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October 31, 2007

everything serious is difficult; and everything is serious

If you trust in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge. You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within you the possibility of creating and forming, as an especially blessed and pure way of living; train your for that - but take whatever comes, with great trust, and as long as it comes out of your will, out of some need of your innermost self, then take it upon yourself, and don't hate anything. Sex is difficult; yes. But those tasks that have been entrusted to us are difficult; almost everything serious is difficult; and everything is serious.

Rilke - Letters To A Young Poet

Posted by amin at 11:48 PM

October 30, 2007

wisdom’s fire

When all a man’s emprises
Have neither motive nor desire for fruit, -
His works burnt up in wisdom’s fire, -
Then wise men call him learned.

When he’s cast off all attachment to the fruit of works,
Ever content, on none dependent,
Though he embark on work himself,
In fact he does no work at all.

Nothing hoping, his thought and mind restrained,
Given up all possessions,
He only does such work
As is needed for the body’s maintenance,
And so avoids defilement.

Content to take whatever chance may bring his way,
Surmounting all dualities, knowing no envy,
The same in failure and success,
Though working still, he is not bound.

Attachments gone, deliverance won,
His thoughts are fixed on wisdom:
He works for sacrifice alone,
And all the work he ever did
Entirely melts away.


Posted by amin at 8:23 PM

October 29, 2007

art is religion, religion art

In India art is religion, religion art. They are strictly utilitarian. The purpose is to inform and transform. Inform us of the way things truly are, transform us into what we might truly be.

India never had a notion, until our century, of art for art’s sake. Art was a spiritual technology. And it is really very miraculous how art makes easy what otherwise would be difficult. Now what is otherwise difficult, and the answer is, to behave decently to one another. Sometimes that’s easy but not always or the world wouldn’t be the shape it’s is in. But art, when it’s great art and really working, what it does is to transport us, lift us to a different state of consciousness from which the world looks very different, and from that different way in which the world looks we find spontaneously we want to behave decently.

Huston Smith

Posted by amin at 10:08 PM

October 28, 2007

the true teachers of humanity

It is natural for great minds – the true teachers of humanity – to care little about the constant company of others; just as little as the schoolmaster cares for joining in the gambols of the noisy crowd of boys which surrounds him. The mission of these great minds is to guide mankind over the sea of error to the heaven of truth – to draw it forth from the dark abysses of a barbarous vulgarity up into the light of culture and refinement. Men of great intellect live in the world without really belonging to it; and so, from their earlier years, they feel that there is a perceptible difference between them and other people.

Schopenhauer - Counsels and Maxims

Posted by amin at 9:31 PM

October 27, 2007

a discussion of sufferings

One may learn more profoundly and more reliably what the highest is by considering suffering than by observing achievements, where so much that is distracting is present.

A discussion of sufferings may always be profitable if it does not confine itself to the stubbornness of the affliction but is concerned whenever possible with the edification of the sufferer.

Bear in mid: your sufferings might well be called useless, and that we men can certainly be tempted to speak of useless suffering as beyond the reach of comfort. But this is only human speech. In the language of eternity, the suffering that helped you reach the highest is far from useless. Alas, it is only useless and unused when you will not let yourself be helped by it up to the highest.

Kierkegaard - Purity of Heart

Posted by amin at 4:59 PM

October 26, 2007

the busy ones

The busy ones that neither toil nor are oppressed but are just busy, think that they have escaped when they have contrived to avoid sufferings in this life; hence they do not wish to be disturbed either by hearing or thinking of that which is terrible. Yes, it is true that they have escaped. They have also escaped having any insight into life and have escaped into meaninglessness.

Above all, the one, who in truth wills the Good must not be “busy.” In quiet patience he must leave it to the Good itself, what reward he shall have, and what he shall accomplish. He dare not allow himself a single word of compromise, not a glance. He dare not ask the slightest relief from the world. He has only to give himself up to the Good and to that thing and to that person that might possibly be helped by him. He is no judge. On the contrary, he is just the opposite, he is the one who is judged. He effects a judgment only in the sense that the surrounding world becomes manifest by how it judges him.

Kierkegaard - Purity of Heart

Posted by amin at 1:36 AM

October 25, 2007

to will only one thing

Father in Heaven! What is a man without Thee! What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if he does not know Thee! What is all his striving, could it even encompass the world, but a half-finished work if he does not know Thee: Thee the One, who art one thing and who art all! So may Thou give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will, purity that wills only one thing. In prosperity may Thou grant perseverance to will one thing; amid distractions, collectedness to will one thing; in suffering, patience to will one thing. Oh, Thou that giveth both the beginning and the completion, may Thou early, at the dawn of day, give to the young man the resolution to will one thing. As the day wanes, may Thou give to the old man a renewed remembrance of his first resolution, that the first may be like the last, the last like the first, in possession of a life that has willed only one thing. . Oh, Thou that giveth both the beginning and the completion, give Thou victory in the day of need so that when neither a man’s burning wish nor his determined resolution may attain to, may be granted unto him in the sorrowing of repentance: to will only one thing.

