Mark Strand was one of Cynthia’s favorite poets. I just looked him up now and right away discovered his prose poem, Futility in Key West. This reminded me of The Idea of Order at Key West by Wallace Stevens, a poem I’ve memorized. Mark may have even had Stevens’ poem in mind. Here’s Mark’s paragraph:

I was stretched out on the couch, about to doze off, when I imagined a small figure asleep on a couch identical to mine. “Wake up, little man, wake up,” I cried. “The one you’re waiting for is rising from the sea, wrapped in spume, and soon will come ashore. Beneath her feet the melancholy garden will turn bright green and the breezes will be light as babies’ breath. Wake up, before this creature of the deep is gone and everything goes blank as sleep.” How hard I try to wake the little man, how hard he sleeps. And the one who rose from the sea, her moment gone, how hard she has become—how hard those burning eyes, that burning hair.

Kind of spooky but beautiful, except the ending with the burning eyes and hair is strange. I wonder if Cynthia ever saw this? What does the poem mean? Lots of room for the imagination here.

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I still think a lot about Cynthia and still have trouble conceiving that she’s gone. I remember the time late in her illness when I took her to church with me. This was on a Sunday in December 2010 before Christmas. At the end of the service she had always been called upon to “form the circle”, that is, ask everyone to hold hands around the sanctuary and lead “Carry the flame of peace and love until we meet again.” In our small church she had been chair of the Worship Committee and often its only member. Well, on this occasion Richard, our minister, asked Cynthia if she could again lead the forming of the circle. She had been in a bad way, talking very little and was very uncomfortable, hardly wanting to go to church. Suddenly I was amazed as she rose to her feet and very clearly asked people to form the circle, mentioned things about the sermon, brought up some other appropriate things (I don’t remember the details), and led people in the closing words: Carry the flame of peace and love until we meet again. She was back to her old self, in spite of her crushing illness, just for those few minutes. Totally amazing! How did she do it?

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Every so often I check out The Edge. Here’s what its purpose is:

To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.

The Edge question for 2012 is WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DEEP, ELEGANT, OR BEAUTIFUL EXPLANATION?

Explanation for what? Well, the universe of course! Are they kidding? No, and they get quite a bunch of answers, 192 in fact. LOL!

If you have nothing to do sometime, check them out. Well, at least scan through them. You might be amazed.

The very first response in the list of 192 is by Andrei Linde, Professor of Physics at Stanford and father of the Eternal Chaotic Inflation theory. He begins by a quote from Albert Einstein, “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.” Off to a good start, if true. I haven’t read much beyond the 2nd paragraph yet.

And then there’s the beautiful and brilliant Rebecca Goldstein asking an even deeper question, “Why does the beauty of an explanation have anything to do with its being true?” She leaves that question unresolved. Good for her!

Well, I could spend the rest of the day, and then some, scanning through these 192. Psybertron has brief insightful summarries of a whole lot of them here.

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Here’s a fascinating TED talk by Alain de Botton which he calls Atheism 2.0. The 2.0 comes from Alain’s rejecting the well known atheism, which one could call Atheism 1.0, of Richard Dawkins and his so-called four horsemen made up of himself, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. Atheism 1.0 believes that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.” (See The Rise of the New Atheists by Simon Hooper). Alain de Botton begs to differ.

So, what does he believe? What is Atheism 2.0? I’m not sure myself after listening to the talk. Incidentally, on the link to the talk there are lots of comments. I started perusing these but gave up because it would be endless. Here, perhaps, is an example from my experience illustrating Atheism 2.0 in a special case (Alain de Botton might agree): I do not take the bible literally, don’t believe in the virgin birth, Mary, Jesus, the whole trinity thing, but I am greatly moved by religious music.

Here for example is the Stabat mater op.53, Part 6, by the Polish composure Karol Szymanowski. It’s slow, almost painful, but to me it has an excruciating beauty and power which even gives me a feeling of satisfaction in the face of my own finiteness and inevitable death. Lots of other religious music has pretty much the same effect on me.

Psybertron has an interesting checklist of headings for Alain de Botton’s TED talk. Well worth checking these.

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While walking fast on my treadmill today I thought again, as I often do, of the process that is my life, how 2007 was just as present as 2003, how the past is ever present but always moving inexorably on into the next moment. My body is changing as we speak, has been for a lifetime. The strangeness of all this hit me intensely for awhile on that treadmill. Just now I looked up Ever Present Past and what do I find but a song by Paul McCartney based on the urban legend Paul Is Dead. Yes, I too was another person then which often I remember fondly. The photos are a great help.

I have a new close friend this year, developed within the past few months. I met some old friends too, and together with the new friend, we had a most delightful conversation. Life goes on. Change occurs. It’s all beautiful, but I’m afraid it’s all precarious as well. So, appreciate it all the more, please.

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I’m so bored with it. Doing Xmas cards. Yuk. What a Scrooge, eh?

Well, after church yesterday I had fun going to those three nursing homes and singing full blast a bunch of carols. My voice was a bit on the ragged edge but I forced it and didn’t lose it. Had great fun blasting away and watching the people.

I had the privilege of riding in the front seat beside Heather with Joan and Claire in the back as we traveled between nursing homes. It was a bit sad watching our audiences. Some people were out of it, others sang a little, others smiled, and others remained impassive.

There were a total of nine of us: Heather, me, Richard, Ann, Bernice, Joan, Claire, Kerry, Doug. Heather was the leader and kept the pitch low enough so us mid-range people could belt out the songs. It was mighty cold but nice and warm in the buildings of course.

