10 December 2006

Some say that we should never reveal all, that a little mystery deepens our relationships.  I respond that there is no shortage of mystery in our relationships, but often there is a want of understanding.

If you’re wondering whether to write that letter, send that message, initiate that conversation – here’s a guideline: 

Expressions of anger can wait until you cool down and gain perspective.  Expressions of dissatisfaction, or requests for someone to change a behavior are subject to three days’ introspection:  is this a situation that you can resolve by demanding growth of yourself?  Requests for change of a personality trait or personal value seldom have the desired effect.

If you have the upper hand or the leader’s role in a relationship, then be circumspect in your criticism.  If speaking to someone who holds more authority over you than you have over him, then be bold and assertive.

If it reveals a part of yourself about which you are embarrassed, then say it now.  If it is a request for forgiveness, then ask without hesitation.  If it makes you feel naked and vulnerable, it will only draw you closer to your friend, and hasten the resolution of an uncomfortable situation.

– Josh Mitteldorf

9 December 2006

On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post oer land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.” 

~ John Milton, born this day in 1608, conceived and planned epic tomes entirely in his memory, and dictated his most famous works after he lost his sight to glaucoma. He became history’s second blind master of epic poetry.

8 December 2006

The music of Jean Sibelius is deeply personal.  He composes what he is feeling, unconcerned about who might be listening.  Sometimes when I listen, I have the feeling of being in his living room, being allowed in to his private thoughts.

Listen to the opening of the 6th Symphony 

“Pay no attention to what the critics say; no statue has ever been put up to a critic.”
–  Jean Sibelius, born this day in 1865

7 December 2006

“I believe that the day is not far off when we will be able to prescribe drugs that cause severed spinal cords to heal, hearts to regenerate and lost limbs to regrow. People will come to expect that injured or diseased organs are meant to be repaired from within, in much the same way that we fix an appliance or automobile: by replacing the damaged part with a manufacturer-certified new part. Advances in heart regeneration are around the corner, digits will be regrown within five to ten years, and limb regeneration will occur a few years later. Central nervous system repair will occur first with the retina and optic nerve and later with the spinal cord. Within 50 years whole-body replacement will be routine.”

Ellen Heber-Katz, speculating on the future in New Scientist’s 50th Anniversary issue

6 December 2006

“Because he has surrendered himself to it, ‘united’ with it, the patriot knows his country, the artist knows the subject of his art, the lover his beloved, the saint his God, in a manner which is inconceivable as well as unattainable by the looker-on.

“Real knowledge, since it always implies an intuitive sympathy more or less intense, is far more accurately suggested by the symbols of touch and taste than by those of hearing and sight. True, analytic thought follows swiftly upon the contact, the apprehension, the union: and we, in our muddle-headed way, have persuaded ourselves that this is the essential part of knowledge – that it is, in fact, more important to cook the hare than to catch it.

“But when we get rid of this illusion and go back to the more primitive activities through which our mental kitchen gets its supplies, we see that the distinction between mystic and non-mystic is not merely that between the rationalist and the dreamer, between intellect and intuition. The question which divides them is really this: What, out of the mass of material offered to it, shall consciousness seize upon – with what aspects of the universe shall it ‘unite’?


“Because mystery is horrible to us, we have agreed for the most part to live in a world of labels; to make of them the current coin of experience, and ignore their merely symbolic character, the infinite gradation of values which they misrepresent. We simply do not attempt to unite with Reality.

“But now and then that symbolic character is suddenly brought home to us. Some great emotion, some devastating visitation of beauty, love, or pain, lifts us to another level of consciousness; and we are aware for a moment of the difference between the neat collection of discrete objects and experiences which we call the world, and the height, the depth, the breadth of that living, growing, changing Fact, of which thought, life, and energy are parts, and in which we ‘live and move and have our being.’

“Then we realise that our whole life is enmeshed in great and living forces; terrible because unknown.” 

~ from The Practical Mystic, by Evelyn Underhill

“It is those who have a deep and real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life”
~ Evelyn Underhill, born this day in 1875

“Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love.”

5 December 2006

“Make no mistake about it. The decision to live one’s life based on a model of fulfillment, personal values and preferences is a RADICAL ACT. We have been taught from an early age to be successful, practical, pragmatic and accomplished. We have learned to follow the thinking of our heads rather than our heart’s desires. We have been relentlessly trained to operate inside the box of what we know we can accomplish, rather than risking uncharted territory of what we truly want. Pursuing a path of fulfillment means rocking the boat…sometimes rocking it very hard. To go against and outside of this training requires fierce creativity, an un-dauntability and steadfastness that is paradoxically both rare and smoldering in the heart of every human.”

Karen Kimsey-House
   Read Alison Arneill on ‘gleeful terror’

4 December 2006

It was 1747, toward the end of Bach’s life, when his son Carl Phillip Emanuel arranged for an invitation to the court of King Frederick of Prussia. Frederick was a floutist and composer, a lover of musical distraction, a warrior and a statesman. Bach’s reputation had preceded him. The king put before Bach a theme of his own devising –awkward and richly chromatic – to see what Bach could do with it. Some themes are more amenable to counterpoint than others, and this one is so fiendishly difficult that it is easy to imagine this was a trick on the part of the King. Contemporary news reports that Bach improvised on the keyboard, creating a 3-part fugue on the spot.

Two weeks later, Bach delivered to the King a suite of fugues and canons, including a trio sonata complete, all based on this one theme, consummately crafted in the contrapuntal style which he had perfected. Some of the pieces were so tightly-constructed that Bach only specified a single line (a variant of the King’s theme), and then indicated how many other players would play the same line, leaving to the King the task of figuring out where to start each one, and in which key.

Accompanying the manuscript was an inscription in Bach’s hand, dripping with sarcasm, in which he pretended he had done nothing, and that all the talent was Frederick’s. “Sire, with utmost submission, I take the liberty of presenting you with this Musical Offering whose noblest part is of Your Majesty’s very hand...”

Wikipedia article      Recording of the final 6-part fugue, by the Academy of St Martin.