Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair. When it comes, it degrades one’s self and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or receive affection. It is the aloneness within us made manifest, and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself. Love, though it is no prophylactic against depression, is what cushions the mind and protects it from itself. Meditations and psychotherapy can renew that protection, making it easier to love and be loved, which is why they work. In good spirits, some love themselves and some love others and some love work and some love God: any of these passions can furnish that vital sense of purpose that is the opposite of depression.…It is too often the quality of happiness that you feel at every moment its fragility, while depression seems while you are in it to be a state that will never pass. Even if you accept that moods change, that whatever you feel today will be different tomorrow, you cannot relax into happiness as you can into sadness. For me, sadness has always been and still is a more powerful feeling; and if that is not a universal experience, perhaps it is the base from which depression grows. I hated being depressed, but it was also in depression that I learned my own acreage, the full extent of my soul. When I am happy, I feel slightly distracted by happiness, as though it fails to use some part of my mind and brain that wants the exercise. Depression is something to do. My grasp tightens and becomes acute in moments of loss: I can see the beauty of glass objects fully at the moment when they slip from my hand to the floor. “We find pleasure much less pleasurable, pain much more painful than we had anticipated,” Schopenhauer wrote. “We require at all times a certain quantity of care or sorrow or want, as a ship requires ballast, to keep on a straight course.”
Monthly Archives: February 2011
So you can scoff and snicker all you like at the shaggy, hangdog 27-year-old next door dressed in a baggy college sweatshirt and cargo shorts, taking empty pizza boxes and beer bottles to the dumpster. He could be a loser just trying to extend his adolescence indefinitely—or he might just be getting ready to change the world with what he creates in his unkempt guy lair.
By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.At 72, the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since 1959, is beginning to plan his succession, saying that he refuses to be reborn in Tibet so long as it’s under Chinese control. Assuming he’s able to master the feat of controlling his rebirth, as Dalai Lamas supposedly have for the last 600 years, the situation is shaping up in which there could be two Dalai Lamas: one picked by the Chinese government, the other by Buddhist monks.
It’s feeling like spring around here, so it’s close enough to being time for another one of these.
- Maximum Balloon — Groove Me
- Emiliana Torrini — Fireheads
- Conjure One — Center of the Sun
- Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions — Drop
- In Extremo — Wessebronner Gebet
- Peter Gabriel — Sledgehammer
- How to Destroy Angels — BBB
- Supergrass — Late in the Day
- Radiohead — All I Need
- Steely Dan — Black Cow
- Basement Jaxx — Where’s Your Head At
- Populous — Bottom 02
- Fujiya & Miyagi — Dishwasher
- The Fratellis — Vince the Lovable Stoner
- Meat Puppets — Violet Eyes
- Elbow — Fallen Angel
- Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears — Sugarfoot
- The Dandy Warhols — Insincere
- Goldfrapp — Little Bird
- Moby — Porcelain
This is a really interesting, wide-ranging interview with Reza Aslan. I’m just gonna get out of the way and let him talk:
I mean the truth is that there is a kid in Los Angeles right now that has more in common with a kid in Indonesia because they like the same music and the same movies, than either of them have in common with their own communities. So the very concept of society has shifted. This is one thing that I never get tired of talking about, that from the dawn of humanity the definition of society and community was geographically defined. Community means, who is around me; who’s next to me? That’s my community. Until twenty years ago. From when we started walking upright to about twenty years ago, that’s what society meant. And it doesn’t mean that anymore.…We were talking about this and it occurred to us that when we were in high school we didn’t have email. I completely forgot about this. We didn’t have email, and we didn’t have cell phones. So we were all sitting there, suddenly remembering that in order (because I had a very tight-knit group of friends in high school) to get in touch with each other we would have to call our parents. And we’d have to say, “Is Reza home?” I don’t remember it. As far as I know I’ve always had email and I’ve always had a cell phone. But to be confronted by that change is to become aware that we are living through this catastrophic global transformation.