Saturday, August 26, 2006

Do I Need AQAL?

Matthew Dallman said yesterday (in addressing the recent Wilber parody that Geoff Falk posted):
I'm still waiting for the day when the integral community finally drops AQAL all together, in favor of traditional scholarship based on interdisciplinary and global thinking, without the crutch of "-isms" nor narrow theory. The day will come, I believe. And sophistic Wilberism and its "Wilber School" can be left out to pasture, just like the French School and the Frankfurt School. But since a number of friends are still riding the Wilber train, I make it a point to stop by the station and do my song and dance on the platform, in the hope of inviting them off the train, and rather out to dinner, then perhaps a movie, and well, maybe even for them to buy a house in our neighborhood, or even in the same time zone. It'd be fun, don't you think?
This is a topic I've been thinking quite a bit about recently. I find certain elements of AQAL very useful sometimes, but I also find that it gets in the way.

I'm not one of the people that thinks Wilber's version of integral is completely wrong or misguided. However, I think more and more that KW himself is confusing the map with the landscape. There are certainly some benefits to having a map when you are lost, but there is also the reality that the map is only one person's version of reality -- no matter how "integral" the map may be.

I don't reject AQAL because I think it is entirely wrong, as I said, but I am questioning whether or not I need AQAL at this point. When I sit on the cushion, does AQAL help me be more aware of my breath? When I am listening to a client tell me about whatever issues s/he is facing, does AQAL help me be more present and attentive? When I am with Kira (my partner), does AQAL help me love her more deeply and with more pure intention?

Theory is great, and I suspect I'll never reject that element of my interior-individual experience. (See, it still works for me in some ways.) But as I am evolving(?), I am craving more presence and less intellect. I am a better meditator, writer, trainer, coach, partner, person when I am present in the immediate moment and not living within some grand framework that keeps me at least one step removed from life.

I've lived in my head for so long that I've always thought it was the best place to be. Those who know me well probably can't imagine who I'd be if I wasn't in my head.

But as I think about this issue, Wilber himself has pointed me in the right direction:
We don't see that Spirit is fully and completely present right here, right now, because our awareness is clouded with some form of avoidance. We do not want to be choicelessly aware of the present; rather, we want to run away from it, or run after it, or we want to change it, alter it, hate it, love it, loathe it, or in some way agitate to get ourselves into, or out of, it. We will do anything except come to rest in the pure Presence of the present. (The Eye of Spirit)
And one of thoee avoidances is trying to dissect it and classify it and break it down into little chunks so that the ego can relate to it and manage it. KW is often the perfect example of how not to live in the moment. Now, to be fair, he meditates daily and reports that he has profound experiences of presence (see One Taste), but more and more I get the feeling that he is more caught up in the ego realm than in maintaining a connection with presence.

I've had my fill of ego cravings (at least right now -- in an hour I might be all about my hungry ghosts), and I feel more of a need to feel some deeper connection with the world, with those around me, and with myself.

I don't need AQAL for any of that, which probably comes across as a "duh!?" moment to many readers. But for someone who has avoided being present by being intellectual, it's a major step forward.

[image sources: 1. Wilber banner; 2. Four Quadrants; 3. "Stillness in Our Hearts"]

Ladies and Gentlemen . . .

The angriest comedian alive: Lewis Black. This is the pg-13 version (Comedy Central).

Go here to see an R-rated version of his comedy.

Resilience and Change

When Kira and I visited Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park last month, one of the things that amazed me was the ways trees could survive with such a tenuous hold in the rocks. In both of these parks, rock was the rule for the surface terrain, yet all kinds of vegetation, especially trees, managed to thrive in such a harsh environment.

Life is so resilient. It really helps to experience some of that truth from time to time.

When we made that trip, I was feeling vaguely dissatisfied with my life. Going away for that weekend wasn't really planned, but I felt a need to get out of town, so we did it. When we came back home I felt even more unsettled.

What is becoming more and more clear to me is that I need more from my life than I have been allowing myself to have. And I need more of a connection to earth energy, creativity, cycles. I act as though I don't have access to the nurturance I need to have a bigger and more expansive life.

All the while, everything I need is right here: within me, around me, in the people I know, in my relationships both intimate and casual. In the same way that these trees make use of every possible nutrient to stay alive in the midst of an environment that seems inhospitable, I need to do the same -- and I have far more sources to meet my needs.

I am reminded of a fairly cliche plaque a friend gave me once many years ago:
Sometimes I go about pitying myself and all the time
I am being carried on great winds across the sky.
~ Chippewa Indian
Very true.

I am still dissatisfied with my life, but I am starting to see ways that it can be more expansive. I am transforming the way I train my clients in ways that feel more integrated to me and more helpful to them. I am trying to reconnect with creativity through Elegant Thorn Review. And as Kira and I work on the outline of a relationships workshop we plan to lead, our relationship becomes deeper and more connected through the material we study.

There are many more ways to cope with this evolution of my purpose -- not least of which is trying to stay in touch with the process as it emerges -- but writing about it helps to clarify the direction I am going and where I need to go next.

So I hope to get back to the kind of blogging I was doing last spring when my last cycle of emergence was unfolding.

Morning Mix

The first ten tunes to play this morning on the random play option in WMP.

