Friday, January 17, 2014


Who, if I cried, would hear me among the angels’
hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed
by that greater existence. For beauty is
but the beginning of terror we are still able to endure,
and we admire it so because it serenely
disdains to destroy us. Every angel is terrifying.

~ Rilke, First Duino Elegy

If angels and other super-human beings -- providing they even exist -- do not hear us, then, Rilke asks, who can we turn to in our need? That unspecified need ultimately always comes to this: our terror of death, of non-being. Rilke is on that cusp of modernity that’s still willing to let immortals exist, but, as the enlightenment-era deists claimed earlier, the gods can’t hear us.

Then who can we turn to?

Not angels, not men;
and already the knowing animals
guess we don’t feel truly at home
in the interpreted world.

Can we turn to a lover? Are lovers not a great example of giving strength to each other? Rilke doesn’t trust romantic love that way:

. . . Is it easier for lovers? Alas,
with each other they only conceal their fate.

Even the consolations of nature don’t entirely suffice -- not the night, nor the wind that “gnaws at our faces.” Ultimately Rilke settles for music, though some doubt remains:

Is the old tale in vain
that tells how music began
in the mourning for Linos
piercing the arid numbness,
and, in that stunned space
where an almost godlike youth
suddenly ceased to exist,
made the emptiness vibrate in ways
that charm us, comfort and help?

The Greek poets would have said, “a godlike youth,” without the qualifier. But modernity doesn’t dare reach for such certainty. And that’s perhaps why only music, not needing words, can still soar. 

Why do so many poems dance the dance of death? And why are dark poems [usually] more interesting and powerful? How do we account for the pervasive darkness of poetry -- not just in great poetry, and certainly not just the famous elegies, but 90% or more of poetry in general. When Billy Collins said, “poetry is an unending funeral,” we all nodded in agreement. That poetry deals with death and loss is a truism; even love poetry tends to have mortality as a hidden theme. Why? I once wrote an essay about it, but I don’t remember if I posted it.

How come I don’t remember? Well, adrenaline greatly helps us remember things, and there must not have been enough adrenaline in me at the time . . .  I’m no longer the high-adrenaline babe I used to be (a long sigh here, both of relief and sadness). And look, I inserted “usually” into the second sentence of the preceding paragraph -- a sign of intellectual caution, of the age of mind rather than the age of vitality, as Milosz aptly labeled the two phases in almost (“almost”!) every writer’s creativity.


I’m reading Rick Hanson’s Buddha’s Brain. This morning I was reading about how the brain is wired for "bad news" – the so-called "negativity bias." Every paragraph held my interest. The evidence was compelling: yes, of course it’s a hard-wired neural bias. Then, after making us see how we are compelled to remember the bad, the dark, and above all the scary, Hanson turns to the need for positive experiences and emotions. It's a rather boring chapter, and I made this discovery: positive experiences are soon forgotten because they tend to be boring, e.g. a trip to the zoo when everything went smoothly, no one fell into the moat separating the visitors from the lions, and the only controversy was whether to have lunch now or later.

If Adam Zagajewski had turned out to be genial and pleasant, chit-chatting with me about the weather or reminiscing about the problem Milosz had with deer grazing in his garden in Berkeley, how much would I remember about the Vermont experience? The badness was unpleasant while I was there and before it all fell together when I read about Asperger’s Syndrome. Now, with more understanding and the emotional discomfort long over, I find those memories interesting and also quite funny: a funny funeral, if you will. His bursts of narcissistic rage were priceless, as was his low tolerance for upstarts like the the ones gathered at the Vermont Studio Center who dared call themselves poets. And the impressive amount of talent, skill, and serious dedication displayed by at least half of those poets -- would I have noticed it as acutely if not for the counterpoint of Zagajewski’s attitude: “I and I alone am a real poet in this place”?

Also, in a different realm, would I have noticed how friendly Americans are in general if not for the contrast? Would I have found my fellow poets, writers, and visual artists so downright adorable? Perfect strangers smiling at me -- would I have even noticed in a low-adrenaline state?


