Sunday, March 30, 2014



It’s my waiting that creates you.
The tapestry I weave,
unraveling you in dreams,
is your secret map.

How you try
to read over my shoulder!
You are too close,
thinking you are too far.

Here’s a seaweed-dripping cave
and a sea-nymph’s bribe:
immortality, but nothing else
will ever happen in your life –

and you pick mortality,
that beautiful blood flower –
while above the ledge of bones,
the Sirens unriddle all.

At the cold mouth of the earth,
the dead greet you, arms of mist –
like an echo of the future
in their shroud of finished past.

Days slide off the loom of hours.
The moon sets, mottled with regrets
like a lamp with islands of dead moths.
Again you think of home.

Wreathed with horizons,
you want me
to stroke your neck,
stiff from looking ahead;

weary of women
opening like shores,
you want my body to lead
into the body of silence.

You beg to know
how the story ends –
and it is I
who tie you to the mast.

Oriana © 2014



What Penelope weaves in Homer is a shroud for the father of Odysseus. To me, that part always seemed unsatisfying. A shroud, yes, but it should be a shroud for Odysseus himself, and the weaving the story of his life? Weaving was often a metaphor for fate (and what is fate if not god stripped of personality? an “overmind” that designs your life, but couldn’t care less if you suffer or rejoice?)

Scholars suggest that Penelope was originally a fate-weaving goddess (as was Circe).  Assuming that there is such a thing as a personal CEO in charge of the sense of self and continuity of one’s life story, could the archaic Penelope be the Jungian “Self”? Spelled with the capital letter, the Self, like Being (not to be confused with being), has been defined in so many ways that Penelope the fate-weaving goddess, before she was demoted to Ideal Wife, could very well be the Self, the central organizer of memories and creator of a person’s sense of “this is what I am, this is what I stand for.”

Some Jungians have suggested that Jung wanted to say not Self, but God, an infinite consciousness (hence one of the definitions of Self as “the image of god within man), but was too cowardly to do so. After all, he wanted to be recognized as a scientist. And besides, Jung was always changing the definitions of his concepts. He may not have consciously recognized the Buddhist principle that there is no permanent self but rather a constant flow: each moment we are “born again” and vanish again into the emerging new now, but he behaved in a fluid, fluent way that points to a self (or selves — a person can have several) as a process.

I once mentioned Jung on Facebook. The response was “Jung? LOL!” Nevertheless, I find some Jungian cognitive gropings to be of value, at least in terms of leading to more discussion. “Life’s nonsense pierces us with strange relation,” Wallace Stevens observed — a statement that reminds me of Jung’s faith (some would say dogma) that nothing that happens is just an accident. “There are no accidents.” If so, then everything is connected with everything else — a perfectly acceptable idea that doesn’t violate our modern worldview. Jung’s theology of the Self tried to be the theory of everything. Perhaps we can find something of interest while exploring that black hole that seems to devour all definitions except that of flow: you can’t step into the same self twice. The self is a river that keeps on flowing.

Some think of the self (it seems rather silly to capitalize it; besides, in German all nouns are capitalized) in terms of memory. It’s that unreliable witness, memory, that gives us a sense of continuity. Odysseus constantly reinvented himself according to the listener, but a certain core of experience remained: adventures at sea. Lots of travel. A longing for home.


But if memory is where we live, we must remember that memory evolves, a reconstruction involving things that never happened. People are known to steal from their other people’s stories, without realizing it. As we change over time, our memory changes; one can’t step into the same self twice. Furthermore, memory is contaminated by language, the explainer and confabulator.

Still, Jung’s definitions are so vague that we can stretch “self” to be an ongoing process that marries unconscious processing to consciousness. It’s a neural process, of course. Jung himself stated that the psychology of the future will be neither Jungian nor Freudian, but will stem primarily from brain research. At this point neuroscience recognizes the subjective sense of a continuous self that results from the activation of certain brain regions (“I sing the body electric”), but the whole question of consciousness remains murky. Some say we will never understand consciousness by using consciousness — the brain is just too complex to understand itself.

All we can say is that no convincing answers will come from either philosophy or theology (by the way, Freud used the word “Soul” — die Seele — all the time; Jung, embraced by New Age followers, reminded us of the Cosmic Soul, Anima Mundi). Ah, the soul! A lovely concept, formless, naked, totally elusive — still, a noun rather than a verb. Still, who doesn’t love Emperor Hadrian’s Animula, vagula, blandula? So we turn either poetry or religion for a “momentary stay against confusion” — illusory as it may be. 

bronze head of Emperor Hadrian, found in the Thames, now at the British Museum

We must patiently (Penelope again!) wait for the researchers to do their weaving and unweaving. Hallucinogenic drugs are being studied again, albeit on a small scale. But a lot of what we know about brain function comes from study of the impact of brain injuries — sadly, warfare and accidents can be counted on to produce much material. Brain diseases are another unfortunate source of clues. An Alzheimer’s victim living in an eternal now, knowing nothing of his or her former self; a schizophrenic who thinks he’s Jesus; a veteran whose brain injury makes him a stranger to his family — these damaged individuals make the need for brain research all the more urgent.

The brain! All this bewildering buzzing activity, only to be buried in the mud. ~ Virginia Woolf


Neuroscience also suggests that there is no single self, much less Self, but rather several selves (seen as patterns of activity), each with different needs and priorities. The Jungians like to think of “subpersonalities” as musicians, and the Self as an orchestra conductor. This immediately brings to my mind a number of distinguished silver-haired conductors.

But outside of the Jungian circles, the multiple selves, or competing neural networks, are seen more as squabbling committee members — or even as unruly children. As a Facebook friend wrote, those are not mature adult selves, but screaming two-year-olds; let’s try to construct a meta-self to bring them to order.

Kelly McGonigal explains multiple selves as follows:

We are a collection of selves that have different agendas, different personalities, different preferences, different priorities, and we shift back and forth among these different selves. You invoke a certain version of yourself through the quality of your attention.

There are these collections of neural networks that represent different aspects of the self. I think it's so fascinating to think that the self is a process—all these different processes we are good at make up the self we think we are. The mind is always generating, composing, or constructing music, let's say, like an ongoing symphony with themes that come into play; sometimes it's the same old themes that repeat, but the music keeps evolving in a new way. This generative ongoing process that in a way is always the same, yet also always new.

“No self” does not mean that there is nothing, rather everything is always changing. It isn't so much a denial, but to believe that some part of you is unchangeable or fixed would be particularly discouraged from a Buddhist point of view. I like that idea, and it's something you can work with scientifically. It's consistent with neuroplasticity and epigenetics: the idea that everything that happens to you influences what gets expressed.


Narrative psychology is a school of thought of obvious interest to any writer. Writers realize how a narrative keeps changing as the creative process unfolds. It turns out that we are all “authors” when it comes to our life story. We construct that story to try to get at pattern and meaning, at who we are and what our life has been about. A narrative psychologist helps the client overcome the rigid vision that only one story could be written about the person’s life. The therapist reveals other perspectives, and richer, more complex stories. Even having the client write in the third rather than first person tends to change the tone of the story toward more compassion.

Nietzsche’s “There is no truth, only perspectives” could be changed here to “There is no self, only different plots.” It’s not what happened, but what we remember and how we choose to tell the story. The telling evolves anyway; the therapist tries to nudge this evolution toward a story that benefits the client.


I remember my bitter disappointment when I began to read books on Jungian psychology. I liked the valuing of the introvert dimension and attention to the second half of life. What disappointed me was the idea of “individuation” and the “Self,” as I first understood it (before I knew that late in life Jung was deeply influenced by the Eastern tradition). I felt I was “individuated” enough — perhaps even excessively individuated. What I craved was less self and a greater sense of connection with others. I wanted community, belonging.

At the same time, my most common recurrent dream was of being in a house or a large apartment where I was about to move in, along with a congenial family. I liked those people and their well-behaved children. I liked the beautiful dining room that promised pleasant meals together and family warmth. But as I kept on exploring the new house or apartment, to my joy I’d find a room somewhere to the side, isolated, apart, a room I’d instantly claim as my own private space. Usually, just before waking, I’d encounter a threat to my exclusive possession of this special room, and felt I'd do anything to keep it.