Thank You . . . Alanis Morissette
Everything Zen . . . Bush
Run to the Water . . . Live
Carnival . . . Natalie Merchant
Shine . . . Collective Soul
Everybody Knows . . . Concrete Blonde
Hot! Hot! Hot! . . . The Cure
Washing of the Water . . . Peter Gabriel
Fater . . . Richard Buckner
Drops of Jupiter . . . Train

Speedlinking 8/26/06

~ Empty place by ~iterater on deviantART

Happy weekend. Yesterday began Be Kind to Humankind Week, and today's injunction is Speak Kind Words. Check out Be Kind Week for more info.

~ Dave at via negativa has a great post on pear economics. I was reminded of my life growing up in Southern Oregon with fruit trees in farmer's fields that we'd steal apples and pears from, and the small, sour green apples we'd pick to feed to the horses. Good stuff.

~ Dave Pollard at How to Save the World has a great post that is much more personal than some of the theoretical stuff he often shares with us. He even quotes TS Eliot.

~ Frank Visser at Wilber Watch takes a look at the issue of Depth and Complexity when talking about body and spirit: "As is well known by now, in the integral view mind, soul and spirit are not seen as meta-physical, but intra-physical, as Wilber tirelessly repeats in his recent writings." I think Visser is on to something in suggesting this statement is off the mark, but he needs to flesh out his argument with some examples from consciousness studies.

~ Matthew Dallman adds his voice to the issue of the recent Wilber parody, with a defense of Falk (with which I disagree in part because Falk has not limited his criticism of Wilber to specific areas but has repeatedly attacked the whole integral approach and Wilber himself -- very childishly on occasion), and an invitation to get off the Wilber train and try on a more expansive version of integral. He then quotes a comment he left at Vomitting Confetti, which is a pretty pointed assault on Wilber's progression over the years -- and an assault with merit.

~ ebuddha at Integral Practice quotes (fantasy author) George R.R. Martin on the topic of freedom, and asks if the author's desire to enjoy the protections offered by the Bill of Rights is overstating the case. Check it out.

~ Alexis at Zaadz has more humor to share, this time on the topic of exercise.

~ on Buddhism presents the Cliff Notes version of a commentary on the Heart Sutra.

~ Alan Cook at Milinda's Questions is having a Saturday morning garage sale of links he is clearing from his bookmarks, but he wanted to share them with us in case we might have interest. Some of them look pretty good.

~ clocke at mystic bourgeoisie has a very interesting post on I'm not sure what, but I read the whole damn thing and was very interested.

~ P2P Foundation blogs on Bookmooch, a new book sharing iniative.

~ Bill at Oaksong's Nemeton takes an inkblot test and discovers he is an assasin for hire. And he always seemed so friendly, no one in the neighborhood would have ever thought he was an assasin. He seemed like such a normal pagan guy.

~ Steve Pavlina explains why "intention manifestation" sometimes doesn't work. My overly skeptical mind (he's in charge this morning) says," Yeah, sure, you betcha."

~ More and more people think the Bush administration is in the process of building their case for war with Iran, a process that has really been underway since the beginning of the year. Involuntary conscriptions of inactive military, new talk of "universal service" to put the US on a war footing, and a call for selective service call-ups are getting some coverage. It's starting to feel a lot like wartime . . .

As U2 once said, "Outside, it's America."

~ Common Dreams suggests that the fact that Chuck Hagel happens to have once led and still partially owns the company that owns the company that made the machines that counted the votes when he was elected with unprecedented landslides poses some problems.
Back when Hagel first ran there for the U.S. Senate in 1996, his company's computer-controlled voting machines showed he'd won stunning upsets in both the primaries and the general election. The Washington Post (1/13/1997) said Hagel's "Senate victory against an incumbent Democratic governor was the major Republican upset in the November election." According to Bev Harris of, Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely Black communities that had never before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska.
But here is why you should care:

Perhaps, after a half-century of fine-tuning exit polling to such a science that it's now sometimes used to verify how clean elections are in Third World countries, it really did suddenly become inaccurate in the United States in the past six years and just won't work here anymore. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that the sudden rise of inaccurate exit polls happened around the same time corporate-programmed, computer-controlled, modem-capable voting machines began recording and tabulating ballots.

But if any of this is true, there's not much of a paper trail from the voters' hand to prove it.

You'd think in an open democracy that the government - answerable to all its citizens rather than a handful of corporate officers and stockholders - would program, repair, and control the voting machines. You'd think the computers that handle our cherished ballots would be open and their software and programming available for public scrutiny. You'd think there would be a paper trail of the vote, which could be followed and audited if a there was evidence of voting fraud or if exit polls disagreed with computerized vote counts.

You'd be wrong.

Wait a minute . . . where am I? Are you sure this is still the United States of America?

Yeah, okay, I'm depressed now.

~ On the lite side, Andy Borowitz reports that Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson plan to build a movie studio on the moon due to their dwindling options here on earth.

And that's a wrap. I need to go meditate for a while.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Oprah's Leadership Academy

[old photo]

This article was posted today at Anderson Cooper 360 blog:

Why Oprah never had kids

SOWETO, South Africa -- "Hi Jeff," she said. "Glad you could make it. By the way, I watch you all the time."

These were the first words Oprah uttered to me as I held out my hand to greet her stepping off her van accompanied by her ever-efficient staff.

I was floored. Oprah knows who I am? I asked myself. And I had this whole introduction thing planned out. What a woman, disarming as ever, and ever the woman in charge. I liked her from the start, even more than I did watching her all these years on television.

