets, already dead? still dead? – we don’t know; whatever we might think about this immense theater, to which we may have a ticket, but it is valid for a ridiculously brief time, limited by two decisive dates; whatever else we might think about this world – it is amazing.”
~ Wisława Szymborska
Wisława Szymborska-Włodek (1923 – 2012) was a Polish poet, essayist and translator. She was described as a “Mozart of Poetry”. Szymborska was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”.
“We begin so aware and grateful. The sun somehow hangs there in the sky. The little bird sings. The miracle of life just happens. Then we stub our toe, and in that moment of pain, the whole world is reduced to our poor little toe. Now, for a day or two, it is difficult to walk. With every step, we are reminded of our poor little toe.
Our vigilance becomes: Which defines our day – the pinch we feel in walking on a bruised toe, or the miracle still happening?
It is the giving over to smallness that opens us to misery. In truth, we begin taking nothing for granted, grateful that we have enough to eat, that we are well enough to eat. But somehow, through the living of our days, our focus narrows like a camera that shutters down, cropping out the horizon, and one day we’re miffed at a diner because the eggs are runny or the hash isn’t seasoned just the way we like.
When we narrow our focus, the problem seems everything. We forget when we were lonely, dreaming of a partner. We forget first beholding the beauty of another. We forget the comfort of first being seen and held and heard. When our view shuts down, we’re up in the night annoyed by the way our lover pulls the covers or leaves the dishes in the sink without soaking them first.
In actuality, misery is a moment of suffering allowed to become everything. So, when feeling miserable, we must look wider than what hurts. When feeling a splinter, we must, while trying to remove it, remember there is a body that is not splinter, and a spirit that is not splinter, and a world that is not splinter.”
~ Mark Nepo
Pamela Druckerman, author of “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” shares 20 Lessons she has learned in her 40′s upon turning 44. Here’s a few nuggets from her article in the NY Times: What You Learn in Your 40′s:
3) Eight hours of continuous, unmedicated sleep is one of life’s great pleasures. Actually, scratch “unmedicated.”
4) There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently.
7) Emotional scenes are tiring and pointless. At a wedding many years ago, an older British gentleman who found me sulking in a corner helpfully explained that I was having a G.E.S. — a Ghastly Emotional Scene. In your 40s, these no longer seem necessary. For starters, you’re not invited to weddings anymore. And you and your partner know your ritual arguments so well, you can have them in a tenth of the time.
11) More about you is universal than not universal. My unscientific assessment is that we are 95 percent cohort, 5 percent unique. Knowing this is a bit of a disappointment, and a bit of a relief.
12) Just say “no.”
14) Do not buy those too small jeans, on the expectation that you will soon lose weight.
Read entire NY Times article here.
We wait for the phone to ring.
For the obligatory college briefing call.
(As long as you feed from the trough, you’ll call home on Sunday. Non-negotiable.)
Rachel jabbering. Eric tight lipped…leaking information on a need-to-know basis.
Not last night.
Big day for me on Tuesday Dad.
I forgot it’s his 20th birthday.
You forgot right?
Of course not.
Of course you did.
You know that I’m leaving for El Salvador on Saturday.
I’ll be taking vitals…blood pressure, temperature…and recording it.
Dad, I’ve been told there will be thousands, all waiting for medical care.
We’ll be readying patients for the doctors and dentists.
And then feeding homeless at night.
I’m dressing for work this morning.
I check the weather app. -5° F with wind chill.
How many children are huddled and shivering in the cold? Hungry. A soda can and not much else in the fridge for breakfast. Not in El Salvador. Here. Right here.
I reach for a t-shirt. Folded. Stacked. Clean. White.
I’m drawn to the label. I squint to read the small print.
XL 100% Pima Cotton. Machine wash warm with like colors. Only non-chlorine bleach if needed. Tumble Dry Low. Warm Iron if needed. Made in Bangladesh.
Made in Bangladesh.
“The enchantment of the sky, ever changing beauty almost ignored. Beyond words, without fixed form, not to be understood, or stated. It ravished away dullness, worry, even pain. It graces life when nothing else does. It is the first marvel of the day. Even when leaden grey it is still a friend, withdrawn for a time.”
