Sunday, February 7, 2016

Musical Interlude: Secret Garden, “Silent Wings”

Secret Garden, “Silent Wings”

Musical Interlude: David Schombert, "A Space Journey"

David Schombert, "A Space Journey"

"A Look to the Heavens"

"A gorgeous spiral galaxy some 100 million light-years distant, NGC 1309 lies on the banks of the constellation of the River (Eridanus). NGC 1309 spans about 30,000 light-years, making it about one third the size of our larger Milky Way galaxy. Bluish clusters of young stars and dust lanes are seen to trace out NGC 1309's spiral arms as they wind around an older yellowish star population at its core. 
Click image for larger size.
Not just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy, observations of NGC 1309's recent supernova and Cepheid variable stars contribute to the calibration of the expansion of the Universe. Still, after you get over this beautiful galaxy's grand design, check out the array of more distant background galaxies also recorded in this sharp, reprocessed, Hubble Space Telescope view.”

Chet Raymo, “Silence”

“Silence”
by Chet Raymo

“A gray, drizzly day. As I take my place in a quiet corner of the college Commons it is still dark. I open my laptop and there on the screen is the poem I was reading yesterday afternoon in the library, as I closed my laptop for the day: “Silence”, by Billy Collins.

"These lines particularly resonate:
And there is the silence of this morning
Which I have broken with my pen,
A silence that had piled up all night

Like snow falling in the darkness of the house-
The silence before I wrote a word
And the poorer silence now."

When I was a young man I read a little book by the Swiss/German Roman Catholic convert Max Picard called “The World of Silence.” He said: "Poetry comes out of silence and yearns for silence. Like man himself, it travels from one silence to another." 

I put my fingers to the keyboard. I break the silence that has been storing up all night in wakefulness and dream. Why? Why break so dear a thing?

Because we are human. To be human is to speak. Speech defines our humanness. 

Certain orders of monks and nuns vow themselves to silence, but not unbroken silence. They bind themselves to an absence of chatter so that when they gather to sing the Divine Office their poetry will arch from silence to silence like the vault of their chapel.

The first of my books that could be said to be "poetic" was "The Soul of the Night." The first chapter is called "Silence." It's about the moral silence of the universe, the great over-arching silence of the stars. If there is something in this universe that might be called God, it does not make a noise of sounding brass or Joshua's trumpets at Jericho. It hides in absolute and utter silence. 

Silence has crept through everything I have written since, like a cat in a busy house. I recognize the irony of using speech to extol silence, but there it sits, on little cat feet, on silent haunches, demanding attention, and utterly, absolutely oblivious to whatever attention is paid.

Poetry- music, art, science, creativity of any sort- is the homage we pay to silence. When creativity becomes untethered from silence it is mere noise. Noise is silence in shards. 

So it is with a certain sense of caution, humility, that I put fingers to the keyboard- as the wet pines outside the window begin to glow with a mellow golden light- knowing that silence deserves whatever gifts I might bring to the altar, but always aware that the gifts are unworthy of the thing itself.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Bridgetown, Saint Michael, Barbados. Thanks for stopping by!

"Something You Already Know..."

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now if you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain't you! You're better than that!” 
- Rocky Balboa

"To Witness Victory of This New Bravery"

"To Witness Victory of This New Bravery"
BY Omid Safi

"There is a Native American story that has long been meaningful for me. It is a conversation between grandparent and a child: One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said: “My son, the battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith." The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one that you feed."

I have reflected on this story for a while. It is meaningful, the notion that our “wolves” are not finalized, but fed. We feed them. We nurture them, and we grow them. The victory of the “wolf” is tied directly to our own nurturing of them. And yet I also want to push beyond the story a little bit. I now see the wolves as perhaps less of a dichotomy, more mingled, more intertwined. And they have to do with fear and kindness."

"I used to be fearless.
   Or, at least,
I believed I was. 
As a young man, 
I felt brave, 
          immune to fear, 
                    even fearless.
I thought bravery meant 
    inability to experience fear.