…My very good friend Eli Pariser—he’s writing a book, he created MoveOn. He’s writing this really fascinating book—and this part is not all that unique because it’s something that most tech people would say, is that when we were younger and the Internet was coming along, the excitement was that this would be a truly democratizing thing, this was going to be the technology that not just changed the way we communicate and the way we identify with each other, but it was going to democratize understanding, it was going to create so much access that knowledge would become second-hand. Everything you want to know is now available to you. And what we found over the last half-decade is the exact opposite has happened. What the Internet has done is it’s even more fractured people, it’s become the ultimate sounding board, you never ever have to be confronted by any opposing views for the rest of your life anymore.Guernica: We’re at a time that is very similar to the printing press being invented. I think about this all the time with my students: For a long time I would get on them, I mean, I still get on them in their essays about punctuation, but there are things students are doing with language right now that I was really upset about for a long time and then I thought, “But is it possible we are at a moment when a new language is being created?” And that is terrifying.Reza Aslan: I always love, if you ever read Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, he essentially created spelling. Before that you spelled things however you wanted to spell it, phonetically. And then Johnson wrote a dictionary and then that’s how it’s spelled, forever, all of a sudden. So I wonder if we’re sort of in a similar place like that where if I see text-speak or something, I won’t poke my eyes out with a hot iron, but then I think, Jesus, is this how everyone is going to be writing in a hundred years? And is there anything to be done about that or is it just the evolution of language?Guernica: And I’m also beginning to understand it. I used to get a text from someone and I’d have no idea what’s being said. But now I am beginning to understand the language. And that’s fascinating how at some point it goes beyond my choice even (if that makes sense).Reza Aslan: But, there will always be people like you and me to complain about this.
I was talking about poetry with Shanna the other day, and she said she favored long narrative ballads, naming writers like Service, Kipling, Tolkien, and some Frost.
But you can see in the poems I’ve shown you, this driving, pounding beat, this rhythm that underlays the words and carries it strongly, til it almost echoes. That’s why I got disillusioned with free verse. Sure, once in a while you find one that still manages that rhythm, but they’re so far between, I just gave it up.
On the other hand, as evidenced by the Bashō quotation up in the top corner, I consider Eastern poetry a cornerstone of my poetic worldview; haiku was the first form that really enthralled me, especially for its connection to Zen Buddhism. When Buson says:
I go, you stay;
The space in the poem is so vast, and with time being measured in “autumns”, you get the sense of his melancholy without having to hear him say in so many words, “I’m lonely. I miss you.” You feel his sadness without hearing the words that might numb you to it by dint of their familiarity. We hear those kinds of straightforward sentiments so often, we forget to really feel what they symbolize.
Robert Haas elaborated on this indirect way of expression:
The insistence on time and place was crucial for writers of haiku. The seasonal reference was called a kigo and a haiku was thought to be incomplete without it. In Bashō’s poem quoted above, for example, the phrase aki fukaki, “deep autumn” or “autumn deepens” is traditional and had accumulated references from earlier poetry as well as from the Japanese way of thinking about time and change. So does the reference to snow—yuki, which can also mean “snowfall”—in Buson’s poems. It is always connected to a sense of exposure to the elements, for which there is also a traditional phrase, “winter bareness.” The practice was sufficiently codified and there was even a rule that the seasonal reference should always appear either in the first or third unit of the three phrase poem… These references were conventional and widely available. They were the first way readers of the poems had of locating themselves in the haiku. Its traditional themes—deep autumn, a sudden summer shower, the images of rice seedlings and plum blossoms, of spring and summer migrants like the mountain cuckoo and the bush warbler, of the cormorant-fisherman in summer, and the apprentices on holiday in the spring—gave a powerful sense of a human place in the ritual and cyclical movement of the world.
In a chapter devoted to the poet Issa, Sam Hamill pointed out the ubiquity in his poems of mono no aware (a sense of beauty intensified by recognition of temporality) and sabi (a kind of spiritual loneliness). Two of my favorites of his, both in honor of the deaths of his young children:
This world of dew
is only the world of dew—
and yet…oh, and yet…
A Buddhist equanimity tries to assert itself in the face of intense suffering, but the all-too-human emotions refuse to be pacified. Gets me every time.
these are the scarlet flowers
she liked to pick.
Again, the indirect focus, not on his daughter, but on the memories attached to everyday objects. The pain of it seems to hit me harder this way.
