Friday, February 27, 2015

weepingsongs








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Quailsong flower of streets
Magpiesong flower of forests

Wolfsong flower of waters

Lovesong flower of night

Deathsong flower of spots


Drunkentears fruit of dawn
Embracingtears fruit of eyes
Welcometears fruit of hands
Mytears fruit of my lips

Myweeping fruit of time.

–Robert Desnos
Todd Sanders translation



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Thursday, February 26, 2015

not to worry









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Thou grievest for those whom
thou shouldst not grieve for,
and yet thou speakest words about wisdom.
Wise men do not grieve for the dead or for the living.

Never was there a time when I was not,
nor thou, nor these lords of men,
nor will there ever be a time
hereafter when we shall cease to be.


–The Bhagavad Gita





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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

listen







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I know of a place not ruled by flatness
Or constant risings and depressions,
and those alive are not afraid to die. 

There wild flowers come up through the leafy floor,
and the fragrance of "I am he" floats on the wind.

There the love bee stays deep inside the flower
and cares for no other thing.


–Kabir




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Monday, February 23, 2015

all things







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Since, then, the soul is immortal and has been born many times,
and since it has seen all things both in this world and in the other,
there is nothing it has not learnt. 

No wonder, then, that it is able to recall to mind goodness and other
things, for it knew them beforehand. 

For, as all reality is akin and the soul has learnt all things, there is
nothing to prevent a man who has recalled – or, as people say, learnt’ – only one thing from discovering all the rest for himself, if he will pursue the search with unwearying resolution. 

For on this showing all inquiry or learning is nothing but recollection.


Plato




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Sunday, February 22, 2015

song to the siren








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On the floating, shipless oceans
I did all my best to smile
Till your singing eyes and fingers
Drew me loving to your isle

And you sang, "Sail to me
Sail to me, let me enfold you"
Here I am, here I am
Waiting to hold you

Did I dream you dreamed about me?
Were you here when I was full sail?
Now my foolish boat is leaning
Broken lovelorn on your rocks

For you sang, "Touch me not
Touch me not, come back tomorrow"
Oh my heart, oh my heart
Shies from the sorrow

Well, I'm as puzzled as a newborn child
I'm as riddled as the tide
Should I stand amid the breakers?
Or shall I lie with death my bride?

Hear me sing, "Swim to me
Swim to me, let me enfold you"
Here I am, here I am
Waiting to hold you



–Tim Buckley, Larry Beckett

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC
 




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from Voices, Gonzalo Melchor translation








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The passing of a soul is light, extremely light, almost silence.


–Antonio Porchia


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Saturday, February 21, 2015

two happy lovers









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Two happy lovers make one bread,
a single moon drop in the grass.

Walking, they cast two shadows that flow together;
waking, they leave one sun empty in their bed.

Of all the possible truths, they chose the day;
they held it, not with ropes but with an aroma.

They did not shred the peace; they did not shatter words;
their happiness is a transparent tower.

The air and wine accompany the lovers.
The night delights them with its joyous petals.
They have a right to all the carnations.

Two happy lovers, without an ending, with no death,
they are born, they die, many times while they live:
they have the eternal life of the Natural.



–Pablo Neruda






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Friday, February 20, 2015

My Own Life - Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer








Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer
By OLIVER SACKS
Feb. 19, 2015

A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver. Nine years ago it was discovered that I had a rare tumor of the eye, an ocular melanoma. Although the radiation and lasering to remove the tumor ultimately left me blind in that eye, only in very rare cases do such tumors metastasize. I am among the unlucky 2 percent.


I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying.


The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted. It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can. In this I am encouraged by the words of one of my favorite philosophers, David Hume, who, upon learning that he was mortally ill at age 65, wrote a short autobiography in a single day in April of 1776. He titled it “My Own Life.”

“I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution,” he wrote. “I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange, have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment’s abatement of my spirits. I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company.”
I have been lucky enough to live past 80, and the 15 years allotted to me beyond Hume’s three score and five have been equally rich in work and love. In that time, I have published five books and completed an autobiography (rather longer than Hume’s few pages) to be published this spring; I have several other books nearly finished.

Hume continued, “I am ... a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions.”
Here I depart from Hume. While I have enjoyed loving relationships and friendships and have no real enmities, I cannot say (nor would anyone who knows me say) that I am a man of mild dispositions. On the contrary, I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.


And yet, one line from Hume’s essay strikes me as especially true: “It is difficult,” he wrote, “to be more detached from life than I am at present.”
Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.


On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.


This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).


I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.


This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.


I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path to live his own life, to die his own death. I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.


Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.



Oliver Sacks, a professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine, is the author of many books, including “Awakenings” and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” (a great favorite at Love Is a Place)

A version of this op-ed appears in print on February 19, 2015, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: My Own Life.
 

© 2015 The New York Times Company

















Thursday, February 19, 2015

in praise of mortality, excerpt







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You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.
Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins beside you.

Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:
You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.


–Rainer Maria Rilke 
Anita Barrows/Joanna Macy translation







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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

the true form of life








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Death is the side of life that is turned away from us
and not illuminated. 


