“A man’s life would become intolerable, if he knew what was going to happen to him. He would be made aware of future evils, and would suffer their agonies in advance, while he would get no joy of present blessings since he would know how they would end. Ignorance is the necessary condition of human happiness, and it has to be admitted that on the whole mankind observes that condition well. We are almost entirely ignorant of ourselves; absolutely of others. In ignorance, we find our bliss; in illusions, our happiness.”
― Anatole France, (The Gods Are Athirst)
To each his suff’rings: all are men,
Condemn’d alike to groan,
The tender for another’s pain;
Th’ unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
’Tis folly to be wise.
― Thomas Gray
While persons brought up within literate culture often speak about the natural world, indigenous, oral peoples sometimes speak directly to that world, acknowledging certain animals, plants and even landforms as expressive subjects with whom they might find themselves in conversation. Obviously these other beings do not speak with a human tongue; they do not speak in words. They may speak in song, like many birds, or in rhythm, like the crickets and the ocean waves. They may speak a language of movements and gestures, or articulate themselves in shifting shadows. Among many native peoples, such forms of expressive speech are assumed to be as communicative, in their own way, as the verbal discourse of our species (which after all can also be thought of as a kind of vocal gesticulation, or even as a sort of singing). Language, for traditionally oral peoples, is not a specifically human possession, but is a property of the animate earth, in which we humans participate.
Oral language gusts through us—our sounded phrases borne by the same air that nourishes the cedars and swells the cumulus clouds. Laid out and immobilized on the flat surface, our words tend to forget that they are sustained by this windswept earth; they begin to imagine that their primary task is to provide a representation of the world (as though they were outside of, and not really a part of, this world). Nonetheless, the power of language remains, first and foremost, a way of singing oneself into contact with others and with the cosmos—a way of bridging the silence between oneself and another person, or a startled black bear, or the crescent moon soaring like a billowed sail above the roof. Whether sounded on the tongue, printed on the page, or shimmering on the screen, language’s primary gift is not to re-present the world around us, but to call ourselves into the vital presence of that world—and into deep and attentive presence with one another. This ancestral capacity of speech necessarily underlies and supports all the other roles that language has come to have.
— David Abram
’Twas “business” cleft my ageless soul in twain,
They cut me from my roots for wordly gain
And severed e’en from separation’s pain—
With Earth I once was joined, and shall again.
I’ve murdered Life; I bear the mark of Cain;
I’ve hacked at Gaia’s once unbroken chain;
I’ve traded all for one secure domain:
No fear of scorching sun nor hurricane.
But body tells me I am not my brain.
Anon, I’ll take up dancing in the rain
And join the birds in their primal refrain—
With Earth I once was joined, and shall again.
Nikolai Myaskovsky, born this day in 1881, was as popular a symphonist in his day as Prokofiev and Shostakovich, both in the USSR and the West, but his work has since gone out of style. He wrote his first symphony in 1908 and his twenty-seventh in 1949, the year before he died.
Listen to the finale from his Cello Sonata #2, dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich
The American short story writer Edgar Allan Poe was widely read in translation, and he appealed to the dark side of the Russian character. This tone poem was written to illustrate Poe’s haunting vignette called Silence.
This is the Children’s Crusade of the climate movement. Children get it. They ask simple, direct questions and they’re not put off by obfuscation or circumlocution. In this video, a sixteen-year-old speaks truth to power.
Sunrise Movement web site Common Dreams article
Ralph Nader: It’s just nine, ten, eleven-year-olds. Margaret Mead, the anthropologist, told me on more than one occasion, she thought youngsters could really have an effect because of their moral authority, their innocence and the fact that they’re gonna inherit the country and the world. Anyway, they confronted Senator Feinstein outside her office, and asked her a number of questions. It was a very patronizing put down by the Senator. She didn’t really know how to handle nine-year-olds’ questions, anymore than Ronald Raegan did. They tend to be direct. They tend to be uncensored, and politicians are not used to it. They’re used to professional reporters with marbles in their mouth. I think that a mobilization of pre-teenage youngsters who really get it, and they know what the fundamental questions are, and they don’t abide political rhetoric and evasive responses, could really begin to mobilize at the level that’s necessary. (listen)
Marilee Shapiro got her start as an artist with a grant from the WPA in 1936. She has been making art since the New Deal. She is now 106, still creating beauty.
In her autobiography, she talks about how important it is to keep learning new things, taking chances, experimenting, failing, doing better next time.
Interview with Ralph Nader See more of Marilee’s Art
“Paradoxically, the more we focus on trying to get rid of painful thoughts or feelings, the more those things become the center of our lives.”
…a form of therapy inspired by Buddhist meditation. Develop a different relationship to your thoughts. Know your own mind. Watch your thoughts, but don’t necessarily believe them.
Read more from Jamie Friedlander