There’s a Troll in My Coffee

One’s prodigious capacity for instant story-telling, or rapid inflation, upstages the innocent simplicity of present being, thus we subscribe to mind by default as an accurate compendium of who and what and where and why we are now.

We become hyper-inflated with self and come to embrace a steady preoccupation with everywhere else but here, so sure of our imaginations and will to guide us toward future fulfillment.

This generally accepted habit, an insidious parasite of fantasy, presumes agency and dominion as it takes all the credit for whatever we think has, is, and will happen.

We are entranced with what we think as the oracle and high priest of what’s real, while having no actual contact with the ever effervescing surprise of empty experience.

Mind, a self-conditioning reference accusation and projection system, is a symptom of empty experience, but if we clutch too tight it can appear to be exempt from suspicion. The reflex to believe in mind is the seed of individuated coherence, the source of self and other, and the genesis of existential malnourishment that leads to conflict and violence.

Experience, the sole infinity, is concomitantly empty of objects, empty of implication, and full to spilling over with stuff to believe in. If we fail to see the Dao of radiant inclusivity we end up one-sided, tethered to belief. If we are invited and inspired to behold the entirety, we become nourished by the intoxicating presence of emptiness as ourselves.

Wouldn’t you know it, there’s a Troll in my coffee.

Night Sky Sangha



Brahms and Tchaikovsky

Born in 1833 and 1840, in Hamburg and Votkinsk, both on the 7th of May.   The most popular, most beloved of all the great late romantic composers, and yet they couldn’t appreciate one another.  Brahms was indifferent to Tchaikovsky.  Tchaikovsky actively disliked Brahms’s music and argued that it was unappealing.

Today, their reputations are both solid.  We think of Brahms as more the formalist, the intellectual.  But compared to many 20th Century composers, his music is not at all abstract or difficult to appreciate with our hearts.  We think of Tchaikovsky as sentimental, but what a genius!  In originality of orchestration he is unsurpassed.   His works have deep integrity of structure, an intellectual attribute for which Brahms is known.  Even his counterpoint—the most abstract of compositional techniques—is brilliantly original.

(When I was young, I learned a prejudice against Tchaikovsky from musician friends who said his music was shallow.  So I’ve learned to love his music later in life than Brahms.)

Both repressed their sexuality.  Brahms was in love with the wife of his friend and mentor Robert Schumann.  Tchaikovsky was attracted to men, but secretive and ashamed in the repressive environment of Czar Nicholas.

The two men met twice in their lives.  Brahms was reported to be solicitous, Tchaikovsky a bit more stand-offish.  Neither was warm.

      “It is impossible in listening to Brahms’ music to say that it is weak or unremarkable,” Tchaikovsky goes on. “His style is always elevated. Unlike all our contemporary musicians, he never has recourse to purely external effects; he never attempts to astonish us, to strike us by some new and brilliant orchestral combination; nor do we meet in his music with anything trivial or directly imitative. It is all very serious, very distinguished, apparently even original, but in spite of all this, the chief thing is lacking – beauty! A few years ago, when I frankly expressed my opinion of Brahms to [pianist-conductor] Hans von Bülow, he replied: ‘Wait a minute, the time will come when you will enter into the depth and beauty of Brahms. Like you, it was long before I understood him, but gradually, I was blessed by the revelation of his genius. It will be the same with you.’ And still I wait; but the revelation tarries. I deeply revere the artistic personality of Brahms. I bow to the actual purity of his musical tendencies, and I admire his firm, proud renunciation of all the tricks that solemnize the Wagner cult, and in a much less degree the worship of Liszt, but I do not care for his music.   — Bradley Bambarger

Here are links to the scherzo 3rd movements of Brahms Symphony #4 and Tchaikovsky Symphony #4. Both movements are palpably joyous. (If you’e interested, you might listen to what comes right after the pizzicato string fade at the end of the Tchaikovsky movement. I won’t give away more.)


We know right away if someone’s inspired or merely devout—
Nor Moonies nor Marxists nor Tupperware salesmen can fool us.  
But within, institutional din, social message has power to rule us,   
And God’s whisper is drowned by the roar of their collective shout.

All wisdom and all certainty depend on this foundation
Inner light is not a luxury for rare, inspired moments—
Sanity itself is Phoenix, rising from turmoil it foments,
This collective, primal sanity may prove mankind’s salvation.

Death and Sleep are timeless portals for the music of nature’s choir;
The lost art of dreaming, our connection to the source of creation.            
Without sleep, we sink in desperate selfishness and isolation;
Without death, our souls are stalled, suspended, and can climb no higher.

Less doing, more listening—in the end we know it comes to this.
Lurking fears, the lonely quest for power—these are not things we will miss.

— Josh Mitteldorf

What the trees are saying

In recent decades it has become clear that trees communicate in a language of pheromones, and that the language crosses species lines through the forest.  In this passage from Richard Powers’s new novel, The Overstory, the trees are talking, the humans listen in.

The black spruces down the drumlin put it bluntly: warm is feeding on warm. The permafrost is belching. The cycle speeds up.

Farther south, broadleaves agree.  Noisy aspens and remnant birches, forests of cottonwoods and poplars take up the chorus: The world is turning into a new thing.  

The man rolls over onto his back, face to face with the morning sky.  The messages swarm him. Even here, homeless, he thinks: Nothing will be the same.  

The spruces answer:  Nothing has ever been the same.
___We’re all doomed,
the man thinks.
We have always all been doomed.
____But things are different this time.
Yes, you are here.

He’ll strike camp tomorrow, or the day after.  But this minute, this morning, he watches the spruces writing and thinks, I wouldn’t need to be very different for sun to seem to be about sun, for green to be about green.  For joy and boredom and anguish and terror and death to all be themselves without any need for killing clarity, and then this—THIS, the growing rings of light and water and stone—would take up all of me and be all the words I need.img_4475

Citizen-funded Ocean Cleanup

Scientists are preparing to launch the world’s first machine to clean up the planet’s largest mass of ocean plastic.

The system, originally dreamed up by a teenager, will be shipped out this summer to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California, and which contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic.

It will be the first ever attempt to tackle the patch since it was discovered in 1997.

The experts believe the machine should be able to collect half of the detritus in the patch – about 40,000 metric tons – within five years.

Read more at The Independent




Reason alone cannot offer us safe passage across the most challenging waters that we are called upon to navigate. We need faith, and cannot allow our faith to be hijacked by the religious or political institutions that will only degrade it.

Faith is not an unthinking assent to unmeaning verbiage about confessedly insoluble difficulties; rather it is the prescience that forecasts the future beyond what is rigorously justified by the data as yet given.  Faith is the pillar of flame that points out the path of the soul beyond the limits of unaided sight.
— F.C.S. Schiller, from Riddles of the Sphinx