Saturday, March 29, 2014
Friday, March 28, 2014
From John Milton, Paradise Lost, Fifth Book, an excerpt:
THE ARGUMENT.—Morning approached, Eve relates to Adam her troublesome dream; he likes it not, yet comforts her: they come forth to their day labours: their morning hymn at the door of their bower. God, to render Man inexcusable, sends Raphael to admonish him of his obedience, of his free estate, of his enemy near at hand, who he is, and why his enemy, and whatever else may avail Adam to know. Raphael comes down to Paradise; his appearance described; his coming discerned by Adam afar off, sitting at the door of his bower; he goes out to meet him, brings him to his lodge, entertains him with the choicest fruits of Paradise, got together by Eve; their discourse at table. Raphael performs his massage, minds Adam of his state and of his enemy; relates, at Adam’s request, who that enemy is, and how he came to be so, beginning from his first revolt in Heaven, and the occasion thereof; how he drew his legions after him to the parts of the North, and there incited them to rebel with him, persuading all but only Abdiel, a seraph, who in argument dissuades and opposes him, then forsakes him.
NOW Morn, her rosy steps in the eastern clime
Advancing, sowed the earth with orient pearl,
When Adam waked, so customed; for his sleep
Was aerie light, from pure digestion bred,
And temperate vapours bland, which the only sound
Of leaves and fuming rills, Aurora’s fan,
Lightly dispersed, and the shrill matin song
Of birds on every bough. So much the more
His wonder was to find unwakened Eve,
With tresses discomposed, and glowing cheek,
As through unquiet rest. He, on his side
Leaning half raised, with looks of cordial love
Hung over her enamoured, and beheld
Beauty which, whether waking or asleep,
Shot forth peculiar graces; then, with voice
Mild as when Zephyrus on Flora breathes,
Her hand soft touching, whispered thus:—“Awake,
My fairest, my espoused, my latest found,
Heaven’s last, best gift, my ever-new delight!
Awake! the morning shines, and the fresh field
Calls us; we lose the prime to mark how spring
Our tended plants, how blows the citron grove,
What drops the myrrh, and what the balmy reed,
How Nature paints her colours, how the bee
Sits on the bloom extracting liquid sweet.”
Such whispering waked her, but with startled eye
On Adam; whom imbracing, thus she spake:—
“O sole in whom my thoughts find all repose,
My glory, my perfection! glad I see
Thy face, and morn returned; for I this night
(Such night till this I never passed) have dreamed,
If dreamed, not, as I oft am wont, of thee,
Works of day past, or morrow’s next design;
But of offence and trouble, which my mind
Knew never till this irksome night. Methought
Close at mine ear one called me forth to walk
With gentle voice; I thought it thine. It said,
‘Why sleep’st thou, Eve? now is the pleasant time,
The cool, the silent, save where silence yields
To the night-warbling bird, that now awake
Tunes sweetest his love-laboured song; now reigns
Full-orbed the moon, and, with more pleasing light,
Shadowy sets off the face of things—in vain,
If none regard. Heaven wakes with all his eyes;
Whom to behold but thee, Nature’s desire,
In whose sight all things joy, with ravishment
Attracted by thy beauty still to gaze?
I rose as at thy call, but found thee not:
To find thee I directed then my walk;
And on, methought, alone I passed through ways
That brought me on a sudden to the Tree
Of interdicted Knowledge. Fair it seemed,
Much fairer to my fancy than by day;
And, as I wondering looked, beside it stood
One shaped and winged like one of those from Heaven
By us oft seen: his dewy locks distilled
Ambrosia. On that Tree he also gazed;
And, ‘O fair plant,’ said he, ‘with fruit surcharged,
Deigns none to ease thy load, and taste thy sweet,
Nor God nor Man? Is knowledge so despised?
Or envy, or what reserve forbids to taste?
Forbid who will, none shall from me withhold
Longer thy offered good, why else set here?
This said, he paused not, but with ventrous arm
He plucked, he tasted. Me damp horror chilled
At such bold words vouched with a deed so bold;
But he thus, overjoyed: ‘O fruit divine,
Sweet of thyself, but much more sweet thus cropt,
Forbidden here, it seems, as only fit
For gods, yet able to make gods of men!
And why not gods of men, since good, the more
Communicated, more abundant grows,
The author not impaired, but honoured more?
Here, happy creature, fair angelic Eve!
Partake thou also: happy though thou art,
Happier thou may’st be, worthier canst not be.
Taste this, and be henceforth among the gods
Thyself a goddess; not to Earth confined,
But sometimes in the Air; as we; sometimes
Ascend to Heaven, by merit thine, and see
What life the gods live there, and such live thou.’
