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

5 February 2006

What to remember in the midst of a crisis

Heavy emotion clouds our thinking. Avoid making major decisions until your head clears (if this is an option).  Just manage the situation for now.

Reach out for support if there are friends whom you know you can trust. Reach out for support even if you’re afraid you can’t trust anyone.  (Remember that the crisis may be making trust difficult for you.) 

Reserve a portion of your attention for observation of your feelings and your responses; this is a special opportunity for learning and growth.  But do not hasten to form conclusions about what the situation's lessons may be. 

~ Josh Mitteldorf

4 February 2006

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.  May your mountains rise into and above the clouds."

Edward Abbey, 20th-century polemicist and desert anarchist, a character of elaborate contradictions and eccentricities whose words either infuriated or delighted his readers.

3 February 2006

"The internal exploration is well worth while.  For there is something within the mind of man and beast, something that is neither intellect nor feeling, but deeper than both, to which the name of intuition may fitly be given.  When science can truly explain why a horse will take its drunken rider for miles through the dark and find its own way home; why field mice seal up their holes before the cold weather comes; why sheep move away toward the lee side of a mountain before severe storms; when it can tell us what warns the tortoise to retire to rest and refuge before every shower of rain; and when it can really explain who guides a vulture many miles distant to the dead body of an animal, we may then learn that intuition is something of a better guide than intellect.  Science has wrested from the clasp of Nature some astonishing secrets, but thus far it has not discovered the source of intuition."

Paul Brunton, The Secret Path, 1935

In the 70-odd years since these words were written, science has successfully explained some of these phenomena, but abandoned others as 'anomalies', while holding to a rigid conviction that the known physical media and the known five senses must be adequate to the task, though we may not at present perceive the mechanism.  Part of the problem is that some of these abilities appear sporadically, and are replicable only in a statistical sense; and yet the same can be said of particle physics, and that is not held to be a barrier to the latter's scientific legitimacy. New Scientist last week makes the oft-repeated, misleading claim that "Decades of scientific research into parapsychology have produced no convincing demonstration of the paranormal that can be reliably reproduced - the acid test of scientific inquiry." 

Mysteries and challenges remain in the extra-sensory abilities of both man and beast, and until science fully engages with them, science will be the poorer - while people inclined to superstitious belief systems will have less reason to put their faith in science.

2 February 2006

As a performer, Fritz Kreisler made music his own. He freely edited the music, and composed his own cadenzas to the great romantic concerti. His expression was always very personal, and reached right to the hearts of his listeners. A generation later, Jascha Heifetz “introduced the modern school of violin playing which prizes complete technical command, cleanness of execution, and fidelity to the score…
“…all violin partisans have to acknowledge the singular figure of Heifetz who perfected every apsect of violin craft and infused his playing with a rugged and disciplined musicianship and sophisticated artistry. No other field of music has been so decisively dominated by one musician. No other performer has mastered his or her instrument so completely. No other artist has sustained his or her performance standards and musical integrity over so long a period of time and over so vast a repertoire.”
(from an Amazon Review by Edward H. Oh)

1927 recording of Kreisler playing Schumann Romance          1952 recording of Heifetz playing a Sarasate showpiece

Fritz Kreisler and Jascha Heifetz were born 26 years apart, both on 2 February

1 February 2006

An important corollary of the Uncertainty Principle of quantum mechanics is that nothing can ever be perfectly still.  (Otherwise its position and velocity could both be known arbitrarily well.)  For example, even at absolute zero temperature, when all the energy is drained out of a crystal that can possibly be drained out, there is some residual wiggling and jiggling that remains.

And what if there’s no crystal to wiggle and jiggle?  Turns out, the vacuum, too, does its own dance.  Particles of all sorts pop into existence for a few femtoseconds, then disappear before you can pin them down, but their transient existence is believed to have consequences.  

Some physicists think that the negative gravity that is driving the cosmic expansion might be traceable to zero-point oscillations of the vacuum of space.   One problem with this theory is that the calculated zero-point energy of the vacuum is enormous, while the observed cosmologic acceleration predicts a tiny zero-point energy.  The inflation that is hypothesized to have occurred in the first fractional second of the universe was driven by vacuum fluctuations of a particular field.

Daily routines foster the illusion that the world is “ordinary”, logical, and well-understood.  Those of us who take a rational, scientific view of the world presume that this view is founded in science.  Physicists know better.

31 January 2006

"Whereas Beethoven was the first composer to assert himself as independent from the constraints of the 18th century aristocracy, Franz Peter Schubert, born a generation later in 1797 [31 January], was perhaps the first bohemian. The son of a school teacher, Schubert declared himself fit for nothing but composing music, and lived a modest existence with the support primarily of friends while he quietly revolutionized the art in his brief thirty-one years on earth. The first of the great Viennese composers who was actually from Vienna was barely known, except for his songs, in the city that was mad for Rossini and other more flamboyant forms of entertainment…Of all the great composers, we perhaps know the least about Schubert. He was always poor and unworldly and relied on the support of his circle of friends. Many masterpieces were only performed at the middle class parties dubbed as Schubertiads by his inner circle...

Where Beethoven is ultimately a classical composer, Schubert truly paves the way toward the full flowering of Romanticism with his lyric songlike themes that develop discursively and episodically."

- from a biographical sketch by Allen Kranz

Listen to Fantasy for Violin and Piano

30 January 2006


In that first hardly noticed moment to which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other more secret,
moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible 
hile carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be,
what urgency calls you to your one love?

What shape waits in the seed of you 
to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the waiting desk?

~ David Whyte 

(The House of Belonging)