So I wanted — and still want — both a great deal of quiet solitude and just the amount of emotional and social connection that didn’t intrude on my privacy. I wanted the best conditions for creative work without becoming a recluse.

Since I felt so keenly the isolation of the self, I became fascinated with the Buddhist idea that there was no such thing. The separate, permanent self was a delusion. As I've already remarked, you can’t step into the same self twice. I loved it.

I’ve also always wondered about god’s reply to Moses: “I am who I am” (Sum qui sum — so compact in Latin). Neuroscience suggests that perhaps the answer anyone could give is “I'm becoming who I'm becoming.” I think that constant becoming fits with the Buddhist teachings. It’s the flow. 


By the way, for the sake of precision, let me quote something on no-self by the Buddhist author, psychologist and evolutionary biologist David Borash:

“Anatman (“not-self”), for example, means that no one has an internal self that is distinct and separate from the rest of the world. Similarly in ecology, organisms and environments are inextricably inter-connected. Also, Anitya (“impermanence”) refers to the fact that all things are temporary and eventually return to the non-living world. Anitya has parallels with evolution, in that not only is every individual organism’s time on earth temporary but also organisms ebb and flow across time.”

As for any predestined “meaning of life,” let me quote Borash again:

“Both Buddhism and biology (and also existentialism) teach that there is no inherent meaning to life. We simply are, and that “we” or “I” or “you” or “he” or “she” is merely a temporary aggregation of matter and energy, destined (or doomed) to collapse back into the stuff of the world. Therefore, if we want to make our lives meaningful, we should not look to some outside deity, but rather to our own actions. In the final chapter, I develop what I call “existential biobuddhism,” which adds existentialism to the convergence of biology and Buddhism, emphasizing that there is no such thing as “the meaning of life” outside of how we mindfully decide to live.”


The essence of heroism is self-trust. ~ Emerson

I was also becoming more and more familiar with the experience of the creative process. There was no denying that the best, most “inspired” writing came from the unconscious. You only needed to “seed” the process — maybe write just one sentence or one line of a poem. Then what worked best for me was to walk away from the project and engage in some mechanical activity like sewing or housework. Unbidden, the words would come.

I also came to see that a lot of what emerged this way wasn’t really anything I could call “original.” Much of it was collective knowledge: something I’d read or heard or witnessed. I wasn’t a strictly separate self: my mentality drew heavily on the collective psyche.

I don’t mean to set up an unbridgeable gulf between Jung’s “Self” and Buddha’s “No-Self.” Impatient reader, I hear you complain that I misunderstand what Jung meant by the Self. The definition that makes most sense to me is that the Self is the integrated psyche, including both the personal and the collective unconscious. That’s fine with me as long as we understand that we are talking not about a “thing,” but about an ever-evolving activity — multiple neural activities taking place simultaneously, changing over time.

The experience of the creative process taught me to trust the unconscious, to “go with the flow.” In poetry, that flow has often meant verbal music. The sound of the words led me.


the first rule of survival:
When lost, follow the music.
I walked in a great city
as in a rain of April light,

the streets and squares
dissolving into glass and gleam.
I walked along the riverbank,
my compass the idea

that if I follow the music,
I will remember the sea.
Springtime, the city in torn veils,
train whistles thin

harmonicas of mist,
I nudged the larval chestnut leaves,
carved eyelids of a chrysalis.
From sticky lips of lilacs

I sipped a fugue of rainbows.
I squandered splendors.
How could I have known
where I was going?

Only the music knew.
Across cloud-heavy continents,
under the fog
-unraveled bridges,

the river waits,
and I begin to flow.

~ Oriana © 2014


I think I’m really not interested in the quest for the self anymore. Oh, I suppose everyone continues to be interested in the quest for the self, but what you feel when you’re older, I think, is that you really must make the self. It’s absolutely useless to look for it, you won’t find it, but it’s possible in some sense to make it. I don’t mean in the sense of making a mask, a Yeatsian mask. But you finally begin in some sense to make and to choose the self you want. ~ Mary McCarthy, The Art of Fiction No. 27

In youth we simply don't have enough control over our life -- we are too tossed by the hunger to be loved and valued. We are told to conceal that hunger because no one likes a needy person. As soon as we drop wanting anything from someone else we stop suffering — but we don’t yet know that principle. We don’t have enough money — youth is generally the time of lowest earnings. We are too insecure, not yet having any accomplishments to point to. What a privilege, to be able to grow older and wiser.

Still, let’s try to evaluate if Mary McCarthy is right. We can certainly increase valuable skills, and the increased self-confidence will create an “upward spiral” of benefits. Craftsmen are generally emotionally strong: they know they are good at something, and thus valued (not least by themselves) for something. And personality traits can be broken down to skills — or lack of them. Some people have learned to how to control anger, and some haven’t. Some are good at soothing themselves and staying cool in times of distress; others panic.

After I made the decision not to be depressed, I was so astonished by the results that I started casting around for what else I could decide that would significantly improve my life. After all, I had witnessed my own power to change — but not being depressed only brought me up to normalcy.  

(A shameless digression: I just remembered one of the steps that led me to drop depression. In a book, I came across the statement: “You can practice being strong, or you can practice falling apart.” I instantly chose to practice being strong. It was a life-changing choice — after decades of chronic depression alternating with more acute episodes.)

(shameless digression continued: Note that the statement in the book spoke about PRACTICING being strong. It didn’t treat being strong as a fixed trait: you either are and are not strong. Instead, it was a behavior. I always understood that a behavior could be learned.)


I was very impressed by the decision not to be angry made by both Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela. Obama noticed that young Afro-American men tended to be angry, sometimes to the point of making a kind of career out of anger. Since people don’t like to be around angry persons, that anger was an obstacle to success. Obama’s strategy was refuse to sound or act angry. He decided to speak in a controlled, rational tone. It reminded me of another man I knew, who said that all of his success in life followed his decision never to raise his voice.

And Mandela famously said that when he left the prison, he left behind all anger and resentment at having been imprisoned. Otherwise, he said, he’d always be in prison, always carrying the prison within.

But anger and raising my voice were not my problems. Resentment about having been cheated of the life I wanted disappeared when I made the decision not to be depressed. I had good impulse control, and could keep promises to myself. I wanted to become a calm person, but typical meditation like counting breaths didn’t work for me (I suspect that people who succeed are already calm — maybe genetically or maybe because they’ve had a secure childhood, or both).

And then I read something in my notebook which I must have read several times before, always delighted by it, but not otherwise affected:

“How did you cross the flood?
— Without delaying, friend, and without struggling did I cross the flood.
But how could you do so?
— When delaying, friend, I sank, and when struggling, I was swept away. So it is by not delaying and not struggling that I have crossed the flood.”

This time I wasn’t merely delighted. In my mind I exclaimed, “That’s it!” Not delaying and not struggling. Above all: not delaying. After all, the greater the delay, the greater the agony, since the undone is a thorn in the mind.

This time the meaning of the “flood” was personal: the whole practical side of life. “I resent anything that takes me away from my desk,” a friend said, and I instantly identified. Intellectual work is easy for me. It gives me pleasure. It’s what makes life worth living. But shopping, ordering online, driving to new places, making appointments, renewing prescriptions, filling out forms, paying the bills, doing the taxes — talk about resentment!

I even found myself developing a phobia about picking up mail: the unending  bills and demands. “I’ll open it in the morning,” I thought. But another day would come, with its own burden of mail, and the old envelopes still lay unopened. I realized that unless I acted I’d become one of those people who are too scared to open their mail, and let heaps of it accumulate, unopened, for months. So I decided to get rid of mail right away: either by recognizing it as advertising and instantly tossing it, or by opening it and paying the bill, or otherwise acting on it without delay.

And it turned out to be easy. By not delaying I wasn’t turning mere unopened envelopes into dragons. By taking action right away I didn’t have the thing hanging over me, intruding on my thoughts and draining my energy. If the task was large, not delaying also made it possible for me to divide it into smaller, more doable units. And if I learned to wipe away coffee spills with no difficulty, I could learn to wipe any spills in my wash-and-dry life.

As Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Once we’ve started, the flow takes over.