We were in Soweto, a sprawling slum in Johannesburg, which actually stands for South West Township. Oprah seemed as comfortable here as she would be in a five star hotel. She walked right into the home of a couple of prospective students who had applied for entry into her exclusive Leadership Academy and had impressed her to the point she wanted to see where they lived and what their life was like.

As you can imagine, the two girls, cousins actually, were instant celebrities. "Oprah's come to our house," they kept saying. "Our friends will never believe us."

Their friends didn't need much convincing. Word in the townships spreads fast and even before Oprah had taken a tour of the two-room seven-person shack. Outside was like a market place with women ululating the famous freedom line of the 1980s, but with a new twist.

"Viva, Oprah Winfrey, Viva," one woman yelled followed by the chorus line "Viva" from the rest of the growing crowd.

"You've spent $40 million on the school so far," I began.

"$40 million and counting," she interrupted. "I think I'll stop at $50 million. You can build a good school for $50 million," she added.

Fifty-million dollars anywhere in the world is a lot of money. In South Africa, it's an almost unheard of amount, especially if it's being spent by one person for the benefit of others.

"The money means nothing to me," Oprah continued. "When I look at these girls, I see me. That's why I want to give them everything I didn't have growing up. These are the leaders of tomorrow's Africa."

The Leadership Academy, set on more than 50 acres of land just outside Johannesburg, is a site to behold. From the classrooms to the dormitories to the dining room to the library (complete with fireplace) to a 600-seat auditorium, where Oprah will be 'checking' up on her girls by video-conferencing, everything has been made to the highest standards.

"I want this school to be a reflection of me," she says. "I made a promise to Madiba and I intend to keep it." Madiba is the clan name given to former South African President Nelson Mandela. Back in 2002, Oprah asked Mandela what he wanted from her as a gift to the nation. He simply said, "Build me a school." And she did. School begins January 2, 2007.

It's Sunday afternoon and Oprah leaves for Chicago in a few hours. She's invited all 150 girls that have "made the grade" and will be attending her academy. The only thing is she hasn't told them this. She's invited them to an informal get-together. None of the girls suspect Oprah's up to her "old tricks." She springs the surprise.

"I called you all here today to let you know that you all be part of the first class of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy," she said.


The girls scream and shout for joy for a good 15 minutes. Their parents too are screaming and shouting. Everyone's crying, Oprah's crying, I'm crying. It's an unbelievable scene. Then Oprah opens up in a way that surprised even her best friend, Gayle King, who was present and is part of the academy.

"Some people ask me why I never had children," Oprah says, adding, "Maybe this is the reason. So I can help bring up other peoples' children, your children. I want you to trust me to bring up your children and I promise I'll never let you down."

This time there's not a dry eye in the room. I'm bawling by now and wiping away tears on my sleeve. "You're such a cry baby," Graham, my cameraman, says. "I can't help it," is all I can offer.

"What you did back there was simply amazing," I tell Oprah afterwards. "You'd have done the same thing, Jeff. Remember, I've seen your stories on CNN."

I'm fighting back tears again. "Hey, give me a hug," she says. "Today is a good day, and I feel my life has come full circle."

Be Kind to Humankind Week

Be Kind to Humankind Week began today, as reported by Happy News:

Friday, August 25th began a week-long celebration of people being kind to others. Born in 1988, Be Kind to Humankind Week is now 18 years old. The week is made up of seven special emphasis days, beginning August 25 and ending August 31. This Saturday, we focus on speaking kind words to others.

Speak Kind Words Saturday is my favorite weekly affirmation. The reason it is my favorite is because we all seem to completely forget that what we say has terrific influence (for good or bad) on everyone around us.

The spoken word is extremely powerful. It can make us, break us, hurt others, or heal others. Think before you speak. Literally bite your tongue if necessary. Once blurted out, your words cannot be taken back. They sting and they can destroy a person's self esteem and self worth. Unkind words can create hate and malice.

Consider these suggestions to make your Speak Kind Words Saturday better. Visit to find more "Be Kind to Humankind" suggestions.

  • A kind word is never wasted.

  • Bite your tongue before you allow an unkind comment to flow out.

  • Try not to curse and use foul language- especially around children or in public places.

  • If you don't have anything good to say about someone, don't say anything at all.

  • Do not gossip.

  • Words are more powerful then most of us realize. Be aware of not only what you say, but how you say it. You cannot take back the unkind things you say. Words cut like a knife, so think twice before you say something you will regret later.

    To learn more about Be Kind to Humankind Week and founder Lorraine Jara, visit

  • Poem: John Ashbery

    [Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror by Parmigianino]

    John Ashbery is one of our most important poets. While this poem is long, it rewards a careful reading.
    Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

