“There are people in every age who come early or late to a sense of the futility of the world. Some people, such as the monks of the desert, flee the entanglements of the world to rush toward eternity. But even for those who remain in the world, the approach of eternity is implacable. ‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard, / The desert sighs in the bed’ was W. H. Auden’s mock-prophetic forecast. He meant the desert is incipient in the human condition. Time melts away from us.”—Richard Rodriguez, The God of the Desert
“Every Halloween, Linus faithfully waits by a pumpkin patch, in the hopes that he will be blessed with the holy experience of a visitation by The Great Pumpkin. Of course, The Great Pumpkin never shows up, and He never answers Linus’ letters. Despite this, Linus remains steadfast, even going door to door to spread the word of his absent deity. Does The Great Pumpkin exist? We can never know. But from an existential point of view, it doesn’t matter if he exists or not. The important thing is that Linus is abandoned and alone in his pumpkin patch.”—
“We all have an ongoing narrative inside our heads, the narrative that is spoken aloud if a friend asks a question. That narrative feels deeply natural to me. We also hang on to scraps of dialogue. Our memories don’t usually serve us up whole scenes complete with dialogue. So I suppose I’m saying that I like to work from what a character is likely to remember, from a more interior place.”—
I find this a very fascinating notion, this idea of narrative disconnect. As a teacher of high school English Literature, one of my absolute favorite authors to look at is Virginia Woolf. I usually begin with an experiment: each student is to tape record at least two hours, uninterrupted, in a day of their life. They record, we wait a week. I have them write down as much as they can remember about conversations they had while they were recording their “lives,” as specifically as possible. Then they listen to their recordings and are blown away by what they forgot, by what time and hindsight and the jumble in their consciousness has changed. We also do this experiment with photography: take a picture, and seconds later write down exactly what the context of that picture is: time, place, thoughts, reasons. We return to the pictures exactly a month later, and I have them try to recall and transcribe the context again as precisely as possible. Then, and usually only then, do they gain a pretty profound respect for what Woolf was trying to do with narrative, time, meaning, and perspective.
we can rest our bones side by side in the dirt up yonder there
Scout Niblett :: Do You Wanna Be Buried With My People?
I sorta think this is the most romantic song ever.
But full disclosure: I really wanted to party like it was 1865 from the ages of 6-8, thanks to Little House on the Prairie, which predictably preceded my overly-excitable-victorian-orphan Anne of Green Gables phase which lasted from 9-um, present. Anyhow, true story, I ordered all of my clothes out of those prairie garb catalogs during the Little House years. The result was more like Lil’ Mennonite in the Suburbs, unfortunately. My parents finally drew the line when I asked for a pig’s bladder balloon one Christmas. That’s right, a pig’s bladder balloon.
There is an altitude above every planet where a moon can orbit forevermore. In millions of miles and ups and downs, there is one narrow passageway of permanence. If a moon can reach this groove, it will never crash down like masonry nor drift away like a mood; it will be inalienable; it will circle its planet at the exact speed that the planet rotates, always over one site. The law is stringent about this; there are no clauses; and all moons are dutiful followers of the law.
Mars has two small moons whose names mean “panic” and “terror.” Phobos looks like a potato that experienced one terrible, and many average, concussions. Mars’s other moon, Deimos, is a slow and outer moon; an outer and outer moon; someday it will be a scrap moon, rattling around in the outer darkness, where drift superannuated spacecraft and exhausted starlets.
“Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties — all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion — these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.”—David Foster Wallace (via tmblg) (via markn) (via synecdoche)
From repeated phrases in stories written by Florida fourth-graders for the state’s Comprehensive Assessment Test, cited by authorities as evidence that teachers had given students sentences or plots to memorize. In one plot, protagonists went “poof” and found themselves in a magical land.
One quintessential, supersonic day…
One ordinary day turned into an extraordinary day..
In the blink of an eye, Sally and I were perambulating home from….POOF!
I ran as fast as wildfire. Then neon colors encircle me…POOF!