To return to the book and the issue of how interesting and memorable dark experiences are. True, some mainly positive experiences can be interesting, but that’s because there is some tension mixed in: paradise, yes, but with the threat of loss. Falling in love is interesting. I find the very expression: to FALL in love -- unique, I think, to the English language -- to be psychologically brilliant. Likewise, novelty alone produces some tension as the brain is roused up and wildly scanning this new environment to make sure there is no danger to survival. Adrenaline, a flight or fight hormone, makes us remember things. Let me repeat this with more emphasis because it’s so important: ADRENALINE MAKES US REMEMBER THINGS. It's a great aid to memory formation. If you block adrenaline receptors, you block the memory. That’s how we (and other animals) evolved: adrenaline made us remember what leads to danger and what favors survival.

I found Terrence Malick’s 2011 movie, The Tree of Life, boring beyond belief because it has long “happy” sequences of a toddler doing toddler-type things, and then young boys doing young-boy things such as kicking a can etc -- hence the idea that it should be retitled “A Boy’s Life.” The father is authoritarian, needing to be the boss at any price, and that creates some tension, but the tension is not dramatic enough. The mother is just being a loving mother, without a single negative moment. The mother is a saint. There are some arguments with her husband, but we can't hear the words – we just assume she's defending the boys, so you can't blame her. And all ends well -- we are in heaven, which looks just like a California beach at sunset.

As movies go, The Tree of Life is an exception. I think movies in particular cater to our inborn negativity bias by presenting conflict and the drama around it. Any good story has the protagonist dealing with something bad. Even a Christmas movie such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” has plenty of darkness, including an attempted suicide! That’s the standard Hollywood technique: don’t make it all good or all bad, but create interest by mixing the two. Of course novels work the same way -- even pulp romances have the heroine nearly lose her purity.

The need for good-bad interweave also explains why happy-happy poems don’t really work, since even a poem needs some dramatic tension -- or call it A SHOT OF ADRENALINE. That’s why we can re-read Ancient Mariner, but who ever wants to re-read Wordsworth’s Prelude? Yes, even a poem has to have dramatic tension to hold our attention. As Zagajewski (a brilliant man who simply happens to have Asperger’s) said, “Poems are short tragedies.”

I’m thinking of a friend’s statement, “When you’re traveling, even the bad is good.” For a writer, the bad is especially good, a goldmine of material. If someone says, “My mother was a typical housewife,” who wants to hear about it? (This never stopped a certain woman whose name I blessedly forget from writing a four-section poem on the theme: Father liked mother’s apple pie best”?) But if someone says, “My mother was a schizophrenic,” or “On the way to a posh business party, I saw my mother searching for food in a dumpster,” you bet everyone's interested. The memoir becomes a best-seller. It doesn't have to be this extreme, but you get my drift.

Give me a good dark poem anytime. Anne Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband is a work of genius from that perspective: funny in a very dark, brilliant way. Tears turned to diamonds. I loved it on my first reading. Now that I’m re-reading it, I love it even more. I’m awed by Carson’s genius, and I don’t use the word “genius” lightly. I reserve it for poets like Emily Dickinson.

I don’t mean to overstate the case for darkness. Some of my favorite music is an example of a positive experience that never bores me, and there are times I’d rather have the harmonies or Mozart than Beethoven’s drama. The beauty of nature doesn’t bore me, e.g. the Eastern Sierra or the Pacific Ocean. True, those are experiences of the sublime, and there is a threatening aspect to the sublime. In Rilke’s words, “beauty is but the beginning of terror, and we adore it so because it serenely disdains to destroy us.” But I don’t have to fall into the cascades at Whitney Portal in order to appreciate their beauty. The energy, the rush? Yes, but I also love looking at a calm lake.

It maybe true that it’s the outbreaks of the unpredictable and the threatening that stay in memory, the bear at the campground more so than another grand panorama, but I never saw a panorama I didn’t like. Animals don’t bore me. The only thing that makes me more happy than a kitten is two kittens. But some other experiences that are supposed to be positive – after a while I just go numb.

