Thursday, April 30, 2009

John Cage about mind and dust

In the poetry contest in China by
which the Sixth Patriarch of Zen
Buddhism was chosen, there
were two poems. One
said: “The mind is like
a mirror. It collects
dust. The problem is
to remove the dust.
The other and winning poem
was actually a reply to the
first. It said,
Where is the mirror and where
is the dust?”

Some centuries later in a Japanese
monastery, there was a
monk who was always taking
A younger monk came up to
him and said, “Why,
if there is no dust,
are you always taking
baths?” The
older monk replied, “Just
a dip. No why.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Letter three

The second letter from Alya. In this one, Alya asks me not to write her about love. The letter is tired.

My dear, my own. Don't write to me about love. Don't. I'm very tired. As you yourself have said, I have come to the end of my tether. This daily grind pulls us apart. I do not love you and I will not love you. I fear your love; someday you will hurt me because of the way you love me now. Don't carry on so. I still feel we have much in common. Don't frighten me! As well as you know me, you still do all you can to frighten me, to repel me. Your love may be great, but it's far from joyful.
I need you; you know how to bring me out of myself. Don't write me only about your love. Don't make wild scenes on the telephone. Don't rant and rave. You're managing to poison my days. I need freedom - I refuse to account for my actions to anyone!
Yet you demand of me all my time. Be light-hearted or else you'll fail, at love. With each day, you grow more melancholy. You should go to a sanatorium, my dear.
I'm writing in bed, because yesterday I went dancing.
Now I'm going to take a bath. Perhaps we'll see each other today.


5 February

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

John Cage's stories: Hitting the bull's eye

Four years ago or maybe five,
I was talking
with Hidekazu Yoshida.
We were on the
train from Donaueschingen to Cologne.
I mentioned the book by
Herrigel called Zen in the
Art of Archery;

the melodramatic climax of
this book concerns an
archer’s hitting the bull’s eye
though he did so in
total darkness.
Yoshida told me there
was one thing the author
failed to point out,
that is,
there lives in Japan at
the present time a
highly esteemed archer who
has never yet been able
to hit the bull’s eye
even in broad daylight.

Chet Baker - I fall in love too easily

John Cage: Boring? Try it...

In Zen they say:

If something is boring after two
try it
for four.
still boring,
it for eight,



and so on.

Eventually one discovers that it’s not
boring at all
but very interesting.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

John Cage: Free as a Bird...

Artists talk a
lot about
recalling the expression
“free as a bird,”
Morton Feldman
went to a park one
day and spent
some time
watching our feathered friends.
When he
came back,
he said,
They’re not
they’re fighting
over bits of food.”

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Where are you my love? (Où es-tu mon amour?)

Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli + Edward Hopper

Friday, April 24, 2009

John Cage: Just the right amount...

I went to a concert upstairs in
Town Hall. The
composer whose works were being
performed had provided program
notes. One of
these notes was to the effect
that there is too much pain
in the world.
After the concert I was
walking along with the composer
and he was telling me
how the performances had not been
quite up to snuff.
So I said,
“Well, I
enjoyed the music,
but I didn’t agree with that
program note about there being
too much pain in the world.”
He said, “What?
Don’t you
think there’s enough?” I
said, “I think
there’s just the right amount.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

R. M. Rilke: The Second Elegy

Every angel's terrifying. Almost deadly birds
of my soul, I know what you are, but, oh,
I still sing to you! What happened to the days of Tobias
when one of you stood in a simple doorway, partly
disguised for the trip, radiant, no longer appalling;
(a young man to the young man as he looked out amazed).
If the archangel, the dangerous one behind the stars,
took just one step down toward us today: the quicker
pounding of our heart would kill us. Who are you?

Fortunate first ones, creation's pampered darlings,
ranges, mountain tops, morning-red ridges
of all Beginning - seed of a blossoming god,
hinges of light, hallways, stairways, thrones,
spaces of being, force fields of ecstasy, storms
of unchecked rapture, and suddenly, separate,
mirrors: each drawing its own widespread
streaming beauty back into its face.

But we: we vanish in our feelings. Oh, we breathe
ourselves out, and out; our smell dissolves
from ember to ember. It's true, someone may tell us:
"You're in my blood, this room, Spring floods
with you ... " What good is it? He can't hold us.
We vanish in him and around him. And the beautiful,
oh, who can hold them back? Some look is always rising
in their faces, and falling. Like dew on new grass,
like heat from a steaming dish, everything we are rises
away from us. 0 smile, where are you going?
O upturned look: new, warm, the heart's receding wave –
it hurts me, but that's what we are. Does the cosmic
space we dissolve into taste of us, then? Do angels
really absorb only what poured out of them,
or sometimes, as if by mistake, is there a trace
of us, too? Do the contours of their features bear
as much of us as that vague look on a pregnant woman's
face? Unnoticed by them in their whirling back
into themselves. (Why should they notice.)

