Thursday, May 19, 2016

demonstrates vacuums

When he wants to frame his argument against British crowds then he goes to the wilderness in Canada to live in a cottage with a considerable library as if he were at home in the Lake District, and he does not live in burrow, or nest, or cliff-face palace or amazing velvet ball lined with mirrors, but in his normal home, a cottage, and let me imagine (though no proof) that he sees himself wearing his usual daily clothes in that setting, not a dress or a ruff, not an incredible shawl, but the same trousers he always wears, though maybe warmer: perhaps he mentally gives himself a coat.

… there are daily
reports of people overriding
the most exotic restraints
to become ordinary. The armless woman
uses her toes to make woodburn kittens.
The blind man demonstrates vacuums
and sells lots of them, as convinced
of lint as the next person. Shall I go on?

Kay Ryan, To Explain the Solitary from Elephant Rocks, 1996. Adam Lindsay Gordon was addicted to horse riding in the northern hemisphere and then he was the same way in the southern hemisphere when his father sent him to South Australia equipped with a letter of introduction to the mounted police; but then he became a published poet where he was not one before, so there was a difference to his life (the difference was the publishing since he had written poems privately, personally, previously), he made life easier for the compilers of Inspirational Quotes by inventing the lines, "Life is mostly froth and bubble | Two things stand like stone | Kindness in another's trouble | Courage in your own" for Ye Wearie Wayfarer His Ballad - in Eight Fyttes, 1867, and still he rode dangerously, falling off his horse onto his head; and continued to ride in steeplechases, a favourite sport of his from childhood onwards -- one school expelling him when he wagged class to compete in races and the law nearly locking him up at seventeen when he fetched back the impounded horse that he had rented for a race -- and steeplechasing had already been imported south by the time he got there, but racing was more dangerous in Australia, he said when he wrote an article about it for the Australasian in 1868, and not fruitfully dangerous, he asserted, just bang-about for no sane reason that he could see. “Steeplechasing is of course intended to be a dangerous pastime, but the sport is scarcely enhanced by making it as dangerous as it can be made.”

This much at least will scarcely be gainsaid, our horses (to say nothing of their riders) seldom last long at cross-country work. The continual hard raps on heavy redgum or stringy bark rails, coupled with the constant jarring shocks caused by landing on a soil baked by an Australian sun, is enough to cripple the strongest knees and wear out the toughest sinews in a very few seasons.

The range of weights should be changed, he says, and the races should be shifted to a different time of year to ensure that the earth is soft. (I am finding all of this in Henry Kendall's 1892 Lindsay Gordon memoir.) The normalcy of the season needs to yield to the normalcy of malleable ground, and then – what? – gentlemen can join. “I think we should get a better and more respectable class of riders, for there are gentlemen here that would ride their own horses if they could.” You are allowed to feel that he has carried over with him, in his molten impressions, a form of society that will allow the words “gentleman,” “better,” “respectable,” “own,” to function as an argument. The gods on Olympus are unoriginally emotional but they transform into gold and can fly. Last weekend I watched an East Coast artist who was installing his work in Las Vegas put a multicoloured sculpture in front of a patterned wall and wonder if the look was “too Circus Circus,” a critique that everybody around him understood.


  1. Sooo, a Gestalt symphony with variations? a fugue on "where ever you go, there you are"? or observing from the opposite perspective, what would imagination be like if we were able to intuit everything in the spectrum in all it's manifestations? what then would we choose to remember and carry with us? or would we then be so living in the absolute moment that we would be incapable of thought or judgement and find ourselves mere cogs in a clockwork universe? the feeble sounds produced by language don't travel very far in the real world; can we ever really say that communication actually happens? or are the four basic amino acids truly the voice of a god?

    sitting on the bridge,
    eating a bowl of cold rice;
    almost time to go...

    walking abruptly
    into a long flat valley,
    the eyes take flight...

    a fat black cloudlet,
    gold medallions on the green
    a teacup, upset...


    1. I vote for the amino acids being the voice of a god. I like that one.

    2. Then every living being is an utterance of the god. Sometimes the god speaks clearly, sometimes the god mumbles. Sometimes the god misspeaks, or stutters.

      Too dangerous for gentlemen and their own horses, that's a good one.

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  2. Then the lesson from the amino acids can be, this god never speaks perfectly. You could have a perfectly expressed living thing, in theory, but you don't. On the other hand, how would you assess perfection, I mean, immortality? impeccable eyesight? permanence of some kind? or is very brief perfection enough: an unsurpassable and absolutely stunning mayfly? And imperfect things would be measuring the perfect thing, and how could they know how to measure a perfect thing? They would measure it imperfectly. You would need a number of perfect things before you had the perceiving mass that could judge a perfect thing. So we might have a perfect thing but we think it's an imperfect thing, because we can't gauge its qualities. And then it is depressed, because it thinks it is imperfect. It eats too much chocolate, it sits around moping, it gets too fat to move, it appears on The Biggest Loser, etc, and everybody criticises it. "Call yourself a mayfly!"

    The word "gentlemen" was jarring because I had been reading about his teenage carelessness, his decision to de-impound the impounded horse and so on, and it seemed likely that if he had been born into a different class of society (he didn't go to gaol because he had an influential family friend and his father paid the police) -- if he had been sent to schools that didn't teach him to appreciate Homer -- if he hadn't had that cushion -- then he would have been in serious trouble by the time he was twenty. Yet he was a gentleman.

    1. i don't know if i can get away with this, but here goes: a monk came up to joshu and asked if a dog had buddha nature? joshu said, "mu", meaning, in japan, no thing, or "wu" in chinese... the idea being that there is no perfection or judgment, there is just "things as they are"...

  3. para. #1: funny and perceptive; in my imagination, i see a wizened old lab rat futzing around with test tubes and odd chemicals, deriving four nice little amino acids(proteins) and letting them loose on an unoccupied planet just to see what would happen... probably read too much sci fi when young...
    para#2: i guess i don't get very excited about human vagaries; so much badness goes on in the world, i just dive into my badger hole and try to ignore it; futz around with my chemicals and stuff...

  4. "Om, where are the cults of yesteryear? The group that used to set up long tables in Washington Square Park with huge glass jars of human brains in formaldehyde, damaged and deranged, they said, by white sugar. The teenagers who would demonstrate rug shampooers on a corner of Eighth Street, where the pedestrians were more likely to have carpets, if at all, more cigarette-scarred than soap-sudsed. They were runaways who lived in squalor in a Times Square apartment, disciples of a former vacuum-cleaner salesman who had decoded the Bible, and rug shampooing was their spiritual discipline." --Eliot Weinberger, "The Story of Om", 1996 (included in _Karmic Traces_)