“The funny thing about having all this so-called success is that behind it is a certain horrible emptiness.
I feel like I’ve never had a home, you know? I feel related to the country, to this country, and yet I don’t know exactly where I fit in… There’s always this kind of nostalgia for a place, a place where you can reckon with yourself.
I’m inhabiting a life I’m not supposed to be in… and at certain times in my life, I have felt a wrongness. And not a moral wrongness but a sense that this isn’t what I was born to be doing.
Sides are being divided now. It’s very obvious. So if you’re on the other side of the fence, you’re suddenly anti-American. It’s breeding fear of being on the wrong side.
The thing about American writers is that, as a group, they get stuck in the same idea: that we’re a continent and the world falls away after us. And it’s just nonsense.
I’m a great believer in chaos. I don’t believe that you start with a formula and then you fulfill the formula. Chaos is a much better instigator, because we live in chaos – we don’t live in a rigorous form.”
– Sam Shepard, writer, died on July 30, 2017 in Midway, Kentucky.
“A picture held us captive, and we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably… .
“We are not contributing curiosities, but observations which no one has doubted, but which have escaped remark only because they are always before our eyes.”
– Wittgenstein, commenting on the writing of Philosophical Investigations.
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James, Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey –
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter–
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular…
– T. S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
Thoreau spent two years, two months and two days in a cabin near Walden Pond where he wrote Walden. He spent a little over two years at the cabin, and used one year, the four seasons, as a metaphor for growth in Nature and in human nature. He was urged on in his inner pursuits by Ralph Waldo Emerson, his neighbor, who was firing up the emergent, new American imagination. Walden was Thoreau’s personal attempt at spiritual enlightenment and a flag for self-reliance in the search for inner growth and peace. Again, I have to say the book that opens up Walden like no other is Stanley Cavel’s Senses of Walden, which really should be read before reading Walden.
Thoreau’s notebook journal from Nov. 11, 1858.
Achan Sumano in the Double-Eye Cave in Thailand, where he has lived for more than 20 years. He practices Buddhism in the tradition of the late Achan Mun and Achan Chaa of the Forest Meditation Center near Ubon, Thailand. Photograph by Roy Hamric
“Viewing TV, reading newspapers, and staying on top of the dramas happening in the world causes a lot of anxiety and frustration to short circuit our ability to respond appropriately to events in our personal lives. In our intimate relationships, more so than any other, there is a need to function with spontaneous penetrating wisdom, with humanity, with love and with compassion. Penetrating wisdom is a critical aspect because it can see through circumstances. Wisdom recognizes the need for compassion beginning with compassion for ourselves. I regard family and intimate relationships as the ground for training ourselves to act and live as whole, kind-hearted human beings. In the family, in marriages and partnerships, we soak up massive amounts of pain from disappointment, frustration, jealousy, misunderstanding, etc. As painful as this is, all of this is needed to cultivate wisdom…” For more, see here.
Here’s Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize speech, which is a peek at his inspirations, entanglements and bondings and the power of stories to convey word pictures of the world. I was surprised he barely mentioned poetry.
Denis Johnson, my generation’s Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway, a prolific and beautiful writer who had a key to the confused hearts and minds of people derailed by life and who lived in worlds filled with tragedy and oftentimes transcendent beauty died at his home in California on May 24, 2017. He wrote many books which will stay with you forever. His own life started as a spiritual and mental struggle that was dominated by the fringes of American evangelical religion. He understood its believers’ rock solid spiritual search, their urge for apocalypse, their assurance that we live in a fallen, irreparably damaged world. He left us luminescent novels and nonfiction (See Angels, The Stars at Noon, Tree of Smoke, Jesus’ Son, Seek (nonfiction) . Read any book he wrote as if it’s a holy testament to flawed humanity, a paean to each soul’s blind rush to mortality, a prayer to language to reveal truth, and you will have come a small distance to where his spirit and art lived.