Made In Its Image

Ampersand,  Wednesday Wolf

Ampersand, Wednesday Wolf

"Genesis Revised"
by Reed Whitmore, from Fifty Poems Fifty (1970)The Past, the Future, the Present: Poems Selected and New (1990)

In my opinion this concept of the interval, detached as it is from the selection of any special body to occupy it, is the starting point of the whole concept of space.

~ Albert Einstein

Think of an "and" alone,
Nothing before, nothing after, 
Nothing and nothing. 
The "and" proposes a structure, and by the proposing
Is. And makes.
For nothing is nothing, but nothing and nothing
Are spatial, temporal; the structure does it,
A nothing there and here, a nothing then and now,
To and fro in the space-time.

But in grammar we cannot think of this. The
     "and" comes second.
We need something, then "and." 
Or if we are willing to grant, without understanding,
     a precedent "and,"
We still ask to know where it came from.
Grammar, logic, math work in the matrix
Of the space-time. "And" is the space-time. We
     in its matrix
Know what we do in it, where we are in it,
But not it.

This that we don't know we call soul, spirit.
More of it every day is found in the physics lab,
By omission.  
It is what we tend to describe by what it is not.
It is not logical, it is not metrical; it is not
     (as I now propose) grammatical.

Yet it is with us. Our minds seem made in its image,
Each a space-time kit for making a world up.
We cannot conceive of that spirit (the "and")
     a father,
Yet we cannot conceive of it otherwise. In
     Eddington's words,
The breach of causality keeps breaking the chain of
     inference. Sense leads to nonsense.

In the beginning, then, was nonsense? So every
     beginning. So far.
We cannot conceive of a nothing that makes something.
The "and" we say must be physical. Or electrical.
Yet the something is nothing. Nonsense.
We have no grammar for nonsense; we cannot posit
A nothing-something moving between nothings.
Yet I repeat:
Think of an "and" alone,
Nothing before, nothing after,
Nothing and nothing, thereby making

The first day.  

To Behold and Not To Think

Topiary Park, January 26, 2013

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.

Dust to Dust

Franklin Avenue, October 7, 2012

Excerpt from In My Own Way by Alan Watts:

This is all there is;
     the path comes to and end
     among the parsley.

Perhaps I can express this Buddhist fascination for the mystery of nothingness in another way.

If we get rid of all wishful thinking and dubious metaphysical speculations, we can hardly doubt that – at a time not too distant – each one of us will simply cease to be. It won’t be like going into darkness forever, for there will be neither darkness, nor time, nor sense of futility, nor anyone to feel anything about it.

Try as best you can to imagine this, and keep at it. The universe will, supposedly, be going on as usual, but for each individual it will be as if it had never happened at all; and even that is saying too much, because there won’t be anyone for whom it never happened.

Make this prospect as real as possible: the one total certainty. You will be as if you had never existed, which was, however, the way you were before you did exist – and not only you but everything else.

Nevertheless, with such an improbable past, here we are. We begin from nothing and end in nothing. You can say that again. Think it over and over, trying to conceive the fact of coming to never having existed.

After a while you will begin to feel rather weird, as if this very apparent something that you are is firmly and certainly grounded in nothingness, much as your sight seems to emerge from that total blankness behind your eyes.

The weird feeling goes with the fact that you are being introduced to a new common sense, a new logic, in which you are beginning to realize the identity of ku and shiki, void and form.

All of a sudden it will strike you that this nothingness is the most potent, magical, basic, and reliable thing you ever thought of, and that the reason you can’t form the slightest idea of it is that it’s yourself.

But not the self you thought you were.  

See also:



Balance in Nature

Shinzen Young, in reponse to a Brain Pickings post on seventeen historically significant mathematical equations:

Just for the record, here's my all-time favorite equation:

First, let me admit that the way I just wrote it involves some abuse of notation. Properly, it should be written this way:


But I think the former form is justified for the visual effect.

To the eye, it seems to equate two closed curves that have symmetry: A regular triangle, with 3-fold rotational symmetry (the minimum possible) and the circle with infinite rotational symmetry (the maximum possible).

But as a mathematical formula, it represents the "generalized Laplacian equation."

This equation is one of the broadest statements of balance in nature. Phenomena as different as three-dimensional thermodynamic equilibrium and four-dimensional relativistic motion can be described by this equation.

To me, it's a reminder that "mutually-canceling polarities" play a fundamental role both in the physical world as described abstractly by scientists and in the spiritual world as described concretely by mystics. 

See also:


Let’s Not Speak

Deer Haven. May 15, 2011

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda, from Extravagaria

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Silence No One Hears

Poem with No Speaker
by Franz Wright, from Earlier Poems

Are you looking
for me? Ask that crow

across the green wheat.

See those minute air bubbles
rising to the surface

at the still creek's edge—
talk to the crawdad.

of the skinny mosquito

on your wall
stinging its shadow,

this lock
of moon

the hair on your neck.

When the hearts in the cocoon
start to beat,

and the spider begins
its hidden task,

and the seed sends its initial
pale hairlike root to drink,

you'll have to get down on all fours

to learn my new address:
you'll have to place your skull

besides this silence
no one hears.

Doing Nothing

From “A Year in a Cage: A Life Shrunk to Expand Art,” by Roberta Smith, New York Times (Feb. 18, 2009):

For “Cage Piece” Tehching Hsieh (pronounced dur-ching shay) built a cage from pine dowels and two-by-fours in a corner of his TriBeCa studio, furnishing it with a bed, a blanket, a sink (no toilet) and a pail, as well as some personal hygiene items. He entered the cell on Sept. 30, 1978. Robert Projansky, his lawyer, locked the door and affixed it and each dowel with paper seals that he signed. Every day a friend delivered food and dealt with the artist’s refuse. And each day the friend took a photograph of Mr. Hsieh, who had shaved his head at the beginning.

Tehching Hsieh photos For the next year Mr. Hsieh was mostly alone with his thoughts: no talking, reading or writing; no radio or television. On designated days once or twice a month his loft was open to the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; people could visit it like a gallery and see the work in progress. On Sept. 29, 1979, Mr. Projansky returned, verified that none of the seals had been broken, and Mr. Hsieh left his cell.

Performance 1: Tehching Hsieh, at the Museum of Modern Art, displays a wooden cage like one in which the artist spent a year, doing nothing. Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times