True, poetry readings that carry on and on, one poem darker than another, also make me numb. Ideally, we need an interweave: let the darkness deliver a jolt, a shot of adrenaline, rather than be a constant drizzle. Still, life can have long periods of constant drizzle, not to mention a vehement storm now and then. You have to admire poets for their honesty. They know better than to deliver sunshine, sunshine, sunshine.

What’s the point of poetry? It’s been said that we tell ourselves stories in order to live. I hold to the unpopular view that poetry too needs a thread of narrative on which to string its images; it needs both light and shadow to create dramatic tension. A poem is often a micro-narrative, a “short tragedy.” We are so strangely wired that we seem to need to deal with the bad news along with the good news. Our survival depends on it. And poetry is one way of grappling with the bad news. It is a safe container for it since the beauty of language is a victory, however slight, over the darkness. Those who love poetry do not mind the darkness.  


In any case, the darkness can’t be avoided if we want to live to the fullest:

You see that I want much.
Perhaps I want it all:
the darkness of every infinite instant,
the trembling light of every ascent.

~ Rilke, The Book of Hours

Rilke was familiar with Nietzsche (Lou Andreas-Salomé probably made sure of that), and Nietzsche’s command to “live dangerously.” Nietzsche, who also named alcohol and Christianity as “the two great European narcotics,” deemed it cowardice to try to avoid the distress that goes with any serious work toward an accomplishment. The hardship and darkness had to accepted and endured.

Nietzsche: The secret of harvesting from experience the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment of it is -- to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius!

True, some people take more risks while others timidly keep to the well-trodden path. But it seems to me that living is inherently “dangerous”: if you live long enough, the odds are that you will experience a personal tragedy and/or go through one or more periods of great suffering. I don’t know a single person who is an exception.

Creative people are in fact often given as an example of having been molded by a great deal of suffering. They often have to overcome an early trauma. “Overcome” is perhaps an overly optimistic term; in some ways, that trauma is always with them. When asked what a writer needs most, Hemingway famously replied, “An unhappy childhood.” And creative work itself, though a source of joy, also creates tension and frustration, and often the feeling of being a total failure. The light of a dream that an artist carries in her ascent is indeed like a trembling candle flame.


At the same time, we need to take care not to embrace the cult of suffering. There is much to be said for the Daoist principle of wu-wei: “not straining.” For all that has been said about the ratio of inspiration to perspiration, too much deliberate effort can interfere with inspiration. One of the most important principles of creative work is not to sweat too much. When an impasse develops, it’s best to walk away from the work. The unconscious will keep working on the problem, producing a solution unexpectedly and often at a notoriously inconvenient time, as when you are in the shower. That’s tough: you end the shower quickly and start scribbling. When the muse knocks, you open. Otherwise the muse will cease to visit.


But it won’t do to say that poetry is dark, the darkest of all literary genres. Great poetry tends to affirm life in spite the inevitable fate, in spite of mortality. Though we know that love brings pain and not just joy -- “that which is your greatest joy will also be your greatest grief” -- and even though we know what awaits us -- we’ve seen the cemeteries -- just to live is transcendent. As Rilke says in the Seventh Elegy: “to have been here even once is beyond words.” 

Again and again, though we know the landscape of love

and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names,

and the frightening silent abyss into which the others

fall: again and again the two of us walk out together

under the ancient trees, lie down again and again

among the flowers, face to face with the sky.

