mindfulness nonattachment oneness
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And see Insight Dice for a new experiment in Mindfulness + Nonattachment + Oneness!

Emptiness, Hope, Silence, Humility

"The Mystical Catholic Tradition of Jon Fosse" is a fascinating discussion of themes in the writings of the 2023 Nobel Prize winner for literature. Author Christopher Beha describes Jon Fosse's work in terms of emptiness, hope, silence, and humility — e.g., this quote from Septology:

“… life isn’t something you can understand, and death isn’t either, actually to put it in other words it’s like in a weird way both life and death are things you can understand but not with thoughts …”

Beha concludes:

“… It may be that those who feel most powerfully the presence of God in their lives likewise feel most powerfully the impossibility of adequately capturing that presence in words. And it may be that those for whom God is not a symbol or a cudgel but a lived reality find this reality most mysterious. …”

Much to ponder in this.

(NYT gift-link; cf Tolerance and Pacifism (2001-10-08), Place of Conversion (2020-08-07), Michael Gerson, R.I.P. (2022-11-19), ... ) - ^z - 2023-12-09

- Saturday, December 09, 2023 at 20:12:36 (EST)

Quiet and a Less Full Plate

Quiet and a
Less Full Plate

... what a dear, wise, fragile friend suggested would do the most to help her ...

(cf Finding the Quiet (2009-12-05), Calm Technique (2011-05-07), Mantra - Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2015-02-21), ...) - ^z - 2023-12-05

- Tuesday, December 05, 2023 at 15:16:05 (EST)

Helped, Heard, or Hugged

Do you want to be
helped, heard or hugged?

The New York Times essay by Jancee Dunn, "When Someone You Love Is Upset, Ask This One Question", suggests that "Helped, Heard, or Hugged?" is a skillful way to characterize what somebody needs:

... since sometimes people want assistance in problem-solving, sometimes they need to vent, and sometimes they just crave a reminder that they are loved!

(cf Twenty Second Hugs (2023-08-15), ...) - ^z - 2023-12-01

- Friday, December 01, 2023 at 12:46:14 (EST)

Book of Animal Ignorance

Trivia tidbits on a hundred species of beasts – that's what The Book of Animal Ignorance is about. It's by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, who offer a couple of pages of factoids on creatures alphabetized from aardvark to worm. There are cute cartoons, sidebars, historical anecdotes, asides on husbandry, and lots of mildly risqué details of reproductive physiology and practices. Entertaining, light, well-written, fast, fun.

(cf Abject Reptile (2008-07-29), Rural Life (2009-08-26), Ayotochtli (2022-10-09), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-25

- Saturday, November 25, 2023 at 20:55:02 (EST)

Perpetual Aspirations

(cf Pause and Breathe (2014-07-25), Aspiration, not Expectation (2014-12-12), Learning to Pause (2015-08-10), Aspire without Attachment (2015-12-28), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-21

- Tuesday, November 21, 2023 at 08:08:20 (EST)

History of Sex

Some fascinating books about zoology, the biological evolution of gender, comparative primate physiology, human culture and customs, sexual selection, sociobiology, and other aspects of life on this planet:

... the idea of microbial sexuality did not enter their thinking. That changed in 1904, when Albert Francis Blakeslee (1874–1954) obtained his PhD at Harvard working on the bread mold, Mucor mucedo. ... The work earned him a fellowship to travel to Germany, where he spent two years at Halle studying fungi. He much enjoyed those years except for one incident when he was arrested for sweeping horse manure into a paper bag. The policeman saw mischief afoot and Blakeslee could not convince him that he was sweeping up manure to look for new varieties of fungi. ...

... as well as more general musings about complexity and fragility:

Chapter 17:

Life can be resilient and vulnerable at the same time. We rejoice at stories of Olympic medalists who overcome severe injury or a childhood marked with tragedy. At the same time, nature can dish out genetic disorders resulting in births incompatible with life — severely limiting in organ function or leaving an adult with chronic illness. What makes life so vulnerable is the nature of genetic material. Something as simple as altering or removing one nucleotide pair out of some three billion present in a sperm or an egg can result in one of those debilitating or lethal genetic conditions. That doesn’t happen if one pulls a single brick out of a multistoried building. It won’t collapse no matter where that brick is removed. ...

... what wonders exist on this Earth!

