Wise Men and Fools

"Living with God is a lot like being in a pool with a blue whale. You either do things his way or you get out of the pool."

        -- Anonymous

"One does not hate as long as one disesteems, but only when one esteems equal or superior."

        -- Nietzsche

"We always tend to project into things our own difficulties of understanding and to call them complicated, when in reality they are very simple and know nothing of our intellectual problems."

        -- Jung

"If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition."

        -- William James

"Every word of which a man is ignorant represents an idea of which he is ignorant."

        -- H.G. Wells

"I am what I am, thank God."

        -- Jimi Hendrix

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

        -- from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam of Naishapur, Edward Fitzgerald/Umar Ibrahim al-Khayyami

Where the dogs bark by roaring waters,
Whose spray darkens the petals' colors,
Deep in the woods deer at times are seen;

The valley noon: one can hear no bell,
But wild bamboos cut across bright clouds,
Flying cascades hang from jasper peaks;

No one here knows which way you have gone:
Two, now three pines I have leant against!

        -- Li Po, trans. by Arthur Cooper
(On Visiting a Taoist Master in the Tai-T'ien Mountains and Not Finding Him)

"The men of old who wished to make their bright virtue shine throughout the world first put in order their own states. In order to put in order their own states they first regulated their own families; in order to regulate their own families they first disciplined their own selves. In order to discipline their own selves they first rectified their own minds; in order to rectify their minds they first resolved sincerely upon their goals; in order to resolve sincerely upon their goals they first broadened their understanding of things to the utmost. The broadening of understanding to the utmost was accomplished by studying the nature of things."

        -- The Great Learning, from the classical Chinese Records of Ritual

"Man in his art aspires to perfection in beauty -- but the beauty of Nature is already perfect."

        -- Andrew Ramsey

"The mind, if pushed about, gets depressed; if helped forward, it gets exalted. Now exalted, now depressed, here it appears as a prisoner, and there as a wrathful fury. At one time it becomes pliable and soft, yielding to what is hard and strong; at another, it is sharp as the sharpest corner, fit to carve or chisel stone or jade. Now it is hot as a scorching fire, and anon it is cold as ice. It is so swift that while one is bending down and lifting up his head, it shall twice have put forth a soothing hand beyond the four seas. Resting, it is still as a deep abyss; moving it is like one of the bodies of the sky; in its resolute haughtiness, it refuses to be bound; - such is the mind of man!"

        -- Lao-zi, as quoted in Zhuang-zi's 11th Book

     Behold the mellow light that floods the Eastern sky. In signs of praise both heaven and earth unite. And from the four-fold manifested Powers a chant of love ariseth, both from the flaming Fire and flowing Water and from sweet-smelling Earth and rushing Wind.
     Hark! ...from the deep unfathomable vortex of that golden light in which the Victor bathes, ALL NATURE's wordless voice in thousand tones ariseth to proclaim:


Peace to all beings.

        -- Madame H.P. Blavatsky, from The Voice of the Silence

They ask me where's the sense
on jasper mountains?
I laugh and don't reply,
in heart's own quiet:

Peach petals float their streams
away in secret
To other skies and earths
than those of mortals.

        -- Li Po (China, Tang Dynasty)

Found, in a Japanese Forest

The wind whishes through the trees and against my skin,
stirring as well the fibers of my inner spirit.
Bright sunlight splashes between green leaves,
and plays with their shadows beneath my feet.
I breathe in freshly scented air carrying the message of Life --
and reflected on the river's surface floating gently by,
I see pieces of the Sky below me.

        -- anonymous

Time out of Flight,
Flight out of Mind;
Stars speak softly - as only they can - in the skies around me,
Telling me that I am Home.

        -- Lu An (China, She-hui Dynasty)

If one were only an Indian, instantly alert, and on a racing horse, leaning against the wind, kept on quivering jerkily over the quivering ground, until one shed one's spurs, for there needed no spurs, threw away the reins, for there needed no reins, and hardly saw that the land before one was smoothly shorn heath when horse's neck and head would already be gone.

        -- Kafka

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

        -- Robert Frost

Spaghetti looks the same from any perspective.

        -- Madeleine L'Engle

"Seeing is not just detecting the orientation of a bar stimulus."

        -- Two V2 researchers in a 1997 paper, telling it like it is to V1 physiologists.

`You changeful finite Creatures strain'
(Rejoins the Drawer of the Wine)
`The dizzy depths of Infinite Power
To fathom with your foot of twine;

`Poor idols of man's heart and head
With the Divine Idea to blend;
To preach as `Nature's Common Course'
What any hour may shift or end.