~ Rilke, tr. Stephen Mitchell


  1. Gosh, I hardly know where to begin. I just discovered your blog this month and am so grateful I can actually read it, as I find I cannot and do not read blogs, generally, as there is too much to read and re-read that truly feeds my need for literary writing, which is not what one finds, typically, in blogs. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon your blog to find it so well written, so full of literature, and your poetry, and so much more. Literature! I often fear its death in contemporary culture.
    I want to thank you for your intelligent effort, for all your love and passion for literature, poetry, and philosophy. Thank you, thank you, what a gift.
    Oh, and I also admire your critical faculty. I agree with you about Ann Carson, her genius, and especially the work you referenced. It made me go to my shelf and pull it down to read it yet again.
    We have to be careful about what is deemed positive and negative in contemporary culture, the 'feel good all the time' culture. For what is deemed 'dark' is usually not, and what is deemed 'light' is often an attempt to hide adversity and has a false if not dangerous sense of denial in it. I have a very hard time with the phrase of late 'it's all good'...where the heck did that come from? And is 'it' always all good? What does it mean? And why 'good', as if there is a
    'bad'? To my mind, it is such a lazy phrase, the continual dualism of black/white, either/or thinking simplifying the complexity of life to which the greatest poets and writers refer. In Taoism, there simply is no black without white, no storm without the calm and so on. Holding and living the tensions is much more interesting than giving into positive/negative thinking etc.
    I have not read Rick Hansen, but have heard him speak, and his reference to negative and positive experiences can be helpful to someone who dwells on the negative...but then here I am already in my own dualism with language. I just think caution is necessary in this time of New Age (including Western Buddhism) modalities. Being in love with 'what is' is far more exciting than falling into categorical thinking of good/bad etc. And leads, I feel, to creativity.
    I have had MS for nearly 15 years. Some would see this as a 'death' sentence, but I have never seen it as such, or as bad, or negative, only as a new limitation and an opportunity to 'die into life', again, to rebirth, and create new life, which is always the gold waiting for us beneath adversity.
    Anyway, such a rich topic for discussion. Thank you.

  2. Thank you, Therese, for this heart-warming response. Most comments I get are spam (sometimes in Chinese!), and I have the chore of deleting those.

    Yes, the good and the bad are so intertwined that we simply have to “love what is.” Rilke would agree. Just to be here is glorious, he said. His great love, Lou Andreas-Salomé, would sometimes reply to Freud, whose pessimism was legendary, with “But isn’t life magnificent?” It’s certainly fascinating and unpredictable, always changing. And I personally find it a privilege to be living in “interesting times.” I’m exhilarated by the enormous cultural change I’ve witnessed since coming to the US. And this includes a rebellion against the black-and-white dualism. We (the West) are finally learning about that everything is related to everything else.

    I think Carson’s greatest work is the Glass Essay. But it also showed me that something is missing in Carson. When she quotes the poetry of Emily Brontë in “Glass,” I experience enchantment. The reason is music. Alas, so few modern poets give us the gift of music -- and I’m not equating music with rhyme. It’s much more mysterious than that.

    I congratulate you on having such a positive attitude about your MS. Health happens to be a strong interest of mine, and neural health in particular. I imagine you are familiar with the finding that MS tends to remit during pregnancy, and the hormones involved. I’ll say no more, except to thank you again for commenting.

  3. Hi Oriana,

    I now have several unread Carson works on hold at the library. So thanks for the reminder. Also wanted to mention another, I feel, contemporary poetic genius, and that is Jorie Graham. I find her very much akin to Rilke.

    'Just to be here', as Rilke would say, and I have to agree. I have never understood the Christian notion of 'redemption' or 'heaven' or being 'saved' (was raised Catholic, though, so it took me some time to undo that mess), because I have felt, saved from what? redeemed from what? Namely, why isn't this life enough? Why the need for heaven when it is right here on earth?

    I love the story of Rilke, Salome, and Ree, and also Rilke's relationships with painters, like Paula Modersohn-Becker, the sculptor Rodin and then to Cezanne (Letters to Cezanne, a must read if you have not read them...I am a painter), and of course, his wife, Clara, who was a sculptor. The way in which the plastic arts influenced and formed his work is unique in the history of letters.

    Lastly, I feel my relation to my body as it is, is more than a positive attitude (but I thank you for saying it) because I am in relationship to this condition as to glean what it is here to teach me, and I cannot resent a great teacher. And I did know this about remittance in pregnancy for women with MS. I have done much research over the last fourteen years living with this condition, and do not take the drugs (personal choice, and not saying, for any readers out there, that this is the 'right' or 'best' way for anyone other than myself).

    And I need to say once again, thank you for your insights and passion for the arts and letters, how refreshing! Come read your work in Santa Fe!

