Prior Quotes of the Week

Fourth Quarter, 1998

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Quote of the Week (1998.12.27)
Task and Desire

 Carl Jung wrote about his midlife crisis in his memoirs, in which he asked himsef which myth he was living by. He discovered to his horror that he didn't know. " So I made it the task of my life to find out." He did this in a fascinating way, returning to a childhood fascination with building sandcastles. Intuitively, he knew that by going back to his origins, his earliest display of genuine play and imagination, he coud reconstruct his life, find a pattern for what became his life story.

 When poet Donald Hall met with sculptor Henry Moore, he dared to ask if Moore believed that there was a secret to life. The response astonishes: "The secret of life," Moore answered without flinching, "is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is - it must be something you cannot possibly do."

 Imagine the courage behind these tasks. By what sacred story are you living? What task have you set for yourself? Can you tell your life story, accomplish your task, from where you are?

 If you're uncertain, turn over in your mind philosopher Alfred North Whitehead's reflection that "religion is what we do with our solitude."

 Where your heart wanders during those chambered moments will show you the direction of your true longing. We speak of God and geniuses and heroes and sacred sites, but these are only names for the ineffable mysery of the force behind something our souls long to be in touch with. No practical philosophy explains this urge. It is a force from the mysterious shadow world that may in turn long for us.

 "Isn't it time," Alan Jones askes, "that your drifting was consecrated into pilgramage? You have a mission. You are needed. The road that leads to nowhere has to be abandoned. . . . It is a road for joyful pilgrams intent on the recovery of passion."

 But can we ever know what our mission is? There is no one answer for everyone, but for four thousand years it has proved helpful to dwell for a moment on this thought from the Brihaduranyaha Upanishad, "You are what your deep driving desire is."

 In travel, art, religion, and poetry, the experience and the source of the sacred is similar because, as Octavio Paz has written, "it springs from the same source. The source is desire. Profound desire to be other than what one seems to be."

 This is otherwise known as wrestling with fate and destiny.

Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgramage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred, pp. 25 - 27, Conari Press, 1998

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Quote of the Week (1998.12.20)
The Enfolded Mysticism in Knowledge

For millennia, the hardwired side of human perception has been limited to the particular sensory apparatus constructed by our DNA, an apparatus that partly determines the apparent nature of "the world." In this sense, dogs and bees and jellyfish-with their own unique ratios of sense and perception-live in a different world than we do. New technologies of perception thus unfold a new world, or at least new dimensions of universal nature. When ocular instruments extended human sight toward Galileo's moons or Hooke's microscopic cells, these tools created new regions of causal explanation and knowledge. But they also evoked a sense of wonder and mystery, forcing us to reconfigure the limits of ourselves and to shape human meaning, if any, of the new cosmological spaces we found ourselves reflected in.

In the book Stockhausen: Towards a Cosmic Music, the German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen describes the human body as an incredibly complicated vibrating instrument of perception. The composer, who travels vast spaceways that link electronic music and mysticism, argues that the "esoteric" is simply that which cannot yet be explained by science. "Every genuine composition makes conscious something of this esoteric realm. This process is endless, and there will be more and more esotericism as knowledge and science become increasingly capable of revealing human beings as perceivers." And transmitters as well. Spiritual or not, we are beings of vibrating sensation, floating in an infinite sea of pulsing waves that roll and resonate between the synapse and the farthest star.

Erik Davis, TechGnosis: Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information,
pp. 74-75, Harmony Books, 1998

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Quote of the Week (1998.12.13)
"Greatness" exists in the inconspicuous and overlooked details.

Wabi-sabi represents the exact opposite of the Western ideal of great beauty as something monumental, spectacular, and enduring. Wabi-sabi is not found in nature at moments of bloom and lushness, but at moments of inception or subsiding. Wabi-sabi is not about gorgeous flowers, majestic trees, or bold landscapes. Wabi-sabi is about the minor and the hidden, the tentative and the ephemeral: things so subtle and evanescent they are invisible to vulgar eyes.
 Like homeopathic medicine, the essence of wabi-sabi is apportioned in small doses. As the dose decreases, the effect becomes more potent, more profound. The closer to nonexistence, the more exquisite and evocative they become. Consequently to experience wabi-sabi means you have to slow way down, be patient, and look very closely.

Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers,
p. 50, Stone Bridge Press, 1994

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Quote of the Week (1998.12.06)
Collaborative Imagery

From a pocket Billy had taken out a matchbook. A few chord progressions had been scribbled on the inside cover. Then, drawing out a small lined tablet from beneath the seat, he quickly drew a bass staff and started humming. "You got something?' Earl asked.

"I think, yeah. A little light something, you know, like bright light and springtime and whatnot."

Earl tapped the wheel lightly with the palm of his free hand. "Toss in a small woman's bouncy walk, and I might get excited with you."

"Well, help me then. This time you use the woman-tight yellow skirt, right? - and I'll use the light, the light of mid-May, and when they don't work together, I think we'll both know."

"Solid. What you got so far?"

Billy did not answer. He kept a finger to his ear, staring from the matchbook cover to the tablet. Earl let it run. You don't interrupt when an idea is so young.

More often than not, Billy and Earl brought opposites, or ast least, unlikely combinations together. One of the band's more popular numbers, a blues, was the result of Billy's mediations on the richly perfumed arms of a large and fleshy worman, arms tightly holding a man who mistook her short laugh for joy. To this, Earl had brought the memory of a rainy night and a long soft moan carried on the wind, something heard from the end of an alley. They used only the colors and sounds from these images, and only later, when the songs were fully arranged, did the smell and the touch of them sweep in. There had been other songs that resolved the contrasts, the differences, between the drone of a distant train and an empty glass of gin, a lipstick print at its rim, fingerprints around it. A baby's whimpering, and a man grinning as he counted a night's big take from the poker table, painted bright red fingernails tapping lighty down a lover's arm, and the cold of a lonely apartment. How much did the dancing couples, those whispering and holding close as second skins or those bouncing and whirling tirelessly, feel these things, too? Or did they bring something entirely different to the rhythms, something of their own?

Seeing Jazz: artists and writers on jazz, Elizabeth Goldson, editor, p. 96
A Chronicle Book, 1997
Taken from Lush Life by John McCluskey, Jr.

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Quote of the Week (1998.11.29)
Gift, Barter, Magic, Theft:
Crossroads and the Emergence of Commerce

The supreme symbol for the fecund space of possibility and innovation that Hermes exploits is the crossroads - a fit image as well for our contemporary world, with its data nets and seemingly infinite choices. In ancient days, the Greeks marked crossroads, village borders and household doorways with the herm, a rectangular pillar surmounted by the head of Hermes (and graced with a healthy phallus). At the base of the pillars, hungry travelers would sometimes chance upon offerings to the god - offerings they would duly steal, not to thwart Hermes but to honor the lucky finds he bestows. Some herms were later replaced with wooden posts used as primitive bulletin boards; it may be that the word trivia (literally, three roads) derives from the frequently inconsequential nature of these postings.

Crossroads are extremely charged spaces. Here choices are made, fears and facts overlap, and the alien first shows its face; strange people, foreign tongues, exotic and delightful goods and information. Crossroads create what anthropologist Victor Turner calls "liminal zones": ambiguous but potent spaces of transformation and threat that lie at the edge of cultural maps. Here the self finds itself beyond the limits of its own horizon. "Through Hermes," the mythographer Karl Kerènyi writes, "every house became an opening and a point of departure to the paths that come from far off and lead away into the distance." As Norman O. Brown points out in his study of Hermes the Thief, the liminal quality of the crossroads also derives from the more mundane traffic of trade. In archaic times, the exchange of goods often took place at crossroads and village borders; these swaps were fraught with ambiguity, for they blurred the distinction between gift, barter, magic, and theft. As the commercial networks of the Greek city-states developed, this economic border zone eventually shifted from the wild edges of the village into the more organized markets at the heart of the new urban centers. The outside was swallowed within. Hermes became agoraios, "he of the agora," the patron saint of merchants, middlemen, and the service industry, while the god's epithet "tricky" came to mean "good for securing profit."

Erik Davis, Techgnosis: myth, magic & mysticism in the age of information,
pp. 15 - 16, a Harmony Book, 1998.