The Eastern poets appealed to me because that’s how so many of my insights appeared to me — a sudden, intuitive flash, a widening of the eyes, a sharp intake of breath. The words came later, and sometimes just got in the way. I can appreciate a rhythmic story, but when it comes to getting at what seems to me to be the heart of the poetic experience, I tend to feel that the less words, the better. In this case, the poet’s job isn’t to lay it all out and say Here’s what happened, here’s how it happened, and here’s why it happened, it’s to place words sparingly around the experience without trying to land directly on it.
Grunge set me off on a journey I’m still on. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and their peers used rock stardom as a vehicle for exposing gullible teenagers like me to parts of life that were previously obscured or hidden from mainstream view. Records, movies, books, ideas—all it took was a casual reference to something you’d never heard of an in interview or an album’s liner notes to point you toward another avenue to explore, which then led to more avenues. These bands don’t matter? My God, if you were like me, they gave you the world.This music changed me. It was important to me. I guess it always will be.
I haven’t disappeared, I just spent a long weekend visiting with a close friend. Taking turns reading out loud, trips to the mountains to enjoy the almost-spring weather, and lazing around on the couch watching TV. Life is very good. Back to the blogospheric grind as soon as I catch up on sleep.
Aspects of this evolution in attitudes towards work had intriguing parallels in ideas about love. In this sphere, too, the eighteenth-century bourgeoisie yoked together what was pleasurable and what was necessary. They argued that there was no inherent conflict between sexual passion and the practical demands of raising children in a family unit, and that there could hence be romance within a marriage – just as there could be enjoyment within a paid job.
Initiating developments of which we are still the heirs, the European bourgeoisie took the momentous steps of co-opting on behalf of both marriage and work the pleasures hitherto pessimistically – or perhaps realistically – confined, by the aristocrats, to the subsidiary realms of the love affair and the hobby.
Most of these marriages would be a hell of a lot better if the sexually unsatisfied partner had a discreet affair, but that puts the other partner in a socially untenable situation. “Open marriage” is something for dirty hippies or sleazy swingers, not an upstanding member of society.…If we want to do something about the high divorce rate, we might want to get real about making sexual satisfaction a precursor to marriage, and also about the role of a discreet, mutually agreed-upon affair as a safety valve. Of course, religion and social norms rule that out-of-bounds.
There’s a lone genius—possibly evil and certainly entrepreneurial—behind Ashley Madison. His name is Noel Biderman, and he’s the chief executive officer of Avid Life Media, based in Toronto. “Monogamy, in my opinion, is a failed experiment,” he declares. It’s unclear if Biderman actually believes this—he’s married and has two young kids—but like Hugh Hefner before him the business he has created pretty much requires that he say it. Behind his desk, in an office so lacking in embellishment it almost looks like a hastily assembled low-budget film set, is a large flat-screen monitor promoting his company’s flagship brand. It reads: “Life is short. Have an affair.”…Research suggests that 20 to 40 percent of heterosexual married men and 20 to 25 percent of heterosexual married women will have an affair during their lifetime. Moreover, men have an evolutionary prerogative to spread their genes as widely as possible, while women are driven to find a mate and try to gain access to the best genes out there by any means necessary.
It is my Buddha Nature to be omni-sexual. If you pluck one string on a well-tuned guitar the one next to it will vibrate because it’s the nature of sound waves. Well, my husband picks a certain chord. Then you, you hit this string and you over there, this string. You can’t hit her string. Your frequency is completely different. It’s not confusing to me. You can’t pluck my husband’s string and he can’t pluck yours.
In the end, Caruncho and Fernández say they want to separate romance from reality, but their diagnosis leads to a conclusion no less romantic, and no less religious, than the legend: that our own bodies can generate within us a sensation of the divine. From this, maybe the romantics and neoclassicists can be brought together for a new notion of genius, one that allows for, and sometimes necessitates, ecstatic irrational reveries that must still be grounded in practice if good works are to be produced. After all, visions alone are not enough. If Chopin hadn’t practiced his piano, he may never have gotten past the Polish border. But his experience of the sublime, whatever its cause, was a real factor in his ability to compose as well.