开心

Come to each day with open heart and mind
Invite events that challenge you to grow.
What might these be? — impossible to know.
Don’t try to guess what marvels you may find.

Regard the Universe as though for you
Alone its special lessons were designed.
Permit your precious ores to be refined;
Have faith that what you don’t yet know is true.

Appear before each person that you meet
As to your special guru, wise and kind,
But also mischievous, with easy laugh—
It’s your rigidities he must defeat.

And what you can’t let go, others will find
Someday, in o’ergrown fields, your epigraph.

— JJM

* The title 开心, literally “open heart”, is a word most often translated as “happiness”.

Ho Tai Statue

Correspondences

Nature’s a temple where each living column,
At times, gives forth vague words. There Man advances
Through forest-groves of symbols, strange and solemn,
Who follow him with their familiar glances.

As long-drawn echoes mingle and transfuse
Till in a deep, dark unison they swoon,
Vast as the night or as the vault of noon —
So are commingled perfumes, sounds, and hues.

There can be perfumes cool as children’s flesh,
Like fiddIes, sweet, like meadows greenly fresh.
Rich, complex, and triumphant, others roll

With the vast range of all non-finite things —
Amber, musk, incense, benjamin, each sings
The transports of the senses and the soul.

Charles Baudelaire celebrates his 200th birthday today.
This poem translated by Roy Campbell.

Correspondances

La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers.

Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.

II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d’enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
— Et d’autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,

Ayant l’expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l’ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l’encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l’esprit et des sens.

Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Childhood

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
                      Hath had elsewhere its setting,
                         And cometh from afar:
                      Not in entire forgetfulness,
                      And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
                      From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
                      Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
                      He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
                      Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
                      And by the vision splendid
                      Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

— William Wordsworth was born this day in 1770

Out of Water

A new embroidery of flowers, canary color,
dots the grass already dotty
with aster-white and clover.

I warn, “They won’t last, out of water.”
The children pick some anyway.

In or out of  water
children don’t last either.

I watch them as they pick.
Still free of  what’s next
and what was yesterday
they pick today.

Marie Ponsot would have been 100 years old today. She almost made it.

water flowers

Language floods the mud; mind makes a cast of words;   
it precipitates, mercurial, like T’ang discourse
riding the tidal constant of its source.

The transformative potential in overcoming fear of death

Foretold in ancient prophesies of Thoth,
We face a time when all we know must cease.
There’s nothing like confronting death for growth
And learning to sustain one’s heart in peace.

To know that death is not a final end
Casts human tragedy in different light.
The urgency disperses; we transcend
Our need to rescue and our need to fight.

Then even murder, if the world’s a stage,
Is but a crime within the soul’s romance,
Its evil writ large on a novel’s page,
Enacted by two dancers in one dance.

So, be forewarned: we’ll all be letting go;
And play your part as you enjoy the show.

— JJM, Easter Sunday

An Adieu

Sorrow, quit me for a while!
    Wintry days are over;
Hope again, with April smile,
    Violets sows and clover.

Pleasure follows in her path,
    Love itself flies after,
And the brook a music hath
    Sweet as childhood’s laughter.

Not a bird upon the bough
    Can repress its rapture,
Not a bud that blossoms now
    But doth beauty capture.

Sorrow, thou art Winter’s mate,
    Spring cannot regret thee;
Yet, ah, yet—my friend of late—
    I shall not forget thee!

— Florence Coates

snowdrop-523667_960_720

What can frog cells make (besides a frog)?

The field of biochemistry has been booming for my entire life. This has created the illusion that living beings are chemical machines. It’s true, of course, that we can understand a great deal about life based on chemistry. But some very basic life functions can’t be explained in chemical terms.

How does an embryo develop the shape of a body? The lab of Michael Levin has been creatively posing this question for 20 years. In his latest research, he is letting foetal cells self-organize into Xenobots that have autonomous behaviors. They move, they seek warmth, they form patters in cooperation with other xenobots. They have purposeful behaviors, thought to require nervous systems.

The xenobots are turning some conventional views in developmental biology upside down. They suggest that the frog genome doesn’t uniquely instruct cells about how to proliferate, differentiate and arrange themselves into a frog body. Rather, that’s just one possible outcome of the process that the genomic programming permits.

The results seem to imply that individual cells have a kind of decision-making capacity that creates a palette of possible bodies they could build — constrained and guided by the genome but not defined by it. Rules operating above the level of genes appear to specify biological form, and the way we see them embodied in xenobots can tell us something about how they operate.
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