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How silly to think that the past and future are both lost! I tell you, they are here with me at all times, and I live them both as if they are as real as now.

It should never surprise me to feel nostalgia for the future.


Obligatory Autumnal Poetry

The Earth is closing her eyes
Like a beautiful lover lying
Next to me in bed.

Her deep, regular sighs are leafwinds
Stripping the coloredbranches
Of her mind.

Sleep, Earth: the carved, wretched
Faces of pumpkins keep watch
Over our bedroom.

Sleep, Earth: this blanket of leaves
Will shield your skin from
The frosty air.

Sleep, Earth, sleep with me:
For the night is as lovely
As the day;

But the twilight is still more beautiful!

Freude, schöner Götterfunken!

Today, I performed Beethoven’s 9th symphony with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Westminster Symphonic Choir. The performance was spectacular. Each movement was introduced with an inspirational speech read by Avery Brooks (famous for portraying Capt. Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), with the last movement preceded by “I Have a Dream,” by Martin Luther King Jr.

So, with that in mind, we began the last movement, which opens and closes with text by Friedrich Schiller: “Freude, schöner Götterfunken,” which means “Joy, beautiful God-spark.” Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the full text of the “Ode to Joy,” give it a read, albeit in translation:

Joy, beautiful God-spark
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Into your sanctuary, heavenly daughter!
Your magic reunites
What custom strictly divided.
All men become brothers,
Where your gentle wing rests.

Whoever has had the great fortune
To be a friend's friend,
Whoever has won a devoted wife,
Join in our jubilation!
Indeed, whoever can call even one soul,
His own on this earth!
And whoever was never able to, must creep
Tearfully away from this band!

Joy all creatures drink
At the breasts of nature;
All good, all bad
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us, and wine,
A friend, proved in death;
Pleasure was given to the worm,
And the cherub stands before God.

Glad, as His suns fly
Through the Heaven's glorious design,
Run, brothers, your path,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.

Be embraced, millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the starry canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.

Singing it in the context of civil rights and unification of mankind, it’s easy to see it as simply a proclamation of the brotherhood of mankind, which is how I’ve always thought of it until today. During the last moments of the symphony, the choir repeats the phrase “Freude, schöner Götterfunken” several times.

Suddenly, as the orchestra broke into a furious frenzy of jubilation in the final coda, it hit me like a ton of bricks: the Götterfunken—the divine spark of God in every person… that thing that makes us human! As a Christian, I believe that God is divinely singular and divinely plural… three in one. And I believe that as a creative being, God desires companionship of many beings like Himself, which is why humans (created in His image) likewise desire companionship and communion with one another. “Do you bow down, millions? Do you sense the Creator, world?”—surely, this drive for connection to each other is a self-evident proclamation of the existence of the creator!

Surely the day when all people will know both their fellow people and their creator will be the most joyous day of all… and Jesus taught exactly that when he named the two greatest commandments… love of God, love of neighbor.

To say that I experienced pure Joy upon realizing this truth today is no overstatement.


I'm almost certain she was only visible to me.

Today I watched an old woman wander through a grove of trees in the autumn wind. She crept along the path at a very slow pace, then stopped next to a statue of the Virgin Mary, looked around in all directions, and then slowly turned around and went back the way she came. There was a hill between her and I, and as she walked away, I watched her until her head descended beneath the horizon of the hill. I'm pretty much positive that she was the spirit of the forest.


Three ecstasies

A creature shrieks in the street tonight.
I sit and wonder if those shrieks are of ecstasy or pain or longing (or)...

For me there is often little difference [and so, I wonder]
Have I known pain in longing? (I must answer 'of course')

But more mysteriously:
Do I know the most exquisite ecstasy by feeling the most agonizing pain?

So strange that I always cry in sadness, happiness, and awe.



Back in high school, some friends and I "broke into" an old abandoned house out in the country. I hesitate to use the term "broke into" because the house really had been abandoned for some time, and the door was disintegrated enough that getting in didn't require breaking anything. The contents of the house were diverse.... it looked like it had been abandoned for at least 10 years, and the woman who had lived there (we believe her name was Josephine) was quite elderly, and probably suffering from Alzheimer's disease, judging from the level of organization.

The visit was really unspectacular, but it's always stuck in my mind as being rather otherworldly... strangely quiet and disjointed from the world. For some reason, I picked up a letter from the kitchen table that was still folded nicely in its envelope. I don't remember reading it at the time (it's quite long), and I must have set it aside after I got home that evening.

Anyway, I found it this summer when cleaning out my old bedroom for the last time. You can see some of the other treasures I found in earlier posts....

This one is really special, though, which is one reason I waited until now to post it. First of all, the return address has a house number and city, but no name. The letter itself is signed only "Sis". So I have no ideal who this is from. It's postmarked January, 1974 atop an 8-cent stamp that reads "LOVE" in bright red letters.

