Tags: life

william morris

brief update

I've been pretty busy and haven't done much with LJ for a while. Maybe that'll change in the near future, maybe not - I just don't feel like I've got a lot to say lately. Instead, I'm reading and thinking (and watching movies). Anyway, here are a few things I've been up to:

  • We recently opened an account with Netflix. There's a feature that recommends movies based on your ratings of movies you've seen. In the last couple of days, I've rated 594 movies and TV shows. It was like the quiz that never ends.

  • I've been feeling like reading sci-fi. After the extraordinarily bad prose in Commune 2000 A.D., Asimov's I, Robot almost made me cry. From there, I went to Ringworld - again, sad prose and cardboard sexist characters wrapped around a couple of interesting ideas. Larry Niven can eat Mack Reynolds' lunch any day. From there, I started Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow - a parallel story to Ender's Game written around another character - so far, so good...

  • I've been reading Mary Daly's autobiography Outercourse. What fun! I'll probably write more on her later.

  • I've started going to my company's fitness center, usually at night when no one else is there. After three years, I think I'm in the final stages of mourning the loss of my invulnerable twentysomething body. From here on out, I'm going to require regular maintenance.

    That's my life, a bit.
  • william morris

    interesting to see where this study will go

    Take the MIT Weblog Survey

    On the personal, "what's going on in my day-to-day life" front, I've had the urge to read more science fiction - hence the Mack Reynolds experience. The last couple of days, I've been reading Asimov's I, Robot, cleansing my palate of said Mack Reynolds experience. After the first two pages, I almost cried - the prose was so well-written in comparison. Joy, joy. I'm curious to see how long this novel-hunger lasts.

    We got a new Owain CD at PSG, which is actually his first release. Now, our collection of Owain is complete (though he appears on other CDs). I have fallen madly in love with the song "Es warb ein schöner Jüngling" - a German love-song - flowing, powerfully resonant strings, woven with pipes and harp, all with the heartful Riesling-like tenor of Owain wafting over the currents beneath. It strikes the same parts of me that his "Quantas Sabedes" does - the song to which lillassea and I danced at our handfasting. Mmmmm....

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    In other news,

  • I've discovered that, though coffee in any form is akin to the Nectar of the Gods, iced coffee tastes better with ice.

  • Becoming bored with not being able to beat my high score at Spider Solitaire, I've moved up to a more difficult level and now I'm just concered with finishing a game.

  • I've been periodically on a poetry kick - moved quite a bit by AC Swinburne and Dylan Thomas, though neither has usurped the very special place in my heart reserved for Gerard Manley Hopkins... the Man! ..the man's Man ;-) Though it's hard to beat the unperturbed Jeffers, who couldn't care less who is the better poet, since the work of Swinburne, Thomas, Hopkins and himself will all be swallowed up by our dying sun, centuries after Man, myopic Man, has annihilated his species through war technology and other casualities of civilization. Hmph! Take that, Bard!

  • Incidentally, through a mixture of circumstance and resistance, I haven't been on medication for over two weeks - I can't decide if that's a good thing or not... I'll see how it develops.

  • Shifting interests in politics again. I've found it difficult to resist being a passive consumer of commodified political discourse, since there are so many brands available with such shiny packaging. But (as the warning label reads) "consuming X in large quantities produces a laxative effect" or at least gives me indigestion, so 'resist' I must.

    I'm interested in reading and talking more, creating more, but about the structures of lived experience, rather than getting lost in leftie alerts. The fact is that I'm not happy with the unconscious structures of my life - the decisions made for me or unseen alternatives. The dissonance stirs an anxiety that won't vanish when X leaves office, that won't vanish when XYZ-Inc stops polluting Y, that won't vanish when I join this Party or that. Yes, these are all important issues, and it's good to share information. But information in our society takes a commodity-form like anything else, and thus we tend to foster passive consumption rather than supply a resource for people's autonomous projects; we market identityTM while the actual bones of life remain unchanged, Walden's unsucked marrow. I'm interested in the bones.