    As Parmigianino did it, the right hand
    Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer
    And swerving easily away, as though to protect
    What it advertises. A few leaded panes, old beams,
    Fur, pleated muslin, a coral ring run together
    In a movement supporting the face, which swims
    Toward and away like the hand
    Except that it is in repose. It is what is
    Sequestered. Vasari says, "Francesco one day set himself
    To take his own portrait, looking at himself from that purpose
    In a convex mirror, such as is used by barbers . . .
    He accordingly caused a ball of wood to be made
    By a turner, and having divided it in half and
    Brought it to the size of the mirror, he set himself
    With great art to copy all that he saw in the glass,"
    Chiefly his reflection, of which the portrait
    Is the reflection, of which the portrait
    Is the reflection once removed.
    The glass chose to reflect only what he saw
    Which was enough for his purpose: his image
    Glazed, embalmed, projected at a 180-degree angle.
    The time of day or the density of the light
    Adhering to the face keeps it
    Lively and intact in a recurring wave
    Of arrival. The soul establishes itself.
    But how far can it swim out through the eyes
    And still return safely to its nest? The surface
    Of the mirror being convex, the distance increases
    Significantly; that is, enough to make the point
    That the soul is a captive, treated humanely, kept
    In suspension, unable to advance much farther
    Than your look as it intercepts the picture.
    Pope Clement and his court were "stupefied"
    By it, according to Vasari, and promised a commission
    That never materialized. The soul has to stay where it is,
    Even though restless, hearing raindrops at the pane,
    The sighing of autumn leaves thrashed by the wind,
    Longing to be free, outside, but it must stay
    Posing in this place. It must move
    As little as possible. This is what the portrait says.
    But there is in that gaze a combination
    Of tenderness, amusement and regret, so powerful
    In its restraint that one cannot look for long.
    The secret is too plain. The pity of it smarts,
    Makes hot tears spurt: that the soul is not a soul,
    Has no secret, is small, and it fits
    Its hollow perfectly: its room, our moment of attention.
    That is the tune but there are no words.
    The words are only speculation
    (From the Latin speculum, mirror):
    They seek and cannot find the meaning of the music.
    We see only postures of the dream,
    Riders of the motion that swings the face
    Into view under evening skies, with no
    False disarray as proof of authenticity.
    But it is life englobed.
    One would like to stick one's hand
    Out of the globe, but its dimension,
    What carries it, will not allow it.
    No doubt it is this, not the reflex
    To hide something, which makes the hand loom large
    As it retreats slightly. There is no way
    To build it flat like a section of wall:
    It must join the segment of a circle,
    Roving back to the body of which it seems
    So unlikely a part, to fence in and shore up the face
    On which the effort of this condition reads
    Like a pinpoint of a smile, a spark
    Or star one is not sure of having seen
    As darkness resumes. A perverse light whose
    Imperative of subtlety dooms in advance its
    Conceit to light up: unimportant but meant.
    Francesco, your hand is big enough
    To wreck the sphere, and too big,
    One would think, to weave delicate meshes
    That only argue its further detention.
    (Big, but not coarse, merely on another scale,
    Like a dozing whale on the sea bottom
    In relation to the tiny, self-important ship
    On the surface.) But your eyes proclaim
    That everything is surface. The surface is what's there
    And nothing can exist except what's there.
    There are no recesses in the room, only alcoves,
    And the window doesn't matter much, or that
    Sliver of window or mirror on the right, even
    As a gauge of the weather, which in French is
    Le temps, the word for time, and which
    Follows a course wherein changes are merely
    Features of the whole. The whole is stable within
    Instability, a globe like ours, resting
    On a pedestal of vacuum, a ping-pong ball
    Secure on its jet of water.
    And just as there are no words for the surface, that is,
    No words to say what it really is, that it is not
    Superficial but a visible core, then there is
    No way out of the problem of pathos vs. experience.
    You will stay on, restive, serene in
    Your gesture which is neither embrace nor warning
    But which holds something of both in pure
    Affirmation that doesn't affirm anything.

    The balloon pops, the attention
    Turns dully away. Clouds
    In the puddle stir up into sawtoothed fragments.
    I think of the friends
    Who came to see me, of what yesterday
    Was like. A peculiar slant
    Of memory that intrudes on the dreaming model
    In the silence of the studio as he considers
    Lifting the pencil to the self-portrait.
    How many people came and stayed a certain time,
    Uttered light or dark speech that became part of you
    Like light behind windblown fog and sand,
    Filtered and influenced by it, until no part
    Remains that is surely you. Those voices in the dusk
    Have told you all and still the tale goes on
    In the form of memories deposited in irregular
    Clumps of crystals. Whose curved hand controls,
    Francesco, the turning seasons and the thoughts
    That peel off and fly away at breathless speeds
    Like the last stubborn leaves ripped
    From wet branches? I see in this only the chaos
    Of your round mirror which organizes everything
    Around the polestar of your eyes which are empty,
    Know nothing, dream but reveal nothing.
    I feel the carousel starting slowly
    And going faster and faster: desk, papers, books,
    Photographs of friends, the window and the trees
    Merging in one neutral band that surrounds
    Me on all sides, everywhere I look.
    And I cannot explain the action of leveling,
    Why it should all boil down to one
    Uniform substance, a magma of interiors.
    My guide in these matters is your self,
    Firm, oblique, accepting everything with the same
    Wraith of a smile, and as time speeds up so that it is soon
    Much later, I can know only the straight way out,
    The distance between us. Long ago
    The strewn evidence meant something,
    The small accidents and pleasures
    Of the day as it moved gracelessly on,
    A housewife doing chores. Impossible now
    To restore those properties in the silver blur that is
    The record of what you accomplished by sitting down
    "With great art to copy all that you saw in the glass"
    So as to perfect and rule out the extraneous
    Forever. In the circle of your intentions certain spars
    Remain that perpetuate the enchantment of self with self:
    Eyebeams, muslin, coral. It doesn't matter
    Because these are things as they are today
    Before one's shadow ever grew
    Out of the field into thoughts of tomorrow.