    Therese Wolfe

  4. I wonder about the essence of Rilke’s magic that now and then manifests itself in his letters as well. So suddenly he springs into ecstasy and greatness. It survives translation, but not paraphrase. The yearning has to be retained. Do you know the 15th sonnet to Orpheus, II:

    O fountain mouth, mouth that can reply
    so inexhaustibly to all who ask
    with one pure single saying. A marble mask
    before the water’s flowing face. And beyond,

    the coming of the aqueducts. (etc)

    So much is condensed into so few words. Dickinson was another one, in a different key.

    And both of them wrote extraordinary letters that seem a continuation of their poetry. Thanks for your recommendation of Letters to Cezanne -- Rilke is indeed inexhaustible.

    Jorie Graham -- I worship her first three books, especially Erosion.

    And certain poems by Louise Glück, though she sounds better in Italian:

    Dal centro della mia vita
    venne una grande fontana

    The idea of redemption starts with the myth of the Fall, which has done us (and women in particular) so much harm. Religion has to denigrate human nature to create the need for a savior. It has to define a human being as a sinner. I’ve noticed that religion appeals especially to those who have a void in their lives -- no creative or otherwise emotionally fulfilling work.

    I left the church at 14, deciding that Christianity was just another mythology -- though “deciding” may not be the right word. There is a long emotional and intellectual preparation for that act of courage.

    Illness can definitely be a teacher; any adversity can. But too much suffering can be destructive; there comes a time for a different venue of growth. I’m interested in physiology because the mental and the physical are inextricable.

    For me there’s an excitement when I seem to be “on the track” of something important, not yet given its full due, e.g. sex hormones and practically everything, including ms. For men, not surprisingly, it’s testosterone that both helps prevents autoimmune illness and can reduce symptoms. For women, pregnancy levels of progesterone can do astonishing things, e.g. a pregnant woman can survive adrenal failure. The role of this profoundly neuroprotective hormone in myelination is being investigated at a deadly slow pace (not enough profit for Big Pharma). But estrogens (as a family) certainly play a role, inducing androgen receptors. Oh well, that’s another huge topic.

  5. Ah, I made an error...'Letters ON Cezanne' not TO...sorry about that. Thank you for the poems...and I agree that Rilke is inexhaustible and a constant revelation. Like Emily, the poems continue to reveal themselves over endless readings. I loved reading Gluck in the Italian (I lived in Italy for five years); am not so familiar with her poetry.

    Am not sure I know what you mean by 'too much suffering can be destructive'? Not sure either about the phase 'there comes a time for a different venue of growth' only because most people do not 'choose' adversity; it arrives on its own timing. Certainly there are all kinds of venues for growth, some chosen, others not.
    I agree absolutely that the physical and the mental are inextricable, body and mind not separate. And all of what you suggest with MS is a huge topic! I am open to what you know.

    The small but profound book of letters are ones Rilke wrote to his wife when in Paris in 1907, a year after Cezanne's death, where they were exhibiting the master's paintings. When Rilke began going daily to look at them, Cezanne became a great influence on his work. Thank the gods for Clara, who saved the letters and had them published after his death. I'll leave you with this fragment (and will be back!)

    "After all, works of art are always the result of one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, to where no one can go any further. The further one goes, the more private, the more personal, the more singular an experience becomes, and the thing one is making is, finally, the necessary, irrepressible, and, as nearly as possible, definitive utterance of his singularity....Therein lies the enormous aid the work of art brings to the life of the one who must make it,---that it is his epitome; the knot in the rosary at which his life says a prayer, the ever-returning proof to himself of his unity and genuineness, which presents itself only to him while appearing anonymous to the outside, nameless, as mere neccessity, as reality, as existence---.
    So surely we have no choice but to test and try ourselves against the utmost, but probably, we are also constrained to keep silence regarding it, to avoid sharing it, parting with it in communication before it has entered the work of art: for the utmost represents nothing other than that singularity in us, which no one would or even should understand, and which must enter into the work as such, as our personal madness, so to speak, in order to find its justification in the work and show the law in it, like an inborn design that is invisible until it emerges in the transparency of the artist."