And yes, immediately there is resistance from within. After a lifetime of maintaining a self-image constructed around the contrast between the Intellectual Princess and the Nervous Immigrant, some backward region in the brain absolutely balks and asserts that this is the holy core of my “unique self” . . . It says the angst  dealing with a brutal medical receptionist is the “real me.” But that neural network will be transcended. Without delay. And by not struggling. By knowing that there is no “real me” — just a succession of me’s that have the power to change.



It’s my understanding that "I am that I am" can also be translated as "I will be what I will be.”


Yes, I've read that too -- I think the more liberal rabbis hold that view. Still, I could never quite get the gist of it, regardless of the tense. I know if I answered that way, in either the present or future tense, I'd be called a smartass. In any case, the Old Testament writers and editors were very clever here, refusing to have god label himself, keeping all options open. Too bad that the rest of the OT narrative doesn't live up to that level of sophistication (though I rather like the idea of angels coming down to mate with women and producing giants -- that kind of totally archaic level along with something more evolved, starting with the Tree of Knowledge, rather than simply the Tree of Life.)


In 12-step meetings, the chaos is often referred to as 'My Committee', and an attempt is made to develop a meta-personality to chair a meeting of screaming two-year-olds.


I like this a lot. A meta-self, yes, as a kind of ideal. The meta-self will be also be evolving with time, but once we drop the idea of IS in favor of EVOLUTION, of PRACTICING, life becomes easier. I experienced that when I dropped the idea of depression as a feeling, and saw it as a behavior -- and a behavior can be changed. Best of all, the desire to engage in this behavior was suddenly gone to the point of the behavior becoming impossible. I read a discussion of ending alcoholism in very similar terms -- the craving is no more.

 Tenthousandthings, Michael Divine



The last year has been the first in memory when I haven't been obsessing over the Self, that pursuit toward knowing myself. And it occurred to me while reading your post why that is.

I have a slightly different take on what Jung meant by individuation--in my opinion having little or nothing to do with individualism but a settling into our place in humanity, where our connections, or tethers, are firmly attached. Thus, when individuated, we are more firmly part of, or participatory in, community, in family, in the processes of life. It's a coming home.

I'm home. Finally. And concerns about the Self have gone away I think, because I have arrived at Self. It's a beautiful place to be.

I'm glad you posted again. I hope you don't give up. I understand about low readership and that must be frustrating. If you do continue, please know that I appreciate your work and commitment to understanding and broadening our world.


I’ve given up on trying to pin down what Jung meant by either individuation or Self — he rarely defined anything clearly, and his views were constantly evolving. In his old age he even admitted that we are different psychological type at different stages of our lives. So we never step into the same river twice not only because it’s never the same river, but also because we’re never the same self. And by self I don’t mean just the ego, but the totality.

I suppose that you don’t mean: I have arrived at the Self, so now my personality is fixed, and ten-twenty years from now my habits, interests, values, my whole outlook, will remain exactly what they are now. But possibly you mean the kind of shift that I experienced regarding my poetry and poetic ambitions — how I came to see myself as posthumous, and that feels so much more peaceful. Obsessing about anything is awful, and while I used to call poetry “my glorious obsession,” the cost in terms of suffering and damage to health was too high. I don’t entirely preclude a return to poetry, but I know it’s unlikely. I'm quite happy with the essay.

I suppose that as with religion, people interpret Jung as they wish, some seeing community, others individualism, etc. I prefer not to conceptualize the self (capitalizing it seems at least slightly ridiculous) as a noun. If it exists at all, then only as a verb, a process. But that’s OK. I no longer have a need to claim that I am extremely introverted. I’ve come to realize that it depends on the context, and factors such as my energy level at the moment.

Will this blog continue? I’d rather not make predictions. I have another venue now, so my own need to continue the blog is not very strong. Now and then, a new blog post may happen, probably not as often as in the past.


  1. Sarah sends a poetic commentary: this is the first part of a longer poem.


    Last night my soul caught in a willow,
    flirtatious, a sassy snippet.
    It knows I question its place in my life,
    even its very existence.

    Who are you? What are you?
    Are you the echo slapping syllables
    against the mountain, a phantom part of me?
    Are you a coward soul, a pilgrim soul?

    When a heart breaks, does the soul break too?
    Something swelled like the ninth wave,
    broke on the shore of my perception.
    Here I am, it said, and I heard laughter.

    ~ Sarah Chapdelaine

  2. Thank you Sarah for those marvelous lines. At first I was planning to include a section on the soul, but it's such a murky and religion-laden subject that I changed my mind. True, one can speak of "the mind," equally hard to define, but again I didn't want to compound the complexity.

    Here is a "soul poem" I wrote several years ago. The first stanza was inspired by a painting.


    What do you look like, my soul?
    Do you have large eyes and small breasts?
    Arms that stretch across the continents,
    but a fish’s tail?
    I always knew you were watery,
    all the aquamarines and indigos of ocean,
    and the approaching night:
    between me and me, a streaming veil.

    You tell me God is not married:
    not his choice, but yours –
    you insist on infinite space.
    You made my life a foreign language,

    homeless without endearments,
    those lapping wavelets of embrace.
    When did you teach me to dress in the wind?
    To carry words like loose change?

    You are the sound of the waves
    when I remember my first name –
    long returns of the Baltic,
    the white dunes where my life began –

    where I swam in your cold love,
    myth on myth caressing the bronze
    mermaid in the Hel Harbor.
    I can’t bear to think of my face

    becoming ashes, but you, fugitive soul,
    hint you are most beautiful before
    vanishing. Don’t kill yourself, you whisper,
    and one last blue twilight you’ll see me.


    Hel is a narrow Baltic peninsula, named by the Vikings for the goddess of the dead. It’s actually the Jastarrnia Harbor, but I’m using poetic license. “Don’t kill yourself” -- the temptation to commit suicide still existed, before I realized that I had to surrender to writing and let it kill me in Spanish, la Muerte being the most exquisite word for it.

  3. Hi O,

    What a great blog to read today. Thank you. So rich in insight and experience. So much to think about.

    *Your poems have so much movement, lateral, vertical.

    *I love 'memory' as unreliable witness...indeed!

    *The more I meditate on the truth of impermanence, and that life is transitory, I feel a greater internal freedom than what security might offer; interestingly becoming more certain with uncertainty, more secure with insecurity.

    *Individuation: I don't think we'd have great Art and Artists without it, and yet all Artists seem to have understood, and understand not being fixed in a self...just look at Picasso! So I am going to suggest that we need to individuate (as a passage of sorts) to get to the Buddhist concept of 'no self', and that the tension between self and no-self falls within the Taoist understanding of no opposites, but only tensions and relations, that all is relational.
    Which leads me to 'strength and falling apart '. How awful if we were either strong or falling apart, rather than living in the tensions between those two poles, and understanding the flux (what you call the 'flow) rather than being in a fixed point of either one. We need to fall apart to understand being strong, and we need to be strong to know falling apart, each with value. And yet, I like that you emphasized 'practicing' being strong, and not 'practicing' falling apart. Great distinction... Life as Practice.

    *Making the self, yes, I like this much, rather than the idea that the self simply 'is'...but being creators, what again, the artist knows well in every aspect of life, to cooking a meal, to reinventing a relationship.

    *And lastly (but not because, O, there is so much food for thought in your posts!), Do not delay. Oh how wonderful to read this. I have been a big delayer (laughed at your mail pile-up, how well I know it!) and putting off things, which, I read once, is a huge form of stress...yeah, talk about a 'thorn' in the mind!
    So I too try not to put off simply because I don't want the stress that comes with it, the way delaying consumes something internally that could better be used for creating.

    Happy Day to You,

    PS Love your poem on 'the soul' and the 'don't kill yourself' let writing kill you, and I jump right in and say, yes!

  4. Dear T,

    I was afraid I've lost you! So good to have gotten your excellent comments.

    The “thorn in the mind” is probably the best phrase in this post. I felt so happy when it floated into my consciousness, attaching itself to procrastination. And it’s so easy to remove that huge thorn. Just get started on the task. Don’t think beyond the beginning. Only begin.

    It’s interesting how liberating the idea of the impermanence is. First, in the broader self, it made me realize that the time to enjoy life’s rich gifts is NOW. The existence of paradise in the afterlife seems based in wishful thinking. the only certainty we have is this life, this earth — and isn’t life magnificent?

    Second, yes, THE MAKING OF THE SELF. The self is gloriously impermanent in the sense of constantly changing. We can consciously influence that change (OK, so it’s our unconscious that makes the decision, communicates it to consciousness, which then tries to rationalize it — but let’s not get entangled in that endless debate. I propose we just say: “I’ve decided” and leave it at that). (I also propose that for now we stay away from the collective psyche and the question of whether to call it god, as in Rilke’s “we are building god.” Of course we influence others and contribute to the collective psyche, but let’s concentrate simply on creating the desired self.)

    THE MAKING OF THE SELF is really a separate post. It could be a whole book. No, I'm not ready, and besides, each person is different. What matters is that everyone should understand that the so-called “personality traits” are not fixed. Persistence, courage — those shouldn’t be nouns, but verbs. We PRACTICE being strong by not brooding and taking an action; we persist; we courageously stand up at a meeting and speak, knowing that some people will criticize us. Having practiced being strong, we don’t start crying when criticized. We practice keeping our cool. Practice — what an empowering word.

    YES TO LIFE AS PRACTICE!! So much becomes possible — with sufficient practice.

    At the same time, we must not lose common say and start thinking that nothing is impossible. Some things are impossible. One can’t become a ballerina by starting ballet lessons at the age of sixty. But it’s still possible to enjoy those lessons — not as steps toward a goal, but as pleasure in the moment.

    This for me was a revolutionary insight: there is no need for a distant goal. One can lead a fulfilled and productive life by living in the now, not in the future. Distant goals are fine for the young. The second half of life is about practicing whatever we find desirable in the present moment.

  5. No, O, you did not lose me, not at all. Last month there were a few wild cards thrown into my life to which I had to attend. And now I have a dog! Gertrude, named after none other than Gertrude Stein because she is a chocolate lab/staffy mix, all brown. But onward....

    I love pondering that there is no future, that the 'now' is the future, that how we live now is what creates the future. Seen this way, living as fully in the moment as we can necessarily builds our so-called future. Being careful (not wasting time, for example) in our present moments, being present to presence itself is a practice, as in meditation, and that time taken (in meditation) permeates the day with its expanse, which is presence (ahh, I am not trying to be clever).

    And beginning: When I was a runner I remember there were days when I was training for a marathon and there would come a day I did not feel like running at all. Then I would say to myself, 'you don't need to run ten miles today, just get out there and do something, anything, even if it's a mile'...and you know where this is going, because inevitably I would run the ten. Just getting started is getting over the hurdle. Then anything can happen.

    'The Making of The Self' by O...are you sure you are not ready for that book? Okay, perhaps a post, then?

    We can't get away from Rilke, can we! I was immersed in him this morning...The Turning Point. Wow. Talk about another post! Just on that poem alone. But the First Elegy, which might touch on our topic (or am I stretching?), when Rilke explains in a letter that the angel of the Elegies is not 'the Christian angel' (thankfully) but rather the "creature in whom the transformation of the visible into the invisible, which we are accomplishing, already appears in its completion" (building god?). And again in that letter, "The Angel of the Elegies is that being who guarantees the recognition in the invisible of a higher order of reality --therefore terrifying for us, because we, its lovers and transformers, still cling to the visible." (and I don't think he was studying Buddhism, like Eliot).

    Okay, enough of Rilke (yeah right). But how boring life would be if everything were possible. I mean, to make a choice for something means to necessarily let go of something else, and choose we must. So practice, for me, is intrinsic in the choices I make, daily, in everything.

    Oh O, we could go on and on.
    Great to hear back from you, and know that I am always lurking somewhere on the periphery, for I am truly inspired by your intelligence and poetry.

    Molto grazie
    (Off to my 'practice' on the elliptical machine....and a high crazy wind to unnerve me still blowing...stay present!! haha).

  6. Dear T,

    Greetings to Gertrude! What breed is she? I hope she’s very affectionate.

    No, not ready for the book or even a post. It’s still just barely started in my head — very recent discoveries, how just making a decision and/or getting started is often all that is needed. So little! Instead of being scared, we can celebrate how little effort this making of the self takes! The opposite of what we’ve been told.

    But it can’t be ten different “New Year’s resolutions.” Those fail, and I'm yet to figure that out. But one decision made in February (for instance) — and it has to be based on personal insight, and it has to be something absolutely important — now there is a chance.

    Also, I'm working on the house, transforming the visible into the useful and more beautiful within means. What a shame that the truly beautiful would take a lot of money — but we can’t have it all.

  7. Ah, O, I beg to differ that the 'truly beautiful' takes a lot of money. But good luck with making the visible into the useful, I like that.

    I do agree that the making of the self takes so little effort, and yet I think takes great attention--- 'Attention (or attentiveness) is the natural prayer of the soul' (15th century mystic but made popular by Simone Weil).

    Being careful and attentive is made more difficult in a culture based on distraction as happiness. So in a sense it takes little effort to make a self, and on the other hand, it takes heroic effort to actually keep creating, to stay in that flow without despair or resignation, the pressures being great to interrupt that flow. This is how it seems to me.

    Gertrude is a mutt, but looks like a staffordshire bull terrior, which some unfairly call pitbull, and part chocolate lab, is what we think. Hard to know unless we do a gene test. But she is SO sweet and affectionate, a real cuddler. A rescue. The most devoted. AND she and my cat actually get along, no small thing in this house.


  8. If Gertrude is affectionate, that’s all that really matters. Which makes me wonder about humans — just what IS most important? It wouldn't be a single thing, and different for different people — e.g. we’d want the most competent surgeon rather than the most affectionate one. But being warm and affectionate should also be part of mental health — just one aspect of “making of the self” that is currently beyond me. Is it a side effect of being secure, of having gotten enough affection? Is is mainly genetic? Dogs were deliberately bred for affection, though a few breeds are aloof . . .

    For the moment, I am interested just in the power of making a big decision. Just one important decision, like Obama deciding not to be angry. The tremendous self-control it took for Freud to stop using cocaine (a terrific anti-depressant) — but also the issue of energy, since anything that gives you energy is potentially empowering. Carolyn Myss (not my favorite author, but I’ll listen to audio for stray wisdom) very strangely and strikingly defined self-esteem as the degree of animation.

    In a culture of distraction, how do we even address such antiquated-sounded concepts as self-control and will power/discipline? Deep focus has been branded “hyperfocus” and part of ADHD — Johnny really gets into something that interests him! He needs a drug to overcome this pathology! But crazily enough, the drugs prescribed for those children are amphetamines. And yes, even a cup of coffee helps us focus on something boring — or to get started, which then creates its own momentum. There are so many things about which I have no clarity.

    How odd, that to be focused and productive is the real counter-culture!

  9. PS. I just realized why the term “individuation” always irritated me. I don’t mind “self-actualization” or “self-realization” — those terms seem to point to the development of one’s gifts and having the kind of work that makes use of these gifts. In German, Jung spoke of “becoming.” “Individuation” seems to imply that we start out the same, and then strive to make ourselves different from others. In my observation, we start out different and strive to make ourselves similar to others for the sake of social acceptance. In my teens, my burning ambition was to be average, just like the others. Only later in life, and only some of us, realize we’ll never quite fit, so we might as well be ourselves. In some areas (sexual orientation, religious belief), it still takes courage to “come out,” though great progress toward tolerance has been made.

    In terms of creative work, we start by imitating. With luck, we experience a breakthrough to genuine expression, which is unavoidably different from anyone else’s. We’re both cursed and blessed with uniqueness.

  10. Hi O,

    We had snow yesterday.. so lovely but melting rapidly, yet watching it fall, ah, now there is bliss. Makes me happy for the earth. as it's been way to dry here.

    Hmm, so much thought provoking subjects in your writings. Energy, focus, discipline....individuation. Where to begin? I like individuation (as a way of describing the process of becoming). I would have to agree that we begin in our uniqueness, but very early on start conforming, beginning with trying to please our parents, and then value being the same in order to fit in. But some don't follow this pattern and fight, or rebel at an early stage, like the great artists whose daemonic power did not allow for that. Even those that began by imitating, like Beckett trying to be Joyce, were not able to escape their uniqueness.

