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The differences between Lao-tzu and Confucius. If you want to survive, become useless, unnecessary to everyone. Act through inaction. And what is the Tao? It is impossible to say, its essence is vagueness and inexpressibility. However, how can you know how to serve gods if you do not know how to serve people? And until you know about the living how can you presume to know about the dead? 

Can Taoism be applied politically? What would a society, a culture, a human environment look like were the principles of Taoism practiced by the state? Would the state exist?

I am troubled by our politics and waver between intense concern and surrender, between participation and absence, between appreciation and disdain.

I read a poem a day, and recommend the practice.


Hedda Sterne erases the ego

Hedda Sterne, artist, died the other day. She was 100.

I read an interview with her that was published several years ago in "Art in America", and remember copying things she said into a notebook I kept at the time. I can't find the notebook, but when I read of her death I remembered the interview and remembered thinking that she was the sort of artist an artist must be. 

There was complete acceptance of condition and of response, and a continuity of searching. Though she was once pictured and identified with the big boys of modern American art, her life and her work was the attitudinal opposite of "I do not seek, I find."

Apparently she made art until almost the end.


the story inside an old apple

Somewhere inside an old apple is a story the writer wishes he could remember.

But the apple is lost, said to be in retirement, and the best the writer can do is to make a reconstruction of the original.


living in politics

Henning Mankell spoke last night at The Herbst Auditorium on Van Ness.

I attended somewhat reluctantly, having read only one of his Kurt Wallender books and one of his other novels,
"The Depths", a good read but somewhat professional for my tastes.

Made clear at the beginning is that Mankell is pronounced 'Monkul', not unlike 'monocle'.

Also made clear is what a decent, hardworking man and writer Mankell is. A Swede, he splits his time between Sweden and Africa (Mozambique). He's sold millions of books, been translated into umpteen languages, and Herbst, not a small place, was filled with his readers.

Mankell said that we should remember that 'we all come from Africa', and that Sweden for all its problems and social 'anxiety' was a decent society that valued education and took care of those not able to take care of themselves, though he was worried that the young there 'do not care about politics.' Holding one of his wildly popular paperback books aloft, he proposed a 5 cent fee be tacked on to the sale of every book and that publishers donate the money to 'literacy.' He closed with an African proverb that god gave man two ears and only one mouth so that he could do twice as much listening as talking.

After the talk, walking out into the night, I remembered being in northern Spain several years ago and realizing that everything, everything is political.


News, and the past

Today's NY Times reports that Americans are spending 'about 20 percent more time consuming radio, television and the Internet they were a decade ago' (Monday April 11, 2011, p.B2)

(Note the capitalization of 'Internet').

The average daily time spent with the above mentioned media was 6 hours and 50 mintues in 2001; by January 2011 the average daily time was 8 hours, 11 minutes. Tv viewers skewed older, Internet users younger. The report also noted the 'increasing ubiquity of smartphones, which have brought media into what were once silent spaces.'

Some of us now spend more time consuming media than we sleep.

The report brought to mind the avant-garde artist--whose name I've forgotten and who practiced at a time when there was an avant-garde, there being no avant-garde now--who kept his newspapers at least a year before reading them.

Of course there can be no avant-garde--and excuse the use of the phrase 'avant-garde'--when the present is so avidly consumed that it obliterates the necessity of a future.

Thank heavens then for the past and for observations such as Pound's, that 'literature is news that stays news'.