The contents of the letter are remarkably dramatic. Although "Sis" opens the letter with "I wish I had [...] news to write [...] but my life just isn't that exciting," she manages to describe in seven riveting pages her plans to coax a man named "Corky" into marrying her, her recent dabbling in architecture, her acquisition of an injured falcon (and a falconer's license), and her return to college. Sounds pretty exciting for a nameless women writing to her friend in rural Coldwater, MI.

The contents of the letter seem almost hilarious at first, but after one realizes that they are really and truly serious, they are actually pretty profound. It's really a testament to the mystery of life, and the beauty of individuality. I don't know this woman, and I probably never will. For all I know she could be dead. Or made up. But the letter is amazing. If you have a few minutes, read it. It's worth your time.


Before the Internet

This is what kids did before the internet. Pitiful.



The post-college room cleaning has begun. Here are the first fruits. I have no idea where this came from. More to come soon. 


All the time we spent in bed
Counting miles before we said
Fall in love and fall apart
Things will end before they start

Sleeping on Lake Michigan
Factories and marching bands
Lose our clothes in summer time
Lose ourselves to lose our minds
In the summer heat, I might.

(Sufjan Stevens)



I am quickly realizing both in evaluating my own aesthetic values, and in discussing those values with others, that the worth of pure aesthetics in artistic work is a matter of some debate. The argument is particularly potent in works that contain narrative: film, literature etc.—"good graphics don't make a good movie," or (albeit less frequently) "the prose were beautiful, but that's not enough to make a good book."

While I agree that the function of narrative in film or literature is a vital part of making a consummate work of art, I think it is a mistake to require a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk for every movie or book written. Furthermore, I submit that music, the visual arts, and poetry are more often than not purely aesthetic forms (with many notable exceptions).

Is not the Mona Lisa valued for its beauty, rather than its subject? Do we not value the pure emotional expressionism of Rothko for the same reason we value the abstract splashes of color in the tone poems of Debussy? Should we feel shame for giving ourselves over to pure emotion, and forsaking the story, the meaning, the narrative? Is not the great beauty of art that it cannot be explained by narrative?

I often find the subjects of paintings to be uninteresting, vague, stupid, or irrelevant, despite the fact that they were painted with the purpose of conveying that very information (who really cares what Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo looked like?). I often find the programmatic subjects of musical compositions to be riddled with the same flaws. But does that diminish the beauty of the work?

A friend of mine said recently, "Pretty things only hold for so long," but I submit that for many things, particularly artistic things, the prettiness is the only thing that has allowed them to endure.


Things I Remember

I remember (quite more than vaguely)
stretched on giant blades of matted grass
with my sister
while my father played softball.

I didn't care about the game;
only the fictional characters
I had imagined were sitting
with my sister and me.

I do not remember (not even vaguely)
the day I met my first love
nor the day I fell in love with him
nor what I said the last time we spoke.

Yet, I cared more about him
than any game of softball.

Perhaps I was too busy
imagining the characters.


Android Dreams

Idea for a new piece for baritone and orchestra… three movements… the theme being the moral and philosophical dilemma of artificial intelligence. The first movement would be a poem by Wallace Stevens which describes a man imagining immortalizing himself in bronze:

“This Solitude of Cataracts”

He never felt twice the same about the flecked river,
Which kept flowing and never the same way twice, flowing

Through many places, as if it stood in one,
Fixed like a lake on which the wild ducks fluttered.

Ruffling its common reflections, thought-like Monadnocks.
There seemed to be an apostrophe that was not spoken.

There was so much that was real that was not real at all.
He wanted to feel the same way over and over.

He wanted the river to go on flowing the same way,
To keep on flowing. He wanted to walk beside it,

Under the buttonwoods, beneath a moon nailed fast.
He wanted his heart to stop beating and his mind to rest

In a permanent realization, without any wild ducks
Or mountains that were not mountains, just to know how it would be,

Just to know how it would feel, released from destruction,
To be a bronze man breathing under archaic lapis,

Without the oscillation of planetary pass-pass,
Breathing his bronzen breath at the azury center of time.

The second movement would be a poem by Costas Dafnis about an android luthier. Still waiting on that from him…

The third movement could be this poem by Jeni Couzyn, which references the book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” (better known by its movie adaptation “Blade Runner”) by Philip K. Dick:

“Do Androids Dream”

Do androids dream of electric sheep in their pastures
grazing electric grass? Does Winnie dream of
walking in fields with sun on her skin

laid out ready for her coffin
unofficially dead in the home for old people?
Like an image of God as a fierce old woman in stone

flowers on sunday and news of the grandchildren
silent, unseeing, she receives like worship.
The undeniable tick tick tick of her heart

impales her to the living.
I heard an android cry before the bounty hunter
retired her, (unable to kill what is not alive):

"I was made instead of born; my empathy rating is low;
I will not grow old as you will or die of diseases;
the machine that I am will calmly

turn itself off at the proper time. But you’ve made me
so like you—bone marrow and blood and my heart is a big
muscle as yours is. I know fear when footsteps in the dark

pause at my door, and feel murderous, as you would
when you dig sharp fingers into my arm, tearing skin.
There’s saliva under my tongue. There are real

tears in my eyes. The factory that made me and for what
purpose, makes no difference to the way I feel myself
me, know myself mysterious. I am I as sharp as the lowest

creeper on earth is himself, whatever egg he crawled from
or gut he tore open entering, or cell accidentally
dividing created him. There are many ways into life.