~ Florida Scott-Maxwell, Measure of My Days
Image Credit: Natgeo
Two weeks running.
Every day. Every day.
The commute in. The ride home.
It opens the day. It closes the doors.
Same tune. One tune.
Over. And over. And over.
[John Waters: “Without obsession, life is nothing.”]
From end to end.
The tune on a loop three to six times depending on traffic.
↓ click for audio (Harry Chapin – “All My Life’s A Circle”)
The Big Gato waits. Crouched.
Tapping his fingers on the seat. Impatient.
Waiting for Chapin to stop jabbering.
And then it comes. 4:30 on the running time.
I crank the volume up.
The dashboard vibrates.
Chapin cues him up.
Michael, the Cellist. Man Singing with Soul.
DK and the rest of the band join him to belt it out to the finish:
All my life’s a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
The Moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.
All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
The Seasons’ spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.
Image Source: MTVhive
Last night I had the strangest dream. I was in a laboratory with Dr. Boas and he was talking to me and a group of other people about religion, insisting that life must have a meaning, that man couldn’t live without that. Then he made a mass of jelly-like stuff of the most beautiful blue I had ever seen — and he seemed to be asking us all what to do with it. I remember thinking it was very beautiful but wondering helplessly what it was for. People came and went making absurd suggestions. Somehow Dr. Boas tried to carry them out — but always the people went away angry, or disappointed — and finally after we’d been up all night they had all disappeared and there were just the two of us. He looked at me and said, appealingly “Touch it.” I took some of the astonishingly blue beauty in my hand, and felt with a great thrill that it was living matter. I said “Why it’s life — and that’s enough” — and he looked so pleased that I had found the answer — and said yes “It’s life and that is wonder enough.”
~ Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
Quote Source: Brain Pickings - Life Is Like Blue Jelly: Margaret Mead Discovers the Meaning of Existence in a Dream. Image: Unknown.
Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan,
stays just long enough
to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark source.
As for me,
I don’t care
where it’s been,
or what bitter road it’s traveled
to come so far,
to taste so good.
~ Stephen Dunn
I couldn’t get comfortable. It was a straight back chair. I’m infused with a dull, throbbing haze. The prior evening included two cocktails, a late night dinner and four hours of sleep short of requirements for base level performance. A modest change in daily routine – having a disproportionate impact on operating equilibrium.
I’m sitting. Sort of. Restless. The metal bars on the seat back are leaving tracks, the comfort of r-bar. Rough, cold steel on skin. I’m twisting. Trying to find a comfort zone. Those seated behind me zig when I zag. I cross my leg one way. Then pull it back and scissor it over the other. I sit upright. I slouch. I throw my right arm over the back of the chair. Then the left. And then go through the cycle again.
I glance around. The room is fidgeting.
He walks onto the stage. He sits in a panel chair. He takes a drink of water. And waits for the interviewer’s first question.
He’s wildly successful.
A Horatio Alger story. He grew up in a family with modest means. His Father worked in government service. His Mother at home with the children.
The room is quiet. Locked-in.
His energy fills the room. His mind is whirring.
He shares his view and insights on a wide swath of territory. Domestic policy. Economy. Government. Immigration. Social issues. Philanthropy. The Arts. Conservation. His Love of Country.
And without breaking stride, he injects self-deprecating experiences.
We’re in his web.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: I’m 6x years old. My Father passed away about this age. When you are 50, you believe you have another half to go. When you turn 60, there’s a keen realization that 2/3rd’s is gone. A shift from a ‘lot to go’ to ‘what’s left’. I don’t know when…when my mind or body will no longer permit me to keep up the pace. But I have a lot that I want do…a lot I need to accomplish.
He pauses. Reflects. And continues. (The wildly successful man continues…)
A: What I really worry about is getting “that call” at night on one of our children. He shakes his head. Let’s set that aside. I worry about my children growing up with appropriate balance, with the appropriate values, given that they have been surrounded by great wealth. That is why I plan to give most of it away. At the end of the day, I want my children to be happy.
