Tag Archives: finding

On New Year’s Day 2010, I decided to write not a resolution, but a manifesto. I wanted to set in motion ways of being that would sustain me for the entire year. Looking back over what has been a phenomenal year for me, it seems to have worked. It has been a year of transformation and success. I will certainly take the trouble to write another for 2011.

I dedicated the past year to honing, investing, and cutting. And what I see now is that it has been a sharpening of the instrument, a subtle but deep change in how I create and how I relate. It’s changed how I make what I make with words and it’s changed what I do with the words that flow through me. It’s changed the nature of how I interact with friends and how I conduct business.

As I begin to compose my thoughts for the coming year, I intend to preserve this year’s momentum, but also infuse it with new energies. I will still not leave behind any of the fundamental inspiration with which I launched 2010. So I repeat it, and thank all of the good fortune and good people in the world that have allowed me to live it. May this and every year treat all of you as well.

Now is the time to hone my compassion, my creativity, and my focus. It is a time to transform gifts that I have into gifts that I give, a time to depose petty urgencies from the throne of true priorities. 

I will invest more into the essence of what I have to offer: articulating and sharing insights, seeing and creating ways, connecting, forging paths to peace, saying effects as a making of causes. At core, delivering sentences, with all the nuances and multiple meanings that such a phrase suggests. 

And I will cut, piece by piece, the worry, the fear, and the sour harmony that comes from false accommodations. I will leave behind nothing but the bare core of what I believe and value, because with every increment of calendar and clock, there’s less time left.

— January 1, 2010

Among Slime Molds

The site of the soul is the verb, not the subject. We, as passers-by, drift briefly through the predicate. And it ensouls us as we go.

When deciding, we are decisioned. When passing, we are passed by “to pass.” When writing, we are written by “to write.” No souls but predicates inhabit us, actors as we go. We are these and they are we, foragers in a grammar that enacts us.

Core As Process

What I like most about this is the sense that the entire conventional notion of a “core” is subject to revision, not as unmoving, but at its own core, a dynamism.

Once the world is seen as a set of cycles rather than of things it is easier to imagine interesting ways for them to mesh like cogs…

Sufficient, perhaps, just to stop and think how strange it is that the inner core, imperviously locked away since the creation of the world, may yet be added to the long list of other solid-looking things, such as the Himalayas and the Atlantic Ocean and the planet itself, that are in some ways better understood not as places, but as processes.

The unsolid Earth,” The Economist, August 5, 2010 

It’s also just fantastically written.

Resisting “life,” resisting “story”

I often find myself resisting the void of a concept such as one’s “life,” the normative narrativity of viewing a “life” as sequence of events with story-like structure, and story-like meaning. Generally, I don’t like imposing that artificial logic on whatever it is I am wherever and whenever I happen to be. I prefer to let moments be moments, without the whole associated apparatus.

Galen Strawson’s “Against Narrativity” really helps crystallize this episodic, non-narrative mode, a mode of being-around-the-world without being-about-the-world.

I take it that many people are naturally Diachronic, and that many who are Diachronic are also Narrative in their outlook on life. If one is Episodic, by contrast, one does not figure oneself, considered as a self, as something that was there in the (further) past and will be there in the (further) future.

One has little or no sense that the self that one is was there in the (further) past and will be there in the future, although one is perfectly well aware that one has long-term continuity considered as a whole human being. Episodics are likely to have no particular tendency to see their life in Narrative terms.

 I have a past, like any human being, and I know perfectly well that I have a past. I have a respectable amount of factual knowledge about it, and I also remember some of my past experiences ‘from the inside’, as philosophers say. And yet I have absolutely no sense of my life as a narrative with form, or indeed as a narrative without form. Absolutely none. Nor do I have any great or special interest in my past. Nor do I have a great deal of concern for my future.

I’m well aware that my past is mine in so far as I am a human being, and I fully accept that there’s a sense in which it has special relevance to me* now, including special emotional and moral relevance. At the same time I have no sense that I* was there in the past, and think it obvious that I* was not there, as a matter of metaphysical fact. As for my practical concern for my future, which I believe to be within the normal human range (low end), it is biologically – viscerally – grounded and autonomous in such a way that I can experience it as something immediately felt even though I have no significant sense that I* will be there in the future.

People can develop and deepen in valuable ways without any sort of explicit, specifically Narrative reflection, just as musicians can improve by practice sessions without recalling those sessions. The business of living well is, for many, a completely non-Narrative project. Granted that certain sorts of self-understanding are necessary for a good human life, they need involve nothing more than form-finding, which can exist in the absence of Narrativity; and they may be osmotic, systemic, not staged in consciousness.

As for Narrativity, it is in the sphere of ethics more of an affliction or a bad habit than a prerequisite of a good life. It risks a strange commodification of life and time – of soul, understood in a strictly secular sense. It misses the point. ‘We live’, as the great short story writer V. S. Pritchett observes, ‘beyond any tale that we happen to enact.’

Galen Strawson, “Against Narrativity


I love finding out that there exist vast repositories of cultural artifact, whole genres, whole literatures, about which I had only the vaguest awareness. And there are times I find it nearly miraculous that I can sit here accessing any of this from home, even if only scratching the surface.

Carnatic music (Sanskrit: Karnāṭaka saṃgīta) is a system of music commonly associated with the southern part of the Indian subcontinent, with its area roughly confined to four modern states of India: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. It is one of two main sub-genres of Indian classical music that evolved from ancient Hindu traditions; the other sub-genre being Hindustani music, which emerged as a distinct form due to Persian and Islamic influences in North India. In contrast to Hindustani music, the main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in gāyaki (singing) style. Source: Wikipedia

Sangam literature refers to a body of classical Tamil literature created between the years c. 600 BC to 300 AD.  This collection contains 2381 poems composed by 473 poets, some 102 of whom remain anonymous. The period during which these poems were composed is commonly referred to as the Sangam period, referring to the prevalent Sangam legends claiming literary academies lasting thousands of years, giving the name to the corpus of literature. Sangam literature is primarily secular dealing with everyday themes in a Tamil context.

The poems belonging to the Sangam literature were composed by Dravidian Tamil poets, both men and women, from various professions and classes of society. These poems were later collected into various anthologies, edited, and with colophons added by anthologists and annotators around 1000 AD. Sangam literature fell out of popular memory soon thereafter, until they were rediscovered in the 19th century by scholars such as C. W. Thamotharampillai and U. V. Swaminatha Iyer… Much of the Tamil literature believed to have been composed in the Sangam period is lost to us, though detailed lists of works known to the 10th century compilers have survived. Source: Wikipedia