Love dies like a tree

It takes a long time for a tree to die.
Though its trunk be almost severed with the axe
There was plenty of sap above
Then the leaves began to wither
and fall though it was spring time…
It takes a long time,to forget.

Not to remember
How to live.
First. the tree stops growing.
It pauses, as if waiting for a message.
Then, as I said, the leaves turn brown.
It all takes time.Time to stop waiting
The leaves drop, then the smaller branches shrivel.
Humans also find that when ill, the hair may stop growing
And the fingernails.
We sacrifice the less important pieces of ourselves.
Even the most.
The small branches shrivel and dry out.
Yet the tree still looks alive
Then gradually we notice it’s drying out;
its branches are parched and soon the trunk dries too.
It may split in places and insects make their home there.
It takes a long time before the trunk dies.
From the top down it dies.
The sap is too limited in quantity
To climb the trunk.
So the sap stays near the ground
.Eventually the whole tree seems dead
Yet in the roots, there is still subterranean life.
The tree has died and is now brown and leaning a little sideways
No longer magnificent in display.
Time is all it needed
After the sharp cut.
And sometimes the roots are strong enough
To begin to send up new shoots
Another tree may grow.
.I have seen that.
People, of course, die more quickly.
We have no roots.
And what of love, how does love die?
Like a tree,
like a tree,
 Like a tree
Like a tree.
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Present illusions spoil future happiness

Philosopher Joshua Knobe recently posed a perplexing question in contemplating the nature of the self: If the person you will be in 30 years — the person for whom you plan your life now by working toward career goals and putting money aside in retirements plans — is invariably different from the person you are today, what makes that future person “you”? What makes them worthy of your present self’s sacrifices and considerations? That’s precisely what Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert explores in this short and pause-giving TED talk on the psychology of your future self and how to avoid the mistakes you’re likely to make in trying to satisfy that future self with your present choices. Picking up from his now-classic 2006 book Stumbling on Happiness (public library), Gilbert argues that we’re bedeviled by a “fundamental misconception about the power of time” and a dangerous misconception known as “the end of history illusion” — at any point along our personal journey, we tend to believe that who we are at that moment is the final destination of our becoming. Which, of course, is not only wrong but a source of much of our unhappiness.

Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been. The one constant in our lives is change.

Gilbert explores this paradox in greater, pleasantly uncomfortable-making, strangely reassuring detail in Stumbling on Happiness — one of these essential books on the art-science of happiness. He writes:

What would you do right now if you learned that you were going to die in ten minutes? Would you race upstairs and light that Marlboro you’ve been hiding in your sock drawer since the Ford administration? Would you waltz into your boss’s office and present him with a detailed description of his personal defects? Would you drive out to that steakhouse near the new mall and order a T-bone, medium rare, with an extra side of the really bad cholesterol?

The things we do when we expect our lives to continue are naturally and properly different than the things we might do if we expected them to end abruptly. We go easy on the lard and tobacco, smile dutifully at yet another of our supervisor’s witless jokes, read books like this one when we could be wearing paper hats and eating pistachio macaroons in the bathtub, and we do each of these things in the charitable service of the people we will soon become. We treat our future selves as though they were our children, spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy. Rather than indulging in whatever strikes our momentary fancy, we take responsibility for the welfare of our future selves, squirreling away portions of our paychecks each month so they can enjoy their retirements on a putting green, jogging and flossing with some regularity so they can avoid coronaries and gum grafts, enduring dirty diapers and mind-numbing repetitions of The Cat in the Hatso that someday they will have fat-cheeked grandchildren to bounce on their laps. Even plunking down a dollar at the convenience store is an act of charity intended to ensure that the person we are about to become will enjoy the Twinkie we are paying for now. In fact, just about any time we want something — a promotion, a marriage, an automobile, a cheeseburger — we are expecting that if we get it, then the person who has our fingerprints a second, minute, day, or decade from now will enjoy the world they inherit from us, honoring our sacrifices as they reap the harvest of our shrewd investment decisions and dietary forbearance.