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Quote of the Week (1998.11.22)
Knowledge and Response
In Our Engineered World

The salient feature of the human environment is that it has been engineered. Whether you are looking at a home, an office or a window frame opening to landscaping, farmlands or a second-growth forest, you are looking at human constructs tailored by machines. Engineering and technology have in large measure created modern history. The have done so, moreover, within a shaping dialogue of commerce, fueled by universal desires for security and profit and butressed and limited by law. This world of technology and commerce and law -- which for short we can call material culture -- is routinely derided by intellectuals as mundane and boring; yet viewed distinctly, it is vivid and fascinating, not least because it is the world in which everybody, intellectuals included, depends for survival. To deride this world, to minimize or ignore it, is profoundly dangerous and can only be the fruit of ignorance. Why dangerous? Isn't the most dramatic aspect of material culture the fact that it is so easy to ignore? . . . Machines may well empower us by simultaneously growing more effective and simpler to use, but if in the process we do not also improve our knowledge of their basic principles of operation, we are the more dependent on them and hence are diminished. Our knowledge of material culture must not be limited to screens and keyboards, because if it is, machines and their makers will ultimately predesign our alternatives, delimit the way we live and think."

Robert Grudin, On Dialogue; an essay in free thought,
pp. 144 - 145, a Houghton Mifflin Book, 1996.

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Quote of the Week (1998.11.15)
Towards A World Trade of Ideas

Take a step into the next millennium.

After several years of collaborative research, a new infrastructure has been created for the World Trade of Ideas. There is a worldwide recognition that intellectual capital is the most valuable resource we have to manage as enterprises, nations, and society as a whole. There is also agreement that the flow of knowledge will enhance the standard of living in every country around the globe. The Global Innovation Infrastructure (GII) serves as the underpinning for the international network for the creation and application of new ideas.

Germany hosts the World's Fair in the year 2000. Hundreds of theorists and practitioners in the new "community of knowledge practice" convene for a Worldwide Innovation Congress during which economic, behavioral, and technological issues are reconciled and opportunities abound for all who participate. Diversity of heritage is respected, and simularities in mission are discovered. A common language evolves that brings together the foundations of knowledge and the process of innovation in ways never considered before.

Each nation has nominated one person to serve as its representative in the Roundtable for Innovators from Around the World. They meet in a rotunda designed for the dialogue and on the walls is a representation of how their country values knowledge, learning, and the process of innovation. They are distinguished in their fields, but come together to collaborate with one another on how best to preserve and leverage the best innovation practices for the benefit of humankind.

This vision is achievable. The dates, labels, and sponsors may change; but it is inevitable that some event(s) will prompt a worldwide understanding of the real value of intellectual capital and how it can be used to societal advantage. . .

Debra M. Amidon, Innovation Strategy for the Knowledge Economy: The Ken Awakening, pp. 138 - 139, a Butterworth-Heinemann Book, 1997.

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Quote of the Week (1998.11.08)
Knowing There

Along their migratory routes, monarch butterflies stay nights in certain trees. The "butterfly trees," as they are called, are carefully chosen - although the criteria exercised in their selection are not known. Species is unimportant, obviously, for at one stopover the roosting tree may be a eucalyptus, at another a cedar or an elm. But, and this is what is interesting, they are always the same trees. Year after year, whether moving south or returning north, monarchs will paper with their myriad wings at twilight a single tree that has served as a monarch motel a thousand times before.

Memory? If so, it is genetic. For you see, the butterflies who journey south are not the ones who come back. Monarchs lay their eggs in sunny climes. Then they die. The hordes who flutter northward in spring are a succeeding generation. Yet, without hesitation, they roost in the same trees as did their ancestors.

Scientists have examined butterfly trees and found them chemically and physically identical to the trees surrounding them. Yet no other tree will do. Investigators have camouflaged a tree's color, altered its scent. The monarchs were not fooled. Another of nature's mysterious constants. A butterfly always knows when it is there.

Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction,
p. 49, a Bantam Book, 1971, reissue 1990 (pictured).

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Quote of the Week (1998.11.01)
Just This Side of Ludicrous

In a poetic sense, the prime goal of the new economy is to undo - company by company, industry by industry - the industrial economy.

In reality, of course, the industrial cortex cannot be undone. But a larger web of new, more agile, more tightly linked organizations can be woven around it. These upstart firms bank on constant change and flux.

Change itself is no news, however. Ordinary change triggers yawns. Most change is mere churn, a random disposable newness that accomplishes little. Churn is the status quo for these times. At the other extreme, there is change so radical that it topples the tower. Like inventions that fail because they are way ahead of their times, it is possible to reach too far with change.

