Dream from Quantumland

You stumbled, quite literally, into the photo studio, and now the magnificence of all that is on display seems beside the point. You can’t help but feel a little miffed that the very assiduity of your search made it more difficult not just for yourself, but for others to find it. You are used to objects and (above all) locations that stay put. Discovery should reward persistence and (especially) deliberation. You are baffled that the questions you asked have quite literally affected the answers you received. It was your racing that moved the goal post, and not in a helpful direction. Ultimately, it was your desire to be here that made the place so remote and so difficult to find. And it is not just for yourself that your desire has created difficulties. Who knows how many pilgrims are lost on the road? and you have only yourself to blame for their frustration. Your adopted community, your extended family, the people with whom you rightfully belong. Where are they?

You were hoping for a kind of self-selected elite, a place reserved for the few who wanted it enough to pursue a difficult quest. You wanted to be among people with passion and discretion, with a sensitivity to all that is refined and good. What you find instead is a random cross-section of humanity—so far (it seems) you are the only soul who was actively seeking this place. People don’t have any idea of their good fortune, of the inestimable treasure that they have inherited, through no virtue of their own. Their contempt for Valhalla baffles and infuriates you. They have no desire to be here. You are the only one with that desire, and, if the truth be told, your passion and the heartfelt appreciation that it engenders are evaporating even as you pay attention. The celebration has petered out, canceled for lack of interest before it could begin in earnest.

Perhaps you can teach them to care…

— Josh Mitteldorf

1 November 2015

“If you knew yourself for even one moment, if you could just glimpse your most beautiful face, maybe you wouldn’t slumber so deeply in that house of clay.”

— Rumi

2 November 2015

Changing language—changing paradigm

Gretchen Reynolds writes her NYTimes column under the headline, Does Exercise Slow the Aging Process?

Just a few years ago, the unchallenged wisdom was that nothing could affect the aging process, that it was a force of nature on a time scale of its own.

Even more impressive, the article describes a study about telomere length in blood cells drawn from people who do and don’t exercise. Just a few years ago, the medical wisdom was that human telomeres shortened in order to protect us from cancer, and it was just a curiosity that older people had shorter telomeres. Now it is well-known that longer telomeres portend longer life spans, and even conservative medical researchers are beginning to talk about telomeres as an aging clock.

— Read Gretchen Reynolds’s column

3 November 2015

Make Love Not War

Dr Susan Block challenges and entices us to emulate our cousins the bonobos, with touching, affection and intimacy in the context of a culture under gentle female hegemony.

Video preview of her book with great bonobo pix and Dr Susan’s inimitable style

“They’re not just doing it for procreation. They are engaging in sex for recreation and interpersonal communication, very much like humans, but without the pretense, hypocrisy and shame.”

4 November 2015

Come into the deep water

I beckon you from ocean shores on the other side of time
I have such wonders to show, it is a great mystery
All things will be made new, let the old things pass away
What are you afraid of?
Don’t you hear your DNA singing the Cosmic song of Truth?
Cast yourself off the shore into the deep waters of the self

Know you are timeless in me
What do you know?
I tell you what you know will only entangle you in this world
I am calling you to the stars, come claim your inheritance
Walk without fear in Love
Probabilities increasing and decreasing with the ebb and flow of your fear
Be free, come deeper deeper, you are no more
Deep calls out to deep
I AM ALL and you are in me, no more fear
YOU ARE ALL and I am in you, where fear was…

Eric Garza

5 November 2015


Listen to In Tempus Praesens, performed by Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin) with the London Philharmonic.

Sofia Gubaidulina is one of the most original voices in classical composition today. She is a genius. Just my opinion. (JJM)

BBC Interview, 1993

6 November 2015

How are you? Fine.

“[Joy] is an exhilarating state of appreciation and presence. It feels like you’re connected to everything, including the subtler aspects of the universe, whatever they are. Certainly you feel more connected to yourself, and more connected to others. There’s nothing boring about it. So I don’t buy the idea that we actually feel that happiness is boring.

