An uplifting news item, poem, thought or quotation each day.
Archive of past entries

2 October 2005

In our lives, we need both routine and ritual. The distinction between the two hinges more on attitude than action.

A routine is something we do without awareness for convenience, to avoid the distraction and clutter of little decisions about unimportant things. Routines are necessary for efficiency, thou they rob us of experience.

A ritual is an opportunity for heightened awareness: it is the shell of an experience, for which we reserve periodically a place in our lives, and which we approach with our sensibilities fully open, our expectations deliberately set to one side.

There is a danger that our rituals can devolve into routines, with only perfunctory attention. Hence we continually re-invent them – each time that we meditate or pray, each time that we hear a piece of music or attend a wedding, each time we ask a loved one about his daily experience – we come forward in full I-thou relationship, as Buber would say. I am new to this occasion, and I approach it in a way that was not even possible before this moment.

~Josh Mitteldorf

1 October 2005

"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change."

~ Carl Rogers

30 September 2005

"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."
~ Jalal ad-Din Rumi, born this day in 1207

Rumi was a poet and a Sufi and a mystic. His writing speaks to us with such an immediacy, it is difficult to believe that he lived so long ago. His thought was deeply rooted in Islam, but he refused to be confined by it: "Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians should be viewed with the same eye."

"All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from another realm, I'm sure of that, and I intend to find my way there."

29 September 2005

"Only in solitude do we find ourselves; and in finding ourselves, we find in ourselves all our brothers in solitude."
~ Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo, born this day in 1864

Unamuno was a Basque philosopher and poet who struggled with the impact of the scientific worldview on Christian faith.  He wrote a novel (in 1914) in which a man writes a novel, and precipitates an existential crisis when he discovers in his introspection that he is himself the creation of a man named Unamuno, and that he lives only in Unamuno's imagination.  The novelist in the novel rebels against Unamuno, and his triumph is to achieve an independence of thought and creation.  

"He sought the quixotic in all things, whether in creative writing or in contemplation of other writers, and assumed with his patron saint Don Quixote the tragic contradiction of all the great 'feelers' of Europe."
- R. E. Batchelor

28 September 2005

A Buddhist Sabbath

Every day and every hour, one should practice mindfulness. That's easy to say, but to carry it out in practice is not. That's why I suggest to those who come to the meditation sessions that each person should try hard to reserve one day out of the week to devote entirely to his or her practice of mindfulness...

If it is Saturday, then Saturday must be entirely your day, a day during which you are completely the master.... Every worker in a peace or service community, no matter how urgent its work, has the right to such a day, for without it we will lose ourselves quickly in a life full of worry and action, and our responses will become increasingly aimless...

[F]igure out a way to remind yourself at the moment of waking that this day is your day of mindfulness... Today is your day...While still lying in bed, begin slowly to follow your breath - slow, long, and conscious breaths... Spend at least a half hour taking a bath... For those who are just beginning to practice, it is best to maintain a spirit of silence throughout the day. (That doesn't mean that on the day of mindfulness, you shouldn't speak at all.)... In the morning, after you have cleaned and straightened up your house, and in the afternoon, after you have worked in the garden or watched clouds or gathered flowers, prepare a pot of tea to sit and drink in mindfulness...Eat lightly... In the evening, you might read scripture and copy passages, write letters to friends, or do anything else you enjoy outside of your normal duties during the week.

Be a bud sitting quietly in the hedge.
Be a smile, one part of wondrous existence.
Stand here. There is no need to depart.
This homeland is as beautiful as the homeland of our childhood.
Do not harm it, please, and continue to sing...

From Thich Nhat Hanh’s  Miracle of Mindfulness

27 September 2005

Space Elevator

There are many thousands of man-made satellites in orbit, principally for communication, navigation, and observation of the Earth and the Heavens. Still, space remains exotic because it is expensive. Suppose it became cheap enough for much more routine uses?

Rockets are, after all, an extravagant way to move anything. Throwing hot gas behind you as fast as you can just to keep from succumbing to gravity is spectacularly wasteful. What if you could just pull yourself up?

Since the 19th Century Russian visionary Konstantin Tsiolkovksy, people have talked of building towers that stretch up to space. The supporting structure turns out to be too heavy. The engineering parameters look much more promising for a "sky hook" with a rope hanging down. Still, you need space-age material strengths, but cables made of carbon fiber are, in principle, light enough and strong enough to make it possible. What will hold it at the top? A 600-ton counterweight in geosynchronous orbit. The principle is the same as swinging a rope around your head with a weight tied to one end. If the weight and the length are adjusted just right, you can anchor one end down at the equator, while the counterweight at the other swings free, 60,000 miles overhead, and just keeps pace with the earth’s rotation.

The construction will require conventional spacecrafts, but once the cable is installed in space, it will support a cable car which crawls up into orbit and back, requiring a tiny fraction of the power and the weight of a conventional spacecraft.  All the power is expended for the first 1/3 of the trip - after that, centrifugal force continues to accelerate the craft outward.  It could tug on the next passenger, tethered by a second cable; or it could use the same effect to gather speed for a launch into deep space.

The cost of the entire project is estimated as low as $10 billion - about half what Americans spend in a year for coffee, or a tiny fraction of what it cost to send a man to the moon.

Article by Bradley Edwards      Web site by commercial developers     How it works

26 September 2005

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; 

There is yet faith, but the faith and love and hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So darkness shall be in the light, and the stillness the dancing.

~T. S. Eliot, born this day in 1888
East Coker (#2 of Four Quartets)