If they were understood, lovers might say marvelous
things in the night air. Because it seems everything
wants to camouflage us. Look, trees exist;
the houses we live in still hold up. But we
pass by all of it like an exchange of breath.
Everything conspires to ignore us, half out of shame,
perhaps, half out of some speechless hope.

Lovers, satisfied with each other, I'm asking you
about us. You hold each other. What's your proof?
Look, sometimes it happens my hands become aware
of each other, or my worn out face seeks shelter
in them. Then I feel a slight sensation.
But who'd dare to exist just for that?
Yet you, who grow in the other's ecstasy
until he's overcome and begs: "No more!'”;
you, who in one another's hands grow
more abundant like grapes in a vintage year;
you, who sometimes disappear, but only when the other
takes over completely, I'm asking you about us.
I know why you touch each other so ecstatically:
that touch lasts. That place you cover with such
tenderness doesn't vanish, because you feel a pure
duration there. In your embrace you almost find
the promise of eternity. And yet, when you've survived
the fear of that first look, the longing at the window,
and that first walk in the garden, once: lovers,
are you still the same? When you lift yourselves
up to each other's lips and begin, drink for drink -
oh how strangely the drinker then slips from the role.

Didn't the caution of human gestures on Attic steles
amaze you? Weren't love and separation placed
on those shoulders so lightly they seemed made
of other stuff than we are? Remember the hands:
despite the power in the torso, they lie weightless.
The self-controlled knew this: we can only go this far.
All we can do is touch one another like this. The gods
can press down harder on us, but that's the gods' affair.

If only we could find something pure, contained,
narrow, human - our own small strip of orchard
between river and rock. For our heart rises
out of us as it did out of the others. And we can't
follow it any longer into figures that tame it, or
into godlike bodies where it finds a greater mastery.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus,
translated by A. Poulin, Jr., with a forward by Mark Doty,
A Mariner Book / Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


How does one use words to mean what one sees before one?

Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 3rd edit.,
translated by G. E. M. Anscombe, Prentice Hall

Monday, April 20, 2009

About concepts and fixed rails

"371. What would a society all of deaf men be like? Or a society of the 'feeble-minded' ? An important question! What then of a society that never played many of our customary language-games?"


"373. Concepts other than though akin to ours might seem very queer to us; deviation from the usual in an unusual direction."

"374. Concepts with fixed limits would demand a uniformity of behavior. But where I am certain, someone else is uncertain. And that is a fact of nature."

"375. There are the fixed rails along which all our thinking runs, and so our judgment and action goes according to them too."

Wittgenstein, Zettel, edited by G. E. M. Anscombe and
G. H. von Wright, translated by G. E. M. Anscombe,
University of California Press, 2007

About hope and language, shivering and smiling...

"One can imagine an animal angry, frightened, unhappy, happy, startled. But hopeful? And why not? A dog believes his master is at the door. But can he also believe his master will come the day after to-morrow? (...) Can only those hope who can talk? Only those who have mastered the use of a language. That is to say, the phenomena of hope are modes of this complicated form of life."

"- I must tell you: I am frightened.
- I must tell you: it makes me shiver.
And one can say this in a smiling tone of voice too."

Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 3rd edit.,
translated by G. E. M. Anscombe, Prentice Hall

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Eugenio Montale: Don't ask me

Don't ask me for words that might
define our formless soul, publish it
in letters of fire, and set it shining,
lost crocus in a dusty field.

Ah, that man so confidently striding,
friend to others and himself, careless
that the dog days' sun might stamp
his shadow on a crumbling wall!

Don't ask me for formulas to open worlds
for you: all I have are gnarled syllables,
branch-dry. All I can tell you now is this:
what we are not, what we do not want.


Non chiederci la parola che squadri da ogni lato
l' animo nostro informe, e a lettere di fuoco
lo dichiari e rispienda come un croco
perduto in mezzo a un polveroso prato.

Ah l'uomo che se ne va sicuro,
agli altri ed a se stesso amico,
e l' ombra sua non cura che la canicola
stampa sopra uno scalcinato muro!

Non domandarci la formula che mondi possa aprirti,
sì qualche storta sillaba e secca come un ramo.
Codesto solo oggi possiamo dirti,
ciò che non siamo, ciò che non vogliamo.

Eugenio Montale, Cuttlefish Bones, translated by
William Arrowsmith, W. W. Norton & Company, 1994

Thursday, April 09, 2009

"The best way to rob a bank...

.... it's to own one..." (William K. Black)

"We have to lie to the people to create confidence..." (WKB)

Read about "Banksters" at Bill Moyers journal....