Missive from the Other Side

Jane Kenyon, born this day in 1947, never made it to her 48th birthday.  Still, she writes to let us know what we can expect.

I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one’s own eye in the mirror,

there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course

no illness. Contrition
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth. No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.

The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

Jane Kenyon

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Duality Paradox

All knowledge draws from two resources,
____science and the heart.
They both speak true, but quietly,
____to those who deep attend.
To weave two tales in one design,
____philosophy and art
Pursue the sacred mystery
____in quest that knows no end.

Never count on miracles,
____but know that they are real.
Pray for aid, but not confined
____to forms you understand.
Guard your mortal body well,
____but know that you can heal;
Work as though you had no help,
____and help you’ll find, unplanned.

— Josh Mitteldorf

Duality Paradox

Never count on miracles,
but know that they are real.
Pray for aid, but not confined
to forms we understand.
Guard your mortal body well,
but know that it can heal;
Work as though we had no help,
and help we’ll find, unplanned.

Logic with empirical
support is the foundation
«Le couer a ses raisons, qu la
raison ne connait point.»
Schemes of mice and men can ne’er
suffice for our salvation
Steer from danger, then let go:
«L’on crée ce que l’on craint.»

Of all our means to know what’s true,
dear science is the best–
Yet all the answers science yields
won’t fill a thimble’s hollow.
We’ll never know the limits of
our knowledge till we test
And question, question everything–
then follow, follow, follow…

— Josh Mitteldorf

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To Omar Khayyam

Omar, within thy scented garden-close,
When passed with eventide
The starward incense of the waning rose—
Too fair and dear and precious to abide
After the glad and golden death of spring—
Omar, thou heardest then,
Above the world of men,
The mournful rumour of an iron wing,
The sough and sigh of desolating years,
Whereof the wind is as the winds that blow
Out of a lonesome land of night and snow,
Where ancient winter weeps with frozen tears;
And in thy bodeful ears,
The brief and tiny lisp
Of petals curled and crisp,
Fallen at Eve in Persia’s mellow clime,
Was mingled with the mighty sound of time.
Omar, thou knewest well
How the fair days are sorrowful and strange
With time’s inexorable mystery
And terror ineluctable of change:
Upon thine eyes the bleak and bitter spell
Of vision, thou didst see,
As in a magic glass,
The moulded mists and painted shadows pass—
The ghostly pomps we name reality.
And, lo, the level field,
With broken fane and throne,
And dust of old, unfabled cities sown,
In unremembering years was made to yield,
From out the shards of Pow’r,
The pillars frail and small
That lift for capital
The blood-like bubble of the poppy-flow’r;
And crowns were crumbled for the airy gold
The crocus and the daffodil should hold
As inalienable dow’r.
Before thy gaze, the sad unvaried green
The cypresses like robes funereal wear,
Was woven on the gradual looms of air,
From threadbare silk and tattered sendaline
That clothed some ancient queen;
And from the spoilt vermilion of her mouth,
The myrtles rose, and from her ruined hair,
And eyes that held the summer’s ardent drouth
In blown, forgotten bow’rs;
And amber limbs and breast,
Through ancient nights by sleepless love oppressed,
Or by the iron flight of loveless hours.
Knowing the weary wisdom of the years,
The empty truth of tears;
The suns of June, that with some great excess
Of ardour slay the unabiding rose,
And grey-haired winter, wan and fervourless
For whom no flower grows;
Seeing the scarlet and the gold that pales,
On Orient snows untrod,
In magic morns that grant,
Across a land of common green and gray,
The disenchanted day;
Knowing the iron veils
And walls of adamant,
That ward the flaming verities of God—
Knowing these things, ah, surely thou wert wise,
Beneath the warm and thunder-dreaming skies,
To kiss on ardent breast and avid mouth,
Some girl whose sultry eyes
Were golden with the sun-beloved south—
To pluck the rose and drain the rose-red wine,
In gardens half-divine;
Before the broken cup
Be filled and covered up
In dusty seas of everlasting drouth.

— Clark Ashton Smith

Omar Khayyam is 970 years old today.

Demystifying Enlightenment

It is here in this space between feeling and craving that the battle will be fought which will determine whether bondage will continue indefinitely into the future or whether it will be replaced by enlightenment and liberation. For if instead of yielding to craving, to the driving thirst for pleasure, if a person contemplates with mindfulness and awareness the nature of feelings and understands these feelings as they are, then that person can prevent craving from crystallising and solidifying.

The liberation [of Nirvana is] a liberation from perpetual rebirth, a liberation that will fully kick in at the end of this life cycle. But it is also liberation in the here and now, liberation from the suffering that tanha brings – liberation from the craving to capture pleasant feelings and to escape unpleasant feelings, liberation from the persistent desire for things to be different than they are.

Mindfulness involves, among other things, cultivating an awareness of your feelings that fundamentally changes your relationship to them. It can, if practised rigorously, let you experience feelings with a kind of dispassion or ‘non-attachment’ – neither struggling uncomfortably to escape the ‘bad’ feelings nor trying, desperately and futilely, to hang on to the ‘good’ feelings.

— Read more from Robert Wright at Aeon.co

The Importance of Being Stupid in Science

Science articles give the impression that the research is laid out in a logical order and that all the data fit neatly to confirm a hypothesis.  All the false starts are left out by convention.  All the embarrassing lab errors and the data that don’t fit are

The truth is, scientists really don’t know what we’re doing.  We’re wallowing in the unknown, flailing, trying to keep our heads above the muck and trying to find some clear message from the morass.

Most scientists feel stupid most of the time.  It comes with the territory.  The exceptions are people who aren’t really trying to do science, but are engaged in the vast enterprise of collecting the data on which modern science is built.

(This is summarized (with editorial freedom) from an article by Martin Schwartz in the Journal of Cell Science, The Importance of Being Stupid.)

High Quality Stupid Scientist Blank Meme Template

One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time…The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.