Ultimate mystery


Ultimately, Nagel echoes John Updike’s reflection on the possibility of “permanent mystery”:

It is perfectly possible that the truth is beyond our reach, in virtue of our intrinsic cognitive limitations and not merely beyond our grasp in humanity’s present stage of intellectual development.

Though Mind and Cosmos isn’t a neat package of scientific, or even philosophical, answers, it’s a necessary thorn in the side of today’s all-too-prevalent scientific reductionism and a poignant affirmation of Isaac Asimov’s famous contention that “the most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.”

The more creative the person…. the more anxiety and guilt are potentially present.


Rollo May’s The Meaning of Anxiety (public library), originally published in 1950:

We can understand Kierkegaard’s ideas on the relation between guilt and anxiety only by emphasizing that he is always speaking of anxiety in its relation to creativity. Because it is possible to create — creating one’s self, willing to be one’s self, as well as creating in all the innumerable daily activities (and these are two phases of the same process) — one has anxiety. One would have no anxiety if there were no possibility whatever. Now creating, actualizing one’s possibilities, always involves negative as well as positive aspects. It always involves destroying the status quo, destroying old patterns within oneself, progressively destroying what one has clung to from childhood on, and creating new and original forms and ways of living. If one does not do this, one is refusing to grow, refusing to avail himself of his possibilities; one is shirking his responsibility to himself. Hence refusal to actualize one’s possibilities brings guilt toward one’s self. But creating also means destroying the status quo of one’s environment, breaking the old forms; it means producing something new and original in human relations as well as in cultural forms (e.g., the creativity of the artist). Thus every experience of creativity has its potentiality of aggression or denial toward other persons in one’s environment or established patterns within one’s self. To put the matter figuratively, in every experience of creativity something in the past is killed that something new in the present may be born. Hence, for Kierkegaard, guilt feeling is always a concomitant of anxiety: both are aspects of experiencing and actualizing possibility. The more creative the person, he held, the more anxiety and guilt are potentially present.

Hope and Fear



In a sentiment that calls to mind Kierkegaard’s insistence that anxiety powers rather than hinders creativity, Descartes writes:

When hope is so strong that it altogether drives out fear, its nature changes and it becomes complacency or confidence. And when we are certain that what we desire will come to pass, even though we go on wanting it to come to pass, we nonetheless cease to be agitated by the passion of desire which caused us to look forward to the outcome with anxiety. Likewise, when fear is so extreme that it leaves no room at all for hope, it is transformed into despair; and this despair, representing the thing as impossible, extinguishes desire altogether, for desire bears only on possible things.


Negative capability



“Negative Capability” — the willingness to embrace uncertainty, live with mystery, and make peace with ambiguity. Triggered by Keats’s disagreement with the English poet and philosopher Coleridge, whose quest for definitive answers over beauty laid the foundations for modern-day reductionism, the concept is a beautiful articulation of a familiar sentiment — that life is about living the questions, that the unknown is what drives science, that the most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.

Keats writes:

Several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously — I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after facts and reason

My lost,loved ones


I saw, while half asleep,  her face was gone
She faded, like the mist does at the dawn,
From the gallery of my  once loved ones

Ungrounded by the loss, fearful, forlorn,
Skinless like a worm  picked off a lawn,
I saw, while half asleep,  her face was gone

Do not leave me, do not my heart scorn
Lost and gone are my beloved ones
I  am human in both ghost and form

Heart constricted, lungs  pant out my pain
Haunted and bereft of human warmth
I saw, while half asleep,  her face was gone

I shall have no mother but that one
Now I have become a dried out corm
Lost and gone are my much loved ones

Like a little leaf from its plant torn
Gnawed by slugs,  fragmented  till undone
I saw, while half asleep,  all trace was gone
Of the gallery of my lost, loved ones

Embargo.. the meaning





1 : an order of a government prohibiting the departure of commercial ships from its ports

2 : a legal prohibition on commerce

3 : stoppage, impediment; especially : prohibition

4 : an order by a common carrier or public regulatory agency prohibiting or restricting freight transportation

Did You Know?
Embargoes may be put in place for any number of reasons. For instance, a government may place a trade embargo against another country to express its disapproval with that country’s policies. But governments are not the only bodies that can place embargoes. A publisher, for example, could place an embargo on a highly anticipated book to prevent stores from selling it before its official release date. The word embargo, dating from around the year 1600, derives via Spanish embargar from Vulgar Latin imbarricare, formed from the prefix im- and the noun barra (“bar”).