    Tomorrow is easy, but today is uncharted,
    Desolate, reluctant as any landscape
    To yield what are laws of perspective
    After all only to the painter's deep
    Mistrust, a weak instrument though
    Necessary. Of course some things
    Are possible, it knows, but it doesn't know
    Which ones. Some day we will try
    To do as many things as are possible
    And perhaps we shall succeed at a handful
    Of them, but this will not have anything
    To do with what is promised today, our
    Landscape sweeping out from us to disappear
    On the horizon. Today enough of a cover burnishes
    To keep the supposition of promises together
    In one piece of surface, letting one ramble
    Back home from them so that these
    Even stronger possibilities can remain
    Whole without being tested. Actually
    The skin of the bubble-chamber's as tough as
    Reptile eggs; everything gets "programmed" there
    In due course: more keeps getting included
    Without adding to the sum, and just as one
    Gets accustomed to a noise that
    Kept one awake but now no longer does,
    So the room contains this flow like an hourglass
    Without varying in climate or quality
    (Except perhaps to brighten bleakly and almost
    Invisibly, in a focus sharpening toward death--more
    Of this later). What should be the vacuum of a dream
    Becomes continually replete as the source of dreams
    Is being tapped so that this one dream
    May wax, flourish like a cabbage rose,
    Defying sumptuary laws, leaving us
    To awake and try to begin living in what
    Has now become a slum. Sydney Freedberg in his
    Parmigianino says of it: "Realism in this portrait
    No longer produces and objective truth, but a bizarria . . . .
    However its distortion does not create
    A feeling of disharmony . . . . The forms retain
    A strong measure of ideal beauty," because
    Fed by our dreams, so inconsequential until one day
    We notice the hole they left. Now their importance
    If not their meaning is plain. They were to nourish
    A dream which includes them all, as they are
    Finally reversed in the accumulating mirror.
    They seemed strange because we couldn't actually see them.
    And we realize this only at a point where they lapse
    Like a wave breaking on a rock, giving up
    Its shape in a gesture which expresses that shape.
    The forms retain a strong measure of ideal beauty
    As they forage in secret on our idea of distortion.
    Why be unhappy with this arrangement, since
    Dreams prolong us as they are absorbed?
    Something like living occurs, a movement
    Out of the dream into its codification.

    As I start to forget it
    It presents its stereotype again
    But it is an unfamiliar stereotype, the face
    Riding at anchor, issued from hazards, soon
    To accost others, "rather angel than man" (Vasari).
    Perhaps an angel looks like everything
    We have forgotten, I mean forgotten
    Things that don't seem familiar when
    We meet them again, lost beyond telling,
    Which were ours once. This would be the point
    Of invading the privacy of this man who
    "Dabbled in alchemy, but whose wish
    Here was not to examine the subtleties of art
    In a detached, scientific spirit: he wished through them
    To impart the sense of novelty and amazement to the spectator"
    (Freedberg). Later portraits such as the Uffizi
    "Gentleman," the Borghese "Young Prelate" and
    The Naples "Antea" issue from Mannerist
    Tensions, but here, as Freedberg points out,
    The surprise, the tension are in the concept
    Rather than its realization.
    The consonance of the High Renaissance
    Is present, though distorted by the mirror.
    What is novel is the extreme care in rendering
    The velleities of the rounded reflecting surface
    (It is the first mirror portrait),
    So that you could be fooled for a moment
    Before you realize the reflection
    Isn't yours. You feel then like one of those
    Hoffmann characters who have been deprived
    Of a reflection, except that the whole of me
    Is seen to be supplanted by the strict
    Otherness of the painter in his
    Other room. We have surprised him
    At work, but no, he has surprised us
    As he works. The picture is almost finished,
    The surprise almost over, as when one looks out,
    Startled by a snowfall which even now is
    Ending in specks and sparkles of snow.
    It happened while you were inside, asleep,
    And there is no reason why you should have
    Been awake for it, except that the day
    Is ending and it will be hard for you
    To get to sleep tonight, at least until late.

    The shadow of the city injects its own
    Urgency: Rome where Francesco
    Was at work during the Sack: his inventions
    Amazed the soldiers who burst in on him;
    They decided to spare his life, but he left soon after;
    Vienna where the painting is today, where
    I saw it with Pierre in the summer of 1959; New York
    Where I am now, which is a logarithm
    Of other cities. Our landscape
    Is alive with filiations, shuttlings;
    Business is carried on by look, gesture,
    Hearsay. It is another life to the city,
    The backing of the looking glass of the
    Unidentified but precisely sketched studio. It wants
    To siphon off the life of the studio, deflate
    Its mapped space to enactments, island it.
    That operation has been temporarily stalled
    But something new is on the way, a new preciosity
    In the wind. Can you stand it,
    Francesco? Are you strong enough for it?
    This wind brings what it knows not, is
    Self--propelled, blind, has no notion
    Of itself. It is inertia that once
    Acknowledged saps all activity, secret or public:
    Whispers of the word that can't be understood
    But can be felt, a chill, a blight
    Moving outward along the capes and peninsulas
    Of your nervures and so to the archipelagoes
    And to the bathed, aired secrecy of the open sea.
    This is its negative side. Its positive side is
    Making you notice life and the stresses
    That only seemed to go away, but now,
    As this new mode questions, are seen to be
    Hastening out of style. If they are to become classics
    They must decide which side they are on.
    Their reticence has undermined
    The urban scenery, made its ambiguities
    Look willful and tired, the games of an old man.
    What we need now is this unlikely
    Challenger pounding on the gates of an amazed
    Castle. Your argument, Francesco,
    Had begun to grow stale as no answer
    Or answers were forthcoming. If it dissolves now
    Into dust, that only means its time had come
    Some time ago, but look now, and listen:
    It may be that another life is stocked there
    In recesses no one knew of; that it,
    Not we, are the change; that we are in fact it
    If we could get back to it, relive some of the way
    It looked, turn our faces to the globe as it sets
    And still be coming out all right:
    Nerves normal, breath normal. Since it is a metaphor
    Made to include us, we are a part of it and
    Can live in it as in fact we have done,
    Only leaving our minds bare for questioning
    We now see will not take place at random
    But in an orderly way that means to menace
    Nobody--the normal way things are done,
    Like the concentric growing up of days
    Around a life: correctly, if you think about it.