Let me live."


Totally Random Emails

So, I obviously know to ignore emails that say "I'm a 95-year-old Yugoslavian duchess, and I need to transfer $10,000,000 into your bank account so that I can save 1,600 African babies from the horrors of AIDS. For your trouble, I will let you keep 35% of the money after I transfer it into my offshore account. Just send me all your personal information and a copy of your DNA." That is probably a scam. Everyone knows that.

But sometimes, I get emails that are COMPLETELY random, and totally benign... they are just clearly not meant for me. Do the tubes of the internets just get clogged? Am I just too stupid to see the scam? I just don't get it sometimes.... take this one, for example:

I noticed not many people have a personal curriculum vitae page or is outdated, one reason being of not being familiar with html or find modifying html files quite cumbersome. I believe cestagi would benefit them, as it is an easy to use web service where you can manage your CV online quite easily. Plus it offers export features into NSF/NIH word, latex, and pdf formats. I use it and believe others within the community would benefit from it as well.
Best wishes,



Despite the falling snow

She tells her love while half asleep,
In the dark hours,
With half words whispered low;
As earth stirs in her winter sleep
And puts out grass and flowers
Despite the snow,
Despite the falling snow.

(Robert Graves)


Platforms of Persia

We were all sitting in the hotel lobby playing some sort of creepy role-playing game. It was sort of like "Mafia," but it somehow took longer, and I think there were special cards involved… maybe it was "Magic: The Gathering." Who knows; the point is that it was a normal day. There was a large picture window at the back of the room overlooking a thicket behind the hotel. It had a small courtyard-esque clearing in the centre like any decent thicket should have.

My patience was already wearing thin with the tedious game when a woman startled us by entering the room shouting, "Everyone, look outside! There’s a huge creature out there! I think it’s La Chupacabra!" As it turned out, the thing wasn’t the legendary cryptid goat-sucker of Puerto Rico, but instead it was a grizzly-bear sized badger. "Costas! Run and get my camera!" I shouted. He obeyed, at which point, we all can surmise that this was, indeed, a dream.

As I waited for my Costas to return, I started snapping pictures of the action with my camera-phone. There were more animals in the courtyard now, a strange mongoose-type animal, a deer, and I’m pretty sure there was a cow. All gargantuanly proportioned, mind you (in the style of the badger). There were people out there as well—a small group of folks huddled in a circle near the edge of the clearing. Wait, did I recognize one of them? Yes, I’m sure it was Victoria Rice out there with the giant badger and cow. I turned to show my fantastic pictures to everyone, and I realized that despite my best efforts to photograph the tremendous creatures, I had only managed to take several very creepily close-up images of Victoria Rice’s face. Too bad… I guess I will have to go down to the thicket myself.

As I approached the circle, I noticed something in the centre. It looked like a… yes, it was a person. A small boy clad in Persian-style armor. He was lying on the ground… it was all making sense now…! The ancient relay of transport cables, the signs and wonders… he was back from the deep past to help the world through a time of great turmoil. His head was nearly severed, and he was clearly dying… and Victoria knew why.

At this point I apparently assumed control of Victoria’s body. This is one of those things that can really only happen in a dream (obviously)—it was no longer necessary for Philip Rice to take part in the dream to maintain the storyline, and since this was my dream, Victoria and my identities became merged. The newly reincarnated me scooped up the little Persian boy and carried him across the windswept plains to reach the ancient cables. These looked something like telegraph cables or power lines, but when the proper incantation was recited the cables would descend in a geometric formation resembling a platform suitable to stand upon. After a short interval, the platform would ascend back up into the structure of the cables, carrying whoever stood upon it away into (presumably) another dimension. With the help of the young prince (who had regained consciousness by this point) we summoned a platform, and were spirited away down the ancient cables to complete our divine mission for the human race.

Late-Night Ramblings 2010 #1

There is a certain kind of "feeling"—one might call it a desire—that is so potent, so honest, that it becomes part of the definition of oneself... Maybe this is part of what makes us human; I prefer to think that these are little clues as to the nature of God... as beings created in His image, as we learn about ourselves, we learn more about Him: what He thinks, how He feels.

For example, I have a deep desire for peace. Not silly hippie "world-peace" or the quasi-Buddhist "inner-peace," I'm talking about literal peace:

Quiet stillness, time to sit and think for hours, listening to birds, to water, to air, to silence. Time to stare at a blank wall and slowly realize who I love, who my friends are, and who God is. Most importantly, it's time to look at the stars and think about myself versus the universe. Why don't I have more of that in my life? I want more of that.