    ~Letters on Cezanne

  6. Thank you in particular for the quotation from the Letters on Cezanne. Rilke is so good on art as ripening, and how we must trust the process.

    I need to keep this short, since I’m incubating another blog post, on Borges, and wish to sink into it more completely.

    This may be of use:

    But finding the right doctor is a huge obstacle for most. I’ve lucked out. And I’ve worked myself up to large doses, especially progesterone. But that’s a long and complex story, and it’s not MS, so perhaps I’m out of order saying anything.

  7. ps. in comments I don't have the capacity to make a link work -- but you know how to copy and paste.

    I hope you'll visit the Borges post when it's ready.

  8. I love what you say: that Rilke is so good on 'art as ripening'. So true.

    Thank you, Oriana, for the link, it's very helpful and you have not said too much, at all. I am open and remain so because there is always something to be learned about this condition...I can't read and know it all! So, I am grateful for your feedback.
    I agree with finding the right doctor, which is why I don't have one. I have been to only four neurologists over the last 14 yrs, and only when really necessary for varied reasons. I don't keep track of 'lesions' and all that. I will check into progesterone, to be sure.

    AND of course I will read your new post on Borges; I am a regular visitor now and am back reading your other posts still. BTW, I loved the post on Tarkovsky (I own all his films), and 'A Dangerous Method'...I walked out of the film after about fifteen minutes.
    I remember reading some of Rilke's letters to Salome when she was advising psychoanalysis to him, and his refusal to go because he as much said he could not risk his art, did not want to disrobe, basically, the mystery, that deconstructing his inner self was a threat to his art (I'm paraphrasing terribly, but you know this about him, I'm sure).

    Anyway, can't wait for the Borges post.

  9. Rilke understood creativity as trauma-driven -- although you can “run out of trauma.” My creative output diminished greatly after I decided not to be depressed -- I experienced a paradigm shift and could no longer be depressed at will (I have several posts about it). A friend said, “Depression strokes the feathers of the Muse.” That’s a lovely image, but what’s closer to the truth is that it keeps the wounds open. And a time came that I wanted to move on, and you could say lost interest in those wounds, in being the drama queen.

    But also because I wrote so much about the loss of homeland, I experienced what typically happens: you run out of nostalgia. And I’ve pretty much covered my other central themes too. Only prose turned out to be inexhaustible.

    I haven’t dealt with neurologists, but endocrinologists are the pits. They don’t seem to know a thing about the whole symphony of hormones, how thyroid (T3) and testosterone and cortisol work together to regulate energy production, or that estrogens are a whole family and some metabolites are fabulous antioxidants, and how you shouldn’t use just a single hormone, disrupting the complex balance. Progesterone is probably of central importance, a very healing hormone, and androgens are well known to be immunosuppressive: progesterone is what makes pregnancy possible. But ideally progesterone needs the rest of the symphony too. (It’s safe -- just won’t be as effective by itself; it’s an androgen, and the androgen: estrogen ratio is the key. And let’s not forget DHEA and pregnenolone either, or cortisol for which the best external source is oral hydrocortisone -- but -- one step at a time.)

    My uncle was a gynecologist and for a while he was the official gynecologist to a convent of nuns. I remember hearing this in my early teens. I was surprised that nuns even needed a gynecologist . . . He was shocked at the rate of abnormalities and disorders, including breast cancer. Now I understand it: not going through pregnancies -- a hyper-hormonal state, an ocean of progesterone but not only -- really takes its toll. Even simply not having sex is not good for a woman. All kinds of surprises . . .

  10. PPS: Therese: I'm in the process of completing the next post, and it will not be a Borges post the way I initially thought. It will end with a poem by Borges, but the main thrust will be "beyond theism." That's part of the adventure of writing: I plan a post one way, but something else calls to me and I must obey.