So saying, he drew nigh, and to me held,
Even to my mouth of that same fruit held part
Which he had plucked: the pleasant savoury smell
So quickened appetite that I, methought,
Could not but taste. Forthwith up to the clouds
With him I flew, and underneath beheld
The Earth outstretched immense, a prospect wide
And various. Wondering at my flight and change
To this high exaltation, suddenly
My guide was gone, and I, methought, sunk down,
And fell asleep; but, O, how glad I waked
To find this but a dream!” Thus Eve her night
Related, and thus Adam answered sad:—
“Best image of myself, and dearer half,
The trouble of thy thoughts this night in sleep
Affects me equally; nor can I like
This uncouth dream—of evil sprung, I fear;
Yet evil whence? In thee can harbour none,
Created pure. But know that in the soul
Are many lesser faculties, that serve
Reason as chief. Among these Fancy next
Her office holds; of all external things,
Which the five watchful senses represent,
She forms imaginations, aerie shapes,
Which Reason, joining or disjoining, frames
All what we affirm or what deny, and call
Our knowledge or opinion; then retires
Into her private cell when Nature rests.
Oft, in her absence, mimic Fancy wakes
To imitate her; but, misjoining shapes,
Wild work produces oft, and most in dreams,
Ill matching words and deeds long past or late.
Some such resemblances, methinks, I find
Some such resemblances, methinks, I find
Of our last evening’s talk in this thy dream,
But with addition strange. Yet be not sad:
Evil into the mind of God or Man
May come and go, so unapproved, and leave
No spot or blame behind; which gives me hope
That what in sleep thou didst abhor to dream
Waking thou never wilt consent to do.
Be not disheartened, then, nor cloud those looks,
That wont to be more cheerful and serene
Than when fair Morning first smiles on the world;
And let us to our fresh imployments rise
Among the groves, the fountains, and the flowers,
That open now their choicest bosomed smells,
Reserved from night, and kept for thee in store.”
So cheered he his fair spouse; and she was cheered,
But silently a gentle tear let fall
From either eye, and wiped them with her hair:
Two other precious drops that ready stood,
Each in their crystal sluice, he, ere they fell,
Kissed as the gracious signs of sweet remorse
And pious awe, that feared to have offended.
So all was cleared, and to the field they haste.
But first, from under shady arborous roof
Soon as they forth were come to open sight
Of day-spring, and the Sun—who, scarce uprisen,
With wheels yet hovering o’er the ocean-brim,
Shot parallel to the Earth his dewy ray,
Discovering in wide lantskip all the east
Of Paradise and Eden’s happy plains—
Lowly they bowed, adoring, and began
Their orisons, each morning duly paid
In various style; for neither various style
Nor holy rapture wanted they to praise
Their Maker, in fit strains pronounced, or sung
Unmeditated; such prompt eloquence
Flowed from their lips, in prose or numerous verse,
More tuneable than needed lute or harp
To add more sweetness. And they thus began:—
“These are thy glorious works, Parent of good,
Almighty! thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair: Thyself how wondrous then!
Unspeakable! who sitt’st above these heavens
To us invisible, or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works; yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine.
Speak, ye who best can tell, ye Sons of Light,
Angels—for ye behold him, and with songs
And choral symphonies, day without night,
Circle his throne rejoicing—ye in Heaven;
On Earth join, all ye creatures, to extol
Him first, him last, him midst, and without end.
(Excerpt --from, Paradise Lost, The Fifth Book, by John Milton, 1608-1674,
I do not think what man has here God has here forbade the tasting of which the desolate aftertaste perdures can be any longer contained within this telling --O ancient myth-- but rather looks for a more contemporary utterance, one that takes nothing unbidden nor unhidden as contumely yet raises sound of sight -- pure and mere gaze -- the stillness of which no leaf has shuddered, where eye falls gently and aware on nothing else but fact itself, on itself as unfolding fact, and makes no move of thought to place what is seen in sleeve or folder to file away for some tainted or terrible prosecution; no move of thought at all, but comes resting movement to a single tear -- a hospitable face for falling feeling, an afternoon's reception of everything in its place and love there
-- caring -- revealing what cannot be, imagined, thus in this image, spoken, and in this utterance, made present, without exception, unexcluded, one being, undivided liberation of all in all for all.
Soul-Searching as Japan Ends a Man’s Decades on Death Row
TOKYO — Iwao Hakamada was a wiry former boxer in his 30s when he was thrown in jail for the killing of a family of four that shocked 1960s Japan. On Thursday, he limped from his cell on death row, a bewildered-looking 78-year-old who, his family fears, may have lost his mind in prison.
It took the courts nearly half a century to conclude that the evidence against him may have been fabricated by police investigators, and to order the retrial he sought.
