Sunday, January 31, 2010

"...stretched out upon Mother Earth"

I’ve spent a good portion of my Sunday reading The Book by Alan Watts—the sort of philosophical meringue that seems delightful as you consume it but leaves you hungry for something more substantial. Watts walks the thin line between expressing ideas simply and reducing them to something simple-minded. The Book’s considerable wisdom shares the page with a certain amount of 60s-style spiritual claptrap, which is kinda fun but doesn’t help me take the whole enterprise seriously. I thought about giving up on it a couple of times today, but I hung in there and was rewarded with Watts' quote of this passage from Schrödinger’s My View of the World:

“Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with the certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you. You are as firmly established, as invulnerable as she, indeed a thousand times firmer and more invulnerable. As surely as she will engulf you tomorrow, so surely will she bring you forth anew to new striving and suffering. And not merely ‘some day’: now, today, every day she is bringing you forth, not once but thousands upon thousands of time, just as every day she engulfs you a thousand times over. For eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.”

Alrighty then. That was worth wading through 100 pages of The Book to reach. I’ve seen the last sentence of that quote before, but never the bit that precedes it. Schrödinger expresses in a few elegant words the joyful intuition that lures me into the woods. I can grasp that sense of being continually brought forth only when I literally throw myself on Mother Earth. This blog is all about dancing around Schrödinger’s insight, seeking the eternal now of union and metamorphosis.

The Carrot, Willem Frederik van Royen, 1699

Monday, January 11, 2010

"One must have a mind of winter"

Yesterday we woke up to an Arctic freeze, and today we're back to an ordinary Tennessee chill. When you live where the winters are mild it's easy to forget the special beauty that bitter cold creates. An ice-blue sky, glittering snow, the perfect silence that falls when it's so cold that no animals stir--these are rare pleasures for us.

The Snow Man

by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Text from
Jay Keyser analyzes the poem here.

Garden under Snow, Paul Gauguin, 1879