“What will the mind do, each morning, waking?”

The opening paragraphs of The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin constitute one of the most beautiful and poetic metaphors for the subconscious mind that I’ve ever read:

Current-borne, wave-flung, tugged hugely by the whole might of ocean, the jellyfish drifts in the tidal abyss. The light shines through it, and the dark enters it. Borne, flung, tugged from anywhere to anywhere, for in the deep sea there is no compass but nearer and farther, higher and lower, the jellyfish hangs and sways; pulses move slight and quick within it, as the vast diurnal pulses beat in the moon-driven sea. Hanging, swaying, pulsing, the most vulnerable and insubstantial creature, it has for its defense the violence and power of the whole ocean, to which it has entrusted its being, its going, and its will.

But here rise the stubborn continents. The shelves of gravel and the cliffs of rock break from water baldly into air, that dry, terrible outerspace of radiance and instability, where there is no support for life. And now, now the currents mislead and the waves betray, breaking their endless circle, to leap up in loud foam against rock and air, breaking…

What will the creature made all of seadrift do on the dry sand of daylight; what will the mind do, each morning, waking?

I’m glad that Le Guin had a long life and that her pen gleaned her marvelously teeming brain to good purpose, but I’m sad that she’s gone. RIP.

A spider’s web is like the mind

In his essay “The Judgment of the Birds,” Loren Eiseley describes an orb-weaver spider’s web like this:

There were a couple of iridescent green beetle cases turning slowly on a loose strand of web, a fragment of luminescent eye from a moth’s wing and a large indeterminable object, perhaps a cicada, that had struggled and been wrapped in silk. There were also little bits and slivers, little red and blue flashes from the scales of anonymous wings that had crashed there.
Some days, I thought, they will be dull and gray and the shine will be out of them; then the dew will polish them again and drops hang on the silk until everything is gleaming and turning in the light. It is like a mind, really, where everything changes but remains, and in the end you have these eaten-out bits of experience like beetle wings.

Courtesy Pixabay.

The essay appears in The Star Thrower (find in library). On the back of my copy, there’s a blurb from Ray Bradbury in which he predicts that the book “will be read and cherished in the year 2001” and go to the moon and Mars someday. It hasn’t left Earth, as far as I know, but it is still loved and cherished in 2017.

Book review: Teach Yourself to Meditate

Teach Yourself to Meditate in 10 Simple Lessons: Discover Relaxation and Clarity of Mind in Just Minutes a Day, by Eric Harrison

This is far and away the most approachable book on meditation that I’ve ever read, as demonstrated by the fact that I’m actually meditating as a result of reading it. Relaxation and focus are things that your mind and body naturally do, Eric Harrison tells us, and here’s how you can clear the space for these things to happen.Continue reading →

A season in the dark

One of the most fascinating manifestations of human creativity is the way we embellish our experience of events in the natural world. Who could have predicted the Yule log, the Nativity scene, and all the other complex structures of custom, cuisine, meaning, and imagination that we built in response to the winter solstice and the ways our bodies adapted to it?Continue reading →

Four kinds of introversion?

One of the most interesting things about personality to me is the range of expression of different traits. My introverted behavior and preferences are similar to but not identical to those of introverted friends, for example, and the reasons have to do with other personality characteristics as well as different personal histories. So I was interested in this article from Science of Us about an attempt to identify various kinds of introversion.Continue reading →

Troublesome terms in psychology

A group of authors has put together an article that gives an excellent primer on problematic terminology used in psychology and psychiatry. Although it’s aimed at students and teachers in the psychological sciences, I think it’s also very useful for anyone who reads (or writes) about the brain and mind, because it addresses common misconceptions that are perpetuated by frequently used words or phrases and points out areas where terminology hasn’t kept up with what we’ve learned. The discussion of terms having to do with statistics can be somewhat technical, but many of the terms are the kind of thing you see all the time in the news (e.g., “a gene for X,” “hard-wired,” “antidepressant medication”), and for each term there’s an explanation of what the problem is (whether it’s inaccurate, often misused, ambiguous, or an outright oxymoron). The article can be read online or downloaded for free. Highly recommended.

Book spine poem: Man and Time

What finer way to spend a Saturday morning in summer than browsing the bookshelves for good lines for a poem? Here’s the result:

Man and Time

The immense journey (the fool’s progress).
A sense of the future: the eternal frontier,
Untrodden peaks and unfrequented valleys
Beyond the blue horizon.
Always coming home.

book spine poem 3

With gratitude to the authors: J.B. Priestley, Loren Eiseley, Edward Abbey, J. Bronowski, Tim Flannery, Amelia Edwards, E.C. Krupp, Ursula Le Guin