What the network economy coaxes forth is selective flux. The right kind of change, in the right doses. In almost all respects this kind of change is what we mean by innovation.

The word "innovation" is so common now that its true meaning is hidden. A truly innovative step is neither too staid and obvious, nor too far out. The innovative step is change that is neither random directionless churn, nor so outrageous that it can't be appreciated. We wouldn't properly call just another variation of something an innovation. We also wouldn't call a shift to something that only worked in theory, but not in practice, or that required a massive change in everyone else's behavior to work, an innovation.

A real innovation is suficiently different to be dangerous. It is change just this side of being ludicrous. It skirts the edge of disaster, without going over. Real innovation is scary. It is anything but harmonious.

The selective flux of innovation permeates the network economy the way efficiency permeated the industrial economy. The innovative flux is not merely dedicated to devising more interesting products, although that is its everyday chore. Innovation and flux saturate the entire emerging space of the new economy. . .

This is why there is such a maniacal fuss about innovation. When management gurus drone on about the imperative of innovation, they are right. Firms still need excellence, quality of service, reorganization, and real time, but nothing quite embodies the ultimate long-term task in this new economy as the tornado of innovation.

Kevin Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy; 10 Radical Strategies for a Connected World, pp. 112 - 113, a Viking Book, 1998.

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Quote of the Week (1998.10.25)
Attending a World

The soft sound of rain on the roof fades in and out of awareness, along with memories of tropical downpours and the celebration of rain in the desert, not one rain but many. There is a persistent scent of newly cut wood in the room, and the smoky smell of the wood fire, but I only notice these when I come in from outdoors. On my left is a window through which I can look downhill past lichen-covered oaks to a forking stream. How vivid the grays and greens of the lichens are in the rain, the wet bark blackened behind them. Two streams diverge in a . . . I wonder, in a pause between paragraphs, about the many meanings of water, and then how the metaphor of streams would shape our thoughts differently from the metaphor of roads. I muse on the rarity, in the Philippines, of metaphors of binary choice, so common in the West. I check my watch to make sure I don't forget a planned telephone call. Somehow under the ripple of slight distraction, a sentence has taken shape, and I type it into the computer.

It would not be true to say that I am concentrating fully on my writing. My attention is not something I control, not something I fully own, much less a resource from which I might dole out payments. Zen teachers urge students not to struggle against distraction but rather to let the thoughts that come during meditation pass through their awareness, then let them go. When I was in college, I knew a woman who kept fresh apples in her desk drawer so that instead of being restless as she worked she would have the minor distraction of their scent to notice and relinquish. At one time I used smoking the same way, finding a portion of attention easier to focus than the whole.

When I become restless and my thoughts no longer flow to my fingertips, I take my big yellow dog for a long ramble through the wet woods, rebuild the fire, do chores and errands, and then pick up where I left off, to find that my unconscious has made headway in the interval. During most of my life, except for the short periods away in places like the MacDowell Colony, my writing has been fitted between other kinds of activities. Now this is so much a part of my pattern that when I am guaranteed against interruption I create my own distractions as a counterpoint to the working day.

This is one of many styles of working, a common style for women who have spent years with one ear open for the cry of an awakened child, the knock of someone making a delivery, the smell of burning that warns that a soup left to simmer somehow boiled dry. My life has forced me to adopt multiple levels of focus, shifting back and forth and embedding one activity within the other, parent and observer, teacher and student. I have been fortunate in living several lives simultaneously, the effect of layers of commitment. There is even room for awareness of the process of learning.

Mary Catherine Bateson, Peripheral Visions: learning along the way
pp. 95 - 96, a HarperPerennial book, 1994.

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Quote of the Week (1998.10.18)
Finding Your Own Hey

It was my first day with the band Phish. Listening to their live album, I drove along country roads that wound through foliage that was just beginning to turn. I finally found the converted garage outside Burlington, Vermont, where they were rehearsing. I had ear plugs tucked in my camera bag. I wasn't sure what to expect. I walked through a wood-working shop, led by the sound of their playing. I quietly entered the sound room. Jon Fishman was on my right, his hair tied back in a pony tail, eyes closed, playing drums. To his left was Trey Anastasio on lead guitar, sitting on a high stool, his eyes closed as he played. Suddenly I heard each of them shout out the word "Hey" and then continue to play. Leaning against a stool in the middle of the room was Mike Gordon on bass. He opened his eyes momentarily to see who had entered the room and then closed them again. They continued playing, unaffected by my entrance. To my left was Page McConnell on keyboards. Suddenly, he yelled out the word "Hey" and the others followed.

