Ode to Friday


 “For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labour is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte, Hermann Hesse (German, 1877-1962)




Images: Top image is the Pittosporum tree on the corner of Alexandra Avenue and Walsh Avenue, South Yarra this week, wearing its full coat of blossom and the intoxicating “summer’s-coming-Coppertone-suncream” fragrance; bottom image is a wattle tree (acacia pycnantha) next to the Yarra River with its glorious golden pom-poms of fuzz.



Sunday reading for you: A thunderous stet!

Paris Review

When I used to read literary fiction, Vladimir Nabokov was up there in my pantheon. Martin Amis said it best of Nabokov:

The variety, force and richness of Nabokov’s perceptions have not even the palest rival in modern fiction. To read him in full flight is to experience stimulation that is at once intellectual, imaginative and aesthetic, the nearest thing to pure sensual pleasure that prose can offer.

The following blog post is from 2010 and concerns Nabokov being the nightmare interview subject for The Paris Review. It still makes me laugh. I hope it makes you smile this Sunday …

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Underneath it

For Cait

People stand inside a makeshift bomb shelter in Makiyivka, Ukraine

When you’ve said all of the
bad things and all of the good things
you haven’t been saying,
you will find that what you’ve really
been withholding is, “I love you.”

~ Werner Erhard


Image: People take refuge in makeshift bomb shelter in Makiyivka, Ukraine by Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP

Ode to Friday: Rumi


Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

~ Unnamed, Rumi (Persian, 1207-1273), translated by Coleman Banks


Image: Le Blanc Seing, 1965 by Rene Magritte

Several strangers

Ed Freeman photography

Collecting reviews from three decades has brought me face to face with several strangers who went by my name. Jane Austen was right when she wrote, “Seven years … are enough to change every pore of one’s skin, and every feeling of one’s mind.”

Thus, Claire Tomalin, the English author and reviewer, wrote on gathering together pieces of her work from the previous 30 years. I had a similar experience the other night when I had a phone conversation with someone from my high school after 35 years of silence. He talked about many strangers with curiously familiar names, several of them myself.

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Self as clearing


You could say it [transformation] is a shift in the basis of experience from self as point of view, or from self as direct experience, to self as self, or self as simply being. True transformation is the recovery by the self of the generating principles with which self creates the self. Transformation is self as self – the space in which being occurs …

~ Werner Erhard’s Ideas and Applications


Image: These flowers come to visit every year: the jasmine, a crimson camellia and a pink camellia. This year, when I open my bedroom window, the jasmine comes right in, tendril first, to be with me. I’m a clearing for flowers.

Ode to Friday: Rumi


Has anyone seen the boy who used to come here?
Round-faced troublemaker, quick to find a joke, slow
to be serious. Red shirt,
perfect coordination, sly,
strong muscles, with things always in his pockets: reed flute,
ivory pick, polished and ready for his talent.
You know that one.

Have you heard stories about him?
Pharaoh and the whole Egyptian world
collapsed for such a Joseph.
I’d gladly spend years getting word
of him, even third or fourth-hand.

~ Red Shirt, Rumi (Persian, 1207-1273), translated by Coleman Banks


Image: Ronchamp chapel by Le Corbusier, photograph: Henning Thomsen

Live blog from the Money seminar

Chinese Finger Trap 2

For weeks we’ve been enquiring about the “money trap” and in the last session the trap was fully sprung.

“You’re never getting out of the money trap,” to paraphrase the seminar leader, “so give up the struggling, the working-towards, the overcoming.” All striving is in the realm of “more, better, different”, ie, just different versions of the same, different versions of the past. Like Chinese fingercuffs, the more one resists the tighter the trap’s hold. The only way to free oneself is to push into it. Go into the trap, not away from it.

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Being Cause in the Matter


This is the place from which I and many friends strive to live our lives: being responsible. It’s taken me many years to hear something new in the word responsibility, something other than “blame”. It requires listening with the “ears of the heart”, to use Father Mike’s phrase. Can you hear it too?

Originally posted on Werner Erhard Quotes:

To take a stand that you are cause in the matter contrasts with it being your fault, or that you failed, or that you are to blame, or even that you did it.

That you are the cause of everything in your life is a place to stand from which to view and deal with life – a place that exists solely as a matter of your choice. The stand that one is cause in the matter is a declaration, not an assertion of fact. It simply says, “you can count on me (and I can count on you) to look and deal with life from the perspective of my being cause in the matter.”

When you have taken the stand (declared) that you are cause in the matter of your life it means that you give up the right to assign cause to the circumstances, or to others. That…

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