(cf Light of Evolution (2006-04-24), Darwin on the Face of Nature (2006-09-01), Darwin on the Tree of Life (2006-10-01), Darwin in Conclusion (2007-01-05), Herodotus Misunderstands Evolution (2007-06-02), Brief History of the Female Body (2023-10-29), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-20

- Monday, November 20, 2023 at 20:57:08 (EST)

Financial Functions

How to think better about long-term budgetary issues? Maybe define a couple of simple financial functions. Let A = assets ($), I = income ($/year), and S = spending ($/year). Then:

Thus, one might estimate, "We can keep spending at our current rate for 5 years, after which we will have to cut back to 80%." That puts things into a more useful perspective, and clarifies the timescale and amount of thrift needed during temporary tough times. It doesn't consider changes over time in price levels, varying tax brackets, interest rates, etc — but for most purposes, in ordinary circumstances it gets into the right ballpark. Useful!

(cf Money, Mechanism, Meaning (2001-02-15), Money Wisdom (2001-05-20), No Retrenchment (2002-08-25), Improving Trend (2010-02-08), Shiller Price Earnings Ratio (2021-03-29), Harry Browne Rules of Financial Safety (2019-12-24), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-15

- Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at 11:00:23 (EST)

Bookshops and Bonedust

Like Legends and Lattes, Travis Baldree's prequel novel Bookshops and Bonedust follows orc-warrior Viv as she grows and learns and becomes a better person. There's beautiful prose, plot twists aplenty, and characters who come alive. Echoes of Terry Pratchett ricochet through some scenes; others are delightfully unique. A bakery and a bookstore — along with monsters and wizards and a bit of obliquely hinted passion — what's not to like?

(cf Legends and Lattes (2023-04-05), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-10

- Friday, November 10, 2023 at 22:45:03 (EST)

Wilmer Mills, R.I.P.

Poet Wilmer Mills died in 2011 of liver cancer. Poetry magazine editor Don Share eulogizes him in "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning":

Wil was many things: a carpenter, songwriter, husband and father, poet. He made things with his hands, and he made a life with his spirit. I met him because he made poems, and when I saw him last year in Tennessee I took it for granted that I would see him again, and hear his beautiful voice again – and that there would be more poems. ...

Wil was gentle and serious, but he was also – it helps to remember at this sad moment – a poetic wit in the most classical sense, capable of poems that are rueful and well-wrought, but also wry. The last poem of Wil's that we published, "Nigella," is a poem that, wherever I go, readers mention to me with great pleasure. ...

and then shares "Nigella":

She minces squid and a marinated scallion,
Mixes rice with shrimp and olive paste. . . .
Hope for the English meal, though half Italian
With her jet black hair and her elastic waist.

Unlike the other television cooks,
She brings to life a lobster that was dead
With common spices, her exotic looks,
And recipes she dreamed about in bed.

In "A Gift for Adoration: Celebrating the life and words of poet Wilmer Mills" Jeff Hardin, a friend of Wil, reveals the secret origin of that poem:

Aware of my crush on Nigella Lawson, the cooking-show host, he delighted in writing a poem about her, just to poke fun at me, provoke a reaction. When the poem was published by Poetry magazine, I feared he might write a whole series of poems about my other crushes, beginning, of course, with Salma Hayek.

Jeff paints a poetic picture of his deep Christian love for Wil, including:

One time, years ago, he showed me a poem called “Confessions of a Steeplejack,” which later appeared in his collection, Light for the Orphans. Far down in the poem was this magical line: “the men who built old churches all have died.” I got goose bumps when he read that line aloud. I told him he had to make that line the opening of the poem. He argued with me, of course—that was Wil’s nature. He was stubborn, ornery, hard-headed to a fault. He claimed I didn’t understand what he was trying to do in the poem. I told him he was full of himself, that a reader encountering that line first would hear more deeply the heart of the poem. The change would require a lot of revision, a lot of hard work—the entire poem would have to be rebuilt from the ground up. “Maybe you’re not up for it,” I teased him. Then I told him that I’d beat the living crap out of him if he didn’t take my advice. He was taller, had a longer reach, but I warned him that I was scrappy. We both laughed. Sometime later, he rewrote the poem, starting with that magical line. It’s one of the gems in that collection, but then all of them are gems. Or “keepers,” as Wil would say.

Earlier this year, before we knew of Wil’s diagnosis, I sent him an email of encouragement about our writing. I often joked about how we had to help each other rebuild our shattered egos. Though we both have finished books that are yet unpublished, and though lack of recognition seems to be our mutual fate, I wanted to hold up between us an idea I had never really been able to form completely:

God’s really our only reader, the only one that matters anyway. I just think of writing as one of the ways I can follow what Phillipians 4:8 says: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

All the rest of it—the recognition, my spot on the stage, the next book publication—would be nice, but in the end, thinking on “these things” really is an astounding source of joy. It may have to be enough. Well, it is enough.