[But] our temporal progeny are often thankless. We toil and sweat to give them just what we think they will like, and they quit their jobs, grow their hair, move to or from San Francisco, and wonder how we could ever have been stupid enough to think they’d like that. We fail to achieve the accolades and rewards that we consider crucial to their well-being, and they end up thanking God that things didn’t work out according to our shortsighted, misguided plan. Even that person who takes a bite of the Twinkie we purchased a few minutes earlier may make a sour face and accuse us of having bought the wrong snack.

This gives another layer of meaning to Albert Camus’s assertion that “those who prefer their principles over their happiness, they refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness.”

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On falling down a full stop

Blind sight scattered my wits

Like whitened bones

Across the deserts of my mind.

I descended into blackness.

Love shrank into the tame cat

By the fireunacknowledged hate

Grew to fill the room.

I stared too much,

A full stop grew gigantic

Crowded out

All the words in the sentence

I saw nothing but this dot

Now a gigantic black hole

Into which I was dragged.

An energy coming from within my own head

Sucked me into the black hole.

That place was the wrong sort of darkness.

Within that full stop,

Love Fundamental became invisible.

Disappeared into the dark.

I dragged my eyes away

And saw the moon appear, so eerie,

It shone, grey silver.

If I had opened my eyes wider

I would not now lament

What I destroyed in the wormhole

Of the black dot that drew my eye

Into a tunnel of darkness

It blinded me to the light

Did not let me read the sentences

Beside the full stop.

An error of focus left hate

Unacknowledged, unmitigated unredeemed,

Kept from love or goodness

Afraid to spoil my love with hate,

The fear of hate became

That which spoiled all else,

By freezing Love itself.

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A life of one’s own?



“In 1926, more than a decade before a team of Harvard psychologists commenced history’s longest and most revelatory study of human happiness and half a century before the humanistic philosopher Erich Fromm penned his classic on the art of living, the British psychoanalyst and writer Marion Milner (February 1, 1900–May 29, 1998) undertook a seven-year experiment in living, aimed at unpeeling the existential rind of all we chronically mistake for fulfillment — prestige, pleasure, popularity — to reveal the succulent, pulsating core of what makes for genuine happiness. Along her journey of “doubts, delays, and expeditions on false trails,” which she chronicled in a diary with a field scientist’s rigor of observation, Milner ultimately discovered that we are beings profoundly different from what we imagine ourselves to be — that the things we pursue most frantically are the least likely to give us lasting joy and contentment, but there are other, truer things that we can train ourselves to attend to in the elusive pursuit of happiness.

Art by Jean-Pierre Weill from The Well of Being

In 1934, under the pen name Joanna Field, Milner released the results of her inquiry in A Life of One’s Own (public library) — a small, enormously insightful book, beloved by W.H. Auden and titled in homage to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, published three years after Milner began her existential experiment. Milner would go on to fill her ninety-eight years with life of uncommon contentment, informed by her learnings from this intensive seven-year self-examination.

In the preface to the original edition, Milner admonishes:

Let no one think it is an easy way because it is concerned with moments of happiness rather than with stern duty or high moral endeavour. For what is really easy, as I found, is to blind one’s eyes to what one really likes, to drift into accepting one’s wants ready-made from other people, and to evade the continual day to day sifting of values. And finally, let no one undertake such an experiment who is not prepared to find himself more of a fool than he thought.

This disorienting yet illuminating task of turning the mind’s eye inward requires a practice of recalibrating our conditioned perception. Drawing on Descartes’s tenets of critical thinking, she set out to doubt her most fundamental assumptions about what made her happy, trying to learn not from reason alone but from the life of the senses. Half a century before Annie Dillard offered her beautiful lens on the two ways of seeing, Milner writes:

As soon as I began to study my perception, to look at my own experience, I found that there were different ways of perceiving and that the different ways provided me with different facts. There was a narrow focus which meant seeing life as if from blinkers and with the centre of awareness in my head; and there was a wide focus which meant knowing with the whole of my body, a way of looking which quite altered my perception of whatever I saw. And I found that the narrow focus way was the way of reason. If one was in the habit of arguing about life it was very difficult not to approach sensation with the same concentrated attention and so shut out its width and depth and height. But it was the wide focus way that made me happy.