“I’ve got a different explanation—we are scared of happiness. We say it’s boring because we want to back away from it, out of fear. Once happiness comes, we’re afraid it’ll go. The realization that once we find happiness, we will eventually lose it, seems somehow worse than the continued day-to-day trudgery of a luke-warm life. Better to stick with what we already know than risk the comfort of sameness in search of variety.”

from the blog of Julia Mossbridge

I have noticed myself retreating from joy for a long time, and it seems to me connected with a fear of death. How is that? If I am working now toward some future wonderfulness, then I can promise myself some imagined compensation for the ultimate loss, but if I admit to enjoying the present fully, I am choked with a feeling that asks, “Is this all there is?”–JJM

7 November 2015


Two and a half millennia ago, Plato found the ideal more real than the real. The idea of a perfect triangle is reality, while the triangle that we draw in the sand is but a shadow on the wall of a cave, giving us a hint about reality. The same is true of windows and chairs and ducks. Each duck that we encounter is but a reminder of the eternal, ideal form of The Duck.

Reading Plato as a freshman in college, I found this idea easy to dismiss. I was steeped in materialism, and found Plato’s philosophy to be quaint and primitive.

Now that a few years have passed, I am opening myself to the possibility that perhaps Plato was not so stupid after all. Can I make sense of Forms?

Plato reminds me that our direct knowledge comes from our senses, and that the physical world is a mental construct.

We come to this process with a pre-conception, a template for the kind of world we are able to construct from our senses. There is good reason to think that a bat or a dolphin has a somewhat different template, and constructs a different picture of the world.

And beyond echolocation, beyond direct perception of a broader sample of electromagnetic and acoustic spectra, perhaps direct perception of thoughts of others, or inverted memories of our own future minds are possible…

The “real world” that we construct from our perceptions is conditioned by our preconceptions in ways that go beyond what we acknowledge, and perhaps go beyond what we are capable of imagining.

–Josh Mitteldorf

8 November 2015

A Fistful of Time

The four horsemen OF MY APOCALYPSE are called Efficiency, Convenience, Profitability, and Security, and in their names, crimes against poetry, pleasure, sociability, and the very largeness of the world are daily, hourly, constantly carried out. These marauding horsemen are deployed by technophiles, advertisers, and profiteers to assault the nameless pleasures and meanings that knit together our lives and expand our horizons.

–Rebecca Solnit, Finding Time from Orion Magazine

9 November 2015

Democracy movement in Syria

Perhaps the last place you would expect to find a thriving experiment in direct democracy is Syria. But something radical is happening, little noticed, in the eastern reaches of that fractured country, in the isolated region known to the Kurds as Rojava.

Just as remarkable, perhaps, is that the philosophy that inspired self-government here was originated by a little-known American political thinker and one-time “eco-activist” whose ideas found their way to Syria through a Kurdish leader imprisoned upon an island in the Sea of Marmara. It’s a story that bizarrely connects a war-torn Middle East with New York’s Lower East Side.

Vimeo about the New World Summit, Rahava

10 November 2015

Veterans Day

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. [There is also an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and… degeneracy of manners and of morals…No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

— James Madison, Political Observations, April 1795

Think that the patriotic thing to do is to follow our leaders into war without questions? The Founding Fathers were all wary of war, as they were all war-weary in those early years. Safeguards were built into the Constitution to prevent leaders from dragging the country into war against the will of the people, and in the 20th Century all those safeguards were thoroughly undermined. All we need to restore peace to this nation is to restore the rule of law according to our Constitution. –JJM

11 November 2015

‘House of Supposition’

‘This timid life of evidence’ –
This low roof over restless light
Impends perceptibly on distance
Of unrelenting night.

Faith apprehends the dark disclosed
In words creating their own sense.
Love over-reaches sound, and knows
Rest from this diffidence.

Isabel Chenot

THEIR height in heaven comforts not,
Their glory nought to me;
’T was best imperfect as it was;
I 'm finite, I can't see.

The house of supposition,
The glimmering frontier
That skirts the acres of perhaps,
To me shows insecure.

The wealth I had contented me;
If ’t was a meaner size,
Then I had counted it until
It pleased my narrow eyes

Better than larger values,
However true their show;
This timid life of evidence
Keeps pleading, “I don’t know.”
— Emily Dickinson

12 November 2015

Emperor’s New Clothes

One of the great 19th century innovations in science was the idea that randomness had explanatory power. Some things about our world are dictated by logic. Others can be explained by randomness.