I believed
    fear meant weakness.
Now,  
   I am not so sure. 
I look at the news everyday. 
I know I am 
      vulnerable.   
Look at my children, 
         and wonderful what kind of world 
    I have brought them into.
I look at these beautiful souls, 
      laughing, 
         giggling,
            playing, 
and know that if they hurt, 
 my world
  falls
    apart.
My heart opens to the shooting in Oregon, 
     these are all of our kids.
I look at fifty shootings in Chicago
    in one weekend, 
         2300 this year.             
These   lives    matter.
The heart looks at a Palestinian kid shot in Hebron,
   another killed in Jerusalem.
Heart sees 
       Jews stabbed in Jerusalem.  

Heart 
    breaks here
Heart breaks there.
My friends are wondering out loud 
      if they should have brought children into this world.
We are afraid.
I
   am fearful
      yes, full of fear these days.
I have been wondering about this fear.    
Wondering how to live with it.

I know that the world as it is today 
      is not how it has to be. 
Confident that the universe is ultimately 
     a moral universe, 
bending towards justice.
But the arc is sooooo long
   that the end is not in sight.
Yet I trust that kindness and sharing 
     will have the victory in the end.
As to how we get there, 
   less sure.
Rumi teaches me that in life 
we either walk the path of fear 
                   or the path of love, 
but we cannot be on both paths
       in the same breath. 
These truths I know.
    But the fear is real.  
I have come to accept this fear.  
     To welcome this vulnerability. 
For the first time in my life, 
       I admit to myself:
yes, 
   I am afraid.  
   We are vulnerable.
Reaching 
    deep 
       into my heart,
High 
    towards the Spirit that animates me
   I speak to this fear: 
          You shall not have the last word.
I am not fear itself,
   I am not bound to fear.
At this very moment, 
  yes, I am afraid, vulnerable. 
This fear is a guest.  
It will stay in the keravansaray of my heart 
   for a few days, years.   
A permanent guest, 
      he is not.  
Eventually he will leave.       
Until then, yes, come in fear.   
Be at home. 
You, fear, 
    are a shadow of love.    
A love for all that I hold dear, 
    and what could happen to them. 
You are like an eclipse 
     whose shape is nothing 
   but the shadow of our own selves.  
In the meantime, 
     as fear and vulnerability set in, 
I know that while I am afraid, 
  this fear need not 
     define me. 
You will not exhaust 
    who I am. 
I am afraid, but I am more than fear. 
There is something in me more than this fear.   
Strive I do
    for a new brave
not in spite of fear;
not the absence of fear,
    but the commitment 
       to hold on to love 
         In the presence of fear.  

My heart will be the venue
   to witness victory of this new bravery.   
  
It begins with a refusal.

I refuse. 
  refuse 
       to believe that all hope is gone
  refuse 
       to believe that mercy is gone
  refuse 
       to believe that our conscience is a fossil. 
As long as there is a God, 
there is hope and love. 
We are not meant to live 
    as too many of us are living. 
As hate-filled and violent as our world is today, 
     I refuse to give in to hatred. 
We are going to stick with love, 
      because the alternative is unlivable. 
It is love that is ultimately divine, 
      and it is through this love 
   that we will form 
the beloved community.
Yes, fear is real.
Love is More.  
More Real.
More Divine
More luminous

More.
I choose the More.

We are going to stick with love.
Love over fear.

This is the wolf that I want to feed,
today, 
Everyday
everywhere
here, 
Now."

Midday Musical Interlude: Kevin Kern, “Greatest Hits”

Kevin Kern, “Greatest Hits”

"How It Really Is"

Oh my... what have we here?

“Clintons's $200,000 an Hour Pay From Goldman Sachs is Nothing to Laugh At”

Hmmm, nice work if you can get it...
Please do click the link below to see enlarged image.
“The Complete Breakdown Of Every Hillary And Bill Clinton Speech, And Fee, Since 2013”
Two years, 2013-2015, $21,667,000 in speaking fees. Nice...

