Jean Dubuffet’s tree in the country

I have a very strong feeling that the sum of the parts does not equal the whole.

My inclination leads me, when I want to see something really well, to regard it with its surroundings, whole. If I want to know this pencil on the table, I don’t look straight on the pencil. I look on the middle of the room, trying to include in my glance as many objects as possible.

If there is a tree in the country, I don’t bring it into my laboratory to look at it under my microscope because I think the wind which blows through its leaves is absolutely necessary for the knowledge of the tree and cannot be separated from it. Also the birds which are in the branches and even the song of these birds. My turn of mind is to join always more things surrounding the tree, and further, always more of the things which surround the things which surround the tree.


Jean Debuffet, Anticultural Positions, a lecture presented at the Arts Club, Chicago, 1951

Werner Herzog’s Social Network and Work Ethic

from this interview, Trust in My Wild Fantasies:

I just don’t want to be available all the time. I love to connect with people but in a more fundamental way. I never go to parties, but I invite friends and I cook for them. We sit around a table, maximum 6 people, because if there are more people there is no space around the table. And when we speak to each other, everyone speaks about the same topic. Whereas when you are at a party, there are 200 people and loud music and in each corner there is a different topic, and small talk.

also this:

There is a wonderful thing that Martin Luther the reformer said when he was asked, “What would you do if the world would disappear tomorrow in the apocalypse?” And Luther said, “Today, I would plant an apple tree.”

a meditation from ‘Sacred Agriculture: The Alchemy of Biodynamics’

I really love this book by Dennis Klocek. I am nearly finished with my first read-through of it, and I find it captivating and enlivening, though my retained understanding of the book’s content is probably around three percent.

In a chapter on valerian, one of the important herbs in biodynamic agriculture, I came to this sparkling moment:

When I am not incarnated, I live in another universe, somewhere in the infinitely distant. When I am incarnated I am right here on this piece of earth in my own space. When those two processes come together in a form of life, we call that form a plant. Every plant has a different way of organizing those two sets of forces.
Is the plant we see the true plant? No, the true plant is an energetic being that leaves a wake when it passes, an image of the archetypal being that holds the template of its existence. What we see as a plant is the wake, or corpse, of the passing of the true plant. The true plant occupies everything between the seed and the next germination. Once germination occurs, the true plant is on the way to excarnation and leaves a matter-permeated wake for us to use. The true plant is a rhythmic, sensitive, invisible activity unfolding in space. It occupies a space between the unmanifest and the manifest. The plant on Earth occupies the space between the manifest and the unmanifest.
The pineal gland is actually a vestigial form of what used to be an eye, which is still present in rattlesnakes. Their pineal gland is hooked up to a heat receptor, with which they locate prey. We have a similar gland in our head, but instead of locating prey we use it to find our way back to heaven at night. We do so by looking for centers of warmth in the darkness — in other words, going to sleep. However, once we have spent enough time in darkness, we have to come back to other side to find light. Valeric acid has a particular action on the way light and warmth alternate in our consciousness.

The Connection – by Daniil Kharms

1. I am writing to you in answer to your letter which you are about to write to me in answer to my letter which I wrote to you.
2. A violinist bought a magnet and was carrying it home. Along the way, hoods jumped him and knocked his cap off his head. The wind picked up the cap and carried it down the street.
3. The violinist put the magnet down and ran after the cap. The cap fell into a puddle of nitric acid and dissolved.
4. In the meantime, the hoods picked up the magnet and hid.
5. Then violinist returned home without a coat and without a cap, because the cap had dissolved in the nitric acid, and the violinist, upset by losing his cap, had left his coat in the streetcar.
6. The conductor of the streetcar took the coat to a secondhand shop and exchanged it there for sour cream, groats, and tomatoes.
7. The conductor’s father-in-law ate too many tomatoes, became sick, and died. The corpse of the conductor’s father-in-law was put in the morgue, but it got mixed up, and in place of the conductor’s father-in-law, they buried some old woman.
8. On the grave of the old woman, they put a white
post with the inscription “Anton Sergeevich Kondratev.”
9. Eleven years later, the worms had eaten through the post, and it fell down. The cemetery watchman sawed the post into four pieces and burned it in his stove. The of the cemetery watchman cooked cauliflower soup over that fire.
10. But when the soup was ready, a fly fell from the wall, directly into the pot with this soup. They gave the soup to the beggar Timofey.
11. The beggar Timofey ate the soup and told the beggar Nikolay that the cemetery watchman was a good-natured man.
12. The next day the beggar Nikolay went to the cemetery watchman and asked for money. But the cemetery watchman gave nothing to the beggar Nikolay and chased him away.
13. The beggar Nikolay became very angry and set fire to the cemetery watchman’s house.
14. The fire spread from the house to the church, and the church burned down.
15. A long investigation was carried on but did not succeed in determining the cause of the fire.
16. In the place where the church had stood a club was built, and on the day the club opened a concert was organized, at which the violinist who fourteen years earlier had lost his coat performed.
17. In the audience sat the son of one of those hoods who fourteen years before had knocked the cap off that violinist.
18. After the concert was over, they rode home in the same streetcar. In the streetcar behind theirs the driver was the same conductor who once upon a time had sold the violinist’s coat at a secondhand shop.