Kierkegaard - Purity of Heart

Posted by amin at 7:03 PM

October 24, 2007

a sense of culture

Cartier-Bresson, who as a young man hunted boar and antelope in Africa before picking up a camera, intuitively noted the invasive aspect inherent in the relationship between any artist and his model when he said, “There is something appalling about photographing people. It is certainly some sort of violation; so if sensitivity is lacking, there can be something barbaric about it.”


"I call myself an artisan," he explains. "Technoscience has destroyed artisanship. Anyone with sensitivity is potentially an artist. But then you must have concentration besides sensitivity. Degas was right when he said something like 'You must copy, copy, before you are entitled to pain a radish from nature.' He meant you have to learn from others, from the past. Art for people today starts with Duchamp. But Conceptual thinking is like walking with your head instead of your legs. You need a sense of culture to cultivate yourself. It's the difference between writing a tract and literature."

Michael Kimmelman

Posted by amin at 5:15 PM

October 23, 2007


Nathan Kernan, a poet who collaborated with Joan Mitchell on a portfolio of her prints she made at the end of her life, has recounted an episode, shortly before she died, when she asked him to select poems to read at a friend’s funeral. When he read Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Entrance” to her, she said, “Save that one for me.” So he did, for her memorial.

With your eyes, which in their weariness
Barely free themselves from the worn-out threshold,
You lift very slowly one black tree
And place it against the sky: slender, alone.
And you have made the world. And it is huge
And like a word which grows ripe in silence.
And as your will seizes on its meaning,
Tenderly your eyes let it go.

Michael Kimmelman - The Accidental Masterpiece

Posted by amin at 1:10 PM

October 22, 2007

care for human life

From my early youth I persistently held to this purpose – that I should make it my duty to care for human life. The study of medicine seemed to point more clearly to such a career than did the study of law, as being more appropriate to the end I had in view, and as of more common concern to all the world in every age. I deemed medicine a profession of sincere character than law, and a pursuit relying rather upon reason and nature’s everlasting law, than upon the opinion of men.


I prefer solitude to companions, since there are so few men who are trustworthy, and almost none truly learned. I do not say this because I demand scholarship in all men- although the sum total of men’s learning is small enough; but I question whether we should allow anyone to waste our time. The wasting of time is an abomination.

Cardan - Book of My Life

Posted by amin at 2:02 AM

October 21, 2007

the just man

In truth, no one has a greater claim to our veneration than he who possesses the drive to and strength for justice. For the highest and rarest virtues are united and concealed in justice as in an unfathomable ocean that receives streams and rivers from all sides and takes them into itself. The hand of the just man who is empowered to judge no longer trembles when it holds the scales; he sets weight upon weight with inexorable disregard for himself, his eye is unclouded as it sees the scales rise and fall, his voice is neither harsh nor tearful when he pronounces the verdict.

Nietzsche - Untimely Meditations

Posted by amin at 4:45 AM

October 20, 2007

works of art are of an infinite solitude

Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them. - Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn't matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn't force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!

Rilke - Letters To A Young Poet

Posted by amin at 8:31 PM

October 19, 2007

take your destiny upon yourself

I can’t give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to the question of whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted.

To keep growing, silently and earnestly, through your whole development; you couldn’t disturb it any more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to questions that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest hour, can perhaps answer.

Rilke - Letters To A Young Poet

Posted by amin at 12:00 AM

October 18, 2007

immerse in your own world

Write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty - describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world's sounds - wouldn't you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attentions to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. - And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it.

Rilke - Letters To A Young Poet

Posted by amin at 11:55 PM

October 17, 2007

go into yourself

You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose.

Rilke - Letters To A Young Poet

Posted by amin at 12:28 AM

October 16, 2007

most experiences are unsayable

Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism: they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings. Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us to believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious experiences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.

Rilke - Letters To A Young Poet

Posted by amin at 12:56 PM

October 15, 2007

the world offered itself to his chisel

Rodin has acted as a signpost to all the Arts in this confused age. Someday men will understand what it was that made this great artist so great, namely, that he was a worker who desired nothing but to participate with all his powers in the humble and difficult existence of his medium. This implied a certain renunciation of life; but just by the practice of such renunciation did he win life: for the world offered itself to his chisel.

