André Kertész, Pont Neuf, Paris, Nov. 6, 1963. Thank you, firsttimeuser.
Being is not an idea in philosophy but a wordless experience we have from time to time.
—Charles Simic, from The Poet’s Notebook: Excerpts from the Notebooks of 26 American Poets, edited by Stephen Kuusisto, Deborah Tall, and David Weiss (W. W. Norton & Co., 1995)
Thank you, apoetreflects.
An unknown world aspires toward reflection. Words are the oblique mirrors that hold your thoughts. You gaze into these word-mirrors and catch glimpses of meaning, belonging, and shelter. Behind their bright surfaces is the dark and the silence. Words are like the god Janus, they face outward and inward at once.
—John O’Donohue, Anam Ċara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom (Cliff Street Books, 1997).
Thank you, apoetreflects.
I believe that much of Western culture today is deep in the grip of the sort of distracted pantheism Kierkegaard diagnosed and Chesterton battled against. We are, as T.S. Eliot put it in another context, “distracted from distraction by distraction.” The remedy, the antidote, to the corrosive boredom that follows in its wake is precisely to cultivate that true attention to the panoply of existence, to see, as William Blake put it, the world in a grain of sand. Chesterton is an accurate guide, an inspiring teacher, in this school of wonderment. We need him more now than ever.
Our lives are lived, in actual fact, among changing, varying realities, subject to the casual play of external necessities, and modifying themselves according to specific conditions within specific limits; and yet we act and strive and sacrifice ourselves and others by reference to fixed and isolated abstractions which cannot possibly be related either to one another or to any concrete facts…
Indeterminacy means, literally: not fixed, not settled, uncertain, indefinite. It means that you don’t know where you are. How can it be otherwise, say the Buddhist teachings, since you have no fixed or inherent identity and are ceaselessly in process?
…Life is filled with uncertainty. Chance events happen to us all. Each of us must take responsibility and make decisions. None of us should be imposing our ego image on others.
…there’s another way to live. Accept indeterminacy as a principle, and you see your life in a new light, as a series of seemingly unrelated jewel-like stories within a dazzling setting of change and transformation. Recognize that you don’t know where you stand, and you will begin to watch where you put your feet. That’s when the path appears.
A man meets his life most poignantly in moments of painful contraction and expansion. At those moments he senses the difference between being present and being taken. If he keeps himself open to the question, he will move in what he believes is a fruitful direction.
Many roads will beckon: art, studies, perhaps drugs — other pursuits. He may not find the answer to his fundamental question but he senses that a reality is escaping him; perhaps that something within himself can change existence. Maybe he has a fleeting feeling while listening to a passage of music, or is struck by a word, by nature. Perhaps some flash appears in the midst of love, of sorrow, or joy — a moment of ah…! Something is here, strange, wondrous.
And at that moment, a door opens. He may or may not go further. The chances are that the pull of gravity will close the door. He will be shut away from his ever-present possibility. Back to the office and workplace, to vacations, to family, to having a good time/bad time, getting and spending. The door may never open again — or will it?
–William Segal from Opening: Collected Writings of William Segal 1985-1997. Continuum International Publishing Group.
Photograph: Ansel Adams, Door