  11. HI!

    Been looking for the new post without too much expectation on the topic because I know how great it will be regardless. I look forward to your thoughts on 'beyond theism'..and in the meantime, I've been browsing around on your other posts. I just cannot tell you enough how satisfying it is to read your posts. It's as if I have a home go to when I need a break from my own work; a home near the hearth with a friend, to read truly important things.

    Thank you so much for the link you sent on hormones. The breadth of your knowledge is so refreshing as to be dizzying, most especially your passion for, your love of writing. It is so obvious the care with which you study and synthesize.

    Perhaps Rilke did understand creativity as trauma-driven...but to be able to mold and form his genius around that understanding is what makes Rilke, Rilke. The mysterious daemonic need of genius is more compelling to me than a psychological explanation of it. He was right to refuse Salome. To know that this perhaps was a source of his creative genius (trauma, melancholy, depression) is one thing, to stick to it without wanting, feeling the need to fix it, is another. I am not suggesting that we all need to stay depressed etc for creativity, but Rilke perhaps (all speculation) must have known the danger to his own genius with psychoanalysis. I can't help think of Van Gogh, who was the sanest man and artist, and yet not seen as such by so many. His refusals, I believe, were also his genius protecting itself so he could do what he needed to do, which we little still understand.

    Snow today in NM, lightly falling, finally, but at least it's something. Lots of Acorn Woodpeckers.


  12. In the worst-case scenario, it’s awful to imagine Rilke ceasing to write poetry and turning to essays full of Freudian jargon. But he always put poetry first, and I too admire him for not wanting to take the risk.

    Envy you the snow and the woodpeckers. We’ve had our stingy thimbleful of rain, but the morning air smells wonderful.

    My life has been a “garden of forking paths”, and at one point I took a strange detour into endocrinology and (just slightly) the neuroendoctrine disorders. Slightly, but enough to make the question the insanity of medicine. It’s been known for decades that hormones play a huge role in autoimmune disease, but that knowledge has not been put to use. Progesterone, the safest hormone there is? No, we can’t give women progesterone, that’s not the standard protocol, and anyway no one could get rich off that treatment . . .

    (I favor not a single hormone, but several in proper ratios. And we must bear in mind that pregnancy is hyper-hormonal state, while immune disorders are hypo-hormonal.)

    Hope to finish the new blog today. And maybe we’ll get another thimbleful of rain.

  13. Hormones: I am currently studying insulin, ghrelin and leptin because I am writing a memoir on the twelve years it took me to eradicate sugar, in all its forms, from my diet. That journey began when I was diagnosed and started to scrutinize my diet.
    This includes the natural sugars, like honey, etc, except for one granny smith apple a day and sometimes a few berries in my smoothie. I was totally addicted to sugar, like most everyone, it's just that admit it. It was a long, arduous eating a nutrient dense diet and not missing that sweet stuff at all. I can actually taste real food.

    Of course we all differ, but insulin resistance is real and about 40% of 'normal' people have metabolic syndrome and don't know it. So there is one pediatric endocrinologist who is doing his part fighting obesity by looking at the hormones that contribute to it....Dr. Robert Lustig, UCSF. Highly recommend his youtube presentation 'The Bitter Truth' (4 million hits) if you have not already seen it. He's funny, too.

    Will be looking for the new post!
    (Snow gone, barely hit the ground).

    A 'garden of forking paths'....from?

  14. Ah, Borges, of course! I'm slow. Looked it up and I don't know his work at all really, but did make a charcoal drawing of him once, so know his face well.

  15. Greetings, Therese,

    By now you’ve probably discovered the new blog, Freud and Borges, and guessed that The Garden of Forking Paths probably refers to something written by Borges. Aside from a few favorite stories, I actually prefer the poems. I’m in the minority, I know, but his best poems strike as deeper than his “fictions.”

    I totally agree with Dr. Lustig. I’ve excluded sugar from my diet a long time ago. Even worse, something like apple juice -- we know that fructose is a lot more harmful than glucose.

    Processed food in general is a horror story.

    Funny, I too limit myself to one granny smith apple a day. Once in a great while, I'll have one and a half. Tart northern fruit isn't anywhere as harmful.

    I hope for your comments on Freud and Borges.