15 April 2007

Elizabeth Mayer was a psychology prof at UC Berkeley, a traditional scientist who never gave any thought to telepathy or ESP.  Then a dowser in Arkansas, working with a map of the Bay Area, located her daughter’s stolen harp, pinpointing the block in Oakland and the house where it had been taken.

“This changes everything,” she said, and had the courage to follow through.  “The harp changed how I work as a clinician and a psychoanalyst.  It changed the nature of the research I pursued.  It changed my sense of what's ordinary and what’s extraordinary.  Most of all, it changed my relatively established, relatively contented, relatively secure sense of how the world adds up.  If Harold McCoy did what he appeared to have done, I had to face the fact that my notions of space, time, reality, and the nature of the human mind were stunningly inadequate.”

from Extraordinary Knowing, by Elizabeth Mayer

“The essence of science is not analysis but empiricism.”
– Josh Mitteldorf

14 April 2007

“We climb to heaven most often on the ruins of our cherished plans, finding our failures were successes.”

~ Amos Bronson Alcott 

13 April 2007

Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera could compose with rhythmic intensity.  British rock pianist Keith Emerson was taken with his Piano Concerto #1, and asked the composer’s permission to adapt the Toccata movement for his band Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

“I was dubious about taking my arrangement to such a famous man. We had a delicious dinner and afterwards I showed him the arrangement, and began to talk about it. he didn’t speak much English and his wife had to translate everything. Finally, Ginastera said, ‘...Please! just play the tape!’. After he had listened to them all the way through, he turned to his wife in amazement. ‘Diabolic!!’ he exclaimed. I was terrified. I thought he hated it or thought I was the devil or something. But then, he smiled. He turned to me and said, ‘No one has been able to capture my music like that before! It's exactly the way I hear it myself!’”

More of Emerson’s story

Listen to Ginastera’s original performed by Oscar Tarrago and the Mexico City Philharmonic
Listen to Emerson, Lake and Palmer arrangement from their 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery

12 April 2007

Kurt Vonnegut invented a religion that elevates the value of man, where people consciously embrace the lies that make them happy, and commune sole-to-sole, sitting back and pressing their bare feet together.  

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“Still and all, why bother? Here's my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message:  ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. 

 ‘You are not alone.’”

Kurt Vonnegut, 1922 - 2007

My dog worships people, but he’s not a humanist

How to write like yourself

I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers.

11 April 2007

So many gifts

There are so many gifts
Still unopened from your birthday,
There are so many hand-crafted presents
That have been sent to you by God.

The Beloved does not mind repeating,
Everything I have is also yours."

Please forgive Hafiz and the Friend
If we break into a sweet laughter
When your heart complains of being thirsty
When ages ago
Every cell in your soul
Capsized forever
Into this infinite golden sea.

~ Ladinsky, after Hafiz

10 April 2007

Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California at Riverside dissects happiness with the same statistical tools that a public health specialist might use to study a particular disease.  Using self-reported measures of contentment and persistent joy, she asked how her measure of happiness correlated with other cultural, genetic, and economic factors. 

Fully 50% of our experience of happiness is determined by heredity.  It’s a genetic propensity, like blue eyes or big ears.  Her most surprising finding is that all circumstantial variables – economics and health, love and friendships and fortune, good and bad – together these factors account for only 10% of the variance in happiness.  

The good news is that the other 40% seems to be associated with internal factors – habits and attitudes over which we have control.  We may not have direct control, in the sense that we can ‘decide to be happy’, but we have indirect control in the sense that we can cultivate mental habits that are conducive to our happiness. 

This comes right out of contemporary Western psychology research, but leads in the direction of ancient Eastern meditation practices.
Scientific American article

I chuckled when I read on Lyubomirsky’s faculty web page, “What are the benefits of happiness? Is happiness a good thing? Or does it just simply feel good?” 

It makes me sad that she should have to ask. 

9 April 2007


Au-dessus des étangs, au-dessus des vallées,
Des montagnes, des bois, des nuages, des mers,
Par delà le soleil, par delà les éthers,
Par delà les confins des sphères étoilées,

Mon esprit, tu te meus avec agilité,
Et, comme un bon nageur qui se pâme dans londe,
Tu sillonnes gaiement limmensité profonde
Avec une indicible et mâle volupté.

Envole-toi bien loin de ces miasmes morbides;
Va te purifier dans lair supérieur,
Et bois, comme une pure et divine liqueur,
Le feu clair qui remplit les espaces limpides.

Derrière les ennuis et les vastes chagrins
Qui chargent de leur poids lexistence brumeuse,
Heureux celui qui peut dune aile vigoureuse
Sélancer vers les champs lumineux et sereins;

Celui dont les pensers, comme des alouettes,
Vers les cieux le matin prennent un libre essor,
— Qui plane sur la vie, et comprend sans effort
Le langage des fleurs et des choses muettes!

Charles Baudelaire


Above the valleys and the lakes: beyond
The woods, seas, clouds and mountain-ranges: far
Above the sun, the aethers silver-swanned
With nebulae, and the remotest star,

My spirit! with agility you move
Like a strong swimmer with the seas to fight,
Through the blue vastness furrowing your groove
With an ineffable and male delight.

Far from these foetid marshes, be made pure
In the pure air of the superior sky,
And drink, like some most exquisite liqueur,
The fire that fills the lucid realms on high.

Beyond where cares or boredom hold dominion,
Which charge our fogged existence with their spleen,
Happy is he who with a stalwart pinion
Can seek those fields so shining and serene:

Whose thoughts, like larks, rise on the freshening breeze
Who fans the morning with his tameless wings,
Skims over life, and understands with ease
The speech of flowers and other voiceless things.

— translation of Roy Campbell

«Le génie, cest l'enfance retrouvée à volonté, l’enfance douée maintenant, pour s’exprimer, d’organes virils et de l’esprit analytique qui lui permet d’ordonner la somme de matériaux involontairement amassée.»
– Charles Baudelaire, né ce jour en 1821

Genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will, childhood equipped now with mans physical means to express itself, and with the analytical mind that enables it to bring order into the sum of experience, involuntarily amassed.”
– Charles Baudelaire, born this day in 1821