A forest is filled with all kinds of creatures from animals to insects, and from plants to rocks. Here in the singing forest we also welcome imagination and spirit. I love the song “Spirit Bird” by Australian musician Xavier Rudd.
The Gift of a Spider Web
Right outside the window where I write and work an orange and brown garden spider has set up its home between two flowering bushes. When the sun shines just right here in the Pacific Northwest the web will shine. One day the rain was more of a wet mist in the air and the web became a jeweled portal.
The web reminds me of this artwork I have seen on the Internet. Not sure who created it but thank you to someone for this evocative image.
I am reminded of Indra’s net which was first mentioned in the Atharva Veda 3000 years ago. At each vertex of the net is a multifaceted jewel that reflects all the other jewels like the stars in the sky. The jewels in the net are said to be infinite and the reflection in every single jewel also contains all the jewels.
That day each of the raindrops on the spider web reflected its neighbors. A taste of infinity and a reminder of how beautiful nature is.
Cultural historian and scholar Thomas Berry writes, “Because we are moving into a new mythic age, it is little wonder that a kind of mutation is taking place in the entire earth-human order. A new paradigm of what it is to be human emerges.”
Breathing In, Breathing Out, A Swinging Door
Each of us takes about 20,000 breaths a day. One day has 86,400 seconds, so a breath every 4 or 5 seconds.
The Japanese Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi gave a Thursday morning talk on August 4, 1965, in San Franciso. I was nearby in San Jose, only 2 months old. Later the talk was edited for his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:
“When we practice zazen our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world. The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is limitless.
We say “inner world” or “outer world,” but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out, like someone passing through a swinging door.
If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra…what we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves, that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I,” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.”
I first learned of the swinging door from my friend Tai Hubbert. Here is a short breath awareness meditation.
This story was first published in the August 1948 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and was Charles Harness’ first published story. The story has continued to get republished over the years and thus be rediscovered by new readers, almost as if the story creates its own time loop of rediscovery. Barry M. Malzberg wrote in 2002:
“The maddening concept of the time loop, and individual or world trapped in eternal recurrence… achieves a kind of intricacy and bewildering force in this 1948 story… This is perhaps the most rigorous and testing treatment of the theme and has been enormously influential, not only in literary terms, but in film. Groundhog Day or Being John Malkovich owe plenty to this one.”
This story is full of wild ideas and at one point a couple’s discussion is really a chance for the writer to share his ideas. But the author’s enthusiasm for exploring ideas is infectious. I find myself more curious after finishing the story. There are echoes of the writer Ted Chiang and the movie Arrival in here.
My dad, who was tutored in Russian while in the army in the 1950s, was telling me that if I learned to read the Cyrillic alphabet I could then easily speak Russian because the written alphabet maps one-to-one to the spoken language, unlike English. I told my son who is fluent in Japanese and studying Russian and he said not quite. Japanese does a better job of the one-to-one mapping. There are still many special cases where this is not true.
When I hear the word phoneme I think of the 1981 David Tudor piece “Phonemes.” I found the piece on CD in while living in Berkeley and it was a favorite listen for a few years. The piece was composed for the Merce Cunnigham Dance Company. The liner notes for the album containing the piece say:
“Phonemes employs two discrete processes which provide input source material for an array of sound modifying electronics, thus creating a multitude of outputs. It is difficult to recognize that these outputs are derived from the same source, as each undergoes a unique set of modifications. The first process utilizes a customized percussion generator with the ability of extending attacks up to several seconds in length. The second uses a vocoder capable of chopping a sound into small pieces. In performance, Tudor takes short sounds and lengthens them and in turn, long sounds and shortens them, thus creating two processes which can overlap and interplay with each other in time and space.
During the piece’s composition Tudor found the combinations reminded him of speech...hence its name.”
I had a waking dream about phonemes that I wrote about in a short piece “Breath As Mythology and Language.”
Have you ever had the experience of dreaming in another language?
What to Remember when Walking
Here is an excerpt from a longer poem of this title by David Whyte:
To become human
is to become visible
what is hidden
as a gift to others.
the other world
in this world
is to live in your
Danny Oak sent me a written note on “What You Are Obliged & Allowed To Say” from my last newsletter. He is right. I botched the example from the book. His explanation is wonderful:
“I would just point out that the example you gave about the obligations of certain languages isn't the best, because the translation of “I spent the night at someone’s house.” to French or Spanish also doesn't specify the gender. (En: someone / Fr: quelqu'un / Sp: alguien - none of these have a specific gender). I don't speak Russian, so I'll leave that out.
A better example where this premise is true could be "I spent the night at a friend's house". In Spanish and French you would have to specify the gender of the "friend" (Fr: ami / amie | Es: amigo / amiga).
I didn't want to expand so much on this small detail, but I thought you could want to know this.”
I enjoy how you connect thoughts, memories, quotes . . . knowledge so organically.
(Note to self: Read "Singing Forest" issues as a morning meditation - a nice treat for my Wednesday morning.)