I love

[This is a meditation from Celia Farber’s web site, written by one of her readers as a comment. It begins by wondering about people who have spoken out from their conscience, countering the mainstream of opinion, risking their jobs and alienating family and friends.

Full disclosure: I am one of the people who speak out, but I have no career to lose.

–JJM]

“These people know full well their careers are over, but they do it anyway.” And possibly worse than losing their careers; seeing old bonds of family and friendship reduced to antipathy. For this true courage they are called “selfish”, “egotistical”, etc. That this calibre of attack finds fertile soil in the general population is an unequivocal sign of mass hysteria magicked to fever pitch by people who know what they do, but lack the wisdom and compassion to really KNOW what they do.

Should they ‘succeed’, what world do they imagine their children will inherit?

They cannot succeed. Love and Life are the stronger forces. This is a global object lesson in hubris, loveless ambition, the bitterness of cowardly compliance and valuing mere social status above all other things. It is Goethe’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice writ large, become a conflagration of the vanities.

I am shocked, too often to count, by how violently invested people are in hateful fear, in wilful ignorance. Finding my way to a loving response is extremely difficult, especially because there’s very little one can do but wait and watch on in (seemingly) impotent horror. The hysterical mob has to exhaust itself, spend its fury, run its course. I suppose it was always going to go this way; how else can humanity learn what it needs to learn? And yet this mob has been deliberately coaxed into being: a crime against humanity. Or is it a crime of humanity against itself?

Free will is sacred. Knowing this is one part of what can be the sorrow of love. And even though free will has been manipulated and deceived by those few who seek to impose theirs over everyone else’s – at the expense of the innocent! – even though righteous anger feels so strongly like the right response, when we love we emanate love, and that is vital. For whatever reason, it dawned on me sometime during my early thirties that love must be unconditional to be love. Something about that realisation put me on a particularly moral path that has, it seems, triggered all manner of personal object lessons as fate relentlessly, lovingly, disavowed me of my delusions of grandeur, my vanities, insecurities, and much else besides. It is a continuing process.

One truth that has been almost crow-barred into me is that love has no object. “I love you” is not, strictly speaking, a logically tenable utterance. “I am love”, though grandiose, is closer, or perhaps simply, “I love”. Love opens loving connections between self and others that give rise to the “I love you” feeling, which is so wonderful to speak. Love arises naturally when we clear ourselves of our emotional-psychological muck. If we think of the soul as a tuning fork, it cannot sing unless it is naked, uncluttered, clean. When it sings, it just sings. Its song has no object; it is an emanation, the natural state of a truly healthy soul. That state is the way out of this horror, because this horror is the natural consequence of turning away from love, away from God, and pursuing vanities, greeds, selfish appetites. Every one of us can dedicate ourselves humbly to this extraordinary undoing towards love. It is exactly as painful as our resistance to its lessons is fierce.

As Pema Chodron put it: “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.”

Toby Russell

Deep in the Quiet Wood

Are you bowed down in heart?
Do you but hear the clashing discords and the din of life?
Then come away, come to the peaceful wood,
Here bathe your soul in silence. Listen! Now,
From out the palpitating solitude
Do you not catch, yet faint, elusive strains?
They are above, around, within you, everywhere.
Silently listen! Clear, and still more clear, they come.
They bubble up in rippling notes, and swell in singing tones.
Now let your soul run the whole gamut of the wondrous scale
Until, responsive to the tonic chord,
It touches the diapason of God’s grand cathedral organ,
Filling earth for you with heavenly peace
And holy harmonies.

— James Weldon Johnson was born 150 years ago today

Happy birthday, Martha!

I’m sorry I missed the 80th birthday of my favorite pianist last week. She’s a miracle. Still playing passionately, virtuosically, on stages around the world. She performs without sheet music, and has hundreds hours of the most complex music fully memorized.

The style that has made Martha famous combines effortless virtuosity with dramatic contrasts in dynamics and tempos. She breaks the rules, stretches the bounds of convention and taste, and gets away with it. One of my favorite maneuvers is when she is playing a slow, soft passage and jumps to a bold new section just a fraction of a beat ahead of where you expect it to come. Stunning.