Like all great ideas it had to be tested beyond its limits before those limits could be appreciated. So neo-Darwinians led by R.A. Fisher worked on the hypothesis that all mutations are completely random, and physicists came up with a theory that God throws dice to decide when a nuclear decay happens.* Ludwig Boltzmann tried out the idea that maybe all that we know as our universe is a random fluctuation in an otherwise flat, uniform and uninteresting sea of gas. After all, if the universe extends infinitely in space and time, then everything, no matter how improbable,…

The modern incarnation of this idea is a version of the Anthropic Principle that says, Everything that seems special about our universe can be explained by the fact of our existence. “Our Universe has to be improbable in order to give rise to brains who can think these thoughts; beyond this, our Universe is the minimally improbable one.”

As Sean Caroll points out in this video, one of the problems with this way of thinking is that the minimally improbable Universe contains my brain, but nothing else that departs from the uninteresting sea of gas—certainly no other brains than my own.

Caroll recounts receiving a letter from a 10-year-old scientist who read about this idea and debunked it with clear and direct language.

I don’t know if you EXIST but I DO. I do not agree with your Articl and I do not believe that “Mombo-Jombo”. If you do, well, it’s a disturbing thought, but I know how to deal with it. I will not let the wold disiper under my nose, but if you do, I can’t say I’m sorry.

A ten year old who knows a little more than SOME PEPEOL.
George Wing

PS Some peopl have a little too much time.

Sean Caroll video
(it’s targeted to an audience familiar with physical cosmology)

* Though Einstein lost this argument, there is a way of looking at quantum mechanics in which “random” events are not random after all.

13 November 2015

Serfdom in Depression-era America

Aaron Copland was an iconic American composer, romantically patriotic and devoted to creating music that could be appreciated by the Academy as well as The Common Man. But his 1952 opera about poverty in America was too far left for NBC TV, and it earned him the honor of an interrogation by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Listen to The Promise of Living from the opera The Tender Land, by Aaron Copland, born this day in 1900.
Here is an orchestral arrangement with old film clips.

The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving
is born of our loving our friends and our labor.
The promise of growing with faith and with knowing
is born of our sharing our love with our neighbor.
— Horace Everett

14 November 2015

Get me outa here!

Should you someday find yourself in your own personal hellhole, looking out at the world and asking, “why me?”, I offer for your consideration the possibility that you are being dragged kicking and screaming into the most profoundly rewarding and fulfilling adventure of a lifetime.

— Josh Mitteldorf

15 November 2015


Listen to Nobilissima Visione, a ballet about St Francis composed by Paul Hindemith, born this day in 1895.

16 November 2015

Beyond Scientism

Old wives’ tales, humble kin of ancient lore
Like road signs carved in stone durable.
Traditionalists are deemed incurable
By bright authorities who can’t ignore

A single variance with “fact”, yet Science
Is but a construct based upon the shared
Beliefs of those with mindsets unprepared
To entertain a whisper of defiance

Toward what is now their lawful paradigm.
The world runs deeper than its strict description
And frequently defies complete decryption
In terms of numbers, matter, space or time.

Ideas seem to fall out of the blue,
And everything beneath the sun is new

— C. B. Anderson

17 November 2015

Ancient stone structures spotted from the air

There was an article depicting some of these in the NYTimes last week. Some structures are spread over miles, and the pattern can only be observed from an airplane. Any way that we make sense of this phenomenon has to overthrow our complacent view of human origins and history.

18 November 2015

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself and that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”

from The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

19 November 2015

There is no one method for attaining realization of the Dao. To regard any method as the method is to create a duality, which can only delay your understanding of the subtle truth. The mature person perceives the fruitlessness of rigid, external methodologies; remembering this, he keeps his attitude unstructured at all times, and thus is always free to pursue the Integral Way. He studies the teachings of the Masters. He dissolves all concepts of duality. He pours himself out in service to others. He performs his inner cleansing and does not disturb his teacher with unnecessary entanglements, thus preserving the subtle, spiritual connection with the teacher’s divine energy. Gently eliminating all obstacles to his understanding, he constantly maintains his own unconditional sincerity. His humility, perseverance and adaptability evoke the response of the Universe and fill him with divine light.

from the Hua Hu Jing of Lao Tsze, tr Brian Browne Walker

20 November 2015

“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.”

François-Marie Arouet, who wrote under the name Voltaire, was born this day in 1794

In 1726 Voltaire responded to an insult from the young French nobleman Chevalier de Rohan, whose servants beat him a few days later. Since Voltaire was seeking compensation, and was even willing to fight in a duel, the aristocratic Rohan family obtained a royal lettre de cachet, a decree signed by French King Louis XV, which was routinely used to dispose of troublemakers of many kinds (drunkards, violent people, unequal marriages, and so on). This warrant caused Voltaire to be imprisoned in the Bastille without a trial and without an opportunity to defend himself. Fearing an indefinite prison sentence, Voltaire suggested that he be exiled to England as an alternative punishment, which the French authorities accepted. This incident marked the beginning of Voltaire’s attempts to reform the French judicial system. —Wikipedia

21 November 2015

Blessing (?)