Wil wrote back with an enthusiastic “Amen!” I think he was finding that joy to be deeper and deeper the older he got. Selfishly, I wish he could have written forty more years’ worth of poems. Perhaps he would have moved from the Proverbs and Lamentations his poems often were to something like his own brand of Psalms. I don’t want to be selfish, though. I want to stand in awe of the words he wrote. Like him, once upon a time, they never existed. Now they do, inexplicably present in a fullness that didn’t exist before.

God’s Really Our Only Reader
Wilmer Mills (1969-2011)

(cf Chronos and Kairos (2022-04-06), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-10

- Friday, November 10, 2023 at 08:48:20 (EST)

On Borrowed Time

Wise thoughts, well stated: Anne Lamott's "It’s good to remember: We are all on borrowed time" (in the Washington Post, 30 Oct 2023). Some short samples:

So many indignities are involved in aging, and yet so many graces, too. The perfectionism that had run me ragged and has kept me scared and wired my whole life has abated. The idea of perfectionism at 60 is comical when, like me, you’ve worn non-matching black flats out on stage. In my experience, most of us age away from brain and ambition toward heart and soul, and we bathe in relief that things are not worse. When I was younger, I was fixated on looking good and impressing people and being so big in the world. By 60, I didn’t care nearly as much what people thought of me, mostly.

And anyway, you know by 60 that people are rarely thinking of you. They are thinking about their own finances, family problems and upper arms.


... My dad said after his cancer diagnosis that we are all on borrowed time, and it is good to be reminded of this now and again. It’s a great line, and the third-most-popular conversation we oldies have with each other, after the decline of our bodies and the latest senior moments: how many memorial services we go to these days.

Some weeks, it feels as though there is a sniper in the trees, picking off people we have loved for years. It breaks your heart, but as Carly Simon sang, there is more room in a broken heart. My heart is the roomiest it has ever been.

I do live in my heart more, which is hard in its own ways, but the blessing is that the yammer in my head is quieter, the endless questioning: What am I supposed to be doing? Is this the right thing? What do you think of that? What does he think of that?

My parents and the culture told me that I would be happier if I did a certain thing, or stopped doing that, or tried harder and did better. But as my great friend Father Terry Richey said, it’s not about trying harder; it’s about resisting less. This is right up aging’s alley. Some days are sweet, some are just too long.

... yes, a bit too first-person, a bit too comic-punchline-setup-delivery, a bit too small — yet also, totally good. Thank you, Ms Lamott, for the gentle reminders.

(cf Headlights and Decisions (1999-06-27), Help, Thanks, Wow (2013-02-25), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-09

- Thursday, November 09, 2023 at 10:51:53 (EST)

Cheerful Toki Pona

"Een taal met 137 woorden. De vrolijke kunsttaal Toki Pona." (in English, "A language with 137 words. The cheerful artificial language Toki Pona.") is a Dutch-language article in the journal Onze Taal, Feb-Mar 2022 issue. Near the beginning author Marc van Oostendorp summarizes the spirit of Toki Pona:

Toki Pona, the sweetest, most beautiful and funniest language there is, has existed for more than twenty years. A language in which it seems impossible to have a heated argument, and in which no threat or extremely boring speech has ever been formulated. Toki Pona sparkles and invites you at night, when you cannot sleep, to consider how you can formulate your thoughts in this special artificial language and to hear what it sounds like – so that you fall asleep with sounds on your lips that no one else understands.

He goes on to describe a bit of the history, vocabulary, and grammar of Toki Pona – as well as its real purpose:

Toki Pona's raison d'etre still lies where Sonja Lang once put it: by formulating your thoughts in a minimalist language, you force yourself to consider what you are actually doing. That is a game, the outcome of which is always a win, a form of meditation that also yields something: a beautiful sentence that you at least understand. It is a private language that you share with a few thousand others around the world and a form of art that reconciles you with existence for the duration of that one sentence. We can use language that comforts.

(translations above are lightly-edited from the Google Translate version of the Dutch article; cf Toki Pona (2022-12-18), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-06

- Monday, November 06, 2023 at 08:05:48 (EST)

How to Stay Sane in Brutalizing Times

David Brooks in his New York Times op-ed essay "How to Stay Sane in Brutalizing Times" suggests:

And examine yourself:

Are you becoming more humane or less? Are you a person who obsesses over how unfairly you are treated, or are you a person who is primarily concerned by how you see and treat others?