`How shall the Shown pretend to ken
Aught of the Showman or the Show?
Why meanly bargain to believe,
Which only means thou ne'er canst know?

        -- Sir Richard Burton, from The Kasidah

"But the concepts of `good' or `beautiful', so essential to Western thought, are meaningless unless they are related to things. The first speakers of language took the raw material of their surroundings and pressed it into metaphor to suggest abstract ideas. The Yaghan tongue -- and by inference all language -- proceeds as a system of navigation. Named things are fixed points, aligned or compared, which allow the speaker to plot the next move."

        -- Bruce Chatwin, from In Patagonia

We can walk our road together
If our goals are all the same.
We can run alone and free
If we pursue a different aim.
Let the truth of love be lighted,
Let the love of truth shine clear.
Sensibility, armed with sense and liberty,
With the Heart and Mind united
in a single, perfect Sphere.

        -- Neil Peart

"Recently there has developed in some places a strange structure of certain kinds of linguistics, pseudo-mechanistic and metaphysical, based on a desire, not always rational, to believe in the self-containment of the communication-in-language; largely for the needs of computing machines, but influencing all sorts of thinking."

        -- Arthur Cooper, introducing a volume of translated poetry

    You that have come
from my old village,
    You ought to know
all the village news;
    The early plum
before my window,
    Was it in bloom
by the day you left?

        -- Wang Wei (China, Tang Dynasty)

I keep my crayons in a box
A million keys to a million locks
They are my soul, they master me
Aflight in vision -- I am free.

        -- (after a poem by Mitch Joe)

A leaf falls off a tree in the forest --
and tumbles through the air, drifting ever earthward.
Stillness might have awaited it,
but it lands in a river and is carried on.
Slowly it drifts through a dark and peaceful stretch,
surrounded by brooding trees.
But eventually its pace quickens as the river gathers vigor,
and it shoots out into sunlight --
speeding and skipping along a rocky bed.
Onward its journey continues.

        -- (from "The Journies of a Leaf")

"ONLY MUSIC, and only Beethoven's music, and only this particular music of Beethoven, can tell us with any precision what Beethoven's conception of the blessedness at the heart of things actually was. If we want to know, we must listen -- on a still June night, by preference, with the breathing of the invisible sea for background to the music and the scent of lime trees drifting through the darkness, like some exquisite soft harmony appreciated by another sense."

        -- Aldous Huxley, from "Music at Night"

"So it is not in any metaphorical sense that we are justified in comparing -- as has so often been done -- a town with a symphony or a poem; they are objects of a similar nature. The town is perhaps even more precious than a work of art in that it stands at the meeting point of nature and artifice. Consisting, as it does, of a community of animals who enclose their biological history within its boundaries and at the same time mould it according to their every intention as thinking beings, the town, in both its development and form, belongs simultaneously to biological procreation, organic evolution, and aesthetic creation. It is at one and the same time an object of nature and a subject of culture; an individual and a group; reality and dream; the supremely human achievement."

        -- Claude Levi-Strauss, from Tristes Tropiques

"This is the attraction and the curse of academia. It keeps you wanting more, but it always takes longer than you expect, which keeps you wanting more..."

        -- Jon King

"One thing seems certain: to think topologically, the thinker must begin young. The cradle with its enchained teething rings may be a little too early; but the education of a prospective topologist should not in any case be deferred beyond the third year. Chinese and Japanese puzzles of the more exasperating kind, also the most devilish meshes of intertwisted wires to be taken apart without a single false move, should be the only toys allowed after the young topologist has learned to walk."

        -- E.T. Bell, The Development of Mathematics, p. 453-4.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

        -- Robert Heinlein character Lazarus Long

"We speak piously of taking measurements and making small studies that will "add another brick to the temple of science." Most such bricks just lie around the brickyard."

        -- Platt, 1964

"Poets say science takes away from the beauty of stars -- mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is "mere." I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination -- stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern -- of which I am a part -- perhaps my stuff was belched from some forgotten star, as one is belching there. Or see them with the greater eye of Palomar, rushing all apart from some common starting point when they were perhaps all together. What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined!"

        -- Richard Feynman, from the Lectures on Physics

I've wondered why it took us so long to catch on. We saw it and yet we didn't see it. Or rather we were trained NOT to see it. Conned, perhaps, into thinking that the real action was metropolitan and all this was just boring hinterland. It was a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.

        -- Robert Pirsig, from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance