Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Way

Walking the Camino one meets people from all walks of life - hailing from virtually everywhere, from virtually every continent and creed. All on a path to their destination. Isn't that life itself?








Monday, November 12, 2018

Conceptions of Fudo Myoo in Esoteric Buddhism

Admittedly, this is an esoteric topic altogether - my own interest in understanding Fudo Myoo in Mahayana Buddhism have largely stemmed from an long standing admiration of Japanese art in the Edo wood block tradition - but I thought this was a rather interesting exploration of esoteric Buddhism and by implication currents of Japanese culture.

https://tricycle.org/magazine/evil-in-esoteric-japanese-buddhism/

On Education

'We study to get diplomas and degrees and certifications, but imagine a life devoted to study for no other purpose than to be educated. Being educated is not the same as being informed or trained. Education is an "education", a drawing out of one's own genius, nature, and heart. The manifestation of one's essence, the unfolding of one's capacities, the revelation of one's heretofore hidden possibilities - these are the goals of study from the point of view of the person. From another side, study amplifies the speech and song of the world so that it's more palpably present.

Education in soul leads to the enchantment of the world and the attunement of self.'

Thomas Moore, 'Meditations'

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Lizok's Bookshelf

The first of Eugene Vodolazkin's novels translated to English was, of course, Laurus, which ranks as one of the significant literary works of the current century. I was impressed by the translators ability to convey not just a feel for what I presume the original has, but a kind of "other-time-yet-our-timeness" that seems an essential part of the authors objective. I recently picked up Volodazkin's Aviator and thought to look up the translator as well. I was delighted to find her blog on modern Russian literature, which can be found here:

http://lizoksbooks.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-2018-nose-award-longlist.html

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sea of Fertility

In a discussion on some of my reservations on Murakami's take on 20th century Japanese literature, a friend commented on Mishima's Sea of Fertility tetrology with some real insights I thought worth preserving and sharing, albeit anonymously (if you're not into Japanese literature, now's a good time to stop reading):

"My perspective is different: it was a perfect echo of the end of “Spring Snow” and a final liberation of the main character from his self-constructed prison of beliefs. Honda’s life across the novels represents the false path: of consciousness the inglorious decay and death of the soul trapped in a repetition of situations that it cannot fathom being forced into waking. He is forced into being an observer of his own life eventually debasing himself into a “peeping Tom” even as he works as a judge. The irony is rich. Honda decays through the four novels since he clings to the memory of his friend (Kiyoaki) and does not understand the constructed nature his experience and desires. He is asleep. He wants Matsugae’s final dream to be the truth (that they will “...meet again under the Falls.”) His desires have been leading him in a circle and the final scene in the garden is his recognition of what the Abbess (Satoko from Spring Snow) was trying to convey to him. When she tells him, “There was no such person as Kiyoaki Matsugae”, it is her attempt to cure him of his delusion (and spiritual illness that has rendered him desperate and weak - chasing the ego illusions of his youth and seeking the reincarnation of his friend everywhere.) Honda lives in the dream of his ego and desire. In the final scene, he wakes up for the first time. I loved the image of the shadows falling on the garden. He is finally dying, stripped of illusion. I found it to be Mishima at his most powerful. I agree about “Sailor”, that is a great novel and much more Japanese in its economy of expression. Now, Haruki Murakami is a world apart from Kawabata and Mishima. I love his use of the unconscious/Id as a place to inform and enthrall: the labyrinth of dreams. Most of his characters are trapped (at least part of the time) in this “place”: eg Kafka on the Shore, Windup Bird Chronicle, Hard-boiled Wonderland and End of the World, etc. Literature has to have room for all of them. I like the other Murakami, Ryu Murkami, whose “Audition” and “Famous Hits of the Shōwa Era” are dark, psychotic tales of unrestrained, escalating violence but redeemed by deep probing of unconscious, hidden motives (the inhuman work of the unconscious that guides the characters like the Greek sense of fate (Moira)) and occasional black humor."
 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Top 10 Albums Meme


I’ve been hit by a barrage of social media posts on people’s top 10 albums, so I thought I would take a look at what I have listened to the most in the last 5 years or so. I’m not claiming these are my favorites or “the best” albums recorded (in fact there are many better albums I enjoy). But I was somewhat surprised to find that I do return to the the same albums over and over, so here’s the top 10, in no particular order.