    The courage to express our unique selves in a world with pressures to conform is what individuation seems to point towards; to unify the various components of our psyches, as Jung put it...and to honor our differences as a gift, not as a threat to others or ourselves, thereby offering the world our single unique expression, which can become our purpose.

    But I think we can miss our destiny (James Hillman) by a hair, even, if we are not paying close attention to our lives, to our passions and to what we love, to ourselves. Some would see this close attention as selfishness, and yet without it, we would not come into our specific purpose, and the world suffers for that lack, is what I think. And we suffer for lack of the contribution of our unique gifts. James Hollis and Jungian Analyst says of individuation, that it is actually "a form of submission" of the ego's desire for predictability, for comfort, "in service to the world of whatever wants to come through us."

    I am writing a book, a memoir, on the twelve years it took me to eradicate sugar, in all its forms, out of my diet (I do eat certain berries in my smoothie, and a granny smith once in a while, but no other fruits and natural sugars, either), eventually eating only a nutrient dense diet, thereby harnessing real energy, as distinct from the energy people think they get from sugar, which is a drug, and just another high. Real food as energy.
    (My book is titled: 'The Sweetest Life: Love, Illness, and Sugar Addiction'.)

    The reason I mention my book is because I have a chapter called, Discipline is Love. Because I really have come to see that discipline, like vigilance, becomes love; that there is no need for discipline when we are loving ourselves to the extent that our effort in taking great care is from a place of love. It is a transformation that took a long time for me.

    I agree that to be focused is the real counter culture!
    And my Gertie is the best!

    A wonderful day to you,

  11. Dear T, have you discovered Xylitol (benefits: stable blood sugar, healthier teeth, bones, sinuses)? It can be ordered online from NOW foods. I am a super-taster, so the bitterness of grapefruit, for instance, is challenging for me — but just a bit of xylitol is heaven. Now and then, for my cranberries, for instance, I also use ribose (heart and energy benefits).

    Here is a good website explaining xylitol:

    I can feel benefits from adding xylitol to food — not in excess, of course, but my body protects me: I don’t like too much sweetness. I'm thinking of ordering the chewing gum, but that’s not as important as the effect on blood sugar.

    Congratulations on having the blessed routine of writing a book. Do investigate xylitol, if you haven’t yet. And yes, I agree that ultimately self-discipline is self-love.

    I don’t believe in destiny in the sense that Hillman does (or in any sense, come to think of it. This is what friends find much more difficult than accepting my atheism: I don’t believe in soul or destiny or equivalent nouns. I don’t find Hillman’s “spiritual DNA” convincing).

    True, a talent may have a strong genetic component, but so much depends on “nurture.” And my post is pretty much about the incorrectness of using nouns that assume fixed traits rather than the never-the-same river of self. We need to think in terms of verbs, process, behavior. When you think of love not as a feeling, but as what you do, you revolutionize the term. Same with persistence, courage, etc. These are actions, behavior — and actions can be changed. With actions, we are not in the realm of being powerless, helpless; we can choose.

    Who knew? Shift your thinking from nouns to verbs, and wonderful things can happen.

    Instead of saying “I am X; I am Y” — “I do X, I do Y.” Or “practice” instead of “do” — “practice” is a permissive verb, with forgiveness for imperfect performance and the promise of progress.

    I am tempted to say: “with actions we can choose the self we want to be.” But that’s straying into the realm of fixed nouns, and the misleading phrase “I am” (strong, weak, soft-spoken, aggressive, etc). Let’s stay with actions. I choose to pay my bills right away. This morning I will clean out a desk drawer. And on and on. I don’t think my alleged “spiritual DNA” specifies “an orderly person who loves neatness.” I don’t believe anything “wants” to come through me. Only recently (less than half a year ago) I gained more control over my life, and — surprise! — I have been performing certain actions to create more order and the kind of house that serves me and delights me.

    I remember the time I chose not to cry over a break-up. I decided that instead I'd think of the gifts the relationship had brought me. I made a mental list and kept reciting it to myself. This was before my breakthrough decision not to be depressed, so I wasn’t completely sure if I'd succeed. It was practicing being strong before I had that guiding phrase. I succeeded — I made it through the day and the week without crying (I used to indulge in frequent crying fits). Though I didn’t know what was coming, that was an important step toward the Big Decision.

    But I also see how privileged I've been during the last decade in terms of circumstances in terms of having enough time and enough material security. It wasn’t always that way. When I look back at my most desperate years, I don’t blame myself. Life was just too hard. I'm amazed at having come through, wounded and bruised, giving in to suicidal depression, but still alive. And then all the steps toward not doing depression any more. Isn’t life magnificent?

    It’s been quite a while since I last watched snow, so I envy you. I have a riot of pink cymbidium orchids on my patio, adding joy to my days. So much to feel grateful for.

  12. Quickly: Yes, I know all about xylitol and use it in my paleo baking, making, for instance, Pumpkin Spice Bread without grain and sugar. A dash of xylitol really makes it delicious. I also make grain/sugar free coconut cookies and a host of other desserts with chia seeds and coconut milk and xylitol.

    My Sweet Tooth still wants a bit of sweet, though I am learning to 'desweeten' my life, and as I do desweeten my life, I have cleared up my palette from the thick coat of sugar and enjoy bitter, pungent, and sour. I sell my grain/sugar free goods locally (I used to own a restaurant and bakery...The Sweet Tooth loved that!). I also make my own sprouted SeedNut Butters. Never can get myself out of the kitchen!

    What I feel coming 'through' me (per Hollis) is the great mystery, what it is that we 'don't know', since we are not in control of everything. Illness has taught me this.

    Great discussions! Thank you,

  13. Ah, wonderful to hear about your paleo baking and sprouted SeedNut butters. More power to you!

    We are definitely not in control over the biggest things: our genes, when, where and to whom we were born, and on and on in this order of magnitude . . . And the future is a mystery, though I personally don't have a sense of "something coming through me" -- unless we mean simply the unconscious cognitive processes. Hollis at first struck me as brilliant, but ultimately I was disappointed . . . No knowledge of how profoundly our biology, including hormones and the aging process, influences brain function and thus the psyche (I once spoke with him after a lecture; he completely misunderstood me and responded in a rather dogmatic and irrelevant manner).

  14. What an unfortunate exchange with Hollis.

    No, I do not mean only the unconscious, but an energy from without, the invisible world.

  15. We are of course in interface with the universe, both dark and visible. It's amazing to see us as a species trying to understand even a small fraction of it all. I'm in continual astonishment of what humans have accomplished. I know we (humanity) will never run out of mystery.

  16. It’s interesting that in my youth I imagined that later on in life I’d become interested in religious question, desperately trying to find a religion that soothed me without dumping on me a ton of metaphysical poop. But by 40 or so I realized there is no such religion. Nor could I form any personal “spirituality” that included anything supernatural. There are things we don’t yet know much about, such as quantum entanglement (which may explain the “psychoid” nature of reality), but we’ll probably eventually learn more.

    What happened as my naturalism and humanism deepened was my growing delight in not just the natural world but in human achievement. Cars, jets, computers — all miracles, products of the collective genius, gradual development over generations. And the human capacity for empathy — I'm aware of it much more. How kind the average person is, how willing to help a stranger. I'm suddenly deeply moved when I ponder rescuers risking their lives to save a stranger. Even to save a cat or another creature. I'm with Steven Pinker: “the better angels of our nature” have begun to prevail.

  17. Ahhhhhhh, was just writing a post and lost it!
    Will try in the morning. How frustrating.
    But thank you for these rich and sincere thoughts, O.
    Will be back!

  18. Okay, I'm over the previous writing I lost yesterday. AND we had some rain all night here, so hooray for the rivers and streams and the earth. (I live on an organic farm so am happy for the farmers). That's the weather report from over here.

    I appreciate your thoughts on humanism and naturalism. I am perhaps with the mystics a bit more, but not interested in a 'religion' to guide me. I trust the universe and its spontaneous ever changing nature as my own. I love what I do not understand, for it points to mystery, much as I try to grasp what is ungraspable. And I find, or can feel, that there is an energy running the universe, the laws of the universe, if you will, that keep me engaged in what I don't know that I don't know.