Very understandable she should seize the same opportunities available to us all, right? Since, in her own words, "We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt." Oh, the humanity! Such suffering! My heart breaks, it breaks I tell you! And THIS "person" wants you to believe she's just like us, shares our values and really, really cares about YOU, and will put OUR interests first, right? When Hell freezes over...
- CP

Rightwing Nuthouse: “5 Right-Wing Absurdities This Week: Jeb! Stumbles in NH”

“5 Right-Wing Absurdities This Week: Jeb! Stumbles in NH”
by Janet Allon

“Furious campaigning in New Hampshire in the run-up to the primary resulted in a litany of absurdities from the right-wing conserv-o-verse this week. Republican candidates and Fox newsians had a great deal of trouble with the fact that President Obama visited and spoke at a mosque, obviously completely forgetting that George W. did so (though considerably less eloquently than Obama). Just in case you missed them, here were some of the truly head-scratching right-wing moments this week.

1. Marco Rubio has a mixed-up notion about what it is to be smart and also about everything. Marco Rubio has been closing in on Donald Trump in the polls in New Hampshire this week. Wonder why. Could it be his perfectly preposterous and hateful reaction to President Obama’s visit to a mosque on Monday? For some reason, this infuriated Rubio. He could barely contain his fury. This dang president is always trying to divide people, by...by...visiting their places of worship. How dare he!

That is roughly how the reasoning went. During an interview on Monday, Rubio segued from a question about what his management style would be as president. (Please, no.) “I’m tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president’s done," Rubio said. "Always pitting people against each other. Always.”

Okay, wait, what? “Look at today—he gave a speech at a mosque,” Rubio blustered. “Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there’s going to be discrimination in America of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam. And by the way, radical Islam poses a threat to Muslims themselves.”

There’s a lot of wrong-headedness packed into that sort-of-paragraph, including the notion that the very act of giving a speech in a mosque is de facto wrong, no matter what is said. Also, what’s this “Of course there’s going to be discrimination in America of every kind"? Shouldn’t we maybe try to do something about that? Rubio also routinely denies the highly observable reality that Muslim-Americans do face discrimination and a five-fold uptick in hate crimes.

By week’s end, Rubio was surging and even picked up the super-valuable endorsement of Bobby Jindal. In thanking him, Rubio called Jindal, “one of the smartest people in American politics.” Apparently to Rubio, smartness means believing in creationism and teaching it to schoolchildren, denying science and insisting on a link between homosexuality and tornadoes.

And never ever visiting mosques.

2. Bill O’Reilly is still in the throes of Trump worship. Despite the fact that Trump rebuffed Bill O’Reilly’s offer to buy him milkshakes in exchange for participating in the Fox debate before Iowa, Papa Bear still loves him some Donald. When Trump lost decisively to Ted Cruz in Iowa, O’Reilly just refused to believe it. The caucuses were “nonsense,” he said, because who needs the democratic process when it doesn’t work for your guy. “All those who say [Trump] has been damaged by his loss in Iowa are full of it,” O’Reilly argued eloquently. “The media despises Trump and will paint him as a loser if they can, but here on the Factor we’re fair, and the truth is Trump remains very formidable.”

Here on the Factor, we’re fair! Oh, good one, Bill! 

3. Fox Newsian has not heard of any anti-Muslim hate crimes, therefore they don’t happen. To no one's surprise, the intrepid reporters at Fox News did not like the fact that President Obama visited a mosque any more than Marco Rubio did. On Tuesday, “The Five” hosts wondered why in the world the president found that necessary. Co-host Juan Williams mentioned the fact that hate crimes against Muslims have been on the rise since the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. Really? Eric Bolling and Kimberly Guilfoyle responded. It’s kind of amazing how much you can not know just by refusing to know it. The conversation went like this:

Guilfoyle: I think that Christians are being driven out of the Middle East in droves, being raped and tortured, murdered. Religious Christian sites and churches not being allowed to be rebuilt. What is the president doing to stand for them? Instead every time he gives one of these speeches we hear a little excerpt from the book of Obama of how Christians should be living their life and that Muslim is a religion of peace. Show me the evidence.
Williams: The challenge at the moment has to do with the spike in attacks, hate crimes against Muslims in the United States. And don't forget you've had Donald Trump say we should ban....
Bolling: Are there a lot of hate crimes against Muslims in the United States? Because I haven't heard of any.
Guilfoyle: Where are the numbers for that?

Well, the numbers are to hard to find, of course. We could suggest Guilfoyle and Bolling check out this Washington Post article about a five-fold increase in attacks on Muslims since 9/11. They won’t, but you can.