    A breeze like the turning of a page
    Brings back your face: the moment
    Takes such a big bite out of the haze
    Of pleasant intuition it comes after.
    The locking into place is "death itself,"
    As Berg said of a phrase in Mahler's Ninth;
    Or, to quote Imogen in Cymbeline, "There cannot
    Be a pinch in death more sharp than this," for,
    Though only exercise or tactic, it carries
    The momentum of a conviction that had been building.
    Mere forgetfulness cannot remove it
    Nor wishing bring it back, as long as it remains
    The white precipitate of its dream
    In the climate of sighs flung across our world,
    A cloth over a birdcage. But it is certain that
    What is beautiful seems so only in relation to a specific
    Life, experienced or not, channeled into some form
    Steeped in the nostalgia of a collective past.
    The light sinks today with an enthusiasm
    I have known elsewhere, and known why
    It seemed meaningful, that others felt this way
    Years ago. I go on consulting
    This mirror that is no longer mine
    For as much brisk vacancy as is to be
    My portion this time. And the vase is always full
    Because there is only just so much room
    And it accommodates everything. The sample
    One sees is not to be taken as
    Merely that, but as everything as it
    May be imagined outside time--not as a gesture
    But as all, in the refined, assimilable state.
    But what is this universe the porch of
    As it veers in and out, back and forth,
    Refusing to surround us and still the only
    Thing we can see? Love once
    Tipped the scales but now is shadowed, invisible,
    Though mysteriously present, around somewhere.
    But we know it cannot be sandwiched
    Between two adjacent moments, that its windings
    Lead nowhere except to further tributaries
    And that these empty themselves into a vague
    Sense of something that can never be known
    Even though it seems likely that each of us
    Knows what it is and is capable of
    Communicating it to the other. But the look
    Some wear as a sign makes one want to
    Push forward ignoring the apparent
    NaÏveté of the attempt, not caring
    That no one is listening, since the light
    Has been lit once and for all in their eyes
    And is present, unimpaired, a permanent anomaly,
    Awake and silent. On the surface of it
    There seems no special reason why that light
    Should be focused by love, or why
    The city falling with its beautiful suburbs
    Into space always less clear, less defined,
    Should read as the support of its progress,
    The easel upon which the drama unfolded
    To its own satisfaction and to the end
    Of our dreaming, as we had never imagined
    It would end, in worn daylight with the painted
    Promise showing through as a gage, a bond.
    This nondescript, never-to-be defined daytime is
    The secret of where it takes place
    And we can no longer return to the various
    Conflicting statements gathered, lapses of memory
    Of the principal witnesses. All we know
    Is that we are a little early, that
    Today has that special, lapidary
    Todayness that the sunlight reproduces
    Faithfully in casting twig-shadows on blithe
    Sidewalks. No previous day would have been like this.
    I used to think they were all alike,
    That the present always looked the same to everybody
    But this confusion drains away as one
    Is always cresting into one's present.
    Yet the "poetic," straw-colored space
    Of the long corridor that leads back to the painting,
    Its darkening opposite--is this
    Some figment of "art," not to be imagined
    As real, let alone special? Hasn't it too its lair
    In the present we are always escaping from
    And falling back into, as the waterwheel of days
    Pursues its uneventful, even serene course?
    I think it is trying to say it is today
    And we must get out of it even as the public
    Is pushing through the museum now so as to
    Be out by closing time. You can't live there.
    The gray glaze of the past attacks all know-how:
    Secrets of wash and finish that took a lifetime
    To learn and are reduced to the status of
    Black-and-white illustrations in a book where colorplates
    Are rare. That is, all time
    Reduces to no special time. No one
    Alludes to the change; to do so might
    Involve calling attention to oneself
    Which would augment the dread of not getting out
    Before having seen the whole collection
    (Except for the sculptures in the basement:
    They are where they belong).
    Our time gets to be veiled, compromised
    By the portrait's will to endure. It hints at
    Our own, which we were hoping to keep hidden.
    We don't need paintings or
    Doggerel written by mature poets when
    The explosion is so precise, so fine.
    Is there any point even in acknowledging
    The existence of all that? Does it
    Exist? Certainly the leisure to
    Indulge stately pastimes doesn't,
    Any more. Today has no margins, the event arrives
    Flush with its edges, is of the same substance,
    Indistinguishable. "Play" is something else;
    It exists, in a society specifically
    Organized as a demonstration of itself.
    There is no other way, and those assholes
    Who would confuse everything with their mirror games
    Which seem to multiply stakes and possibilities, or
    At least confuse issues by means of an investing
    Aura that would corrode the architecture
    Of the whole in a haze of suppressed mockery,
    Are beside the point. They are out of the game,
    Which doesn't exist until they are out of it.
    It seems like a very hostile universe
    But as the principle of each individual thing is
    Hostile to, exists at the expense of all the others
    As philosophers have often pointed out, at least
    This thing, the mute, undivided present,
    Has the justification of logic, which
    In this instance isn't a bad thing
    Or wouldn't be, if the way of telling
    Didn't somehow intrude, twisting the end result
    Into a caricature of itself. This always
    Happens, as in the game where
    A whispered phrase passed around the room
    Ends up as something completely different.
    It is the principle that makes works of art so unlike
    What the artist intended. Often he finds
    He has omitted the thing he started out to say
    In the first place. Seduced by flowers,
    Explicit pleasures, he blames himself (though
    Secretly satisfied with the result), imagining
    He had a say in the matter and exercised
    An option of which he was hardly conscious,
    Unaware that necessity circumvents such resolutions.
    So as to create something new
    For itself, that there is no other way,
    That the history of creation proceeds according to
    Stringent laws, and that things
    Do get done in this way, but never the things
    We set out to accomplish and wanted so desperately
    To see come into being. Parmigianino
    Must have realized this as he worked at his
    Life-obstructing task. One is forced to read
    The perfectly plausible accomplishment of a purpose
    Into the smooth, perhaps even bland (but so
    Enigmatic) finish. Is there anything
    To be serious about beyond this otherness
    That gets included in the most ordinary
    Forms of daily activity, changing everything
    Slightly and profoundly, and tearing the matter
    Of creation, any creation, not just artistic creation
    Out of our hands, to install it on some monstrous, near
    Peak, too close to ignore, too far
    For one to intervene? This otherness, this
    "Not-being-us" is all there is to look at
    In the mirror, though no one can say
    How it came to be this way. A ship
    Flying unknown colors has entered the harbor.
    You are allowing extraneous matters
    To break up your day, cloud the focus
    Of the crystal ball. Its scene drifts away
    Like vapor scattered on the wind. The fertile
    Thought-associations that until now came
    So easily, appear no more, or rarely. Their
    Colorings are less intense, washed out
    By autumn rains and winds, spoiled, muddied,
    Given back to you because they are worthless.
    Yet we are such creatures of habit that their
    Implications are still around en permanence, confusing
    Issues. To be serious only about sex
    Is perhaps one way, but the sands are hissing
    As they approach the beginning of the big slide
    Into what happened. This past
    Is now here: the painter's
    Reflected face, in which we linger, receiving
    Dreams and inspirations on an unassigned
    Frequency, but the hues have turned metallic,
    The curves and edges are not so rich. Each person
    Has one big theory to explain the universe
    But it doesn't tell the whole story
    And in the end it is what is outside him
    That matters, to him and especially to us
    Who have been given no help whatever
    In decoding our own man-size quotient and must rely
    On second-hand knowledge. Yet I know
    That no one else's taste is going to be
    Any help, and might as well be ignored.
    Once it seemed so perfect--gloss on the fine
    Freckled skin, lips moistened as though about to part
    Releasing speech, and the familiar look
    Of clothes and furniture that one forgets.
    This could have been our paradise: exotic
    Refuge within an exhausted world, but that wasn't
    In the cards, because it couldn't have been
    The point. Aping naturalness may be the first step
    Toward achieving an inner calm
    But it is the first step only, and often
    Remains a frozen gesture of welcome etched
    On the air materializing behind it,
    A convention. And we have really
    No time for these, except to use them
    For kindling. The sooner they are burnt up
    The better for the roles we have to play.
    Therefore I beseech you, withdraw that hand,
    Offer it no longer as shield or greeting,
    The shield of a greeting, Francesco:
    There is room for one bullet in the chamber:
    Our looking through the wrong end
    Of the telescope as you fall back at a speed
    Faster than that of light to flatten ultimately
    Among the features of the room, an invitation
    Never mailed, the "it was all a dream"
    Syndrome, though the "all" tells tersely
    Enough how it wasn't. Its existence
    Was real, though troubled, and the ache
    Of this waking dream can never drown out
    The diagram still sketched on the wind,
    Chosen, meant for me and materialized
    In the disguising radiance of my room.
    We have seen the city; it is the gibbous
    Mirrored eye of an insect. All things happen
    On its balcony and are resumed within,
    But the action is the cold, syrupy flow
    Of a pageant. One feels too confined,
    Sifting the April sunlight for clues,
    In the mere stillness of the ease of its
    Parameter. The hand holds no chalk
    And each part of the whole falls off
    And cannot know it knew, except
    Here and there, in cold pockets
    Of remembrance, whispers out of time.

