Self-serving advice?

All paradoxes intrigue me, but the one I find most delicious is not that in seeking one’s own gratification one finds only ennui, while lasting fulfillment may be found in seeking to gratify others, but rather that in commending this lesson to you, I am inviting you to provide me gratification, for your elevation at my expense.

— Josh Mitteldorf

Word Smiths

The astrophysicists engaged in the search for extraterrestrial life generally suppose that this search is limited to our xenobiological counterparts, and does not concern disembodied or ethereal beings, but only beings of flesh and blood, or whatever the materials are on the extraterrestrial’s planet that come together to constitute something we would be in a position to recognize as a living body. But the search itself is the practical culmination of the speculation that we see in Leibniz and Kant, and this speculation is plainly the descendant of angelology.
Justin E. H. Smith


Maybe the dead know, their eyes widening at last,
Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on
At twilight. Hearing the engines flare, the horns
Not letting up, the frenzy of being. I want to be
One notch below bedlam, like a radio without a dial.
Wide open, so everything floods in at once.
And sealed tight, so nothing escapes. Not even time,
Which should curl in on itself and loop around like smoke.
So that I might be sitting now beside my father
As he raises a lit match to the bowl of his pipe
For the first time in the winter of 1959.
Tracy K. Smith

Imagination, defined

[P]owerful imagination is not false outward vision, but intense inward representation, and a creative energy constantly fed by susceptibility to the veriest minutiae of experience, which it reproduces and constructs in fresh and fresh wholes; not the habitual confusion of provable fact with the fictions of fancy and transient inclination, but a breadth of ideal association which informs every material object, every incidental fact with far-reaching memories and stored residues of passion, bringing into new light the less obvious relations of human existence.

— George Eliot [Theophrastus Such, Ch 13]

Chop wood, carry water

According to Buddha’s words, once one has fully entered the world, there is no breach or need to leave the world. These words contain the principle of attaining Buddhahood by means of the world dharma.

In the Kegon Sutra it is said: “the Buddha Dharma is not different from the world dharma, and the world dharma is not different from the Buddha Dharma.” Anyone who does not put to use this principle of attaining Buddhahood in the world dharma itself knows nothing of the real intentions of the Buddha.

Any and every occupation is Buddhist practice. It is on the basis of our actual work that enlightenment is to be attained. Therefore, no work can be anything other than Buddhist practice.

– Shosan (1579-1655)   (quoted by Daily Zen)

That your present experience is made of ecstasy which morphs quite naturally into extinction generally evades you.

The revelation occurs when the cacophony of consciousness ushers the flame of attention beyond its common conclusion, that of being a creature bound by mind. An unutterable distancing or constructive depersonalization occurs slowly and suddenly that erases the imaginary boundary of personal continuity and releases the flame of attention from shortsightedness.

What remains is obliterative novelty; clinging fails, the sense of self yields to wonder, the world and all experiencing reveals in absolute transparency. Your problems remain, why shouldn’t they, it’s the owner who has left town.

Night Sky Sangha, edited and abridged by JJM

What have we lost?

“Shamanism is a universal practice; it is the world’s oldest spiritual practice.”


…and here is a shaman of our culture, powerfully articulate about what is wrong with medicalizing mental differences, and where we can go if we choose another path…

“There is no greater honor or privilege than to facilitate someone’s healing process. To bear witness, to reach out a hand, to share the burden of someone’s suffering, and to hold the hope for their recovery.”

The Realists

HOPE that you may understand!
What can books of men that wive
In a dragon-guarded land,
paintings of the dolphin-drawn
Sea-nymphs in their pearly wagons
Do, but awake a hope to live
That had gone
With the dragons?

— William Butler Yeats, born this day in 1865

Just because science is compartmentalized doesn’t mean that the brain is compartmentalized.

When Gregor Mendel’s researches established the laws of genetics, he was studying height and color in pea plants. He looked at traits controlled by single genes, because there he could see the clearest patterns. We now know that his chosen genes were the exception. Most genes have multiple purposes, with many and varied interactions. The genome is a web that resists being compartmentalized, and epigenetics is even more intricately convoluted.

In recent decades, neurologists have been studying the brain the way Mendel studied genetics.  They can localize separate functions in separate regions with fMRI, and induce predictable reactions with stimulation of a particular neuron.

But there are hints that the brain’s organization will prove to be every bit as convoluted as the genome’s.  If this turns out to be the case, we will need very different methods and different concepts from the reductionism that has been the mainstay of Western science.

Read an article at The Conversation