Turning Point


After a time of decay comes the turning point. The eternal effulgence has receded gradually into shadow, and now begins its return. Deep transformation is already under way, not brought about by force but by a confluence of sources, unseen because they are dispersed. The movement is natural, arising spontaneously. It is profoundly difficult, yet demands no  conscious effort. Awareness and intention can facilitate acceptance of change, but the change is inevitable, because it grows from an order that transcends individual will. The unfamiliar is disorienting, and fear is a natural response; but you may trust that no harm will accrue to you or your loved ones.

— paraphrased from the Wilhelm translation of the I Ching (hexagram 24) by JJM

Death as a blurring of boundaries

Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.

— Bertrand Russell, How to Grow Old

We shall not cease from exploration

I’ve planned a great adventure in meticulous detail
I’ve anticipated all, no stone unturned, it cannot fail.
The source of all my gladness is (or so I do believe)
That I know my destination—it’s a place I can’t conceive!

The voyage started badly, not a detail but went wrong.
My spirits were deflated, and I sang a doleful song.
Excitement turned to dread, I felt bewildered and adrift.
’Til a friend appeared from nowhere, and he gave my hopes a lift.

A glimpse of sweet salvation!, I am rescued! I am found!
As I live, I vow I’ll ne’er again depart familiar ground.
Though the home I now return to is the one from whence I came,
’Tis myself that is transfigured—I can never be the same.

Slow each day slips through my fingers, yet the flow of years is swift.
From a distance, I’ll look back upon the time I was adrift
Though I shudder to remember I was lost without a clue
Yet I harbor no regrets—this misadventure brought me you!

It’s natural to seek stasis, as to dread what we can’t see.
We’d fain pre-view the future, know ahead our destiny.
Though we’re loathe to venture forth from our effete, familiar dives,
Exploration is the only thing breathes life into our lives.

— Josh Mitteldorf

Your loved ones can fly. Trust them.

There is a common notion that a good romantic partner will “keep you in check” and “keep you grounded”. This is bullshit. A good romantic partner lifts you up and trusts you to fly.

Life is naturally breathtakingly beautiful. Appreciating that beauty is a skill you can develop. The more you learn to appreciate life’s beauty, the more it will show off for you, like a street performer who suddenly realizes he has an audience. Ease and happiness are natural.

Struggle and suffering are artificial. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
Your own true north, your true inner guidance, will always lead you away from old patterns. Clear seeing is the total absence of all manipulation. Be shamelessly beautiful. Be louder than the sociopaths. Trust yourself. Make art. Make love. Pay more attention to the clitoris. Have fun.

— Caitlin Johnstone

Outlook on the globe from 1922

Our Western civilization is built upon assumptions, which, to a psychologist, are rationalizings of excessive energy. Our industrialism, our militarism, our love of progress, our missionary zeal, our imperialism, our passion for dominating and organizing, all spring from a superflux of the itch for activity. The creed of efficiency for its own sake, without regard for the ends to which it is directed, has become somewhat discredited in Europe since the war, which would have never taken place if the Western nations had been slightly more indolent. But in America this creed is still almost universally accepted; so it is in Japan, and so it is by the Bolsheviks, who have been aiming fundamentally at the Americanization of Russia. Russia, like China, may be described as an artist nation; but unlike China it has been governed, since the time of Peter the Great, by men who wished to introduce all the good and evil of the West. In former days, I might have had no doubt that such men were in the right. Some (though not many) of the Chinese returned students resemble them in the belief that Western push and hustle are the most desirable things on earth. I cannot now take this view. The evils produced in China by indolence seem to me far less disastrous, from the point of view of mankind at large, than those produced throughout the world by the domineering cocksureness of Europe and America. The Great War showed that something is wrong with our civilization; experience of Russia and China has made me believe that those countries can help to show us what it is that is wrong. The Chinese have discovered, and have practised for many centuries, a way of life which, if it could be adopted by all the world, would make all the world happy. We Europeans have not. Our way of life demands strife, exploitation, restless change, discontent and destruction. Efficiency directed to destruction can only end in annihilation, and it is to this consummation that our civilization is tending, if it cannot learn some of that wisdom for which it despises the East.

— Bertrand Russell (The Problem of China, 1922)

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I is for Implausible

I know it is impossible, but I remember everything. We were just acids, really, intermingled with the rocks, and no one would have said then that the planet’s destiny belonged to us. What I remember most vividly is the great cleavage, in the earliest time, when the moon was torn away from us. I feel I lost a part of myself. I feel I lost so many loved ones. I wonder how they fare out there now. Sometimes I detect their presence in the beams of the moon at night. I know strictly speaking I cannot remember any of this. I was not there. But there is a memory that runs through all of us unbidden, and that can be brought to the surface with a little effort. In this effort, we stop being I and thou, which seems implausible, but I have always felt that coming to see oneself as an I in the first place was the far more remarkable way of apprehending the world, while conjuring our shared memory with all the other I’s is by far the less remarkable.

— Justin E. H. Smith

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Berfrois: The Book — Dostoevsky Wannabe