Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf's job of trimming the herd to fit the range.
He has not learned to think like a mountain.
Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.
~ Aldo Leopold (1949)
Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life
Find out what is the absolute minimum you need to do to get the job done, and then polish the hell out of that.
He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.
— Charles H. Spurgeon
What was love? A wind whispering among the roses, no, a yellow phosphorescence in the blood. Love was a hot devil’s music that set even the hearts of old men dancing. It was like the marguerite, which opens wide as the night comes on, and it was like the anemone, which closes at a breath and dies at a touch.
Such was love.
It could ruin a man, raise him up again, and then brand him anew; it could fancy me today, you tomorrow, and someone else tomorrow night, that’s how fickle it was. But it could also hold fast like an unbreakable seal and blaze with unquenchable passion until the hour of death, because it was eternal. So, what was the nature of love?
Ah, love is a summer night with stars in the sky and fragrance on earth. But why does it make young men follow secret ways, and old men stand on tiptoe in their lonely rooms? Alas, love turns the human heart into a mildewed garden, a lush and shameless garden in which grow mysterious, obscene toadstools.
Doesn’t it make monks prowl by night through closed gardens and press their eyes to the windows of sleepers? And doesn’t it possess nuns with foolishness and darken the understanding of princesses? It can knock a king’s head in the dust, making his hair sweep the road as he whispers lewd words to himself, laughing and sticking out his tongue.
Such was the nature of love.
No, no, again it was very different, it was like nothing else in the whole world. It came to earth on a spring night when a young man saw two eyes, two eyes. He stared and saw. He kissed two lips—it was as though two flames met in his heart, a sun flashing at a star. He fell into a pair of arms, and he heard and saw no more in the whole wide world.
Love is God’s first word, the first thought that sailed through his brain. When he said, “Let there be light!” there was love. And everything that he made was very good, and no part thereof did he wish undone. And love became the world’s beginning and the world’s ruler; but all its ways are full of flowers and blood, flowers and blood.
- Knut Hamsun - from Victoria
finish each day and be done with it. you have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
- ralph waldo emerson
The way to love someone is to lightly run your finger over that person’s soul until you find a crack, and then gently pour your love into that crack.
- keith miller
My favourite poem in the world:
The Agricultural Show, Flemington, Victoria, by Frank Wilmot (Furnely Maurice)
The lumbering tractor rolls its panting round,
The windmills fan the blue; feet crush the sand;
The pumps spurt muddy water to the sound,
The muffled thud and blare of a circus band.
For this is the other life I know so little of,
A life of fevered effort, of wool and tortured love!
Why didn’t somebody tell me ere ’twas too late to learn
This life with its fire and vigour, by brake and anguished burn,
Gorgeous and ghastly and rare,
Flourished out there, out there?
But I just sit in a tram and pay my fare;
Me, an important man in the job I hold.
But there, there are the roots of the hills of gold
That my clawed fingers tell.
Why didn’t somebody say before I was old
That there were brumbies to break and these store mobs to muster
When I was bred to the clang of a tram bell,
Answered an ‘ad’ and took up a shopman’s duster?
Here is a world that stands upon sun and rain
In a humid odour of wool where the sheafing grain
Falls like pay in the palm.
But I rode out the calm
In a regular job and felt the years fall by
To a pension and senile golf; that’s the whole tale;
But there’s another world in the white of a bullock’s eye
Strained as he horns a rail.
I, with an unshod outlaw between my knees
Dream, but awake to the old ‘Fares please, fares please.’
The long low bellowing of yarded herds,
The song of sweating horsemen on the plains,
The outlaw’s mating scream,
Drought and the offal-birds,
Yellowing lemons and longed-for rains—
That was the dream.
Here Science like a helpful angel lifts
The drag, straightens the backs and shortens shifts;
While in the town
Men are the engine’s slaves
And, drunk with Science, pull the lever down
And stagger into fragmentary graves.
The tractors pant their tract,
The combs of the reapers thrust
Their yielding paths and the stooks are stacked
While clumsy thumbs adjust
The flayer’s beating thongs
And evening with tired songs
Sinks down upon the dust.
What load do the geldings carry?
What load do the bullocks drag
Worse than the loads of fear that harry
The city salesman with his bag?
Salesmen and bullocks stagger in the chains
And their red nostrils snuffle at the dust,
Lashed through life and death in the frightful lust
Of urgency that coils in men’s mad brains.
For there are many worlds to taunt our faith;
The fabled cattle-hills, the green wool-plains;
But fair or fabulous, fact or thin as a wraith
All drift into feverish sums of losses and gains.
Man’s god is what he gets his living by;
No doubt this nuzzling litter of auburn swine
Came like an old Venetian argosy
Laden with all the elegant stuffs
For shining hose and scented ruffs,
Its bellying topsails gleaming in the sun
Along the horizon line—
To some bush-whiskered father of a run.
This lustful stallion, Pegasus without wings,
Is a feather-legged temple in a desert place;
This sleek ring-nostrilled bull is King of Kings,
And doe-eyed Jerseys mumble Heaven’s grace.