    Putting People On Pedestals

    [image source]

    This was the Daily Om from a few days back (yes, I am behind in my posting):
    To Be Human Putting People On Pedestals

    When we fall in love with someone or make a new friend, we sometimes see that person in a glowing light. Their good qualities dominate the foreground of our perception and their negative qualities. They just don't seem to have any. This temporary state of grace is commonly known as putting someone on a pedestal. Often times we put spiritual leaders and our gurus on pedestals. We have all done this to someone at one time or another, and as long as we remember that no one is actually "perfect," the pedestal phase of a relationship can be enjoyed for what it is-a phase. It's when we actually believe our own projection that troubles arise.

    Everyone has problems, flaws, and blind spots, just as we do. When we entertain the illusion that someone is perfect, we don't allow them room to be human, so when they make an error in judgment or act in contradiction to our idea of perfection, we become disillusioned. We may get angry or distance ourselves in response. In the end, they are not to blame for the fact that we idealized them. Granted, they may have enjoyed seeing themselves as perfect through our eyes, but we are the ones who chose to believe an illusion. If you go through this process enough times, you learn that no one is perfect. We are all a combination of divine and human qualities and we all struggle. When we treat the people we love with this awareness, we actually allow for a much greater intimacy than when we held them aloft on an airy throne. The moment you see through your idealized projection is the moment you begin to see your loved one as he or she truly is.

    We cannot truly connect with a person when we idealize them. In life, there are no pedestals-we are all walking on the same ground together. When we realize this, we can own our own divinity and our humanity. This is the key to balance and wholeness within ourselves and our relationships.

    What we really are talking about here is projecting one of our disowned traits onto the other person. Not all shadow stuff and projection is negative. One of the things that draws us to another person often is that s/he embodies a trait we admire but have disowned in ourselves. We can get into this idolization pattern because what we really are attracted to most is the quality within ourselves that we are projecting. It's the psyche's way of saying, "Pay attention here, you need this."

    For example, I used to "idolize" Kira's emotional intelligence. Over the last few years, I have come to realize that I was projecting that disowned quality in myself onto her, which is a part of what attracted me to her in the first place. As I have reclaimed that trait, I no longer rely so much on Kira as the emotional brain in our relationship, and I have become more integrated as a person.

    We can reclaim our projections and humanize the other person. Doing so makes the relationship healthier and us more complete as individuals.

    Speedlinking 8/25/06

    ~ Image of the day comes from cankersoar at deviantART.

    And with that, another cycle of speedlinks is underway.

    ~ The Zero Boss offers his insights on losing weight -- these are pretty useful tips, so if you're in the market for a new, smaller you, take a look.

    ~ ebuddha at Integral Practice takes a look at The Green Lantern Theory: Personal Change is a Matter of Will - Is this Accurate? As someone who works with people wanting to change their lives, I can attest that simply willing the change will get most people about as far as willing a rain storm on a clear summer day. If you don't deal with the emotional blocks to change, no amount of willpower will fix anything. Further, if you don't address the subpersonalities responsible for the behavior you want to change, you'll also not get very far for very long. "Change" is a complex issue that far exceeds the force of willpower.

    ~ Nagarjuna at Naked Reflections is reviewing Tony Robbins' Unlimited Power chapter by chapter, and he has the first one up now.

    ~ Paul Salamone wants you to listen to some old Sonic Youth. He's right.

    ~ Umguy at ideological putty thinks you should listen to some M Ward. I'll look for it.

    ~ Corey W. deVos, posting on Ken Wilber's blog, advocates an integral approach to combatting AIDS/HIV in Africa. There aren't any real solutions here, just a sales pitch for the KW version of integral thinking.

    ~ Tuff Ghost at vomiting confetti offers a response to Ray Harris's article on integral jurisprudence from yesterday.

    ~ Another helping of links from P2P Foundation.

    ~ And now, for some comic relief, I offer Ann Coulter's most recent column. Here's a fun quote in which she attacks the Dems:
    To wit, they're claiming there is no connection between the war on terror and the war in Iraq , and while they're all for the war against terror -- absolutely in favor of that war -- they are adamantly opposed to the Iraq war.
    It's so easy to dismantle her arguments. Rational people, including more and more Republicans, are opposed to the Iraq War because it has created more terrorists and a greater threat to American security than ever existed before we invaded Iraq. War in Iraq derails the "war on terror."

    And there are a great many of us who see the "war on terror" as it is currently being waged as about as productive and successful as the "war on drugs." Terror attacks around the world have been increasing each year of this new war.

    See how fun that was? Now why doesn't the MSM do the same damn thing?

    ~ Harper's takes a look at the force-feeding of detainees in Guantánamo Bay who wanted to wage a hunger strike to protest their being held without rights or charges.

    ~ Edward O. Wilson, writing in the New Republic, makes an impassioned plea for a new Christian environmentalism. [Free registration required.] Here is a power-quote:
    Do these differences in worldview separate us in all things? They do not. You and I and every other human being strive for the same imperatives of security, freedom of choice, personal dignity, and a cause to believe in that is larger than ourselves. Let us see, then, if we can meet on the near side of metaphysics in order to deal with the real world we share. You have the power to help solve a great problem about which I care deeply. I hope you have the same concern. I suggest that we set aside our differences in order to save the Creation. The defense of living nature is a universal value. It doesn't rise from, nor does it promote, any religious or ideological dogma. Rather, it serves without discrimination the interests of all humanity. Pastor, we need your help. The Creation--living nature--is in deep trouble.
    ~ In the realm of good news, a federal judge has rejected a Bush plan to log Sequoia National Park, home to two-thirds of the world's largest trees.

    ~ Alas, poor Pluto is no longer a planet.

    ~ According to Forbes,
    Milwaukee is America's drunkest city. The rest of the top five, in order: Minneapolis-St. Paul, Columbus, Ohio; Boston; and Austin, Texas.

    ~ Frank Visser comments on his association with the rabid anti-integral blogger Geoff Falk, and links to a new parody piece on Wilber that Falk has posted. Falk serves his purpose, but he is so anti-Wilber and anti-integral that he loses any stature he might gain with his criticism due to his emotional hatred of all things Wilber. I'm telling ya, there must be a woman involved.

    Okay then, make that last because I will be away from my computer for most of the day.