    Anyway, now accepting applications: any urbane Thoreaus or communard-curious folk interested in talking dreams and nuts & bolts regarding intentional living, intentional community, voluntary simplicity et al., feel free to contact me.
  • flames of fire

    a couple thoughts

    Yesterday, my distraction took the form of a renewed interest in the Arts & Crafts movement (as if I ever lost interest in it). Even the simplest waxing of wood seemed more significant than most of the jobs I've held. Normally, I'm not all about Dard Hunter (though I do feel a connection since he was a fellow Ohioan), but I felt a little thrill when I looked at his tile designs based on garden vegetables. I like the idea of decorative crafts that celebrate something as common as garden vegetables. Most A&C artisans developed styles rooted in their own locales - which is why a Stickley doesn't look gothic.

    No point, just thought.

    Second thought, today I was wondering what to do with all the styrofoam I seem to accumulate (take out coffee and such). Not many recyclers take PS #6. In earthship fasion, I wondered if it could be shredded and remolded without much specialized equipment, or if that could produce dangerous outgassing.

    What I found is that, even in its functional state, polystyrene can leach styrene into the liquids it contains. Most containers have some kind of migratory compounds, but styrene is more prone to migrate due to residual traces left over from manufacture and styrene's solubility in oils and ethanol. There is a study that suggests that styrene vapor also has harmful neurotoxic qualities, so there are multiple forms of ingestion that can cause issues.

    Maybe I'm chicken little, but it concerns me a bit, being an avid coffeeeee drinker who stops to re-caffeinate regularly during road trips of any duration.

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    william morris

    quote of the day

    Actually, a passage read a few days ago...
    It seems that when I write, a hundred pleasurable activities come to mind that I would rather do. I remember once being given a cabin in northern Minnesota for a week. The second day I was sitting down in front of the typewriter to work on a short story. There was a view of late June aspens and beet leaves, lettuce, zinnias from the garden. A great blue sky. Suddenly I was in a bathing suit, ankle-deep in the lake, which was a quarter of a mile from the cabin. About to dive headfirst, I became awake: "Natalie, What are you doing here? You just sat down to write the third page of your short story!" Usually I don't get quite that far before I catch myself.

    We can give it different names, but basically it is that part of our mind that is resistant that begins to activate when we do these tricks. What does it want to resist? Work and concentration.

    There was a period last fall when every time I began to write, I went into a perfect blank-minded euphoria, where I stared out the window and felt a love for and oneness with everything. I sat in this state, sometimes for the whole time I had planned to write. I thought to myself, "Lo and behold, I am becoming enlightened! This is much more important than writing, and besides this is where all writing leads." After this had gone on for quite a while, I asked [my Zen instructor] Katagiri Roshi about it. He said, "Oh, it's just laziness. Get to work."
    - Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

    I have to add - one day, I almost skipped my projects to read a book called Overcoming Procrastination.

    Irony is almost as delightful as absurdity.
    flames of fire

    Avoiding work at all costs

    Ezra is taunting me from the bookshelf.

    Though I like the name 'Ezra', like an old Hebrew patriarch (not to mention I have an uncle named Ezra), I'm pretty unfamiliar with Ezra Pound, except for snippets of gossip between him and Yeats at a party that took place before either of my parents were born. This book must be lillassea's... that's alright - in a moment's resistance, any distraction will do.

    "Selected Poems"! You mock me!

    Okay, okay... I relent!

    The Tree

    I stood still and was a tree amid the wood,
    Knowing the truth of things unseen before;
    Of Daphne and the laurel bough
    And that god-feasting couple old
    That grew elm-oak amid the wold.
    'Twas not until the gods had been
    Kindly entreated, and been brought within
    Unto the hearth of their heart's home
    That they might do this wonder thing;
    Nathless I have been a tree amid the wood
    And many a new thing understood
    That was rank folly to my head before.
    flames of fire

    A note on religion

    UPDATED from old private post

    Kith and kin

    Every now and then, I get a question on how I can identify with Buddhism, Catholicism, and Neopaganism, without falling into a muddle in the middle. The walls between these (and any "religions" in the modern age) seem thick and unyielding, and cannot flex without damaging the integrity of the whole. I've met syncretists (such as Zen Druids and Christo-Pagans) who seem to flex walls in this way, some with more success than others.

    I wonder though how much twisting and flexing is actually necessary? On the surface, none at all - the walls between "religions" in my opinion, are simply manifestations of the original wall, the compartmentalization of religion at the beginning of the modern age (demonstrated by Kant and his "starry heavens above me and the moral law within me"). If the moral law within (identified in Christian terms) in no way reflects the universal "starry heavens above", but is something essentially private, then how much greater is the chasm between private moral laws of a European and private moral laws of an Arab. Religion having been whittled down to a list of "beliefs", western philosophy of religion further reified religions by trying to compare and contrast lists of "beliefs" as logical statements.