4. Another Fox co-host’s extremely “with it” take on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. America may be ready for a woman president, but Fox News clearly is not. That may be because they are stuck roughly in the ‘70s in terms of their perceptions of feminism and women wanting to do stuff, like lead the free world. Hillary Clinton—she of the overly loud voice and overreliance on pants suits, and other extremely important and substantial critiques of her policies and positions—is nothing but one of ‘dem bra burners! Yep, bra burners! When’s the last time you heard that phrase?

This comment came from astute political commentarian Heather Nauert. For your reading pleasure, we give you her comment in full: “I wonder how her remark about, oh, I'm certainly not an establishment candidate, I'm the first woman running for president. I wonder how that bra-burning is going to play this year. Maybe that was something that people liked four years ago, or previously, but it doesn't seem like that's going over too well.”

Honestly, we don’t have the foggiest notion what she is saying, other than the fact that Hillary Clinton is, in fact, a woman.

5. Jeb Bush really did kind of beg people to clap. Jeb Bush's mama raised him to be polite. Polite, but not the brightest, or the funniest, Barbara Bush recently implied in an interview that almost (but not quite) made us feel kind of sorry for the guy. As he limps toward New Hampshire, having pretty much lost his exclamation point along the way and a good deal of his mojo, Bush was caught basically begging an audience in Hanover, New Hampshire to clap after he issued this apparently not terribly rousing sentence: “I think the next president needs to be a lot quieter [than whom, it is not exactly clear], but send a signal that we’re prepared to act in the national security interest of this country to get back in the business of creating a more peaceful world.” Then he stopped, and because of that mannerly upbringing, he said, “Please clap.” Thus prompted, his audience did.

Poor Jeb. He must have forgotten he was speaking to a Republican audience. If he really wants them to clap, he’ll need to say things like, “Let’s carpet-bomb them to smithereens.” When is he going to learn? According to his mother, not soon.”
http://www.alternet.org/

Related:
"5 Worst Foreign Policy Moments of GOP New Hampshire Debate"
http://www.alternet.org/

And, for good measure...

Geopolitics: “Syrian Endgame: Saudi Arabia And Turkey Poised To Invade?”

“Syrian Endgame: Saudi Arabia And Turkey Poised To Invade?”
by  Joshua Krause

“As we speak, the most decisive battle in the Syrian Civil War is being waged, and it’s a make or break moment for the Assad regime, and for Putin. Forces allied with the Syrian Army such as Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, have surrounded Aleppo, a hotly contested rebel stronghold and previously the largest city in the country. Thousands of civilians are fleeing the city en masse as these forces close in, while the Russian Air Force pummels the area day and night. If the Syrian government takes the city back, it will be a devastating blow for any rebel forces in the country, ISIS or otherwise. It will be marked in history as a major turning point for Assad and the Kremlin, and a massive rebuke to the demands of the United States and her allies.

Warning! Scenes of extremely graphic violence!
Battles for Syria, February 5th 2016, Aleppo province.

As for those allies, they may not be willing to take this defeat sitting down. Under the guise of fighting ISIS, Saudi Arabia has announced that they intend to put boots on the ground in Syria, if the US agrees to it. “Today, the Saudi kingdom announced its readiness to participate with ground troops with the US-led coalition against ISIL, because we now have the experience in Yemen,” Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri told Al Jazeera. “We know that air strikes cannot be enough and that a ground operation is needed. We need to combine both to achieve better results on the ground.” Asseri didn’t elaborate on how many soldiers the kingdom could send.

The Iranians didn’t seem too amused by this announcement, and not just because they are bitter rivals with a regime that has provided material support to the Syrian rebels. Iranian general Ali Jafari replied to this call to arms, by explaining that the Saudi military is too conventional to deal with an irregular fighting force like ISIS, before adding “This will be like a coup de grace for them. Apparently, they see no other way but this, and if this is the case, then their fate is sealed.”

Click image for larger size.

But Saudi Arabia may not be the only anti-Assad country to join the fray, at least if the Russians can be believed. They claim that Turkey, which has long been accused of supporting ISIS, may be preparing to invade the country.

