Saturday, May 12

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

"Hunting . . . is a good example of 'work' thst by its very nature had all the characteristics of flow. For hundreds of thousands of years chasing down game was the main productive activity in which human were involved. Yet hunting has proven to be so enjoyable that many people are still doing it as a hobby, after all practical need for it has disappeared. The same is true of fishing. The pastoral mode of also has some of the freedom and flowlike structure of earliest 'work.' Many contemporary young Navajos in Arizona claim that following their sheep on horseback over the mesas is the most enjoyable thing they ever do. Compared to hunting or herding, farming is more difficult to enjoy. It is a more settled, more repetitive activity, and the results take much longer to appear. The seeds planted in spring need months to bear fruit. To enjoy agriculture one must play within a much longer time frame than in hunting: while the hunter may choose his quarry and method of attack several times a day, the farmer decides what crops to plant, where, and in what quantity only a few times each year. In order to succeed, the farmer must make lengthy preparations, and endure chancy periods of waiting helplessly for the weather to cooperate. It is not surprising to learn that populations of nomads or hunters when forced to become farmers, appear to have died out rather than submitting themselves to that ostensibly boring existence. Yet many farmers also eventually learned to enjoy the more subtle opportunities of their occupation."

--fr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow [New York: Harper, 1990]

Thursday, May 10

Fernando Pessoa

"I suppose I'm what they call a decadent, one whose spirit is outwardly defined by those sad glimmers of artificial eccentricity that incarnate an anxious and artful soul in unusual words. Yes, I think that's what I am, and that I'm absurd. That's why, in the spirit of a classical writer, I try at least to place into an expressive mathematics the decorative sensations of my substituted soul. At a certain point in my written cogitation, I no longer know where the centre of my attention lies -- whether in the scattered sensations I attempt to describe like enigmatic tapestries, or in the words which absorb me as I try to describe the act f describing and which, absorbing me, distract me and cause me to see other things. Beset by lucid and free association of ideas, images and words, I say what I imagine I'm feeling as much as what I'm really feeling, and I'm unable to distinguish between the suggestions of my soul and the fruits born of images that fell from my soul to the ground, nor do I know whether the sound of a certain discordant word or the rhythm of an incidental phrase might not be diverting me from the already hazy point, from the already stowed sensation, thereby absolving me from thinking and saying, like long voyages designed to distract us. And all of this, which even as I'm telling it should stir in me a sense of futility, failure and anguish, gives me only wings of gold. As soon as I start talking about images, even if it's to say they should be used sparingly, images are born in me; as soon as I stand up from myself to repudiate something I don't feel, I start feeling that very thing, and even my repudiation becomes a feeling trimmed with embroidery; as soon as I want to abandon myself to the wind, having lost faith in my efforts, a placid phrase or a sober concrete adjective suddenly, like sunlight, makes me clearly see the dormantly written page before me, and the letters drawn in my ink are an absurd map of magic signs. And I lay myself aside like my pen, and wrap myself in the flowing cape of obliviously leaning back, far away, intermediate and submissive, doomed like a castaway drowning within sight of marvellous islands, engulfed by the same purplish seas that he had so truly dreamed in distant beds."

--Fernando Pessoa
tr. Richard Zenith

# 387 fr. The Book of Disquiet [Penguin Books, 2003]

Works in Progress, 53

getting in touch with the cable guys
swinging the birches
testing the waters
pushing radical music agendas

rewriting the country's labor laws
seeing a psychic map of our obsessions
building electoral coalitions that will win
emphasizing the overlapping interests of the affluent

cleaning up after Gustav, Hanna, Ike
cleaning up after Bush, after Cheney
rewriting the history of consciousness
blurring the possibilities

supporting any effort to reunionize
failing to generate meaningful responses
becoming one with the centipede in oneself
getting some good poems out of it

slumbering well until after nightfall
setting this brain of mine afire
reaching irritably after fact & reason
shunning easy consolations

subsidizing extraction industries
helping women victimized by male violence
doubling the sign-up bonus for volunteers
supporting the troops while doubting the war

counting the dead
waiting for them to break silence
descending the steeps of the soughing twilight
assimilating foreign cultures

demilitarizing outer space
completing the application and mailing it back
reviewing our few remaining options
showing off poetry's "extreme generosity"

maneuvering pothole-sized cars around
designing more effective marketing campaigns
speaking solely in terms of racial justice
examining burial pits and naked skulls

getting out the vote
fetching water from the well
educating the masses
confessing to our personal demons

clearing minefields from past wars
laying them for wars yet to come
staying executions, pardoning the innocent
blurring the boundaries, the borders

reading maps in the dark with the top light off
folding them all back up rightly
cramming them into the glove compartment
getting moving again in the right direction

cooling our wardheelers
voting early and often
keeping our fingers crossed
paying full-price for our journey

assembling a glossary of oft-used phrases
keeping silent while the tea is poured
maintaining an inventory of our beliefs and unbeliefs
finding time to clean up around the house

making the world safe for gerontocracy
clearing the minefields and cow pastures
converting analog files to digital
rereading An Anatomy of Melancholy

fighting the high cost of prescription meditations
comparing the works of Proust, Gide, and Sartre
putting something aside for a rainy day
asking for another user's name and password

scanning the shelves for news
cleaning up after the latest tsunami
trying not to think about elephants
looking forward to end-of-life decisions