1)Alina, Arvo Part

If you were going to stereotype and box in Part’s work, this would be a good album to use. It’s also amazing enough that it could run on a continuous loop forever and I’d be pretty happy with that.

2)Benedicta: Marian Chants from Norcia, Monks of Norcia

Yes, the music hasn’t changed much from the middle ages. And yes, these are actually monks singing, who somehow managed to top the Billboard charts. The term to use is sublime – this music is quintessentially music of peace and another album that bears repetition with ease.

3) Mi Sueno, Ibrahim Ferrer

I know the whole Bueno Vista Social Club thing was trendy, but this music – Cuban bolero to be precise – is full of passion, charm, and romance: it music for human beings (which is harder and harder to find these days). This is at once a work of art and a testament to real life.

4) Dream River, Bill Callahan

I don’t even know what to categorize this music as: it’s not popular music, rock, easy listening, country or folk. But it has elements of most of those. Callahan’s baritone voice sounds like someone is speaking to you rather than singing. This album just gets better with the years of listening and it’s by far his best.

5) The Harrow and the Harvest, Gillian Welch

Appalachian roots, contemporary musical twists – I don’t know what they call this: alt-blue grass? In any case, its Welch’s best album and a solid, if somewhat dark, listen.

6) In the Spur of the Moment, Steve Turre

Turre does his jazz trombone (no conch shells on this album – which I am happy about) along with Ray Charles on piano for the first third or so, later trending toward more Afro-Cuban jazz style. I know the complaint on this one is that it feels a bit passionless in parts, but it’s a hard mix not to feel good about.

7) Treasury of Russian Gypsy Songs, Marusia Georgevskaya and Sergei Krotkoff

I’ll admit that it sounds like Georgevskaya has smoked more than a few cigarettes. But this is timeless music, a timeless voice, from a timeless culture. Sophie Milman’s Ochi Chernye is sultry and seductive (she is really fantastic), but somehow I like Marusia’s better.

9) Skeleton Tree, Nick Cave

Nick Cave is uneven at best and often mediocre but this album is distilled pain in poet form and a major work of art. For some reason I listen to this end to end semi regularly on my morning commute.

10) Old Crow Medicine Show, Old Crow Medicine Show

End to end, just hits the right notes over and over again. From introspective to political to just plain fun, these guys made real music for real people at their peak. Things fell apart after Willie Watson, but there is an almost perfect collection of authentic songs.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Karamazov

 Chapter 3  -  Conversations and Exhortations of Father Zosima


.... Brothers, have no fear of men's sin. Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Do not trouble it, don't harass them, don't deprive them of their happiness, don't work against God's intent. Man, do not pride yourself on superiority to the animals; they are without sin, and you, with your greatness, defile the earth by your appearance on it, and leave the traces of your foulness after you- alas, it is true of almost every one of us! Love children especially, for they too are sinless like the angels; they live to soften and purify our hearts and, as it were, to guide us. Woe to him who offends a child! Father Anfim taught me to love children. The kind, silent man used often on our wanderings to spend the farthings given us on sweets and cakes for the children. He could not pass by a child without emotion. That's the nature of the man.
  At some thoughts one stands perplexed, especially at the sight of men's sin, and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that once for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvelously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.
  Every day and every hour, every minute, walk round yourself and watch yourself, and see that your image is a seemly one. You pass by a little child, you pass by, spiteful, with ugly words, with wrathful heart; you may not have noticed the child, but he has seen you, and your image, unseemly and ignoble, may remain in his defenseless heart. You don't know it, but you may have sown an evil seed in him and it may grow, and all because you were not careful before the child, because you did not foster in yourself a careful, actively benevolent love. Brothers, love is a teacher; but one must know how to acquire it, for it is hard to acquire, it is dearly bought, it is won slowly by long labour. For we must love not only occasionally, for a moment, but for ever. Everyone can love occasionally, even the wicked can.
  My brother asked the birds to forgive him; that sounds senseless, but it is right; for all is like an ocean, all is flowing and blending; a touch in one place sets up movement at the other end of the earth. It may be senseless to beg forgiveness of the birds, but birds would be happier at your side- a little happier, anyway- and children and all animals, if you were nobler than you are now. It's all like an ocean, I tell you. Then you would pray to the birds too, consumed by an all-embracing love, in a sort of transport, and pray that they too will forgive you your sin. Treasure this ecstasy, however senseless it may seem to men.....

