Saturday, July 24, 2010

As tears go by

You sit, weeping, on the banks of the river.
The tears bitter on your young lips.
But the river will flow a long way from here
And your tears will sweeten the tongues of the sea.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Friday, July 23, 2010

Locked Out

The day they locked the door to the temple
We learned to tell a knock from a prayer.
Now the path to heaven is covered in moss
And I return home with a beaten heart.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

The meek SHALL inherit the earth

...mostly because the bold shall push their way into heaven.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Raindrop Effect

A single raindrop in Japan today could set a kaleidoscope of butterflies fluttering through a Brazilian rain forest two weeks from now.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Maslow's Pyramid Scheme

via the NY Times' 'Idea of the Day', a call for revising Maslow's heirarchy, replacing self-actualization with parenting.

Personally, I think the idea that the apex of human desire is to be a parent is so much garbage, but I'll spare you the Nietzschian griping about the need to transcend the human, not propagate it [1], as well as the obvious criticism that parenting is already in there, two levels down, with family and belonging. And I won't even start on how using parenting as a means of self-actualization is how children end up buried under the frustrated dreams of their parents.

The larger (though perhaps subtler) problem with placing parenting on top is that it's too easy. It's always seemed to me that Maslow's heirarchy is based not so much on emotional significance as on difficulty of attainment. At any given point, the need most salient to us is the one we have the greatest hope of satisfying, so that it's only when we've satisfied an easier need do we move on to one that is more difficult. Or perhaps, given that value comes from scarcity, we value the attainment of some needs more precisely because they are harder to attain. In any case, our needs are arranged heirarchically in the increasing order of the effort required to satisfy them. Or, put another way, if a higher order need were more easily attainable than one lower down in the pyramid, why wouldn't people just leapfrog to the higher order need?

Which is why putting parenting on top doesn't work. Being a parent is too easy an accomplishment [2] to merit being at the top. It makes little sense to make the apex of human desire a state that almost anyone can achieve, and almost everyone does.

(and that almost everyone manages to feel smugly satisfied about - I'd be more willing to put parenting on top of Maslow's pyramid if more parents responded to their babies like this)


[1] Of course, Nietzsche would argue that self-actualization is a pre-requisite for parenting (see Thus Spake Zarathustra, Part I, Chapter 20)

[2] Being a good parent is exceedingly hard, but that's a whole other story.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The trouble with violent solutions

And so the Teacher took him to the cart and said, "Your first task is to untie this knot."

And the boy examined the knot for a while, and when he could see no way to undo it, he took out his sword and cut it in two.

The Teacher said, "For decades men have struggled with this knot, yet none have thought to do what you have just done."

The boy smiled.

"Now, for your second task", said the Teacher, "tie the knot back."

Friday, July 09, 2010


[Five pieces inspired by solo dance performances by the recipients of the 2008 and 2009 McKnight Fellowships that I watched at the Southern Theater tonight.]

Floor Plan

Memory: the arrangement of emptiness into space. A fugue of small adjustments. The discovery of the familiar in the placing of hands.

To hold on to what is lost join a circle of repetitions. Pretend the clock is you.

No one is fooled.

Fragment of Adam

Only a madman would bring the moon roses. Epiphanies of the not-blue. Blood, rose, moon. A bouquet of tongues folded into each other.

What remains of the lover when the petals have been spilled? Only the beast Desire, eating raw flesh. Only the current that dances on the crest of the waves , marking the place where electricity drowned.


The weight of the world is carried on bent backs. This is politics: the suffering of women, the making of hay. A raised harvest of hands from which the sun rises, singing, beating down. The dance of the tree standing silent, proud.


Every note of this suicide is a beautiful dream. A soldier dances in the uncrumpled moonlight, his uniform held at arm's length. Like an enemy. Or a lover. All is fair. All is fair.

The Lamb

Long chains of cattle cars rattle the night. The damned are brought screeching to the furnace of hell. Death has a mind of metal, he weeps from rusted eyes.

In Hiroshima, the heat of the explosion turns walls to shadow, light to ash. The breathing door shuts tight. The outstretched hand leaves the air unmarked.

The names of the victims do not matter now that masks are mass-produced. Every skull a gesture of solidarity. A million photocopies of the one human face.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Brazil in Pictures

You ask for photographs, I give you photographs. Now you may have been thinking Brazil = pictures of beaches filled with hot bikini-clad women, but you really should know me better than that. Instead I give you:

Christ on the Mountain
Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro

Beach Debris
Ilha Grande

Boat passing in the twilight
Ilha Grande

Dry Salvages
Angra dos Reis

A Wilderness of Flamingos
Parque des Aves, Iguacu

The March of Progress
Itaipu Dam

Itaipu Dam

And just to prove that it wasn't all depression and gloom:

Iguacu Falls