Hold It All

Category: Commonplace book

This Pilgrimage of the Heart

I first read the seven volumes of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time spring through autumn of 1997.  A couple of years later, I read the collection of Proust’s essays in On Art & Literature: 1896-1919. Looking back over my notes on the text, I can see how significant Proust was for me in the two works (Mev, Layla)  that came after my Elie Wiesel book, on which I was  working at the time of this reading.  I was particularly drawn to Proust’s criticism of the French critic Sainte-Beuve.

Should I make it a novel, or a philosophical study — am I a novelist?

Every day I set less store on intellect.

And if intellect only ranks second in the hierarchy of virtues, intellect alone is able to proclaim that the first place must be given to instinct.

At the same time I put myself in tune with those other realities for which solitude whets the appetite, and whose possibility, whose reality, gives a value to life:  the women one does not know.

[Sainte-Beuve’s method] ignores what a very slight degree of self-acquaintance teaches us:  that a book is the product of  a different self from the self we manifest in our habits, in our social life, in our vices.  If we would try to understand that particular self, it is by searching  our own bosoms, and trying to reconstruct it there, that we may arrive at it.  Nothing can exempt us from this pilgrimage of the heart.

One regards oneself as no more than the trustee, who from one moment to the next may disappear, of an intellectual hoard which will disappear with him; and one would like to say check to one’s previous idleness or force of inertia by obeying that noble commandment of Christ’s in the Gospel of Saint John:  Work while ye have the light.” Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Making It Be  Spring with Everything

Burton Watson, Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings, Columbia University Press, 1996

Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn’t know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.

Do not be an embodier of fame; do not be a storehouse of schemes; do not be an undertaker of projects; do not be a proprietor of wisdom. Embody to the fullest what has no end and wander where there is no trail. Hold on to all that you have received from heaven but do not think you have gotten anything. Be empty, that is all. The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror—going after nothing, welcoming nothing, responding but not storing. Therefore he can win out over things and not hurt himself.

Artisan Ch’ui could draw as true as a compass or a T square because his fingers changed along with things and he didn’t let his mind get in the way. Therefore his Spirit Tower remained unified and unobstructed.  You forget your feet when the shoes are comfortable. You forget your waist when the belt is comfortable. Understanding forgets right and wrong when the mind is comfortable. There is no change in what is inside, no following what is outside, when the adjustment to events is comfortable. You begin with what is comfortable and never experience what is uncomfortable when you know the comfort of forgetting what is comfortable.

___________________

What good medicine  Chuang Tzu is for me, with all my scheming,  planning, exerting, desiring and grasping after!  He’s the chill sage on the  Via Negativa: letting go and letting be, as in the following passages: Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/7

440. Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form. — Herman Melville

464. One of the most persistent stereotypes of the Second Chechen War is that the refugees are enemies of Russia. They are not seen as living in tents because their own warm houses were bombed. They are not seen as having been deprived of their rights. They are not seen as innocent people unjustly accused. –Anna Politkovskaya Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/6

117.  Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul. Every effort adds a little gold to a treasure no power on earth can take away. –Simone Weil

234.  … and even his intelligence, which was exclusively occupied in devising each day a fresh scheme which would make his presence, if not agreeable, at any rate, necessary to Odette… –Marcel Proust

351. [The entirety of I. L. Peretz’s]  work was characterized by a dialectical tension between the romantic and rational impulses of his character, between cosmopolitan, worldly yearnings and practical Jewish concerns, between personal erotic desire and public accountability. These struggles are not always resolved in the stories, even in those that appear to be most pointed and straightforward. –Ruth Wisse

468.  Thus, from the beginning to the end of ancient philosophy, we have almost the same situation: philosophical writings respond to questions. –Pierre Hadot

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/5

7.  Our monkey-minds are like these agitated monsters that are wanting this and collecting that, always grabbing, grabbing, grabbing. The process of cooling out that agitation takes time, and that’s hard for the agitated mind to accept. But the spiritual journey will teach us patience if it teaches us nothing else.  –Ram Dass

107.  If our present suffering ever leads to a revival, this will not be brought about through slogans but in silence and moral loneliness, through pain, misery, and terror, in the profoundest depths of each man’s spirit.  –Simone Weil