You should buy this book. It is such a phenomenally good book of prose poetry or ‘modern fables.’

Look at that. You can get it for a penny.

Poem: ‘On Living’ – Nazim Hikmet


Living is no laughing matter:
	you must live with great seriousness
		like a squirrel, for example--
   I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
		I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
	you must take it seriously,
	so much so and to such a degree
   that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
                                            your back to the wall,
   or else in a laboratory
	in your white coat and safety glasses,
	you can die for people--
   even for people whose faces you've never seen,
   even though you know living
	is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
   that even at seventy, for example, you'll plant olive trees--
   and not for your children, either,
   but because although you fear death you don't believe it,
   because living, I mean, weighs heavier.


Let's say we're seriously ill, need surgery--
which is to say we might not get up
			from the white table.
Even though it's impossible not to feel sad
			about going a little too soon,
we'll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we'll look out the window to see if it's raining,
or still wait anxiously
		for the latest newscast. . . 
Let's say we're at the front--
	for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
	we might fall on our face, dead.
We'll know this with a curious anger,
        but we'll still worry ourselves to death
        about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let's say we're in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
                        before the iron doors will open.
We'll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind--
                                I  mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
        we must live as if we will never die.


This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
               and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet--
	  I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even 
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
	  in pitch-black space . . . 
You must grieve for this right now
--you have to feel this sorrow now--
for the world must be loved this much
                               if you're going to say "I lived". . .

Moyers and Campbell: Folk Tale, Myth, Poetry

(from The Power of Myth):

MOYERS: You say that elites create myths, that shamans and artists and others who take the journey into the unknown come back to create these myths. But what about ordinary folks? Don’t they create the stories of Paul Bunyan, for example?

CAMPBELL: Yes, but chat is not a myth. That doesn’t hit the level of myth. The prophets and what in India are called the ‘rishis’ are said to have heard the scriptures. Now anybody might open his ears, but not everyone has the capacity actually to hear the scriptures.

MOYERS: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

CAMPBELL: There has to be a training to help you open your ears so that you can begin to hear metaphorically instead of concretely. Freud and Jung both felt that myth is grounded in the unconscious. Anyone writing a creative work knows that you open, you yield yourself, and the book talks to you and builds itself. To a certain extent, you become the carrier of something that is given to you from what have been called the Muses-—or, in biblical language, “God.” This is no fancy, it is a fact. Since the inspiration comes from the unconscious, and since the unconscious minds of the people of any single small society have much in common, what the shaman or seer brings forth is something that is waiting to be brought forth in everyone. So when one hears the seer’s story, one responds, “Aha! This is my story. This is that I had always wanted to say but wasn’t able to say. There has to be a dialogue, an interaction between the seer and the community. The seer who sees things that people in the community don’t want to hear is just ineffective. Sometimes they will wipe him out.

MOYERS; So when we talk about folk tales, we are talking not about myths but about stories that ordinary folks tell in order to entertain themselves or express some level of existence that is below that of the great spiritual pilgrims.