(NYT gift-link – and cf Prudent Leadership (2008-09-17), What Moderates Believe (2017-08-26), It's a Big Beautiful World (2021-05-03), Most People Seek to Be Good (2023-06-19), David Brooks on Being Human (2023-10-21), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-05

- Sunday, November 05, 2023 at 07:55:03 (EST)

Analytic Grading Standards

How to rate the quality of an analytic report? Here's a "badge card" summary version of one set of criteria from a decade or two ago, followed below by a long-form version.

Badge Card

Main Point ClearJudgments, Not Just FactsEvidence for JudgmentsSections Advance StoryPrecise Language
Beyond the ObviousProvide ContextNo ContradictionsOne Point per SectionConcise
"So What?"Anticipate QuestionsExplain ReliabilityConsistent TicsNo Typos
Note Changed AssessmentAlternate ViewsFree of BiasNo RedundancyNo Awkward Constructions
Opportunities for the USForward LookingIdentify GapsGraphics Aid Text
Provide WarningConfidence Levels


Long Form

MessageAnalyticConvincingEffectively StructuredWell-Written
Main point prominent and clearly statedMakes judgments; does not just provide factsProvides sufficient and compelling evidence to support judgmentsEach section, paragraph, and sentence advances the storyUses precise language, employing concrete examples and avoiding vague, ambiguous terms and jargon
Main point goes beyond what is obvious to a generalistProvides necessary context: key drivers; appropriate historical context; comparisons that provide perspective scale; whether development is new or consistent with ongoing trendFree of actual or apparent contradictions (to include consistency between title, summary, text, scope note, background note)One main point per section, per paragraphIs concise
Main point has a "so what?" for the USAnticipates a critical reader's questions and answers them in the textReliability of information clearly articulated (e.g., corroboration, access)Tics are consistent with the paragraphs to which they are attachedFree of grammatical errors, typos, and misspellings
If change from previous analytic line, explains what factors changed that resulted in amending the previous judgmentMakes differing views/alternative explanations clear, providing basis and implications of the differenceFree of bias, value laden terms, or advocacyAvoids redundancy, groups like with likeAvoids awkward constructions
Provides opportunities for the U.S.Is forward lookingIdentifies gaps, potential impact on the analytic line, and efforts to fill themContains graphics that effectively complement the written product
Provides warningExpresses confidence level in judgment


(cf I Am the Very Model of a Modern Intel Analyst (2018-04-08), How to Share Hard Ideas (2021-04-12), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-04

- Saturday, November 04, 2023 at 06:53:53 (EDT)

Picking Up Trash

"The Joy of Picking Up Other People’s Trash" by Jazmine Hughes — a poetic paen to doing good rather than getting angry and telling others what they should be doing. Sample bit:

I don’t trash-pick as often as I’d like to — usually when I’m faced with doing something far more unappealing, or whenever I need to work off some bad karma. It’s a terrific hobby for me, an anxious putterer with a holier-than-thou bent who writes better when my hands are occupied with something else. (I’m not alone — the humorist David Sedaris is a much more accomplished writer and trash picker than me.) When I do it, though, Bluetooth headphones in my ears and a weed gummy dissolving in my stomach, solicitousness and gratification ripple through me.

... a tiny loving-kind gift to the World — including the Self!

(cf Picking Up Litter (2011-10-25), Tikkun Olam (2019-12-11), ...) - ^z - 2023-11-03

- Friday, November 03, 2023 at 10:24:46 (EDT)