A friend introduced me to Argerich’s artistry more than 30 years ago, with this recording of Ravel:

You don’t have to be crazy to win a Nobel, but it helps

Kary Mullis invented the PCR test which has been widely used in biological research and widely misused in medical diagnosis. Here he is, being a radical empiricist:

There is no counsel of elders. No austere body of experts looking out for us to see that we don’t do something really dumb. We’re on our own here… 

Science is not a set of beliefs. Scientists don’t believe anything… 

You always have to be ready to have your favorite theory proven wrong, and if youre not, you shouldnt be doing science.

 

Link to video interview

 

I know a few things and you know a few things and, all of us together, we know enough to build this whole, crazy world. But individually, there’s none of us who knows much. It’s kind of a miracle that we’re here.

 

The trouble with science in the 21st Century is that science funding is being controlled by a few bureaucrats at the top, people who don’t understand science at all.

Mullis tells that as a biochemistry grad student in 1968, Mullis published an article about cosmology in the world’s most prestigious journal. The original but highly speculative idea was publishable because scientists 50 years ago were still open-minded and not as siloed as they are today. He bemoans the fact that he can no longer get his article published in prominent journals even in the area where he has as much expertise as anyone in the world. Scientific orthodoxy has become a religion.

Forswear Coercion

Forswear coercion, force in all its guises
Trust destiny to know what path to take
(She has, in all events, the greater stake)
Anticipate fortuitous surprises 

Yourself included—set your nature free
Obey the instincts you don’t understand
Be ready to abandon what was planned
Embrace the future you cannot foresee

A time will come, love will eclipse your will
You’ll sense that you have made a choiceless choice
Your mind and body speak with one clear voice
While heart within is undisturbed and still 

The path of peace may (rarely) be obscure
But you can tell when your intent is pure

— JJM, from the Poetry of Onenness

James Clerk Maxwell

When I learned the laws of electromagnetism, they were written in the language of vector calculus. The relationship between x, y, and z has to be symmetric because nature doesn’t know which way is North or even which way is Up. That means the laws can only take certain forms. So the Maxwell Equations take a neat form as 4 vector equations, which are a shorthand for 8 equations in x, y, and z. 

Einstein brought time into the same framework as space, and told us every physical law must be expressible in as 4-vectors in space and time. So the 8 Maxwell equations can be written as a single 4-vector equation, usually notated simply as 

▢A =J

When James Clerk Maxwell was trying to figure out the laws of electromagnetism in the mid-19th century, there were no four-vectors or even three-vectors. So he used an elegant but abstract mathematical language of quaternions. Quaternions are like complex (or imaginary) number, except that instead of just one square root of minus one, there are 3 different ones. And with quaternions, the order of multiplication matters so xy is not the same thing as yx. 

Maxwell came up with 20 quaternion equations, and didn’t know how they could be solved. He did, however, notice one thing. Even in empty space, the equations said there could be a magnetic field and an electric field, so long as both were moving at a particular speed. He calculated this speed and it came within a few percent of the speed of light! So Maxwell became the first person to guess that light was an electromagnetic wave.

James Clerk Maxwell was born 190 years ago today. Like most scientists of his generation, he was a Christian, a philosopher, and a poet.

How did 19th Century physicists know the speed of light? That’s a story for another day. But you’re right, it’s much too fast to be measured with flashlights and mirrors on distant mountain tops.

Peace is a Bottom-up Project

Conflicts only fully end when the delicate threads of peace have been steadily and quietly woven by ordinary, dedicated folk. UN “peacekeeping” soldiers may be worse than useless. We can’t count on any government to create peace for us. We’ll have to do it ourselves.

Aeon article by Tobias Jones

‘There is not a single clear-cut example where deals among elites have actually ended violence. Trickle-down peace, it turns out, is just as fraught an ideology as trickle-down economics.’

Séverine Autesserre

Rondine – a ‘peace citadel’ in the Tuscan countryside – brings together young Israelis and Palestinians (as well as many other warring nationalities) for two-year residencies. 


Peace is far more egalitarian than war, requiring not expensive arms, but simply the freely available, sometimes suppressed human spirit.

On Prayer


You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.

That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word ‘is’
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say ‘we’; there, every one, separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same. 

— Czeslaw Milosz (via Joe Riley’s Panhala listserve)