"MOSCOW — Russia has serious grounds to suspect Turkey of preparing for a military incursion in Syria, where Russian jets are bombing rebel and jihadi fighters, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Thursday. “The Russian Defense Ministry registers a growing number of signs of hidden preparation of the Turkish armed forces for active actions on the territory of Syria,” he said in a statement. The ministry also hit out at Turkey’s refusal to allow Russia to make an observation in early February over Turkish areas adjacent to Syria, saying “no specific explanation” was given by Ankara. “The Russian Defense Ministry regards these actions of the Turkish party as a dangerous precedent and an attempt to hide the illegal military activity near the Syrian border,” it said."

Now that it appears the rebels are about to be faced with a crippling blow, delivered by a coalition of nations that are determined to snuff them out, it seems that the rebel’s benefactors are preparing for one final push to save their war against Assad. Which means that before this war is over, there may be a massive escalation of tensions on the part of all parties involved. The US is certainly playing a role in this escalation.

On Wednesday, the FSA’s Northern Division, one of the 39 anti-Assad militias backed by the CIA, uploaded a video showing one of its soldiers firing a TOW missile at half a dozen or so unidentified uniformed men gathered on a rooftop of a building. The video, uploaded at 5:57 GMT, named the targets as Russian officers but gave no details about the exact location of the attack apart from noting that it was somewhere near Syria’s coast—the region of the country where Russia has recently constructed forward operating bases and airfields. There was little doubt that whoever was on that roof didn’t survive the resulting blast. About an hour later, Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reported that a Russian officer who had been advising the Assad’s army had indeed been killed in Syria— not by U.S.-backed rebels but by ISIS, which allegedly hit a military garrison with mortars on Monday. No location for this attack was given.

The Russians won’t admit it, but the evidence suggests that the rebels killed several Russian and Syrian military officers with an American made TOW missile. The reason why that is so important, is because whenever the US gives weapons to any nation or group, they come with strict stipulations. They have rules about how they’re allowed to use these weapons and who they’re allowed to kill with them. So in all likelihood, the US government just gave these rebels explicit permission to target Russian forces.

With that said, this war has already touched base with World War Three on several occasions. It’s probably the most dangerous war being fought in the world today, due to how many entangling alliances are involved. Now that a decisive moment in this conflict is upon us, and every nation that’s involved is escalating their presence, there will likely be plenty of close calls in the near future.”
And why should this matter to you, Good Citizen, besides paying for it? 
World War III, perhaps... because, considering human nature...

“Somebody Will Do Something Stupid”
by James Quinn 

“Is it just me, or does it seem like we are moving inexorably towards a global confrontation? China claims some islands in the South China Sea and we attempt to provoke a military response by sending a US warship within 12 miles of the disputed islands. We accuse both China and Russia of cyber terrorism on a regular basis, even though we released the Stuxnet virus into the Iranian nuclear facilities and have used mass surveillance against people around the world, including allied leaders. We created ISIS as part of our grand strategy that included turning Iraq and Libya into lawless countries racked by civil war strife and religious zealotry. We created the Syrian refugee crisis by funding militants against Assad because Saudi Arabia and Qatar want to build a natural gas pipeline through Syria to Europe.

We led the overthrow of a democratically elected, Russian friendly, government in the Ukraine, and have continuously provoked Russia in their own backyard. We have covered up the true culprit in shooting down of the Malaysian airliner over the Ukraine. We have colluded with Saudi Arabia to drive the price of oil down in an attempt to destroy the economies of Iran, Argentina and Russia. Putin has now called our bluff and entered Syria in full force, bombing the hell out of ISIS and proving the US had no intention of defeating these terrorists, because our military industrial complex depends upon having an enemy to fight. Now Obama is placing US troops in the line of fire between Russia, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and ISIS. 

Europe was already bankrupt, issues trillions in new debt to pay off the unpayable debt they already had. Now they are being overrun by Muslim hordes who will cause their societies to splinter and cause chaos, violence, and war. Domestically, Obama has successfully splintered the country along the lines of race, religion, gun ownership, producers vs consumers, and wealth. There are a multitude of fuses affixed to dozens of powderkegs and little kids with matches are on the loose. 

I don’t know which of the fuses will be lit and which powderkeg will blow, but someone is bound to do something stupid, and then all hell will break loose. It could happen at any time. One military miscue. One assassination. One violent act that stirs the world. And the dominoes will topple, setting off fireworks not seen on this planet since 1939 – 1945. I can see it all very clearly.”