… The true form of life extends through both regions, the blood of the mightiest circulation pulses through both: there is neither a this-world nor an other-world, but only the great unity, in which the ‘angels,’ those beings who surpass us, are at home.


—Rainer Maria Rilke
Stephen Mitchell translation
from a letter to Witold Hulewicz dated 13 November 1925




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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

joy to you, baby







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Monday, February 16, 2015

i am a little church








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i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

 

–E. E. Cummings
Complete Poems 1904-1962







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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Supreme Court reverses course on doctor-assisted death; ban unconstitutional







 
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Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously struck down the ban on providing a doctor-assisted death to mentally competent but suffering and "irremediable" patients.

The historic, groundbreaking decision from the country's top court sweeps away the existing law and gives Parliament a year to draft new legislation that recognizes the right of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable suffering — physical or mental — to seek medical help ending their lives.

The judgment, which is unsigned to reflect the unanimous institutional weight of the court, says the current ban infringes on all three of the life, liberty and security of person provisions in Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It does not limit physician-assisted death to those suffering a terminal illness.

"For seriously and incurably ill Canadians, the brave people who worked side by side with us for so many years on this case — this decision will mean everything to them," said a visibly overjoyed Grace Pastine, the litigation director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

The court clearly instructs parliamentarians that current laws "unjustifiably infringe (Section 7) of the charter and are of no force or effect to the extent that they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly con- sents to the termination of life and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition."

The pressure will now be on Parliament to act in an election year, as the court says no exemptions may be granted for those seeking to end their lives during the 12-month suspension of the judgment.

Friday's decision was spurred by the families of two now-deceased British Columbia women, supported by Pastine's organization.


The Supreme Court gave a ringing endorsement of the original B.C. trial judge's findings, albeit not for a constitutional exemption.

The decision reverses the top court's 1993 ruling in the case of Sue Rodriguez, a fact the decision attributes to changing jurisprudence and an altered social landscape.

Two decades ago, the court was concerned that vulnerable persons could not be properly protected under physician-assisted suicide, even though courts recognized the existing law infringed a person's rights.

But the experience of existing jurisdictions that permit doctor-assisted suicide compelled the courts to examine the record.

The B.C. trial judge "found no compelling evidence that a permissive regime in Canada would result in a 'practical slippery slope,'" wrote the top court.

"An individual's response to a grievous and irremediable medical condition is a matter critical to their dignity and autonomy," the judgment says.

"The law allows people in this situation to request palliative sedation, refuse artificial nutrition and hydration, or request the removal of life-sustaining medical equipment, but denies the right to request a physician's assistance in dying."


The ruling goes on to state that "by leaving people like Ms. Taylor to endure intolerable suffering, it impinges on their security of person."

The nine Supreme Court justices also note that when their court struck down the country's prostitution laws in 2013, it recognized that the legal conception of "gross disproportionality" has changed since the Rodriguez decision.

"By contrast, the law on overbreadth, now explicitly recognized as a principle of fundamental justice, asks whether the law interferes with some conduct that has no connection to the law's objectives," says the judgment.


"The blanket prohibition (on physician-assisted death) sweeps conduct into its ambit that is unrelated to the law's objective."

The court agreed with the trial judge "that a permissive regime with properly designed and administered safeguards was capable of protecting vulnerable people from abuse and error. While there are risks, to be sure, a carefully designed and managed system is capable of adequately addressing them."
 





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Saturday, February 14, 2015

dive for dreams








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dive for dreams
or a slogan may topple you
(trees are their roots
and wind is wind)
trust your heart
if the seas catch fire
(and live by love
though the stars walk backward)
honour the past
but welcome the future
(and dance your death
away at the wedding)
never mind a world
with its villains or heroes
(for good likes girls
and tomorrow and the earth)
in spite of everything
which breathes and moves, since Doom
(with white longest hands
neating each crease)
will smooth entirely our minds
-before leaving my room
i turn, and (stooping
through the morning) kiss
this pillow, dear
where our heads lived and were.


–E. E. Cummings







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from The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making









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All stories must end so, with the next tale winking out of the corners of the last pages, promising more, promising moonlight and dancing and revels, if only you will come back when spring comes again.

Catherynne M. Valente






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thingsthatsing

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Wodwo


 




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What am I? Nosing here, turning leaves over
Following a faint stain on the air to the river’s edge
I enter water. Who am I to split
The glassy grain of water looking upward I see the bed
Of the river above me upside down very clear
What am I doing here in mid-air? Why do I find
this frog so interesting as I inspect its most secret
interior and make it my own? Do these weeds
know me and name me to each other have they
seen me before do I fit in their world? I seem
separate from the ground and not rooted but dropped
out of nothing casually I’ve no threads
fastening me to anything I can go anywhere
I seem to have been given the freedom
of this place what am I then? And picking
bits of bark off this rotten stump gives me
no pleasure and it’s no use so why do I do it
me and doing that have coincided very queerly
But what shall I be called am I the first
have I an owner what shape am I what
shape am I am I huge if I go
to the end on this way past these trees and past these trees
till I get tired that’s touching one wall of me
for the moment if I sit still how everything
stops to watch me I suppose I am the exact centre
but there’s all this what is it roots
roots roots roots and here’s the water
again very queer but I’ll go on looking