    I have heard Steven Pinker speak a few times online and like what I have heard. That is a wonderful quote. My only bone to pick with human achievement per technology and such is that we are killing the planet with much of it and not so slowly.

    Yes, to the human capacity for empathy, and the indomitable spirit of human kind in the midst of pain and suffering, under the dire circumstance of war and trauma, there is something in the human that wants, needs to 'rise' above circumstance, even to 'overcome' so much.

    I have to get back to work, O! Your blog is so luscious that I want to stay here all day! And look forward to your next so-well-thought- out entry.


  19. Yes, there is certainly a dark side to use of technology. We still don’t have sufficient restraints on greed and disregard for the environment. W. Bush’s statement that we don’t have to worry about environmental problems because we won’t be alive to suffer the worst consequences — that will be our grandchildren’s problem — that is just so incredibly selfish. Much moral development yet remains to be achieved, especially, it seems, when it comes to people who have power.

    I dare to be cautiously optimistic, mostly because I’ve seen so much progress — including progress in environmental awareness and protective regulation.

    I used to be more mystical in my outlook, seeing signs and omens in just about everything. Then I became more conscious of how our brain is wired to see pattern and meaning no matter how faint the evidence. (This makes sense in terms of evolution: better mistake a shadow for a predator, than a predator for a shadow). Also, the notion of a spirit world certainly has its attractions. But in the end I came to agree with Oscar Wilde: “The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” The closer you examine the visible, the more “infinities open up,” to shift to Nietzsche.

  20. Hi O,

    Missed you, so had to come back!
    In the meantime I read some of your posts on immigration. So moving is your story. And am in agreement with some who suggested that a book would be wonderful written from your perspective. And I DO think many people would welcome such a book given that America is full of immigrants...and not all of us born here are interested in the 'happy' immigrant stories. Some of us want to hear, need to hear, the other stories (like why leaving Poland for the 'promised land' was so traumatizing). And that you were so young, and then found your 'writer' self here is what makes this such a rich story. Just had to put in my two cents about it.

    I have to agree with Wilde that 'the true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.' And yet we cannot and do not have one without the other, so there is no need, I feel, to have to choose. Keeping ourselves open to both, is more important than thinking I have to choose one over the other.
    In looking once again into De Profundis, I found this marvelous passage:

    "Religion does not help me. The faith that others give to what is unseen, I give to what one can touch, and look at. My gods dwell in temples made with hands; and within the circle of actual experience is my creed made perfect and complete: too complete, it may be, for like many or all of those who have placed their heaven in this earth, I have found in it not merely the beauty of heaven, but the horror of hell also. When I think about religion at all, I feel as if I would like to found an order for those who CANNOT believe: the Confraternity of the Faithless, one might call it, where on an altar, on which no taper burned, a priest, in whose heart peace had no dwelling, might celebrate with unblessed bread and a chalice empty of wine. Every thing to be true must become a religion. And agnosticism should have its ritual no less than faith. It has sown its martyrs, it should reap its saints, and praise God daily for having hidden Himself from man. But whether it be faith or agnosticism, it must be nothing external to me. Its symbols must be of my own creating. Only that is spiritual which makes its own form. If I may not find its secret within myself, I shall never find it: if I have not got it already, it will never come to me."

    Spoken like a true artist "only that is spiritual which makes its own form."

    LOVE and need Nietzsche. Am reading a great book, 'The Struggle with the Daemon: Holderlin, Kleist and N, by Stefan Zweig (thank goodness for inter library loans). It's excellent.

    BTW: It seems you live in San Diego? I have cousins there. And hope to visit them soon. It would be great to meet you (if you live there). I'm a native Californian, born in LA, one sister and a brother still there.

    Back to work. And O, please keep posting.
    Some of us do thrive on intelligence and art.

  21. Dear T,

    Given the frightful bitterness of so many immigrants (I think I’ve met enough of them to know), I don’t understand how the myth of the happy immigrant ever took hold. Losing one’s homeland — even by choice — is traumatic. It’s a multiple, overwhelming loss that can, at its worst, mean a lifetime of regret and mourning.

    Near the time of leaving, I had abundant clues, including literature, including the Polish word for nostalgia that is Slavic, visceral, and absolutely heart-rending . . . but I went into denial. The denial took less than two weeks to break down, and there I was, on the bus, sobbing uncontrollably.

    It’s the LOSS OF THE FAMILIAR that drives the emotional brain insane . . . But it would really take a book to explain the immigrant trauma — a book preferably based on broad research and not just a personal story. Regardless, I won’t be writing any books. I prefer the short form. Personal essay is my favorite genre, loosely woven around poem analysis.

    Practically everyone tells me that I need to write a book on this and a book on that, and at least five more, including an opus on WWII. But I don’t write books. There is no such yearning in me. Yearning is actually too weak a word, since it would take passion. What I seek now is peace and contentment. I shock even myself, but . . . I want to be happy, and these are my happiest years so far. For me, peace and happiness preclude being driven; for me writing a book would mean being driven, compulsive. I'm driven enough just doing the little daily essays for my Poetry Salon; I know how to do it so that writing doesn’t kill me (I mean this literally, heart attacks being rampant in my family).

    “Compulsive no more” — I wish! But definitely less so than in the past.

    I don’t even know what is meant by “the unseen.” Like Wilde, I need to see and touch. He goes off the tracks when he speaks of the “empty chalice.” Wine and bread need no consecration to be valued as much as they have been over the centuries (at least until Atkins, whose diet forbids both) . . .

    Seriously, the worlds disclosed to us not just by our senses, but by both the microscope and the telescope, are so magical that I need no other enchantment. The paranormal, the occult — I’ve dipped into that, and ultimately decided life is too short for sloshing in that bog. Hence in one of my posts

    I announced — not quite seriously — that the title of my third book of essays (I was still kidding myself that I’d collect my essays into books; now I know better) will be Spiritual No More. I blush: as recently as February 2012 I was still mentioning those “three books revealed to me in a dream”? I think by then I already knew those were fantasies (not so ten years earlier). But the dream made “good copy,” and seemed in keeping with the humorous tone of that section.

    Thanks for recommending the book by Zweig. His name is quite familiar; his various biographies were popular in Poland. I’d like to take a look at The World of Yesterday, regarded as his best book — and my favorite library has it, though I’d have to wrest it from “Tech Services” — or just wait for it. That’s fine; I have tons of good books beckoning. The book you mention — yes, I’ve long had a peripheral interest in Hölderlin and Kleist, and a deeper interest in Nietzsche, though Nietzsche must be approached with great selectivity. It was sobering to read The Genealogy of Morals and see the extremely dark side of Nietzsche that so appealed to the Nazis.

    Still, fabulous aphorisms, e.g. “Religions are basically systems of cruelty.” And, more important, “There is no truth, only perspectives.” I hope I always bear it in mind. It’s so easy to slip into absolutism, while reality is full of those “endless infinities that open up when we look at something up close” (I'm quoting from memory, not verbatim).

    Meeting in person? Tempting, but no. Let’s preserve some mystery.

  22. Hi O,

    I'm all for the preservation of mystery!

    The invisible: I cannot see the wind, but I know it's there because I can feel it and see its effect in swaying branches; I cannot see your heart yet know you feel, but cannot 'see' your feelings, only what it is to see sadness, or joy (which is all subjective anyway), which is not the feeling itself yet the result of a feeling etc. This is what I mean by the invisible. Not the occult necessarily, but in dream life I do believe the unconscious, which we can neither see nor touch even with consciousness, expresses itself in images at night. What we make of all this is personal.

    I loved that particular sentence of Wilde's on wine and bread! He is making a jab at the religion whose morals put him in jail! Although he is winy at times...and blames a lot, although he might argue with me on that.

    I agree about reading N selectively, and I would like to suggest Ofelia Schutte's book on him, Beyond Nihilism: Nietzsche Without Masks (love the title). It is such a welcome interpretation of his work:

    "In this book, she agrees with Nietzsche's efforts to deconstruct dualism and rejects nihilism as part of a dualist philosophy. However, she criticizes the political implications Nietzsche writes into his work.'

