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Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Comfort of Cannot

The other day blogger John Biesnecker posted about "The Joys of Having a Forever Project," a project that he describes as one that "despite its audacity and seeming impossibility, simply will not put itself to bed. . . . that is hard to imagine actually embarking on, but whose mental cost of abandonment is far too high to even consider."

The next day he wrote another blog post about "Why the Forever Project Hit a Nerve," as it had--getting over 45,000 hits in 18 hours and becoming a focus on Hacker News and Reddit.

When I (finally) found out about Biesnecker's forever project, I was immediately reminded of the quote by Henry Moore: "The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do.”

I have loved this Henry Moore quote for years, have turned to it when I have wondered why I spend so much of my life writing poems, never getting written what I really want to write. And I turn to this quote when I wonder if I have wasted my life, which I wonder quite a bit...

There is something that cheers me to work on what I know is impossible but what I know I will never stop trying to do.

And then I started thinking about the beauty in all the things that cannot be:
"I cannot seem to feel alive unless I am alert," Charles Bowden writes in his recent book, Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), "and I cannot feel alert unless I push past the point where I have control."

". . . The aim is to become / something broken / that cannot be broken further . . "
from Jorie Graham’s Overlord

"Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature because we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery we are trying to solve. " Max Planck

The Pieces That Fall To Earth                           Kay Ryan

One could
almost wish
they wouldn't;
they are so
far apart,
so random.
One cannot
wait, cannot
abandon waiting.
The three or
four occasions
of their landing
never fade.
Should there
be more, there
will never be
enough to make
a pattern
that can equal
the commanding
way they matter.

Your eyes are on your side, for you cannot see your eyes, and your eyes cannot see themselves. Eyes only see things outside, objective things. If you reflect on yourself, that self is not your true self any more. You cannot project yourself as some objective thing to think about. The mind which is always on your side is not just your mind, it is the universal mind, always the same, not different from another’s mind. It is Zen mind. It is big, big mind. The mind is whatever you see. Your true mind is always with whatever you see. Although you do not know your own mind, it is there—at the very moment you see something, it is there. This is very interesting. You mind is always with the things you observe. So you see, this mind is at the same time everything. Shunryu Suzuki, Zen’s Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Iris Murdoch once wrote, “The bereaved cannot communicate with the unbereaved.”
…you cannot always be happy, but you can almost always be focused, which is the next best thing.  Winifred Gallagher, Rapt

40. Wind cannot blow the wind away, nor water wash away the water. From James Richardson's Vectors: Aphorisms & Ten-Second Essays
207. Sometimes I hate beauty because I don’t have a choice about loving it. I must be wrong in this, but whether because I take freedom too seriously, or love, I cannot tell. From James Richardson's Vectors: Aphorisms & Ten-Second Essays
The prose poem is the result of two contradictory impulses, prose and poetry, and therefore cannot exist, but it does. This is the sole instance we have of squaring the circle. Charles Simic, The Monster Loves His Labyrinth
Contemporary poets have for the most part forgotten about symbolism, especially its one great insight that Being cannot be stated but only hinted at.  Charles Simic, The Monster Loves His Labyrinth

Girder                                                 Nan Cohen
The simplest of bridges, a promise
that you will go forward,
that you can come back.
So you cross over.
It says you can come back.
So you go forward,
But even if you come back
then you must go forward.
I am always either going back
or coming forward. There is always
something I have to carry,
something I leave behind.
I am a figure in a logic problem,
standing on one shore
with the things I cannot leave,
looking across at what I cannot have.


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