I found them in the middle of what they call a "Find Your Own Hey" exercise. The idea is to discipline each member to listen to the three other musicians while he improvises on his own. It begins with one member playing a melody or riff. The others then try to copy his sound. When each feels they've all got it, he calls Hey! When the exercise is performed correctly, all four shout simultaneously; if someone shouts before the others, it means he's not listening because he didn't hear one of his partners not getting it yet. During the next stage, they don't merely imitate, they have to complement one another. This continues for about an hour with increasingly complex variations.

Nubar Alexanian, Where Music Comes From
pp. 36 - 37, Dewi Lewis Publishing, 1996

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Quote of the Week (1998.10.11) 
Stepping Beyond The Threshold 

We Seekers are in shock - this new world is so different from the home we've always known. Not only are the terrain and the local residents different, the rules of this place are strange as they can be. Different things are valued here and we have a lot to learn about the local currency, customs, and language. Strange creatures jump out at you! Think fast! Don't eat that, it could be poison!

Exhausted by the journey across the desolate threshold zone, we're running out of time and energy. Remember our people back in the Home Tribe are counting on us. Enough sightseeing, let's concentrate on the goal. We must go where the food and game and information are to be found. There our skills will be tested, and we'll come one step closer to what we seek. 

Christopher Vogler, The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers & Screenwriters
p. 157, Michael Wiese Productions, 1992 (Pictured: 2nd Edition, 1998)

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Quote of the Week (1998.10.03)
On the Way to Your Next Brick Wall 

 "Like attracts like. It'll surprise you as long as you live. Choose a love and work to make it true, and somehow somthing will happen, something you couldn't plan, will come along and move like to like, to set you loose, to set you on the way to your next brick wall."

 "My next wall! Next wall?"

 "It's not as hard as it sounds. We don't have to work to put ourselves in the worst possible situation we can imagine ... whenever we forget our magic, that happens by itself. But the fun's not getting into trouble, it's getting out. The game is to remember who we are, and use our power tools. How can we learn unless we practice?"

 He was doubtful. "I don't know ..."

 Does he want a trouble-free future? I thought. Why pick spacetime if he doesn't want trouble? "Thought experiment," I said. "Imagine there's nothing you want to change in your world. It couldn't possibly be any better than it already is."

 He thought for a moment. "Hurray!" he said. "This feels great!"

 "Okay, I said. "Now stay in that world for a month. Two months. A year. Two years. Three. How does it feel?"

 "I want to learn something new. I want to do something different."

 "And there you have the reason for the world of appearances."

 "We like learning new things?"

 "We like remembering what we already know. When you hear your favorite music, or watch a good movie over again, or read your favorite story, you know what it's going to sound like, don't you, what it's going to look like, how it's going to turn out? The fun comes from living it over again, as many times as you want. Same with our powers. First we dimly remember, and timid, we try Choice; the Principle of Coincidence; Whatever We Hold in Thought Comes True in Our Experience; Like Attracts Like; we experiment with the Law of Changing Appearances, to make our outer world reflect our inner."


 "And when it changes once, three times, ten, we grow a little bolder and sure enough, the tools work! With practice we trust them utterly, we've remembered all they have to show us, we can change appearances however we wish, and we move on to new adventures, with different laws."

 "Tell me more tools," he said.

 "How many more do you need? Our hearts are full of cosmic laws. Learn just a few, get good at those, there's nothing can stand between you and the person you want to be."

 "But that's why I'm talking to you! I'm not sure who it is I want to be!"

 I frowned then, in the silence, at a puzzle I couldn't solve. "That," I said, "can stand between you."

Richard Bach, Running From Safety: an adventure of the spirit
pp. 161 - 163, William Morrow and Company, 1994

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Other Prior Quotes:

July 5, 1998 through September 27, 1998

April 5, 1998 through June 28, 1998

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© MG Taylor Corporation, 1995 - 2002

iteration 3.5