That is all that matters.
That is all that matters to me.
Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Millicent Weems: What was once before you – an exciting, mysterious future – is now behind you. Lived; understood; disappointing. You realize you are not special. You have struggled into existence, and are now slipping silently out of it. This is everyone’s experience. Every single one. The specifics hardly matter. Everyone’s everyone. So you are Adele, Hazel, Claire, Olive. You are Ellen. All her meager sadnesses are yours; all her loneliness; the gray, straw-like hair; her red raw hands. It’s yours. It is time for you to understand this.
Millicent Weems: Walk.
Millicent Weems: As the people who adore you stop adoring you; as they die; as they move on; as you shed them; as you shed your beauty; your youth; as the world forgets you; as you recognize your transience; as you begin to lose your characteristics one by one; as you learn there is no-one watching you, and there never was, you think only about driving – not coming from any place; not arriving any place. Just driving, counting off time. Now you are here, at 7:43. Now you are here, at 7:44. Now you are…
Millicent Weems: Gone.
In memory Philip Seymour Hoffman (July 23,1967 – February 2, 2014)
I can still remember how she looked. Black gown grey against the sky, clutching the scroll in the hand. So much hard work.
Did it mean anything when all paths led to the same end. You can extend the path you take. Choose the one less travelled. Be all the richer for it. But it is still a path, and all paths lead to the same end. If you have a Lover and a Dog waiting for you, you are one of the lucky ones. I don’t think there’s anything afterwards, outside the stories. if there is, how would that work?
She believed. She wasn’t a zealot or fundamentalist. But she believed. Enough to not get scared at the end. Vast thunder storms. Fat on the horizon. But she could still see the sun. All things shining.
Sometimes I do the impossible. Steal a glimpse of her out of the corner of my eye. Light and full of love. I don’t try to stop her. Tap her on the shoulder. Pull her home.
They ask me years later. Does it get easier as time passes or does it stay at the back of your mind.
No. It stays right at the front.
~ Jack Tasker
And, January, 2014 is over next week.
Image Source: TheTimBurtonWorld
We want the spring to come
and the winter to pass.
We want whoever to call
or not call,
a kiss —
we want more and more and then more of it.
But there are moments,
when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store,
and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep
for my own blowing hair,
and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living …
I have led too serious a life; but that perhaps, after all, preserves one’s youth. At all events, I have travelled too far, I have worked too hard, I have lived in brutal climates and associated with tiresome people. When a man has reached his fifty-second year without being, materially, the worse for wear — when he has fair health, a fair fortune, a tidy conscience and a complete exemption from embarrassing relatives — I suppose he is bound, in delicacy, to write himself happy.
~ Henry James (1843-1916) from The Diary of a Man of Fifty
- Henry James: “The Diary of a Man of Fifty“ is FREE at Amazon for Kindles/iPads.
- Henry James was an American-born British writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr. and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James.
- Image and Quote Source: Brainpickings
Source: themetapicture (Spotted in the window of a biology professor office…)
“What is it about upward mobility that undermines the health of these young Americans? In our studies, most participants are the first in their families to attend college. They feel tremendous internal pressure to succeed, so as to ensure their parents’ sacrifices have been worthwhile…Some young people respond to the pressure by doubling down on character strengths that have served them well, cultivating an even more determined persistence to succeed. This strategy, however, can backfire when it comes to health. Behaving diligently all of the time leaves people feeling exhausted and sapped of willpower. Worn out from having their noses to the grindstone all the time, they may let their health fall by the wayside, neglecting sleep and exercise, and like many of us, overindulging in comfort foods.”
~ Gregory E. Miller & Edith Chen, Can Upward Mobility Cost You Your Health?
I got up in the night and went to the end of the hall.
Over the door in large letters it said,
“This is the next life. Please come in.”
I opened the door.
Across the room a bearded man in a pale-green suit turned to me and said,
“Better get ready, we’re taking the long way.”
“Now I’ll wake up,” I thought, but I was wrong.