May we be challenged to transcend our limits.
May we see through deception to the one truth.
Though it may blind us, may our eyes be open to effulgent beauty.

22 November 2015

Tribute to Buster

Watch a short video, appreciating the way Buster Keaton performed in “real” stunts, eschewing film splices and camera tricks as “too easy”.

23 November 2015


All happiness or unhappiness solely depends upon the quality of the object to which we are attached by love.

— Baruch Spinoza, born this day in 1632

The more clearly you understand yourself and your
emotions, the more you become a lover of all that is.–BS

24 November 2015


I believe that what separates us all from one another is simply society itself, or, if you like, politics. This is what raises barriers between men, this is what creates misunderstanding.  If I may be allowed to express myself paradoxically, I should say that the truest society, the authentic human community, is extra-social — a wider, deeper society, that which is revealed by our common anxieties, our desires, our secret nostalgias. The whole history of the world has been governed by nostalgias and anxieties, which political action does no more than reflect and interpret, very imperfectly [and exploit to secure their own power]. No society has been able to abolish human sadness, no political system can deliver us from the pain of living, from our fear of death, our thirst for the absolute. It is the human condition that directs the social condition, not vice versa.

— Eugene Ionesco, born this day in 1909

And the contrary is also true. –EI

25 November 2015

photo Eric Pouhier

What’s wrong with this picture?

For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

— Matthew 25:14-30

One thing we might learn from this is that the Church has been in bed with the Bankers for longer than we like to think.  Another is that human sensibilities about right and wrong have come a long way since the New Testament, let alone the Old.  A third moral is that each of reaps each day a harvest which we have not sown.

Happy Thanksgiving

26 November 2015

Shopping is a neurotoxin

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.

William Wordsworth wrote these words in 1802. What would he think today?

Spend the day outdoors. Call it “Green Friday”. –JJM

27 November 2015

Cuba gets a lot of things right

In Cuba today, population growth is stable, malnutrition is low, higher education is free, and most tropical diseases have been eradicated. Cubans can expect to live seventy-nine years, slightly outliving Americans. No other country in the world has achieved such longevity while at the same time polluting so little. The average Cuban has a 4.7-acre ecological footprint, the total amount of land area needed to grow the food they eat, produce the goods they use, and absorb the carbon they emit. For humans to avoid depleting the earth’s ecological resources, we would all have to live on about 4 acres each, according to the environmental nonprofit Global Footprint Network. As of 2011, Costa Ricans each used 5.4 acres, Norwegians almost 12, Americans nearly 17.

Cuba owes this ecologically lean development to strong social programs, a dedicated cadre of conservationists, and, despite revolutionary leaders’ grand visions, a chronically erratic economy.

— read more from Chris Lewis at Harper’s

28 November 2015

or The Poet’s Confession

Instead of “Showing Off” I’ve named this poem “Ostentation”
For (I must confess) I use my poems to elevate my station.
The purity of words that stretch to touch another’s heart
Holds less appeal for me than crudely proving I am smart.

— Anon.

29 November 2015

Plants and Radio Waves

Jagadish Chandra Bose, born this day in 1858, was an Indian scientist and inventor who demonstrated radio communications in the 1890s, built a radio receiver 2 years before Marconi and used doped semiconductors 60 years ahead of the transistor revolution. Later in life, he develope an interest in plants, and demonstrated that plants use nerve-like electrical signals to coordinate a response to their environment. He came to believe that plants are sensuous.

«Graphs of my delicate apparatus have proved that trees possess a circulatory system; their sap movements correspond to the blood pressure of animal bodies. The ascent of sap is not explicable on the mechanical grounds ordinarily advanced, such as capillary attraction. The phenomenon has been solved through the crescograph as the activity of living cells. Peristaltic waves issue from a cylindrical tube which extends down a tree and serves as an actual heart! The more deeply we perceive, the more striking becomes the evidence that a uniform plan links every form in manifold nature.»

30 November 2015

Queen of Hearts — Archive of past entries. Bullfrog Design