The cloying odour of the milking sheds,
The docking days, the branding days, perchance
The springing pasterns of the thoroughbreds
Are all mere counters of deliverance.
Many the urgent calls of the cocky’s day;
What of his play?
‘Within,’ the Mongolian Giant is on sight—
And here’s his boot to whet the appetite.
The spruiker with his flowery talk enjoins
Me and my likes to view the abortive things
That nestle under the marquee’s greasy wings—
A patient, worn-out woman collects the coins.
Not tired snakes nor dancing dogs,
Nor green and human frogs,
Nor ladies bearded or fat,
Nor shark nor seven-teated cow,
Nor feat of horsemanship
Could stir a calm like that,
Put a white tremor on her lip
Or raise the cynically disillusioned brow.
Worn out no doubt is she
With the joy of looking, free,
Too long at each inane monstrosity
Till there’s no more wonder
On earth or under
But wayback Dan closes a week’s carouse
With one long, sixpenny look at a three-tailed mouse.
I’ve heard the wagon-wheels grinding by ruts and stumps
Scouring the black night for a possible camp;
I’ve watched the breeching flop on the horses’ rumps
In the green light of a wavering bottle-lamp.
And I have come at last on a sweet home and a bed
And woke to see through the broken blind a munching cow at the bail,
To hear, while the magpies yodelled in the slow dawn’s searching spread,
The sharp spurt of the milk into the pail.
The things of the body pass,
And these are of the day;
The things that nourish
The body flourish
In weather and sun
But soon, like flowers, they’re done
And leave no husk.
But the mind’s things pass
Not readily away;
The mind goes like a camel in the dusk
Nibbling the grass
Between the stones of the tombs
Or gorging among the sheaves
Of blotted leaves
That fall from the housed looms.
So while the aeons run
Hearts leap and brains contrive;
Honey is of the sun
But there’s no sun in the hive.
The morning pastures of the spirit spread
Their dewy carpets for anointed feet,
But the lashed herd and the shearing shed,
These are man’s clothes and meat.
For there are many worlds to plague our hopes,
Crumbling owl-haunted belfries of ‘perhaps,’
And lantern-lighted alleys whence the stranger gropes
His way to the Andean slopes,
And the old stone stairs of faith scooped out by a myriad feet,
Green at the base, where timeless water laps.
Though there are many worlds, none is complete.
For all the yellowing melons of marvellous size,
And dogs that pen their sheep from the drover’s eyes,
And the hew and thew
Of the beanstalk axemen climbing to the blue,
We all turn homeward dusty and overcast
By a sense of cattle-hills without a name;
Carrying bags of samples of the vast
Uncomprehended regions whence they came.
Drenched with the colour of unexperienced days
We go our different ways;
Stallions loose on the plains; apples of Hesperides;
Quiet lakes and milking sheds; ‘Fares please, fares please.’
…the social system is taking on a form in which finding out what you want to do is less and less of an option because your life is too structured, organised, controlled and disciplined. The US had the first real mass education (much ahead of Europe in that respect) but if you look back at the system in the late 19th century it was largely designed to turn independent farmers into disciplined factory workers, and a good deal of education maintains that form. And sometimes it’s quite explicit – so if you’ve never read it you might want to have a look at a book called The Crisis of Democracy – a publication of the trilateral commission, who were essentially liberal internationalists from Europe, Japan and the United States, the liberal wing of the intellectual elite. That’s where Jimmy Carter’s whole government came from. The book was expressing the concern of liberal intellectuals over what happened in the 60s. Well what happened in the 60s is that it was too democratic, there was a lot of popular activism, young people trying things out, experimentation – it’s called ‘the time of troubles’. The ‘troubles’ are that it civilised the country: that’s where you get civil rights, the women’s movement, environmental concerns, opposition to aggression. And it’s a much more civilised country as a result but that caused a lot of concern because people were getting out of control. People are supposed to be passive and apathetic and doing what they’re told by the responsible people who are in control. That’s elite ideology across the political spectrum – from liberals to Leninists, it’s essentially the same ideology: people are too stupid and ignorant to do things by themselves so for their own benefit we have to control them. And that very dominant ideology was breaking down in the 60s. And this commission that put together this book was concerned with trying to induce what they called ‘more moderation in democracy’ – turn people back to passivity and obedience so they don’t put so many constraints on state power and so on. In particular they were worried about young people. They were concerned about the institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young (that’s their phrase), meaning schools, universities, church and so on – they’re not doing their job, [the young are] not being sufficiently indoctrinated. They’re too free to pursue their own initiatives and concerns and you’ve got to control them better.
We mustn’t merely learn from the people who are like us, who think like us, who agree with us. We also need to learn from people who make us uncomfortable, with whom the friction in a look or a word is so abrasive that the very air between us blurs. The people who get under our skin and make our comfort zone fade away.
All of us living western lifestyles, are bound to take more than our share of the fabric of life. Only when we start living for ourselves instead of the approval of others, will we be able to listen to the voice that tells us what is good, and what is sufficient.
Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
- Ernest Hemingway
Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright on drums. I love this world.
Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, and it is yours.
― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese,
harsh and exciting;
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
- Mary Oliver, Dream Work