The decision on Thursday to release Mr. Hakamada, thought to be the world’s longest serving death row inmate, underscored the dark side of a criminal justice system that boasts a near-100 percent conviction rate and immediately led to calls for reform.
Critics have long charged that Japanese prosecutors maintain that rate in part by relying heavily on confessions — instead of building cases based on solid evidence — sometimes wresting the admissions of guilt from innocent people too frightened or agitated to resist police pressure.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
I’ve been thinking lately about Bush, Cheney, Rice, & Rumsfeld. One alluded to the current US President as not having the leadership skills of a trained monkey. One will be paid upwards to 150 thousand dollars for speech at university or corporation. One criticizes the US President for his decisions on Foreign Policy. And the fourth one, the one who once was the US President who took us to unnecessary war, has nothing to say.
With “The Fate of the Earth” Mr. Schell was widely credited with helping rally ordinary citizens around the world to the cause of nuclear disarmament. The book, based on his extensive interviews with members of the scientific community, outlines the likely aftermath of a nuclear war and deconstructs the United States’ long-held rationale for nuclear buildup as a deterrent.
“Usually, people wait for things to occur before trying to describe them,” Mr. Schell wrote in the book’s opening section. “But since we cannot afford under any circumstances to let a holocaust occur, we are forced in this one case to become the historians of the future — to chronicle and commit to memory an event that we have never experienced and must never experience.”
(--in Obituary, Jonathan Schell, Author Who Explored War, Dies at 70, by Margalit Fox, 27March 2014) http://app.nytimes.comReading the New York Times is sometimes like tying a noose around a beam. You find it astounding that you are not hanging from it. The executioners, such as the four mentioned above, seem to have gathered at the dispensing platform of everyone not them. Cheshire smiles, snarly smirks, smug shrugs, and goofy grins emerge onto the screen of our consciousness. No one will ever find the faces behind the facades, nor will what used to be called justice ever be served with these four.
Let them fade with their evanescent mouths into silent obscurity where they will be watched with wordless gaze by the tens of thousands dead in that desert nightmare.
Mr. Schell’s book and the reviews thereof echo in lending fashion a recognizable emotion felt about the above finial four:
Reviewing it in The Nation, the journalist and historian Jonathan Mirsky wrote, “I know no book which has made me angrier and more ashamed.” (Ibid)
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Anyone can be wrong. That’s not news. What might be news is that everyone is wrong each time they are right, and right each time wrong.
Wrong and right are part of the mood of contesting both fact and opinion with opinion or fact.
In effect, what matters is not opinion or fact, wrong or right -- but the willingness to see the other side with this side, and this side with the other side. And carry on.
A graphic example of what Orwell found so “inhuman” in Gandhi’s approach to personal relationships—albeit not one that Orwell himself cites—is a letter of condolence written by Gandhi to a friend whose family had been killed by the notorious Bihar earthquake of 1934. Having begun by noting that a mutual acquaintance has informed him of the deaths of “all your nearest and dearest,” Gandhi then writes: “How can I console you? Where thousands are dead, consolation can hardly mean anything. This is a moment when we must tell ourselves that everyone is a relative. Then no one will feel bereaved. If we can cultivate this attitude of mind, death itself is abolished. For that which lives cannot die. Birth and death are an illusion. Know this to be the truth and, overcoming grief, stick to your duty.”15 These words again echo those of Krishna in the Bhagavadgītā. “Death is assured to all those born,” declares Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, “and birth assured to all the dead; you should not mourn what is merely inevitable consequence.”16 From this perspective, birth and death are illusory in the sense that they occur only to bodies and not to the “imperishable one” that resides within.17 Ceasing to identify with the bodily self and identifying instead with the imperishable, one realizes the impossibility of death, for the imperishable “can neither kill nor be killed” (BhG 2.19).
It occurs, often, that thought is how we forget. Whereas, gazing is how everything reveals itself and memory is the stone falling through placid water.
Reading novel, About Face, by Donna Leon, a Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery, I fall into the mood of conversation between Brunetti and the Conte at art gallery about faces and forces in our looking about us. Just that. The rumination about what is considered beautiful, loneliness, and aging.
Wind howls through hanging bells. Snow has gone Downeast. Class cancelled, I set students up with Kieslowski, Parmenides, Heraclitus, and their own rumination.
On such a day tea suffices. Nuts. Sesame sticks. Salad. Soup. A soaking with classical music and reading.
It is stillness that emerges.
A surfeit of stillness.
Even as high trees sway and moan.
Nothing really begins nor ends.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Monday, March 24, 2014
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Give me old fashioned absurdity and comic vaudeville, silliness for silliness' sake, and I will smile at our fantastic foibles that peal into sympathetic tearsome laughter.
I have no truck with fearsome smuggery.
Before mud comes.