    (Different from Walter Kaufmann who is wonderful for how he delivered N to America through all his translations (what work!) and yet he does not criticize enough).

    I don't have the compulsion you describe in yourself per writing books. I sure do see that is not a fulfilling way to write for you, so am glad you have made some peace with it.

    Always the weather: it rained tonight. I hope we get more of that. How we need it.


  23. Oh, Oh, was there a problem with my post?
    Did you get it?

  24. The last post I got was the one mentioning Zweig's book. Did you write after that? If so, I should have gotten it. I block only spam, which is terribly obvious.

    A long way to say, If you wrote again after the Zweig post, please resend. ~ O

  25. Oh no! Darn...but how to resend? I did not keep a copy of it.

    It did start, though, with "I am all for mystery!" per our not meeting.

    Then I mentioned how much I loved that line from Wilde on wine and bread because he was poking a finger at the moralists who jailed him. Most likely Christians, or Catholics.
    Then I mentioned another great book on Nietzsche by Ofelia Schutte, 'Beyond Nihilism: Nietzsche Without Masks' (which title I love):

    "In this book, she agrees with Nietzche's efforts to deconstruct dualism and rejects nihilism as part of a dualist philosophy. However, she criticizes the political implications Nietzsche writes into his work"

    per your wise comment on how N has to be read selectively.

    Can't remember what else I added. Maybe that we had snow, then rain. And did you see the red moon? I passed, but did see one while living in Italy in 2008.


  26. And I also said something about the unseen, like the wind and your heart beat, and that is the invisible world I refer to, not the paranormal...(but I said it much better than that!...oh well).

  27. Just want to acknowledge having received these lovely posts. Will respond tomorrow.

  28. Dear T, How wonderful to be getting comments about Nietzsche — from now simply N, another bit of the alphabet of my life. M is Mozart.

    Wonderful how you’re diving into N! His Birth of Tragedy delighted me — second only to the Symposium. And On Truth and Lying in the Extra-Moral Sense. And the various famous N passages, e.g. “Suppose truth is a woman — what then?” And the artistry of the passage on the madman announcing that god is dead.

    Gems like “Christianity is Plato for the “people.” Well, almost. At least he makes the reader think about Plato’s hopeless dualism. N’s championing of the positive aspects of the Dionysian, the whole affirmation of life, of vitality, beauty, music — yes, yes, yes.

    I identify with his anti-clericalism, with the struggle against ecclesiastic oppression. Alas, he didn’t kick away the negative part of Christianity and become a humanist. He was poisoned with contempt — a terrible temptation for any intellectual to see himself as “separate, different, and superior.” And that contempt for others gave birth to the proto-Nazi.

    Sure, in terms of mental capacity he was royalty. You and I are minor aristocracy. I'm saying this as a prelude to stating the principle that’s very important to me: Noblesse oblige. Aristocracy in terms of the intellectual privilege, yes, but in service to others — to people without quotation marks. I know I am not just an isolated individual — I am humanity (Donne put it better).

    The unseen as wind in the trees and heartbeat — but those can be seen and heard. I love both. And I love the images made possible by both the telescope and the electron microscope — astonishing, all of it. No shortage of mystery. I think atheists are the true worshippers of mystery. They are the ones who feel true awe when they look at the stars. They just don’t put the god label on it. That word has such atrocious baggage, it must go. It will take time — as Ginette Paris says, “It’s still early after the death of god.”

    I missed the red moon, mired as I was in some practical difficulties I'm struggling with. But there will be another chance in October.

  29. Mystery IS the unseen.
    The wind cannot be seen, although heard, yes. We do not see a seed in the ground becoming a tree or flower although, yes, we know something is happening underneath the soil. And even with all our advanced technology, we do not 'see' the seed actually growing. Nor a fetus, really. Sure there are signs that we 'see' of growth, yet there is this invisible force called 'energy' that moves everything. This energy we do not see. It is the unseen. Some choose to call it God, others, the divine, and some simply mystery. It doesn't matter to some to name this energy source at all.


  30. Not sure about the "energy that moves everything." There is chemical energy stored in the seed, and physical factors that move the air as wind (which is visible in a wonderful way as it travels through tree crowns or the grass; it's tangible as well -- who doesn't love to feel the wind in their hair?).

    I have never experienced those or any other phenomena as caused by a single energy. But maybe there is such energy underlying other kinds of energy (electromagnetic, gravitational etc) -- dark energy perhaps? I'll call myself an agnostic here.

  31. Hey O!

    Very windy here in NM. Not fond of heavy wind but we got some snow last night in Santa Fe, that was magical. Love the cooler weather and glad we have it right now as it's going to get real hot soon and that's when I stay in!

    Yes, the wind is tangible to certain of our senses, but we do not 'see' it, so visible and invisible, of course, as we see its effects on trees, the ocean etc. I personally do not wholly rely on science or technology to inform me of the world, is all, agnostic or not, for I do not think there is a personal God, nor do I think life is absent of mystery. To think (not saying you are saying this) that we as humans can explain everything is too much hubris and presumption.

    Did you get the title I sent you from Schutte's book on N? It's quite good.

    Been reading your other posts (right now MIlosz and Non-attachment) between all my other reading. I appreciate your thoughts on so much, especially the need for perspective. As a painter, it is crucial to step back and take a look at what I've been doing (as in writing, too, but more obvious for me in painting). I noticed in 2011 in that post you use words like 'mystical', and 'divine'. Seems much has changed for you in three years.

    And I had to really smile when you stated the importance of intelligence in Eros for too! It took me some time to understand this as I am a late bloomer in all things, it seems, especially in understanding my needs! But I am in a relationship with a poet and although 14 yrs later in yet another phase, in uncertainties, our greatest connection is our minds. And that makes and keeps me happy and looking at myself (from some distance) to further learn about who we are becoming, individually, and together. Not easy, but so rich.
    "The heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of".

    Ah, those Geminis, watch out: Whitman, Emerson, Mann to name a few. But who doesn't have multiple personalities or selves?

    Happy day (LOVE Beckett),

  32. Hello T,

    Yes, those brilliant Gemini — the trio you mentioned are my favorites. And toss in a Scorpio: Dostoyevski. D’s Crime and Punishment and Brothers K, and Mann’s Magic Mountain — I love novels of ideas.

    Did I really toss around terms like “divine” so recently? I’d have to see the context. I played with the idea of calling myself a mystical atheist, like Shelley. But I do admit my atheism has deepened in the last two years or so as I’ve read books like Jesse Bering’s The Belief Instinct, about the cognitive errors that give rise to religious belief (though perhaps even more it’s fear — both the fear of harm from nature, and the socially manipulated fear of punishment). Believing in the spirit world is completely out for me — though there are phenomena in quantum physics that are way more astonishing than ghosts would be. Who needs ghosts when we have quantum physics in all its mind-blowing splendor . . .

    Tomorrow I want to do my little post on N’s Hangman’s Metaphysics — one of the best insights that N had, and it’s not widely known. If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, you could join the Poetry Salon (mainly discussion of poems; not a workshop) — though that particular post will be on my Facebook page, and I think it’s open to anyone who types in Oriana Ivy.

    You can imagine how attacked I get by a certain crowd, but I'm undeterred — I'm doing penance for years of cowardly silence. As I said, every cell in my body knows that this life is it. I’ve had that visceral knowledge all my adult life.

    Still, on the minuscule chance that I'm wrong — and who wouldn’t want to be wrong on this subject, given the elemental joy of simply existing — the cosmic intelligence that I can’t in any way imagine would not be punitive, but all accepting. After all our suffering, we need not punishment, but love. So in terms of wishful thinking, I propose a cosmic state of mind where we get lots of love, and it’s wonderful therapy. We also get to be of use, which is fantastic. Maybe usefulness as #1, and love will take care of itself.

    Of course I wouldn’t say that we humans can know everything. The universe is too overwhelming and too strange for that. But that humanity has managed to know so incredibly much — that stuns me. I am in awe of the collective human genius and the magnificent human brain.

    I have Zweig’s Struggle with Demons coming to me from Amazon. Thanks for the ref.