She reflects on the sense of extreme alienation and the terror of missing out she felt at the outset of the experiment, at twenty-six:”

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The reading lamp makes bright sparks on blue glass
I feel the beauty of this serene day
The  lavender is dull  and dry  in vase

So  for eight hours  the sun   sends  rays to us
But later it falls darkly  to dismay
Would I were a child that heedless plays

Much lavender is pressed to oil, alas
For fortune favours those who’re on the way
The  lavender seems dull  and dry  in vase

Do not call me narcissist for this
I love perfumed oils to charm display
The reading lamp  remember  this blue glass

Behind the ears and on the inner wrist
Perfume attracts men to be our mates
The  lavender seems dull, as if disgraced

Thanks to  those green  gods who  made our state
The trees bow down in worship and in praise.
For eight hours the sun enlightens, plays.
Would I were a child with heedless days

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Winter coat

Rosemary  grows by my  old wooden bench
The various cats will gather  there at dusk
They wail in unison as if bereft
And in the moonlight their eyes amber spark.

The day is grey and dull and very still
I search for warmer clothes  and stouter shoes
The rain hangs over with a hint of hail
As if the gods of heaven leave a clue.

Silence can be menacing, unkind
But when at peace I love its fuller charm
Yet I have all my senses, am not blind
And in my mind, I feel an ideal calm

I hid my winter coat  to make  more space
Yet now I cannot find  a single trace



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The pursuit of form by Robert Pinsky


“Here’s another way of thinking about “body knowledge” and poetry: pursuing excellence, athletes and musicians willingly, even eagerly, submit themselves to tedious, grinding repetition and analysis. They try to cultivate by practice the most effective way of doing each thing, each best movement so reliably summoned that you don’t need to think about it in the fluid, immediate, rapid, intuitive performance of your skills. The goal, in a word used by those who work in these pursuits: to perfect their form.

But beyond that process, or extending it, true form is creative. As a verb, “form” means to make or generate. (In a neat parallel, the verb “generate” is related to the noun “genre.”) Coaches rightly speak of the best form, but there is no mechanical template: true form is what each person discovers, enhancing or adapting it each time. Form is what makes the batted ball sail over the fence, or the leaping dancer sail across the stage, and for no two people is the successful form exactly alike. Similarities may be important, and they are worth studying, but the best form has an element of idiosyncrasy. Everyone is different. And in practice, any one person will hit the ball or leap a bit differently each time.

In keeping with that flexibility, form should be transformative and original. It can elevate the ordinary, re-sharpen the familiar:

You that seek what life is in death
Now find it air that once was breath:
New names unknown, old names gone,
Till time end bodies, but souls none.
Reader! then make time, while you be,
But steps to your eternity.”

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Uthe light

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Where have all the rhymes gone?


“Most contemporary poets take a mixed stance on free verse versus formalism. There’s a general feeling that metrical, rhyming verse strikes the ear little too harshly these days, but poets haven’t abandoned form altogether. Poets make use of subtler techniques like internal rhyme (rhyming within, rather than at the end, of lines) and slant rhymes (words that almost rhyme like “black” and “bleak”). Most poets still write with a music, but it’s far more varied (and usually more subtle) than music typical of traditional verse.

I think most poets would also agree that you don’t have to use rhyme and meter to write a great poem. Take the well-known word-thing This Is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams.

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

If that doesn’t protect “the beauty and precision of the English Language,” I don’t know what does.

Still find yourself a fierce proponent of poetic purity? You’re welcome to join the QES at the New Cavendish Club in London every other Thursday. And who doesn’t enjoy a brisk debate about grammatical standards! Trust me, one might ensue. The QES’s wikipedia entry—and I guarantee you they are all over their wikipedia entry—states “a commitment to standards should not preclude the possibility of grammatical change; nor does it mean, however, that change should be mindlessly celebrated for its own sake.”

Mindless celebrating! Dare they forget how they got booted from Old Cavendish!

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