reassessing works already completed
exterminating the brutes
chipping ice from the windshield of the car
rebuilding the old road from Fredrikstad to Skjeberg

getting more bang for the buck
setting something aside for that rainy day
worry about what to really worry about
getting back to the Bang, the Big One

teaching the Chinese how to speak English
learning about Putin, reading his soul
cashing in on Homeland Security
making that list of things to make lists of

deciding whether or not to escape to Canada
enhancing revenue without raising taxes
learning more about hematology--its life, its times
mapping talk-free zones in public parks

making the punishment fit the criminal
recovering our census-takers
fitting the glove to the velvet hand
dialing for (four) dollars

laying mines at the Prose/Poetry border
celebrating the rebirth of death
transferring funds to overshore accounts
counting the years from start to finish

unpacking after the last long/short journey
saying goodbye to the undead
finding trusty pocket tools for indoor use
pleasing others in letters

recouping ancient losses
moving data from there to over here
scanning the text as rapidly as possible
keeping Kandinsky in mind

replacing old maps with new ones
preparing the cat for summer camp
paying the bills in advance
brushing up on our Spanish

stealing stones from the temple
building a nearby church
stealing stones from the church
building a nearby bank

filling the sandbags
repairing the levee
spreading plutocracy around the world
counting and bagging the dead

cleaning up after Rita, Katrina
remembering we must pay our bills
washing windows of opportunity
trying to find the snows of yesteryear

covering up the latest cover-up
rereading all we've reread as of now
reviewing the plays of Pinter, their silences
uncovering the cover-up of the cover-up

comparing apples to orangutans
criminalizing conservative politics
finding new ways to profit from disasters
rescuing painting from the dead end of Pop Art

robbing Peter and Paul to pay Mark and Luke
waking up to a brand-new day
forgetting that old Underwood we once loved
overcoming inertia and ignorance

freeing the slaves
admonishing those who do evil
stamping out political brushfires
democratizing the US

closing the books on the old year
balancing the checkbook (first time ever)
remembering to reshape my face (yet again)
changing course (as always)

securing the seaports
transfiguring the night of the prom
seeking an audience with His Holiness, the President
bombing the Middle East into freedom and democracy

telling civil war from your garden-variety insurgency
recognizing our deepest needs, wants, and wishes
finally getting that poodle to the groomer
learning to live on self-serve island

keeping an eye on the military-industrial complex
reseeding the lawn for the nth and final time
staking out claims on the future
moving the party toward a more radical center

restoring the Gulf to its pre-US condition
administering flu shots to every chicken in every pot
studying studies on the results of previous studies
reducing the pulse of alien shadows

reducing light pollution in our major cities
rescuing the castaways
creating unwanted database gaps
accommodating carbon dating to Biblical truth

bombing our way to an "endurable" peace
retelling the tales of bygone wars
seeing what might be learned there
measuring the manatee

returning that defective broadband router
speaking kindly of those we no longer respect
giving up keeping up as a modus vivendi
putting our thoughts into action

sticking to issues that directly affect us
bemoaning the cautiousness of today's athletes
co-opting the arguments of their opposition
welcoming Latino immigrants at the border

throwing our hats in the ring
translating our actions into thought
seeing that Anna Nicole Smith achieves sainthood
rehanging Saddam and getting it right

paying off our debts, incurring new ones
getting the MS of the new book out into the mail
preparing ourselves for our press conference
seeking an end to cross-pollination

hammering out justice, all over this land
disturbing the neighbors by night, by day
enjoying privacy at our place in the country
transmuting dross into gold

pronouncing the names of the dead
bringing Elian back to his Miami relatives
rejuvenating all those pre-aged youngsters out there
throwing our hats in the ring

finding our way to the next whiskey bar
extending that fence to both east and west coasts
revising our previously revised revisions
building the ark to end arks

preventing its dividing itself up
realizing our potential potential
spending more time with the family
waking up to unreality

finding the photos of the old house
rowing the boat ashore
thinking things through again
keeping the guard up

parsing the genome
flinging sweets down the staircase
exhaling only when necessary
tearing myself away

parsing the genome
fleshing out the diagram
refilling the lungs, yet again
reacquainting ourselves


getting the genie back
refreshing the screen
barking the dog
crying over spilled beans

making up our minds
testing the waters
arousing the base
exchanging dollars


Lamantia, Primavera

It is the oaken village that falls, splintered through a dust of visage where I gallop, no more flint than air, to think of cabalist hope: a universal alteration in the germination of planets.

But, the mystagogic chairs smashed in seed wars, I'm conceived again by the imponderables of total conjunction--even my shadow with another's that left its organs (sex-ploding suns) some distance from the translations of matter into an image.

This way the poem becomes an open sluice for darkness. Only the most obscure body is the brightest unity.

I catch hold of a train inside an iris.

Time at the window of maternal cosmetic, the high-heeled foot garlanded by a silken phallus spectates the forest where the uterine furnishings sink into drawers at bay from that twilight flashing in a mirror of dressing and undressing.

The preternatural identities beat the clouds from their barks, a child's chance look at the raging smolder of roses. Nearing sleep, this same wind rustles the void of blood-stained horses (my first cabals) whose galaxy dissolves with a kiss the victorious rescue of the palpable shadow streaming stars, her face: this bed, the undulant phantom: her hips.

We ride wooden horses
Always a desert marries the boiling water.

--Philip Lamantia