    I'm just beginning to garden, and I could swear that the one mint plant I have grows visibly every day! I think it will be a giant. As will the rosemary and the basil.

  33. Quickly, and I'll be back: Could you post your 'little post' on N on this blog, too? I have never used Facebook, and fear once I begin I'll never get anything done...have avoided it and other social media.

    I have always had a bone of contention with the notion of free will. Good Catholic that I was, it took some time to see the motives and falsity behind it. Also, addiction has taught me more about the lack of free will than anything. 'Responsibility' is overrated, I think, in the way we have used it for guilt and punishment (per N).

    I can't wait to read your post!!

    I cannot tell you how much I adore Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment perhaps my favorite, although I cannot say that because whenever I pick up any of his work I am shredded into astonishment. White Nights is a favorite). I want to learn Russian if only to read him in the original. Don't think I'll get to that in this lifetime. But my passion for his work, for his genius, for his entire life (except his antisemitism) is pretty endless. I have to pick his work up often if only to be back in his mind. Have you read Frank's biography on him. Quite good.
    Also Robert Bird (from the University of Chicago) wrote a critical bio on him. Also very good. Want to go take his classes in Chicago!

    So glad you ordered Zweig's book. Think you will enjoy it and hope we get a blog post out of it.

    My mother, who was born in Cairo, used to grow mint and mix cucumber, yogurt (her own), and mint...was very delicious.

    Convince me to get on your Facebook page.

  34. Yes, the mint has definitely grown since being bought and planted! And that was just days ago.

    For a post-Jesse-Bering view of various religions and religious experiences, please see this blog (how I wish this would work as a link):

  35. My page is my mental garden: images, music, short essays, videos, poems, humor, baby animals and animals in general, links to interesting articles. I think you'd enjoy it. The trick to not wasting time is finding a couple of interesting pages to visit rather than scrolling through the newsfeed. And of course you'd have yet another stimulating page to visit: the Poetry Salon. I'd love to have your comments.

  36. Hangman's Metaphysics is already on my FB page, together with Bishop Spong's wonderful video on the invention of hell.

    Btw, FB would be another venue for sharing your paintings.

  37. Thank you for introducing me to Julio Romero de Torres through the gorgeous painting on the post 'Milosz: Love as Non-Attachment. Gorgeous work and I am pleasantly surprised that I had not known his work before this. Always something to learn.

    AND now Bishop Spong.
    I like your resources.
    Will think about FB.

  38. Please get an FB account. People with good minds are definitely needed to raise the intellectual level of comments and postings. You'll find your balance, i.e. how much time to spend on FB, and which pages to go to (I hope mine and the Salon will be near the top).

  39. Hi O!

    Okay, so I'm slow.
    I actually had an FB account a few years ago when I was living in Italy and wanted to find my Israeli friend, who actually lives in Israel, and had to join FB to see if the person who came up in my search was who I was looking for, and it was. I just never developed a page. So, long story short, I actually reset my password and was able to access YOUR FB page!

    Fantastic, of course. Every little entry keeping me engaged for you hit all the subjects that are of great interest to me (LOVE that you admitted sometimes you like 'bad' art...that made me smile).
    Have not gotten to making any comments yet but wanted you to know that I am over here in NM keeping up with you on this blog and now on FB. Just came over here to make this announcement and have not gotten to the Poetry Salon you mentioned. Is that part of the FB page? Excuse my ignorance with all of this, it's all so new.

    Thank you for your encouragement of finding my balance with social media, but I am aware that it is not possible for me, really, for it simply is way too alluring (the internet, all of it) and I find myself far from my deepest resources (reading, writing, painting). I admire anyone who can keep a balance with this technology, like you seem to do. When we lived in Italy for three years and had no access to the internet except when we went to town, which was for groceries once a week (we were in the country in Umbria) I got a lot of work done, I mean a lot.

    On that note, I have decided that beginning of August and for a year, I am going to be in the internet only one day a week. I will let my close friends and family know, of course, that I will only be checking email one day a week. In this way I can keep up correspondence which is so important to me, but can really start to sink into the stacks of books that need reading, the writing to be done, and the paintings to paint.

    All of this to say how much I appreciate your passions and the intelligent expression of them. I look forward to your next post here and will keep an eye on FB.

    BTW: Loved Esther Perel; she is great, so clear, so utterly right about Eros and the imagination, so thank you for that connection. And am still listening to Spong and have two of his books here now. Love his 'personal' belief that St Paul was a repressed homosexual....(of course, is what I say). He is a refreshing intelligent, scholarly voice who clearly believes in living life to its fullest yet still embraces mystery. Really like him. I may be in Berkeley in mid July and he is actually speaking there, which, if I am there, will definitely make it to hear him.

    A warm windy day, summer edging its way to my door. It's always difficult for me when it gets too hot, so I'll just have to stay inside more with the AC!
    (I am a Cal native, born and raised on the beaches of So. Cal and sometimes I can smell the ocean, even at this distance, so much are the memories of those warm saltsy nights imbedded in every cell, even writing about the ocean I can feel it).

    Have a beautiful day (smell the mint for me!).
    With gratitude,

  40. Just a quick one to tell you that I initiated an invitation to the FB Salon -- but there is more than one Therese Wolfe! Are you the one with the image of shadows? I think it also says that you (or another Therese Wolfe) went to Carlton High School and joined FB in 2010. Just for now, technicalities.

    I am of course thrilled that you access to my page, and I also think it's wonderful that you have a plan for limiting your time on FB -- excess can indeed be destructive. More soon.

  41. I did not go to Carlton HS, and have no images on my FB page, so that could be me.

  42. Are you on FB under the name of Therese Wolfe, or is there a middle name or any other "distinguishing mark"? I need to know that only so that the invitation to the Poetry Salon goes to the right e-person.

  43. I tried for the Therese Wolfe with the shadows image, and had no response.

    One way you could reveal yourself as the "real" Therese is to send a "friend request" to Oriana Ivy. Yes, that's the simplest solution. Please do that.

  44. oops, not Carlton high school, but university. The Therese I found went to Hillcrest High. There is such a school in San Diego, and you mentioned "the beaches of So. California," but I know that Hillcrest is a common name.

  45. Yes, Spong has his own idea of cosmic-consciousness type of god that I can barely follow. If I'm getting it right, then it reminds me of Rilke’s “Angel,” a being of greater-than-human consciousness — except Spong’s god has a consciousness even beyond that. I prefer not Rilke’s Angel, but rather Rilke’s idea that we are building god in the sense of collective psyche (or at least I think that’s what Rilke meant)

    I find there are many mysteries in the universe and we’ll never run out of them (heck, we don’t even know what gravity really is, and why it’s a weak force). But I have no need to coalesce those multiple mysteries into One Underlying Mystery, something like god or cosmic intelligence or any one thing or entity. Plurality satisfies me more — or the Gnostic ‘pleroma’, fullness. Maybe I'm a polytheist at heart, wanting a choice of gods and goddesses depending on my current needs and interests. Wistfully thinking of such deities, but not making them real. Athena forbid! :)

    I track Spong’s ideas of the evolution and the future of Christianity, and that’s good enough for me. Wonderful, in fact. The obvious things he points out, e.g. that “bloody ransom” is a revolting, barbarous idea, badly need to be stated again and again.

    Esther Perel — the most honest voice out there, and the best thinker about love and sex, marriage and romance. Others seem mired in wishful thinking. I know from experience that long-term love exists, but not as it was during the first months. It’s not the high of “being in love.” It’s more what I call the “pact of non-abandonment.”

    We could go on endlessly, but I hope we’ll soon be in more direct communication. Meanwhile, yes, my mint is intoxicating, and the basil too.

  46. Okay, am not the shadows, saw that page, then checked another and saw my goddaughter on there so I knew it was me. Spent a little time trying to figure out how to invite you a friend but was not sure....ahhh...I will figure this out Oriana, I'd like to think I am not such a buffoon on with all this.
    Won't get to it till later in the week, must be in Santa Fe tomorrow and Wed (I live an hr north), so will get back to it on my return.

    LOVE basil.

  47. Here's something that can't fail: since you can access my page on FB, please leave a comment under any of the newer posts -- just "Hi there!" I can then trace the comment, and things will be easy from there.