The Economy: “Paths of Glory”

“Paths of Glory”
by Tim Knight

"A couple of Thursdays ago, we were all wringing our hands (or at least I was) about the powerful bureaucrat and lifetime government employee Haruhiko Kuroda and what his next move would be. He dropped a big bomb - negative interest rates - and created precisely the kind of market reaction he wanted... for less than a single day. Since then, his world has once again fallen to pieces, since the cold fact of the matter is that Japan is doomed to be an old age colony, hopelessly mired in debt, with its economic glory of the 1980s an increasingly distant memory.

Even though these moronic central bankers are becoming increasingly impotent (a trait normally assigned merely to those who dared gaze at the hideous visage of Janet Yellen), we're all still afraid of them and what they might do, simply because the horrid memories of 2009-2014 are too painful to forget. The latest chatter is about the Chinese government, and whatever falsified data they intend to trot out Sunday night. I personally wish they'd all choke on their chopsticks.

What we must remember, however, is this: we are in a bear market, and the risk of a countertrend rally is present, but confined. Looking at the Dow Jones Composite, for example, I've tinted in my view as to the worst risk scenario. God forbid even this happening:


Click image for larger size.

Context is important, however, because the big picture shows global mayhem, economic cataclysm, and a plunge that would push Draghi, Yellen, Kuroda, and the unnamed stooges of China to seek out the cleanest, sharpest razor blades available to slit their collective wrists. I have, as a way to emphasize the contrast between bearish and bullish risk, tinted in green below the same area as I did above. Magnifying glasses may be required:

Click image for larger size.

As you might have divined, I deeply resent these bankers and the fact they have any say-so in market movement, even if this effect is short-lived. My belief in the importance of organic markets flows through every molecule of my being, and what these government flunkies are doing is grotesquely offensive to every concept I have of decency and natural order. These clowns are going to keep messing with the markets, but the three words to remember are: They. Will. Fail."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Musical Interlude: Gandalf, “Blossoms Unfolding”

Gandalf, “Blossoms Unfolding”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Is star AE Aurigae on fire? No. Even though AE Aurigae is named the flaming star, the surrounding nebula IC 405 is named the Flaming Star Nebula, and the region appears to have the color of fire, there is no fire. Fire, typically defined as the rapid molecular acquisition of oxygen, happens only when sufficient oxygen is present and is not important in such high-energy, low-oxygen environments such as stars. The material that appears as smoke is mostly interstellar hydrogen, but does contain smoke-like dark filaments of carbon-rich dust grains. 
Click image for larger size.
The bright star AE Aurigae, visible toward the right near the nebula's center, is so hot it is blue, emitting light so energetic it knocks electrons away from surrounding gas. When a proton recaptures an electron, light is emitted, as seen in the surrounding emission nebula. Pictured above, the Flaming Star nebula lies about 1,500 light years distant, spans about 5 light years, and is visible with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Charioteer (Auriga).”

Chet Raymo, “The Maintenance of Self”

“The Maintenance of Self”
by Chet Raymo

"Ah, yes, the pitcher plant. Those devouring goblets. Those caldrons of digestive juices. And now naturalists have found the biggest one yet, as big as a chalice, on a mountaintop in the Philippines, its punch bowl filled with beetles, flies and wasps.

Come hither, ye who flitter. Admire my colors. Sip my nectar. Yes, yes, just like that, 
touch my milky pool. I'll be your Tar Baby. Your flypaper paramour. That's it. 
Sniff my irresistible scent. My buffet waits. Sip. Lap. Gorge yourself. 

Gotcha!

Countless plants use insects to consummate the business of sex, and some, that generally live in nutrient-deficient soils, have turned to carnivory. Alastair Robinson, who was part of the team that discovered the gargantuan pitcher, says the plant is "akin to an open stomach." Which is miracle enough. But what I want to know is: Why don't its dissolving juices dissolve the plant itself?