We began our journey over golden tundra and patches of ice.
Then there was nothing for miles around,
and all I could hear was my heart pumping and pumping
so hard I thought I would die all over again.— Mark Strand, The Triumph of the Infinite
This is not about how to change the world.
Or saying that we should stop fighting
against crime, corruption, poverty, oppression or racism.
This is simply about you.
Yesterday I drove an hour outside of Cape Town
with my family to be with the snow.
A rare occurrence us Cape Townians hardly get to experience.
It was then when it hit me, we need to celebrate more.
But not in a traditional sense.
But in a way to celebrate life and our time on earth,
which we all seem to be rushing through.
Let’s celebrate being young.
Let’s celebrate love.
Let’s celebrate family.
Let’s celebrate the offering for no reason.
Let’s celebrate the city you live in.
Having the ability to be able to watch this video is a privilege.
Having access to internet, celebrate that.
Every day I see these negative things on Facebook
like F*&* my life and stupid rants about pointless sh*t.
Let’s change that to positive appreciations.
Today, I decided to go outside with the purpose of finding positivity and happiness.
This is what I found.
Stop listening to the answer
and just listen to understand that your time here is worth celebrating.
Looking at your life as an outsider,
it’s more beautiful than you can ever imagine.
~ Dan Mace [Read more...]
She had an oversized winter coat. No gloves. No hat.
She was a hundred yards from the train station.
And walking the other way.
No one was waiting.
It was Christmas Day.
Kids are lounging.
Jake & Josh running in one room.
The other is curled up with Zeke and a comforter. Both sound asleep.
Dinner was in the oven. ETA of 6:30 pm.
I glance out the window.
Daylight is fading quickly.
I could see her outline in the shadows of the street lights.
“One of the saddest realities is most people never know when their lives have reached the summit. Only after it is over and we have some kind of perspective do we realize how good we had it a day, a month, five years ago. The walk together in the December snow, the phone call that changed everything, that lovely evening in the bar by the Aegean. Back then you thought “this is so nice”. Only later did you realize it was the rarest bliss.”
“Some things occur just by chance. Mark Twain was born on the day that Halley’s comet appeared in 1835 and died on the day it reappeared in 1910. There is a temptation to linger on a story like that, to wonder if there might be a deeper order behind a life so poetically bracketed. For most of us, the temptation doesn’t last long. We are content to remind ourselves that the vast majority of lives are not so celestially attuned, and go about our business in the world. But some coincidences are more troubling, especially if they implicate larger swathes of phenomena, or the entirety of the known universe. During the past several decades, physics has uncovered basic features of the cosmos that seem, upon first glance, like lucky accidents. Theories now suggest that the most general structural elements of the universe — the stars and planets, and the galaxies that contain them — are the products of finely calibrated laws and conditions that seem too good to be true. What if our most fundamental questions, our late-at-night-wonderings about why we are here, have no more satisfying answer than an exasperated shrug and a meekly muttered ‘Things just seem to have turned out that way’?
It can be unsettling to contemplate the unlikely nature of your own existence, to work backward causally and discover the chain of blind luck that landed you in front of your computer screen, or your mobile, or wherever it is that you are reading these words. For you to exist at all, your parents had to meet, and that alone involved quite a lot of chance and coincidence. If your mother hadn’t decided to take that calculus class, or if her parents had decided to live in another town, then perhaps your parents never would have encountered one another. But that is only the tiniest tip of the iceberg. Even if your parents made a deliberate decision to have a child, the odds of your particular sperm finding your particular egg are one in several billion. The same goes for both your parents, who had to exist in order for you to exist, and so already, after just two generations, we are up to one chance in 1027. Carrying on in this way, your chance of existing, given the general state of the universe even a few centuries ago, was almost infinitesimally small. You and I and every other human being are the products of chance, and came into existence against very long odds…”
Read more @ Aeon Magazine by Tim Maudlin: The Calibrated Cosmos: Why Does The Universe Appear Fine Tuned For Life?
And I loved this one too by Mark Morford: 40 Billion Ways to Dance.