2 September 2007

Modern human societies are set up as hierarchies, with abundant signals concerning our status relative to those around us.  In the best of social organizations, climbing the hierarchy entails contribution to the communal good.  In societies that are less perfect, we clamber and flail, stepping on our neighbors in our quest for the highest rung we can reach.  

Interactions are stylized and constrained by the roles in which we fall.  Still, the human within us strives for real contact, for authenticity, for love.  Ironically, we rely on the hierarchy for cues about appropriate candidates for friendship and love, then we curse the hierarchy for making genuine relationship so difficult.

If it falls on the lover to transcend the hierarchy in reaching for deep communion, it is the artist’s bread-and-butter to undermine and subvert the hierarchy in new and unimagined ways.  Meanwhile, the mystic sees through the scheme, and senses directly in the now that there is no distance between you and me. 

– Josh Mitteldorf

1 September 2007

“All my life, I always wanted to be somebody. Now I see that I should have been more specific.”

Lily Tomlin, America’s deepest standup comedienne, is 68 years old.

31 August 2007

Love Calls Us to the Things of the World

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.

Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks

From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,

“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,

“Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance.”

~ Richard Wilbur ~

30 August 2007

Vitelogennin is a protein that is fed to ‘nurse bees’ and queen bees, making them live longer than their (genetically identical) sisters the workers.  Worker bees live only a few weeks, but nurse bees (which tend the queen) live up to ten months and queens can live for many years.  Vitellogenin seems to be able to reverse aging damage, not just prevent it.

Bees can have their lives lengthened tenfold, an international research team headed by Dr. Gro Amdam at Arizona State University has found. The antioxidant protein vitellogenin reverses the aging process in some worker bees. This may eventually lead to breakthroughs in the research on aging in humans.

research article in PNAS

29 August 2007

let’s live suddenly without thinking

under honest trees, 
                               a stream
 does.the brain of a cleverly-crinkling
-water pursues the angry dream
of the shore.    By midnight,
                                           a moon
scratches the skin of the organized hills

e e cummings

28 August 2007

Germany’s greatest poet was a scientist.  He traveled to study botany, set up an optics lab at home, and counterposed his Theory of Color to Newton's corpuscular theory of light (presaging the wave/particle duality of 20th century quantum physics).

Once one knows what really matters, one ceases to be voluble. And what does really matter? That is easy: thinking and doing, doing and thinking---and these are the sum of all wisdom...Both must move ever onward in life, to and fro, like breathing in and breathing out. Whoever makes it a rule to test action by thought, thought by action, cannot falter, and if he does, will soon find his way back to the right road.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born this day in 1749.

27 August 2007

British-American violist Rebecca Clarke, born this day in 1886, composed in obscurity, but her works have been rediscovered and loved and promoted in recent years. 

Listen to I’ll Bid My Heart Be Still, for viola and piano, performed by Helen Callus and Robert McDonald.