Oh, wait. My closed stomach does the same thing, digesting plants and animals but not itself. How can that be? Well, as we all learned in school, it does. The gastric juices eat away at the stomach's mucus lining, which has to be constantly replaced. Somewhere I read that the stomach lining sacrifices half-a-million cells a minute, completely replacing itself every three days. Digestion of food is a work in progress, a delicate balance between the dissolver and the dissolved. The stomach lining works like like an ablative heat shield on a space craft, except it is perpetually regenerating. 

Pitcher plants, apparently, use a variety of mechanisms to turn their prey into useful nutrients-enzymes, bacteria, mutualistic insect larvae- but they too must have some way of maintaining the integrity of self. Maintaining the integrity of self! That's what it's all about, isn't it. We need to eat. Other organisms want to eat us. Ablating stomach walls. Immune systems. Repair mechanisms. Our bodies are winds of molecules, torrents of cells. Blowing in and blowing out. And somehow a self remains.

The biological integrity of self, upon which depends utterly the intellectual integrity of self. Astonishingly resourceful- for the pitcher plant and for ourselves. But not unlimited. We are all doomed to die. Let's give the last word to one of William Blake's Songs of Innocence:

"Little fly,
Thy summer's play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?
For I dance
And drink and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath,
And the want
Of thought is death,
Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.”

"There For All Of Us..."

"We are hurt; we are lonely; and we turn to music or words, and as compensation beyond all price we are given glimpses of the world on the other side of time and space. We all have glimpses of glory as children, and as we grow up we forget them, or are taught to think we made them up; they couldn't possibly have been real, because to most of us who are grown up, reality is like radium, and can be borne only in very small quantities. But we are meant to be real, and to see and recognize the real. We are all more than we know, and that wondrous reality, that wholeness, holiness, is there for all of us, not the qualified only."
- Madeleine L'Engle, "Walking on Water"

“5 Sad Truths About Success And Happiness”

“5 Sad Truths About Success And Happiness”
by Bernard Marr

“Even as medical science and quality of life continues to increase our life spans, it seems as though many of us are not really living the life we’re given. Too often we are caught in the “busy” trap, running, running, running—but never getting much of anywhere. But how would you live differently if you knew you were going to die?

Finding true success and happiness: Not to be maudlin, but we all are going to die—sooner or later. And while death is something we humans pretty universally fear, thinking about our own demise can actually spur us to live more fully.

In surveys of people who know they are going to die, the regrets are almost never “I wish I had worked more,” or even “I wish I had made more money.” More often they are about success and happiness in their truest forms. I chose these five common regrets from a book called, aptly, “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying”, by Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse in Australia who routinely asked her patients about their regrets and recorded them on her blog.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. So often we make decisions in our life based on what others want or believe. You got a particular university degree because it’s what your father wanted. You took a certain job because you wanted to make more money to support your family. You didn’t pursue your dreams because someone told you they were foolish.

But what would happen if you lived a life that was true to yourself, and no one else? How would you dress? Where would you work? How would you live? Who would you spend your time with? What would you do if you weren’t afraid of what others would think? Although there are certainly constraints on all of us, the closer we can come to living that true life, the happier we will be.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. Ware reported that she heard this from almost every single one of her male patients. We often think we have to work 40, 60, 80 hours a week because it’s expected, because we want the promotion or the raise, but is it worth it? If you were truly honest with yourself, which would be more important: working hard to earn all that money, or having a different lifestyle? With even a few conscious choices, you can tweak your lifestyle to make it possible.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. How often do you bite your tongue to keep the peace? We’re told, “Don’t get so emotional about it,” or “Don’t let your emotions rule you,” but our emotions are our own personal truth. No one can deny how you feel about something. We cannot control how other people react to us, but we can control how we react. Does that mean you should break down crying in your next board meeting? Maybe not. But if you can take your emotions and channel them into positive change, a productive conversation with someone, or even a lifestyle shift, your emotions—even negative ones—can have a vast positive impact on your life.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. It’s easy to let personal relationships slide (especially if we’re working too much, as in No. 2), but personal connections are what give life meaning—not reports and promotions and pay raises. Not television and video games and all the other time sucks of modern day life. Who could you reach out to today? Who could you call, or write, or text (if you must) and let them know you’re thinking of them? How would it make you feel? And how would it make them feel? It’s pretty much a no-lose situation.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. There’s so much wisdom tied up in that little statement. Happiness, it turns out, doesn’t have that much to do with the car you drive or the job you have or even the person you spend your life with. Happiness is actually a choice. It’s the difference between seeing an unexpected event as a setback or an adventure; the difference between being frustrated by a delay or relishing the time alone; the difference between resenting someone for who they aren’t and loving them for who they are.