    This logical approach was/is flawed in many ways, most of which stem from the language-like nature of religion:

    First, languages cannot be compared and contrasted so easily - is French a deficient language since there is no equivalent to the English word "mind"? Or are both French and English deficient because they lack the gradations of "white" that exist in Inuit languages? Or do they simply approach the same reality from a different perspective?

    Second, languages do not rise in opposition to each other but in relation to a historical context. Again, French didn't create a concept "sympathique" simply to taunt the English lack of such a word, nor as a critique of the German nuances to the word - they developed the concept out of their own experience. Likewise, Gautama didn't formulate the Four Noble Truths as a reaction to Moses or Jesus, but as an insight into his lived experience. Jesus wasn't founding a religion in opposition to druids on the other side of the world, but was sharing a vision among his own people.

    So, my first answer to confusion over my Buddheo-Catholic-Druid self is answered in terms of language - I'm a religious polyglot. I work comfortably within a number of religious milieus.

    My second answer has to do with culture and religion Collapse )
    william morris


    I released my first two books yesterday (controlled release - left them with my therapist in the medical building). I added bookcrossing to my LJ interests, I'm looking to label some more books, and thinking of new places to leave them. I've got books that I think others should read, but I haven't found cheap copies of them in used bookstores and I don't want to give away my own copies just yet.
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    bad cat

    Touching base

    I've been out of touch, LJ-ily speaking, for a while. I've looked around, commented here or there, but I haven't had much to say. Still not sure I do - I'm just touching base.

    I've been reading a bit off and on - Meister Eckhart, EF Schumacher, Carl Sagan, Marxy Marx, Hugh Prather. Been interested in BookCrossing - got a few books labelled and ready to release.

    Thought of the day:
    "I try to speak of letting go and that human beings should become unwed from themselves and from all things ... the extent that creatures gifted with reason go out from themselves in all that they do, to that same extent they go into themselves."
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    flames of fire

    One of my favorite poems as an adolescent

    I was just thinking about gifts from my freshman American Literature class, so helpful to my raw and exposed mind, struggling in freedom from belief, coming out of an evangelical protestant upbringing. The Naturalists broke down, levelled, while the Transcendentalists built up - solve et coagula.

    Finding my place in the history of the world, my need for an afterlife diminished. I felt a certain kinship with the land, and that there was a part of me that was as old as stone. When the earth began, I began. When/if the universe collapses into a singularity, I end, too. Of course, if I'm graced with an afterlife, I won't complain, but the meaning inherent in my life is not contigent upon an immortal soul.

    My favorite poem then, one of the gifts from literature class, was Thanatopsis.

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    william morris

    Distracted from my distraction

    I've been spending time writing responses to semi-Hannity-esque idiots on news groups I otherwise don't frequent (does this violate my kosher-like purity?) - I guess it's not too much a waste of time, at least if I'm getting a bit of smug satisfaction by skilfully demolishing the crafty-yet-inferior wiles of the Hannity-ite soundbite Jedi mind trick version of what passes for common sense. Afterall, it's much easier than coming up with thoughtful posts of my own.

    Along the way, I remembered something I read in an essay by David Brin regarding the genre of science fiction. SOooooo, I jumped over to Brin-world and got sucked into reading more of his essays - some very good stuff - and I promptly lost all desire to finish my witty retort to SoundBite. Just a few words tonight that resonated with me and I'm going to bed:

    In his article (written after the 2004 election) The Real Culture War, he points to the inadequacy of the left-right axis in discussing political options and shows how it lumps together people who would otherwise be at odds and divides people who could otherwise reach agreement. To him, the divide is really about modernity, which he categorizes as modernists vs. romantics (which I disagree with the firm distinction). Anyway, the piece I liked the most (so far):

    "Alas, people who identify themselves on the left will seldom recognize authoritarian tendencies in paternalistic tolerance-police. Conservatives won't see that corporate power is a temptation all-too readily abused. And libertarians seem incapable of recognizing that more markets, throughout history, were ruined by aristocratic cheaters than ever were by socialists."

    Agreed. Authoritarianism in any paternalistic guise bothers me more than conservatism; there is just a preponderance of authoritarians who identify as "conservative" and paternalism is sometimes harder to see.

    Good night.