–Ted Hughes
 





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Thursday, February 12, 2015

suppose









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suppose
 Life is an old man carrying flowers on his head.

 young death sits in a cafe
 smiling, a piece of money held between
 his thumb and first finger

 (i say "will he buy flowers" to you
 and "Death is young
 life wears velour trousers
 life totters, life has a beard" i

 say to you who are silent. - "Do you see
 Life? he is there and here,
 or that, or this
 or nothing or an old man 3 thirds
 asleep, on his head
 flowers, always crying
 to nobody something about les
 roses les bluets
                 yes,
                     will He buy?
 Les belles bottes - oh hear
 , pas cheres")

 and my love slowly answered I think so. But
 I think I see someone else

 there is a lady, whose name is Afterwards
 she is sitting beside young death, is slender;
 likes flowers. 


–E. E. Cummings



 
 
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 arthurtress 
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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

when I die







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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

desire itself is movement








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Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.

And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

The detail of the pattern is movement,
As in the figure of the ten stairs.
Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable;
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.

Sudden in a shaft of sunlight
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always—
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.


–T. S. Eliot






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Monday, February 2, 2015

flat rabbit - oh man i love this



The Flat Rabbit: A Minimalist Scandinavian Children’s Book about Making Sense of Death and the Mysteries of Life

by Maria Popova


Neil Gaiman, in discussing his gorgeous new adaptation of Hansel and Gretel, asserted that we shouldn’t protect ourselves and children from the dark. But when the thickest darkness comes, in childhood as much as in adulthood, it brings with it not the monsters and witches of fairy tales but the tragedies of life itself — nowhere more acutely than in confronting death and its ghouls of grief. And when it does come, as Joan Didion memorably put it, it’s “nothing like we expect it to be.” What we need isn’t so much protection as the shaky comfort of understanding — a sensemaking mechanism for the messiness of loss.

That’s precisely what Faroese children’s book author and artist Bárður Oskarsson does in The Flat Rabbit (public library | IndieBound) — a masterwork of minimalist storytelling that speaks volumes about our eternal tussle with our own impermanence.

The book, translated by Faroese language-lover Marita Thomsen, comes from a long tradition of Scandinavian children’s books with singular sensitivity to such difficult subjects — from Tove Jansson’s vintage parables of uncertainty to Stein Erik Lunde’s Norwegian tale of grief to Øyvind Torseter’s existential meditation on the meaning of something and nothing.

The story, full of quiet wit and wistful wonder, begins with a carefree dog walking down the street. Suddenly, he comes upon a rabbit, lying silently flattened on the road. As the dog, saddened by the sight, wonders what to do, his friend the rat comes by.




“She is totally flat,” said the rat. For a while they just stood there looking at her.

“Do you know her?”

“Well,” said the dog, “I think she’s from number 34. I’ve never talked to her, but I peed on the gate a couple of times, so we’ve definitely met.”

The two agree that “lying there can’t be any fun” and decide to move her, but don’t know where to take her and head to the park to think.

The dog was now so deep in thought that, had you put your ear to his skull, you would have actually heard him racking his brain.






 


Exclaiming that he has a plan, the dog returns to the scene with the rat. They take the rabbit from the road and work all night on the plan, hammering away in the doghouse.
In the next scene, we see the rabbit lovingly taped to the frame of a kite, which takes the dog and the rat forty-two attempts to fly.

 




With great simplicity and sensitivity, the story lifts off into a subtle meditation on the spiritual question of an afterlife — there is even the spatial alignment of a proverbial heaven “above.” It suggests — to my mind, at least — that all such notions exist solely for the comfort of the living, for those who survive the dead and who confront their own mortality in that survival, and yet there is peace to be found in such illusory consolations anyway, which alone is reason enough to have them.

Mostly, the story serves as a gentle reminder that we simply don’t have all the answers and that, as John Updike put it, “the mystery of being is a permanent mystery.”


Once the kite was flying, they watched it in silence for a long time.

“Do you think she is having a good time?” the rat finally asked, without looking at the dog.

The dog tried to imagine what the world would look like from up there.

“I don’t know…” he replied slowly. “I don’t know.”




Complement The Flat Rabbit with Love Is Forever, a more literal but no less lovely take on helping young hearts deal with loss, then revisit Meghan O’Rourke’s magnificent grownup memoir of navigating mourning.


Illustrations courtesy of Owlkids Books





Sunday, February 1, 2015

from the Tempest, Act IV







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'One of 25 video poems in Four Seasons Productions Moving Poetry Series - Three innovative new films - RANT * RAVE * RIFF. We have chosen a selection from with William Shakespeare's One from the Tempest, Act IV written in 1612 which is recited by Dr. Allen Dwight Callahan. 

All of those smiling faces, those spirits are gone -- melted into thin air -- we are such stuff as dreams are made of. But what is on the other side of our sleep?

Learn more about this provocative new series, featured poems, poets and readers at 4SeasonsProductions'

Evening Hymn by Patrick Hawes






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