Entertaining daffodils

How d’ you start writing? I don’t know.
Once I was by Lidl’s in the snow
A song-line came uncalled into my throat
Oh,Lord, I saw an ink blot on my coat

Rorsach is a name we all  can hear
If we are unstable in our fear.
Yet seeing visions in a blob of ink
Would make me a psychotic in a blink

We are all unstable  till we’re dead
If you are a statue, don’t see red!
I get angry with my muse at night
She sends me thoughts when I turn off the light

The one I got by Lidl’s made me hunt
I had to create ten more to put in front
And then I had to write the bitter end
For cliches are so useless round the bend

And when it happens at 11 pm
I feel like saying, can’t you come again?
I don’t know what some parts might really mean
If they come to me when I am rapt in dream.

I write the ideas down on bags of flour
On novels which to read I then aspire
I write them on my wrist in my own blood
But only when I’m feeling I’ve gone mad

If I search the house for paper scraps
I find some with the ordnance survey maps
Those precious maps we bought for holidays
Not knowing we’d no time left in our Play.

I find scraps on my bed or in the hall
And some take flight and end up on the wall
If I glued them onto a large card
I’d have a collage with a message shared

Oh,start where e’er you want, like Coleridge
Or admire Hopkins and his saviour Robert Bridge
Maybe it is Bridges,I forget,
Entertaining daffodils I met.

How on earth do you start a poem?

Some comments

Daphne Milne
October 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm
It’s an untidy sort of process – sometimes a line or a title comes as a gift and the poem almost writes itself. Usually it’s start writing first thing on waking up [well opening the eyes] and BEFORE I put on my glasses, like making the first mark on the blank canvas get something down to work with – or not. Always, always a notebook for the odd remark or overheard comment that could be the start of something. I have found that I have lost several useful things or titles by trying to remember them. ditto the notebook by the bed. The things forgotten may not have been any use but I am always convinced they would have been.

Henry Seltzez
October 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm
Okay, I’ll consider the question with the respect it deserves.

A word, phrase, line, something someone says, a song, a sight, a sound, a feeling, a thought, in fact, practically any random event can be the stimulus for me. Usually though what is put down quickly needs reshaping through a transformative poetics – lifted off the page – through patient editing and reworking as most of my pieces, unless they come straight out of the hand in one piece (which doesn’t happen often) – seem to lie dead on the page. The trouble then being, of course, halting the transformative poetics before the poem is stillborn or overcooked.

That’s my take on the writing process, take it as you will.

How to write and how not to write poetry


Advice for blocked writers and aspiring poets from a Nobel Prize winner’s newspaper column.
In the Polish newspaper Literary Life, Nobel Prize winning poet Wislawa Szymborska answered letters from ordinary people who wanted to write poetry. Clare Cavanagh, translates these selections.

The following are selections from columns originally published in the Polish newspaper Literary Life. In these columns, famed poet Wislawa Szymborska answered letters from ordinary people who wanted to write poetry. Translated by Clare Cavanagh, they appeared in slightly different form in our Journals section earlier this year.

To Heliodor from Przemysl: “You write, ‘I know my poems have many faults, but so what, I’m not going to stop and fix them.’ And why is that, oh Heliodor? Perhaps because you hold poetry so sacred? Or maybe you consider it insignificant? Both ways of treating poetry are mistaken, and what’s worse, they free the novice poet from the necessity of working on his verses. It’s pleasant and rewarding to tell our acquaintances that the bardic spirit seized us on Friday at 2:45 p.m. and began whispering mysterious secrets in our ear with such ardor that we scarcely had time to take them down. But at home, behind closed doors, they assiduously corrected, crossed out, and revised those otherworldly utterances. Spirits are fine and dandy, but even poetry has its prosaic side.”

To H.O. from Poznan, a would-be translator: “The translator is obliged to be faithful not only to the text. He must also reveal the full beauty of the poetry while retaining its form and preserving as completely as possible the epoch’s spirit and style.”

To Grazyna from Starachowice: “Let’s take the wings off and try writing on foot, shall we?”

To Mr. G. Kr. of Warsaw: “You need a new pen. The one you’re using makes a lot of mistakes. It must be foreign.”

To Pegasus [sic] from Niepolomice: “You ask in rhyme if life makes cents [sic]. My dictionary answers in the negative.”

To Mr. K.K. from Bytom: “You treat free verse as a free-for-all. But poetry (whatever we may say) is, was, and will always be a game. And as every child knows, all games have rules. So why do the grown-ups forget?”

To Puszka from Radom: “Even boredom should be described with gusto. How many things are happening on a day when nothing happens?”

To Boleslaw L-k. of Warsaw: “Your existential pains come a trifle too easily. We’ve had enough despair and gloomy depths. ‘Deep thoughts,’ dear Thomas says (Mann, of course, who else), ‘should make us smile.’ Reading your own poem ‘Ocean,’ we found ourselves floundering in a shallow pond. You should think of your life as a remarkable adventure that’s happened to you. That is our only advice at present.”