207.  To put it simply: I have read everything that Jerry [Rothenberg] has written, translated or edited, and I still read it all the time. He is the rare poet whose last book is his best book, and whose next book I’ll read the day I get it.  –Eliot Weinberger

307.  All his energies, like those of every soldier, were unconsciously directed to restraining himself from contemplating the horror of his position. –Leo Tolstoy

407. I suppose that what in other men is religion is in me love of nature. –Henry David Thoreau Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/4

99. There is a notion of “passing it on,” that simple. One to one. Elder to younger perhaps. That “poetry is news,” that the inspiration for any work you do and the work you do as a writer and artist connects you to an ageless continuum. “In the mind of the poet, all times are contemporaneous.”   — Anne Waldman

198. Translation theory, however beautiful, is useless for translating. There are laws of thermodynamics, and there is cooking. –Eliot Weinberger

297.  The death of the ego is the purpose of all the disciplines of the spiritual life. Even in little things, whenever we are very patient or cheerfully do something we dislike, a little of our selfishness and self-will has died. –Sri Eknath Easwaran

396. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/3

100. [T]oday it is not nearly enough to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the preset moment, a new saintliness, itself also without precedent. –Simone Weil

200. Poets who died with nearly all their work unpublished or out of print in last 25 years: HD, Zukovsky, Hughes, Blackburn, Olson, Moore, Loy, O’Hara, Reznikoff, Spicer, Niedecker. –Eliot Weinberger

300. We can throw a pet opinion out into the arena and let everybody trample on it while we look on in detached interest. If the opinion is damaged, we can discard it; if it is still intact, we keep it, and often those who just danced on this very same opinion will say,”That is a good opinion; we would like to share it with you.”  –Sri Eknath Easwaran

400. If a man reads a book because it interests him and reads in all directions for the same reason, his reading is pure and interests me. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine /2

40. The principal truth is this: latent in every act of complete reading is the compulsion to write a book in reply. The intellectual is, quite simply, a human being who has a pencil in his or her hand when reading a book. –George Steiner

80. We have no more say in the duration of our passions than in that of our lives. –La Rochefoucauld

120. Resist much, obey less. –Lawrence Ferlinghetti

160. One becomes moral as soon as one is unhappy. –Marcel Proust

200. Poets who died with nearly all their work unpublished or out of print in last 25 years: HD, Zukovsky, Hughes, Blackburn, Olson, Moore, Loy, O’Hara, Reznikoff, Spicer, Niedecker. –Eliot Weinberger

240. All in all, though, I have never known anyone smarter, with a better memory, with a greater facility for creatively escaping the bounds of acceptable thought, or, more admirably, a person with more honesty, integrity, respect, and real universal concern. –Michael Albert, on Noam Chomsky

280. I’ve always ben addicted to his music the way some people are addicted to chocolate sundaes. I find it absolutely irresistible. — Glenn Gould, on Richard Strauss

320. Yet whoever forgets Yiddish courts amnesia of history. Mourn–the forgetting has already happened. A thousand years of our travail forgotten. Here and there a word left for vaudeville jokes. –Cynthia Ozick

360. These works, whose Jewish perspective ranges from the central to incidental, testify to Glatshteyn’s decision, whether conscious or not, to confront more completely [the Jewish] side of his existence. –Janet Hadda

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine /1

63.  And that will take up a thousand hours of energy. — Jack Kerouac, letter to Allen Ginsberg

126.  Nevertheless you still charge words with meaning mainly in three ways, called phanopoeia, melopoeia, logopoeia. You use a word to throw a visual image on to the reader’s imagination, or you charge it by sound, or you use groups of words to do this. — Ezra Pound, The ABC of Reading

189.  One instant of bodhicitta can obliterate the effects of all the evil acts of infinite kalpas.– Dilgo Khyenste, Enlightened Courage 

252.  Whether you know it or not, I am your nearest and dearest–your very own Self. –Sri Anandamayi Ma

315.  “Grow old in Yiddish, Hannah, and carry fathers and uncles into the future with you.” — Cynthia  Ozick, Yiddish, or Envy in America