I start off my big week this week with an appointment with Dr. Nolan at 2:15pm on Wednesday. Coming up on Thursday is my session with Tony at 1:30, the “Mind the Body” group at 3pm, and on Friday there’s the last of Heather’s Open Mics. The end of an era of ten full years. Saturday is the day Kate, Don and I drive to Nat and Eryn’s in Waltham. I’ll need to go separately so that the day after Christmas I can drive to Cambridge CoHousing and meet Diane and the MacDougalls. Hope all the cars will fit in Nat and Eryn’s driveway on Saturday! On Sunday, Christmas, the presents will be given out and the Turkey will be roasted, and yes, eaten.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

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Last night I finished Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. We had had the book in the house for a long time. I’m not sure where we got it. But Kate read parts of it to Cynthia when Cynthia was in her last stages of illness. Then Kate read the entire book and told me it was beautiful, so, I, sick of endlessly gluing myself to this computer screen, decided to read it.

It is indeed beautiful and has a mystical quality, a quality which Garcia says in the interviews I’ve just been reading, is found in many Cubans and is absorbed from their culture. The main character of the book, a woman named Celia, leads a mystical inner life and worships her early lover before she marries the father of her children. She writes to this early lover throughout her lifetime but never actually mails the letters. She’s a strong supporter of Castro unlike some other family members but Garcia does not take a political position on this.

I find it interesting that Garcia says she wouldn’t be a writer if it weren’t for poetry. Here’s a quotation of hers from an Atlantic interview:


I wouldn’t be a writer if it weren’t for poetry. I think what catapulted me into wanting to write was reading poetry seriously, beginning around my late twenties, early thirties. Before then I was just a voracious reader. Discovering Wallace Stevens, García Lorca, and Octavio Paz—they were the three initially—was like falling in love. It’s become a daily essential. In fact, when you called I was just reading some poetry because I can’t really start my day until I read for an hour or two and think about stuff and have all these disparate images floating around, derailing me from more logical, more ordered thinking. I like the kind of messiness it engenders in me as far as images. The poets are my heroes.

Imagine that! In love with Wallace Stevens. I would be too if I could understand him. Well, I do understand him a little but I’m too left-brained in general. More messiness in thinking is perhaps a good thing. Let’s get some action out of the right brain before plunging into left brain analysis!

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God versus Rationality may be a better way of phrasing the Religion versus Science debate. I always find great food for thought on Psybertron, and here’s some of that great food: Privilege which suggests we have not quite proven that we do not have a privileged place in the universe. This is well worth a serious read, including especially, the Larry Kraus quote linked to, and all the other links there. I’m still working on it and may not get to the end in my lifetime.

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OK, I see another new version of WordPress has become available, Version 3.3.

According to Matt Mullenweg, [this] “latest and greatest WordPress includes a new drag-and-drop uploader, hover menus for the navigation, a new toolbar, improved co-editing support, and a new Tumblr importer.”

Sigh. In my post yesterday I couldn’t get the tags to work. So what new lost features will 3.3 bring? Oh, why be so cynical? It’ll probably work like a charm!

So after I post this, I’ll see if I can pull off the upgrade without destroying my current features.

Note added Dec. 17: This all worked out just fine.

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Two and a half months since I entered “Cynthia’s Ashes”. Though I still mourn for her, why not bring this blog back to life?

I had an interesting weekend. I drove to Cambridge, Mass., on Saturday, the 10th to visit a new friend I made on Match dot com. (Yes, I’m playing the “dating sites”) She lives in Cambridge Cohousing and is one of the founders back in 1998. Fortunately, old friends from the Arlington Street Church in Boston live not far from the Cohousing and they had a room available for me to use overnight on Saturday.

I met my new friend about 5pm on Saturday, not knowing what to expect, even though we had exchanged a few good emails and I had liked very much her profile and photo on Match dot com. But she turned out to be extremely personable and we got along just fine.

We chatted for a while first in her apartment over wine and delicious celery/anchovies (I should have taken a second) and got to know each other almost right away. Very compatible attitudes toward the world and toward each other. Then we went to a great restaurant in Harvard Square, the Casablanca. She drove there in her car and found a nice place to park not far from the restaurant and the Loeb Drama Center.

After more good conversation and delicious food (I couldn’t finish mine so she suggested a doggy bag which worked out just fine for my supper at home last night) we walked to the Loeb Drama Center, less than five minutes from the restaurant, for the performance of the highly praised musical documentary/comedy Three Pianos. The Loeb was packed and the performances by the three characters and their ever shifting pianos was fascinating and hilarious throughout.

Wine (free) was passed out several times during the evening consistent with the goings on on stage, the Schubertiad which was acted out by the three characters. The Schubertiad was a group of friends of Franz Schubert who would drink, make merry, but most of all make and create music. The action of the three consisted in going through each of the 24 songs in Schubert’s famous Winterreise. It was both hilarious and instructive the way they did it: they had to assume the audience didn’t know German and also they gave us a lot of history while the amusing revelry continued and the songs were played and described. My date and I thoroughly enjoyed all of this.

She dropped me off at my car parked by her place and I drove to my friends’ place with the key one of them had given me earlier. I parked my car safely in their driveway and early Sunday morning I drove directly to the Norway UU church in Norway, Maine, in time for choir practice (well, I had to stop several times for food and bathroom).

A great time was had by all!!

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