“Alchemy, astrology, voluminous pantaloons, and a massive moustache like a woolly boomerang: you’re thinking about Tycho Brahe, aren’t you? The man was a 16th-century A-list celeb, mixing ground-breaking, horizon-expanding thought leadership with a gold prosthetic nose. He had a dwarf court jester. Almost as an afterthought, he also owned an elk.”—
Tycho’s Wikipedia entry has to be seen to be believed. At one point, he owned 1% of all the wealth in Denmark. As a child, he was kidnapped and raised by his uncle, but his parents didn’t care. He lost his nose to a rapier in a duel, in the dark. His pet moose (called elk in Europe) died when it fell down the stairs after drinking too much beer. And how did Tycho die? Possibly from holding in his urine for too long, out of politeness, at one of the ragers he regularly threw at his castle. Or POSSIBLY from his assistant, some obscure wannabe named Johannes Kepler, poisoning him!
In stories, those who look back — Lot’s wife, Orpheus and Eurydice — are lost. Looking to the side instead, to gauge how our companions are faring, is a way of glancing at a safer reflection of what we cannot directly bear, like Perseus seeing the Gorgon safely mirrored in his shield.
I’m talking about the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.
In the case of the Higgs and the collider, it is as if something is going back in time to keep the universe from being hit by a bus. Although just why the Higgs would be a catastrophe is not clear. If we knew, presumably, we wouldn’t be trying to make one.
“For those of us who believe in physics,” Einstein once wrote to a friend, “this separation between past, present and future is only an illusion.”
“‘Time,’ says Jorge Luis Borges, ‘is the substance I am made of. Time is a river that carries me away, but I am the river….’ Our movements, our actions, are extended in time, as are our perceptions, our thoughts, the contents of consciousness. We live in time, we organize time, we are time creatures through and through. But is the time we live in, or live by, continuous—like Borges’s river? Or is it more comparable to a chain or a train, a succession of discrete moments, like beads on a string?”—In the River of Consciousness, by Oliver Sacks - The New York Review of Books — requires subscription if you want to read the full article, annoyingly enough. (via wingsandfins) (via crashinglybeautiful)
I was young once. I dug holes near a canal and almost drowned. I filled notebooks with words as carefully as a hunter loads his shotgun. I had a father also, and I came second to an addiction. I spent a summer swallowing seeds and nothing ever grew in my stomach. Every woman I kissed, I kissed as if I loved her. My left and right hands were rivals. After I hit puberty, I was kicked out of my parents’ house at least twice a year. No matter when you receive this there was music playing now. Your grandfather isn’t my father. I chose to do something with my life that I knew I could fail at. I spent my whole life walking and hid such colorful wings.
Some dreams have been credited with influencing world changing events.
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein after having a dream about the monster. “I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.”
Elias Howe was a sewing machine pioneer who greatly influenced the product in the middle of the 19th century. He is recorded as saying that he had a vivid dream about a group of cannibals that were preparing to cook him. They were dancing around a fire waving their spears up and down. Howe noticed that in the head of each spear there was a small hole, which ultimately gave him the idea of passing the thread through the needle close to the point, not at the other end. It was a major innovation in making mechanical sewing possible.
The scientist Friedrich August Kekulé discovered the seemingly impossible chemical structure of benzene (C6H6) after having a dream about a group of snakes swallowing their tails.
In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA. Watson later reported that the idea came to him after dreaming of a series of spiral staircases.
A few days prior to his death Abraham Lincoln discussed a dream with his wife in which he previewed a dead body wrapped in funeral vestments surrounded by hundreds of mourners. He claims to have been told by a soldier that the president had been assassinated.
“The people in this house, I felt, and I included myself, were like characters each from a different grim and gruesome fairy tale. None of us was in the same story. We were all grotesques, and self-riveted, but in separate narratives, and so our interactions seemed weird and richly meaningless, like characters in a Tennessee Williams play.”—Lorrie Moore, A Gate at the Stairs
Late in life, the English writer and art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) became obsessed with what he called variously the black cloud or storm cloud or plague cloud or black wind or plague wind or evil wind or black fog, a new and unexplained weather phenomenon that cast a pall over nature and human affairs and had something to do with the advent of modern times. It was a purely meteorological occurrence, to his mind, though no meteorologist had noticed it, and it was not produced by his loneliness, his failure in love, or his increasingly common and sustained bouts of madness. He brought all these observations together in his essay “The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century,” and his journals from this period contain minute descriptions of this phenomenon and its effect on the landscape and his mind and spirit. Working from his journals, fragments of text relating to the black cloud were traced, made into printing plates, and printed in an edition of ten on a Vandercook proof press.