CAMPBELL: Yes, the folk tale is for entertainment. The myth is for spiritual instruction. There’s a fine saying in India with respect to these two orders of myths, the folk idea and the elementary idea. The folk aspect is called desi, which means “provincial,” having to do with your society. That is for young people. It’s through that that the young person is brought into the society and is taught to go out and kill monsters. “Okay, here’s a soldier suit, we’ve got the job for you.” But there’s also the elementary idea. The Sanskrit name for that is marga, which means “path.” It’s the trail back to yourself. The myth comes from the imagination, and it leads back to it. The society teaches you what the myths are, and then it disengages you so that in your meditations you can follow the path right in. Civilizations are grounded on myth. The civilization of the Middle Ages was grounded on the myth of the Fall in the Garden, the redemption on the cross. and the carrying of the grace of redemption to man through the sacraments. The cathedral was the center of the sacrament, and the castle was the center protecting the cathedral. There you have the two forms of government-—the government of the spirit and the government of the physical life, both in accord with the one source, namely the grace of the crucifixion.

MOYERS: But within those two spheres ordinary people told little tales of leprechauns and witches.

CAMPBELL: There are three centers of what might be called mythological and folkloristic creativity in the Middle Ages. One is the cathedral and all that is associated with monasteries and hermitages. A second is the castle. The third is the cottage, where the people are. The cathedral, the castle, and the cottage—you go to any of the areas of high civilization, and you will see the same—the temple, the palace, and the town. They are different generating centers, but in so far as this is one civilization. they are all operating in the same symbolic field.

MOYERS: Same symbolic field?

CAMPBELL: The symbolic field is based on the experiences of people in a particular community, at that particular time and place. Myths are so intimately bound to the culture, time, and place that unless the symbols, the metaphors, are kept alive by constant recreation through the arts, the life just slips away from them.

MOYERS: Who speaks in metaphors today?

CAMPBELL: All poets. Poetry is a metaphorical language.

MOYERS: A metaphor suggests potential.

CAMPBELL: Yes, but it also suggests the actuality that hides behind the visible aspect. The metaphor is the mask of God through which eternity is to be experienced.

The Best Wisdom for Writers, from Lew Welch: “Whose kid is that!”

“I once took a guided tour through a California winery and the guide, a young mail about 20 years old, droned away with his memorized speech of facts and figures, chanting them perfectly in that guide-chant all of us have heard, and suddenly he stopped and yelled, “Whose kid is that!” A small child was determined to fall into a 500-gallon vat of wine.

The force of real speech slammed right against false speech was startling as a thunderclap, and not because he called out loudly. I vowed never to release a poem of mine which couldn’t at least equal the force of that guide’s “Whose kid is that!” Pound said that poetry ought to be at least as well written as prose. I say that poetry ought to be at least as vigorous and useful as natural speech.”

quote taken from Ring of Bone:

Moyers and Campbell – Myth in the Founding of the United States

Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell, from The Power of Myth (below):

MOYERS: What kind of new myth do we need?
CAMPBELL: We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet. A model for that is the United States. Here were thirteen different little colony nations that decided to act in the mutual interest, without disregarding the individual interests of any one of them.
MOVERS: There is something about that on the Great Seal of the United States.
CAMPBELL: That’s what the Great Seal is all about. I carry a copy of the Great Seal in my pocket in the form of a dollar bill. Here is the statement of the ideals that brought about the formation of the United States. Look at this dollar bill. Now here is the Great Seal of the United States. Look at the pyramid on the left. A pyramid has four sides. These are the four points of the compass. There is somebody at this point, there’s somebody at that point, and there’s somebody at this point. When you’re down on the lower levels of this pyramid, you will be either on one side or on the other. But when you get up to the top, the points all come together, and there the eye of God opens.
MOVERS: And to them it was the god of reason.
CAMPBELL: Yes. This is the first nation in the world that was ever established on the basis of reason instead of simply warfare. These were eighteenth-century deists, these gentlemen. Over here we read, “In God We Trust.” But that is not the god of the Bible. These men did not believe in a Fall. They did not think the mind of man was cut off from God. The mind of man, cleansed of secondary and merely temporal concerns, beholds with the radiance of a cleansed mirror a reflection of the rational mind of God. Reason puts you in touch with God. Consequently, for these men, there is no special revelation anywhere, and none is needed, because the mind of man cleared of its fallibilities is sufficiently capable of the knowledge of God. All people in the world are thus capable because all people in the world are capable of reason. All men are capable of reason. That is the fundamental principie of democracy. Because everybody’s mind is capable of true knowledge, you don’t have to have a special authority, or a special revelation telling you that this is the way things should be.