Remember particularly that you cannot be a judge of anyone. For no one can judge a criminal until he recognises that he is just such a criminal as the man standing before him, and that he perhaps is more than all men to blame for that crime. When he understands that, he will be able to be a judge. Though that sounds absurd, it is true. If I had been righteous myself, perhaps there would have been no criminal standing before me. If you can take upon yourself the crime of the criminal your heart is judging, take it at once, suffer for him yourself, and let him go without reproach. And even if the law itself makes you his judge, act in the same spirit so far as possible, for he will go away and condemn himself more bitterly than you have done. If, after your kiss, he goes away untouched, mocking at you, do not let that be a stumbling-block to you. It shows his time has not yet come, but it will come in due course. And if it come not, no Matter; if not he, then another in his place will understand and suffer, and judge and condemn himself, and the truth will be fulfilled. Believe that, believe it without doubt; for in that lies all the hope and faith of the saints.
  Work without ceasing. If you remember in the night as you go to sleep, "I have not done what I ought to have done," rise up at once and do it. If the people around you are spiteful and callous and will not hear you, fall down before them and beg their forgiveness; for in truth you are to blame for their not wanting to hear you. And if you cannot speak to them in their bitterness, serve them in silence and in humility, never losing hope. If all men abandon you and even drive you away by force, then when you are left alone fall on the earth and kiss it, water it with your tears and it will bring forth fruit even though no one has seen or heard you in your solitude. Believe to the end, even if all men went astray and you were left the only one faithful; bring your offering even then and praise God in your loneliness. And if two of you are gathered together- then there is a whole world, a world of living love. Embrace each other tenderly and praise God, for if only in you two His truth has been fulfilled....
  If the evil-doing of men moves you to indignation and overwhelming distress, even to a desire for vengeance on the evil-doers, shun above all things that feeling. Go at once and seek suffering for yourself, as though you were yourself guilty of that wrong. Accept that suffering and bear it and your heart will find comfort, and you will understand that you too are guilty, for you might have been a light to the evil-doers, even as the one man sinless, and you were not a light to them. If you had been a light, you would have lightened the path for others too, and the evil-doer might perhaps have been saved by your light from his sin. And even though your light was shining, yet you see men were not saved by it, hold firm and doubt not the power of the heavenly light. Believe that if they were not saved, they will be saved hereafter. And if they are not saved hereafter, then their sons will be saved, for your light will not die even when you are dead. The righteous man departs, but his light remains. Men are always saved after the death of the deliverer. Men reject their prophets and slay them, but they love their martyrs and honor those whom they have slain. You are working for the whole, are acting for the future. Seek no reward, for great is your reward on this earth: the spiritual joy which is only vouchsafed to the righteous man. Fear not the great nor the mighty, but be wise and ever serene. Know the measure, know the times, study that. When you are left alone, pray. Love to throw yourself on the earth and kiss it. Kiss the earth and love it with an unceasing, consuming love. Love all men, love everything. Seek that rapture and ecstasy. Water the earth with the tears of your joy and love those tears. Don't be ashamed of that ecstasy, prize it, for it is a gift of God and a great one; it is not given to many but only to the elect....

Fathers and teachers, I ponder, "What is hell?" I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love....

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Dark Eyes

Dark Eyes
(A traditional Russian folk song translated by Greg Pavlik)
The eyes so black, passionate eyes
Fiery eyes, so beautiful!
How I love you - how I fear you!
You know I saw your eyes at the witching hour!

I cannot explain your deep, deep darkness!
I see a mourning within you for my soul,
I see the flame of triumph within you:
it consumes my sorrowing heart.
It does not make me bitter, it does not make me sad,
This my fate, my consolation:
All that is good is a gift from God,
And I sacrifice it all for those fiery eyes!

Original Russian by the Ukrainian poet and writer Yevhen Hrebinka.
1.
Очи чёрные, очи страстные,
Очи жгучие и прекрасные!
Как люблю я вас, как боюсь я вас!
Знать, увидел вас я в недобрый час!
2.
Ох, недаром вы глубины темней!
Вижу траур в вас по душе моей,
Вижу пламя в вас я победное:
Сожжено на нём сердце бедное.
3.
Но не грустен я, не печален я,
Утешительна мне судьба моя:
Всё, что лучшего в жизни Бог дал нам,
В жертву отдал я огневым глазам!