Rilke - Auguste Rodin

Posted by amin at 12:41 PM

October 14, 2007

the innermost being of the mystic

Sufism means that you possess nothing and nothing possesses you.
Sufism means that God causes you to die to yourself and gives life in Him.
Sufism is staying at the lover’s door when you are driven away.
The Sufi is absent from himself and present with God.
God speaks out of the innermost being of the mystic while he is silent.

Posted by amin at 8:16 PM

October 13, 2007

sweet mulberries

I'll tell you something that happened to me. It was just after I got married. We had all kinds of troubles. I was so fed up with it that I decided to end it all. One morning, before dawn I put a rope in my car. My mind was made up. I wanted to kill myself. I set off for Mianeh. I reached the mulberry tree plantations. I stopped there. It was still dark. I threw the rope over a tree but it didn't catch hold. I tried once, twice but to no avail. So then I climbed the tree and tied the rope on tight. Then I felt something soft under my hand. Mulberries. Deliciously sweet mulberries. I ate one. It was succulent, then a second and third. Suddenly, I noticed that the sun was rising over the mountaintop. What sun, what scenery, what greenery! All of a sudden, I heard children heading off to school. They stopped to look at me. They asked me to shake the tree. The mulberries fell and they ate. I felt happy. Then I gathered some mulberries to take them home. My wife was still sleeping. When she woke up, she ate mulberries as well. And she enjoyed them too. I had left to kill myself and I came back with mulberries. A mulberry saved my life.

Kiarostami - Taste of Cherry

Posted by amin at 12:09 PM

October 12, 2007

to leave a mark for posterity

Amateurs and professionals are motivated to take pictures for pretty much the same two basic reasons: to save a part of the world for themselves, and to same a part of themselves for the world. The inherent poignancy in any photograph, whether a Stieglitz or a family memento, entails both the private memory it tries to preserve, by stopping time, and also the hope, however tiny or even unconscious on amateur’s part, that something interesting might result in expression on the face of a beloved relative or in some other serendipitous gem captured when the camera’s shutter is released. Memory and hope, past and future: snapping a picture with a Kodak, like painting a picture with a brush and canvas, is a way to leave a mark for posterity, a trace of oneself.

Michael Kimmelman - The Accidental Masterpiece

Posted by amin at 12:01 PM

October 11, 2007

a real and permanent blessing

Our life is like a journey on which, as we advance, the landscape takes a different view from that which it presented at first, and changes again, as we come nearer. This is just what happens – especially with our wishes. We often find something else, nay, something better than what we were looking for; and what we look for, we often find on a very different path from that on which we began a vain search. Instead of finding, as we expected, pleasure, happiness, joy, we get experience, insight, knowledge – a real and permanent blessing, instead of a fleeting and illusory one.

Schopenhauer - Counsels and Maxims

Posted by amin at 10:58 PM

October 10, 2007


The person making the confession is not like a servant that gives account to his lord for the management which is given over to him because the lord could not manage all or be present in all places. The all-knowing One was present at each instant for which reckoning shall be made in the account. The account of what is done is not made for the lord’s sake but for the servant’s sake, who must even render account of how he used the very moment of rendering the account. Nor is the person confessing like one that confides in a friend to whom sooner or later he reveals things that the friend did not previously know. The all-knowing One does not get to know something about the maker of the confession, rather the maker of confession gets to know about himself.

Kierkegaard - Purity of Heart

Posted by amin at 1:04 AM

October 9, 2007

man should fear god

Yes, to be sure, God knows that man’s highest consolation is that God is love and that man is permitted to love Him. But let us not become too forward, and foolishly, yes, blasphemously, dismiss the tradition of our fathers, established by God Himself: that really and truly a man should fear God. This fear is known to the man who is himself conscious of being an individual, and thereby is conscious of his eternal responsibility before God. For he knows, that even if he could with the help of evasions and excuses, get on well in this life, and even if he could by this shady path have gained the whole world, yet there is still a place in the next world where there is no more evasion than there is shade in the scorching desert.

Kierkegaard - Purity of Heart

Posted by amin at 2:49 PM

October 8, 2007

eternal vocation

I do not know whether it is true that at each man’s birth two angels are born, his good and his bad angel. But this I do believe that at each man’s birth there comes into being an eternal vocation for him, expressly for him. To be true to himself in relation to this eternal vocation is the highest thing a man can practice, and, as that most profound poet has said: “Self-love is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.” Then there is but one fault, one offense: disloyalty to his own self or the denial of his own better self.

Kierkegaard - Purity of Heart

Posted by amin at 3:50 PM

October 7, 2007

let us live cheerfully

Let us live cheerfully, although there be no lasting joy in mortal things, whose substance is evanescent, inane, and vacuous. But if there is any good thing by which you would adorn this stage of life, we have not of such been cheated – rest, serenity, modesty, self-restraint, orderliness, change, fun, entertainment, society, temperance, sleep, food, drink, riding, sailing, walking, keeping abreast of events, meditation, contemplation, education, piety, marriage, feasting, the satisfaction of recalling an orderly disposition of the past, cleanness, water, fire, listening to music, looking at all about one, talks, stories, history, liberty, continence, little birds, puppies, cats, consolation of death, and the common flux of time, fate, and fortune, over the afflicted and favored alike. There is a good in the hope for things beyond all hope; good in the exercise of some art in which one is skilled; good in meditation upon the manifold transmutation of all nature and upon the magnitude of earth.

If free choice of place should be given me, then, I should move my abode to Aquileia or Porto Venere as delightful places to live; or outside Italy, I should choose Eryx in Sicily or Dieppe on the Dieppe River, or Tempe’s Vale in Thessaly. For my age does not carry me as far as Cyrene’s shores, nor to Mount Zion in Judea; nor does it urge me to seek Ceylon’s Isle near India. These regions may bear happy men; they cannot make men happy.

Cardan - Book of My Life

Posted by amin at 12:11 PM

October 6, 2007

particularity and universality

It is well known that Plato was the first to require of philosophical study, in a really profound sense, that its object should be apprehended, not in their particularity, but in their universality, in their genus, in their own nature and its realization: inasmuch as he affirmed that the truth of things did not consist in individual good actions, true opinions, beautiful human beings or works of art, but in goodness, beauty, truth themselves.

Hegel - Lectures on Aesthetics

Posted by amin at 12:38 PM

October 5, 2007


O let us live in joy, in love amongst those who hate! Among men who hate, let us live in love.

O let us live in joy, in health amongst those who are ill! Among men who are ill, let us live in health.

O let us live in joy, in peace amongst those who struggle! Among men who struggle, let us live in peace.

O let us live in joy, although having nothing! In joy let us live like spirits of light!

The Dhammapada

Posted by amin at 7:35 PM

October 4, 2007

true consolation

On such days the King was filled with benign awareness. Had a painter of that time been looking for some hint about what heaven was like, he couldn’t have found a more perfect model than the calmed figure of the King, as it stood, in one of the high windows of the Louvre, under the cascade of its shoulders. He was turning the pages of the little book by Christine de Pisan, which is called The Path of Long Study and was dedicated to him. He wasn’t reading the learned polemics of that allegorical parliament which had undertaken to find out what sort of prince would be worthy of ruling over the whole world. The book always opened for him at the simplest passages: where it spoke of the heart which, for thirteen years, has stood like a retort over the fire of grief, its only function to distill the water of bitterness for the eyes; he understood that true consolation only began when happiness had vanished and was gone forever.

Rilke - The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Posted by amin at 12:18 AM

October 3, 2007

it's got to do with intention

Quality doesn't mean deep blacks and whatever tonal range. That's not quality, that's a kind of quality. The pictures of Robert Frank might strike someone as being sloppy--the tone range isn't right and things like that--but they're far superior to the pictures of Ansel Adams with regard to quality, because the quality of Ansel Adams, if I may say so, is essentially the quality of a postcard. But the quality of Robert Frank is a quality that has something to do with what he's doing, what his mind is. It's not balancing out the sky to the sand and so forth. It's got to do with intention.

Elliott Erwitt

Posted by amin at 11:47 PM

October 2, 2007

composition and subject

I've always been concerned about composition, up to the point that it serves the subject, where it's not for its own sake. Where it allows the viewer to make a very immediate and direct, powerful connection with the image, but not get hung up on the cleverness or self-consciousness of the composition for its own sake.

James Nachtwey

Posted by amin at 10:40 PM

October 1, 2007

the production of true art

Art begins when a man, with the purpose of communicating to other people a feeling he once experienced, calls it up again within himself and expresses it by certain external signs.

There are many conditions necessary for a man to create a true object of art. It is necessary that the man stand on the level of the highest world outlook of his time, that he has experienced a feeling and has the wish and opportunity to transmit it, and that he has, with all that, a talent for some kind of art. It is very seldom that all these conditions necessary for the production of true art comes together.

Tolstoy - What Is Art?

Posted by amin at 10:26 AM