We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of those who have gone before us. Our happiness, our success, nearly every detail of our lives comes down to choice, and we can choose to live the way we truly want to live, or spend our final days regretting the choices we didn’t make.

I hope that these sombre truths help inspire you to make the choices you won’t regret. I have always tried to take the loss of my father when I was a teenager and the loss of my mum when I was a young man as important reminders to not leave happiness for a later date, but make the choices that lead to true success and happiness today.

How can the regrets of the dying help inspire your choices about the way you live your life today? I’d love to hear what you think. Please share your thoughts…”

Bernard Marr is a globally recognized expert in strategy, performance management, analytics, KPIs and big data. He helps companies manage, measure and improve performance.
"If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make,
who would you call and what would you say?  And why are you waiting?"
~ Stephen Levine

Free Download: "The Rubaiyat" by Omar Khayyam

"We are no other than a moving row
Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go
Round with the Sun-illumin'd Lantern
held In Midnight by the Master of the Show;

But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Here or There as strikes the Player goes;
And He that toss'd you down into the Field,
He knows about it all- HE knows- HE knows!

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop'd we live and die,
Lift not your hands to It for help- for
It As impotently moves as you or I.

With Earth's first Clay They did the Last Man knead,
And then of the Last Harvest sow'd the Seed:
Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote
What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare;
Tomorrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where."

Freely download "The Rubaiyat" by Omar Khayyam, here:
http://manybooks.net/titles/fitzgereldeetext95rubai10.html

The Daily "Near You?"

Horton, Michigan, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

The Poet: Eugene O'Neill, "Free"

"Free"
by Eugene O'Neill

"Weary am I of the tumult, sick of the staring crowd,
Pining for wild sea places where the soul may think aloud.
Fled is the glamour of cities, dead as the ghost of a dream,
While I pine anew for the tint of blue on the breast of the old Gulf Stream.

I have had my dance with Folly, nor do I shirk the blame;
I have sipped the so-called Wine of Life and paid the price of shame;
But I know that I shall find surcease, the rest my spirit craves,
Where the rainbows play in the flying spray,
'Mid the keen salt kiss of the waves.

Then it's ho! for the plunging deck of a bark, the hoarse song of the crew,
With never a thought of those we left or what we are going to do;
Nor heed the old ship's burning, but break the shackles of care
And at last be free, on the open sea, with the trade wind in our hair."

"Regret: The Weight of the Past"

"Regret: The Weight of the Past"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"Holding onto regret is like dragging the weight of the past with us everywhere we go. Holding onto regret is like dragging the weight of the past with us everywhere we go. It drains our energy, leaving less available for life in the present because we are constantly feeding an old issue. This attachment can cause illness the same way watering a dead plant creates decay. We know that something new and beautiful can grow in its place if we only prepare the soil and plant the right seeds. We also know that we create our lives from our thoughts, so dwelling on the past may actually recreate a situation in our lives where we are forced to make the choice again and again. We can choose to move on right now by applying what we have learned to the present and perhaps even sharing with others, transforming the energy into something that is constructive and creative for ourselves and others.

Forgiveness is the soothing balm that can heal regret. In meditation, we can imagine discussing the issue with the self of our past and offering our forgiveness for the choice. In return, we can ask for our selves’ forgiveness for keeping them locked in that space of judgment for so long. We may also want to ask forgiveness from anyone else who may have been affected and perhaps offer our forgiveness. By replaying the event in our minds, we can choose a new ending using all that we now know. Imagine that you have actually gone back into the past and made this change, and then say goodbye to it. Release your former self with a hug and bring the forgiveness and love back with you to the present. Since we are usually our harshest critics, it is amazing how powerfully healing it can be to offer ourselves love.

Keeping our minds and our energy fully in the present allows us to fuel our physical and emotional healing and well-being today. This action frees our energy to create the dreams we dream for the future. By taking responsibility and action in the present, we can release our hold on the past."