For back issues of the ^zhurnal see Volumes v.01 (April-May 1999), v.02 (May-July 1999), v.03 (July-September 1999), v.04 (September-November 1999), v.05 (November 1999 - January 2000), v.06 (January-March 2000), v.07 (March-May 2000), v.08 (May-June 2000), v.09 (June-July 2000), v.10 (August-October 2000), v.11 (October-December 2000), v.12 (December 2000 - February 2001), v.13 (February-April 2001), v.14 (April-June 2001), 0.15 (June-August 2001), 0.16 (August-September 2001), 0.17 (September-November 2001), 0.18 (November-December 2001), 0.19 (December 2001 - February 2002), 0.20 (February-April 2002), 0.21 (April-May 2002), 0.22 (May-July 2002), 0.23 (July-September 2002), 0.24 (September-October 2002), 0.25 (October-November 2002), 0.26 (November 2002 - January 2003), 0.27 (January-February 2003), 0.28 (February-April 2003), 0.29 (April-June 2003), 0.30 (June-July 2003), 0.31 (July-September 2003), 0.32 (September-October 2003), 0.33 (October-November 2003), 0.34 (November 2003 - January 2004), 0.35 (January-February 2004), 0.36 (February-March 2004), 0.37 (March-April 2004), 0.38 (April-June 2004), 0.39 (June-July 2004), 0.40 (July-August 2004), 0.41 (August-September 2004), 0.42 (September-November 2004), 0.43 (November-December 2004), 0.44 (December 2004 - February 2005), 0.45 (February-March 2005), 0.46 (March-May 2005), 0.47 (May-June 2005), 0.48 (June-August 2005), 0.49 (August-September 2005), 0.50 (September-November 2005), 0.51 (November 2005 - January 2006), 0.52 (January-February 2006), 0.53 (February-April 2006), 0.54 (April-June 2006), 0.55 (June-July 2006), 0.56 (July-September 2006), 0.57 (September-November 2006), 0.58 (November-December 2006), 0.59 (December 2006 - February 2007), 0.60 (February-May 2007), 0.61 (April-May 2007), 0.62 (May-July 2007), 0.63 (July-September 2007), 0.64 (September-November 2007), 0.65 (November 2007 - January 2008), 0.66 (January-March 2008), 0.67 (March-April 2008), 0.68 (April-June 2008), 0.69 (July-August 2008), 0.70 (August-September 2008), 0.71 (September-October 2008), 0.72 (October-November 2008), 0.73 (November 2008 - January 2009), 0.74 (January-February 2009), 0.75 (February-April 2009), 0.76 (April-June 2009), 0.77 (June-August 2009), 0.78 (August-September 2009), 0.79 (September-November 2009), 0.80 (November-December 2009), 0.81 (December 2009 - February 2010), 0.82 (February-April 2010), 0.83 (April-May 2010), 0.84 (May-July 2010), 0.85 (July-September 2010), 0.86 (September-October 2010), 0.87 (October-December 2010), 0.88 (December 2010 - February 2011), 0.89 (February-April 2011), 0.90 (April-June 2011), 0.91 (June-August 2011), 0.92 (August-October 2011), 0.93 (October-December 2011), 0.94 (December 2011-January 2012), 0.95 (January-March 2012), 0.96 (March-April 2012), 0.97 (April-June 2012), 0.98 (June-September 2012), 0.99 (September-November 2012), 0.9901 (November-December 2012), 0.9902 (December 2012-February 2013), 0.9903 (February-March 2013), 0.9904 (March-May 2013), 0.9905 (May-July 2013), 0.9906 (July-September 2013), 0.9907 (September-October 2013), 0.9908 (October-December 2013), 0.9909 (December 2013-February 2014), 0.9910 (February-May 2014), 0.9911 (May-July 2014), 0.9912 (July-August 2014), 0.9913 (August-October 2014), 0.9914 (November 2014-January 2015), 0.9915 (January-April 2015), 0.9916 (April-July 2015), 0.9917 (July-September 2015), 0.9918 (September-November 2015), 0.9919 (November 2015-January 2016), 0.9920 (January-April 2016), 0.9921 (April-June 2016), 0.9922 (June-July 2016), 0.9923 (July-September 2016), 0.9924 (October-December 2016), 0.9925 (January-February 2017), 0.9926 (March-April 2017), 0.9927 (May-June 2017), 0.9928 (June-October 2017), 0.9929 (October-December 2017), 0.9930 (December 2017-March 2018), 0.9931 (March-April 2018), 0.9932 (May-July 2018), 0.9933 (July-September 2018), 0.9934 (September-December 2018), 0.9935 (December 2018-February 2019), 0.9936 (February-April 2019), 0.9937 (April-July 2019), 0.9938 (July-August 2019), 0.9939 (August-November 2019), 0.9940 (November 2019-February 2020), 0.9941 (February-June 2020), 0.9942 (June-August 2020), 0.9943 (August-November 2020), 0.9944 (November 2020-March 2021), 0.9945 (March-July 2021), 0.9946 (July-September 2021), 0.9947 (September 2021-January 2022), 0.9948 (December 2021-August 2022), 0.9949 (August 2022-April 2023), 0.9950 (April-August 2023), 0.9951 (August-November 2023), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2023 by Mark Zimmermann.)