The Ocean and the Meaning of Life

By Maria Popova (brainpickings.org)

This essay is adapted from Figuring.

In June of 1952, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service received a letter of resignation from its most famous marine biologist. On the line requesting the reason for resignation, she had stated plainly: “To devote my time to writing.” But she was also leaving for the freedom to use her public voice as an instrument of change, awakening the world’s ecological conscience with her bold open letters holding the government accountable for its exploitation of nature.

Fifteen years earlier, at age twenty-nine, Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907–April 14, 1964) had gotten her start at the lowest rungs of the government agency as a field aide hired at $6.50 an hour. Wading through tide pools and annual marine census reports as a junior aquatic biologist, she had found her voice as a writer with an uncommon gift for walking the teeming shoreline between the scientific and the poetic. In an unexampled essay that eventually bloomed into The Sea Around Us, which won her the National Book Award, she had invited the human imagination undersea, into a world then more mysterious than the Moon. Now, forty-five and finally free from the day-job by which she had been supporting her mother, her sister, and the young nephew she adopted and raised as her son after her sister’s death, Carson set out to fulfill her childhood dream of living by the ocean.rachelcarson_undersea.jpg?resize=680%2C398

Rachel Carson

After searching along the New England coast, she fell in love with West Southport — a picturesque island in Maine, nestled among evergreens and oaks in the estuary of the Sheepscot River, where seals frequented the beach and whales billowed by as though torn from the pages of her beloved Melville. With her book royalties, she bought a plot of land on which to build a cottage. In a touching testament to her orientation to the natural world, she felt deeply uncomfortable thinking of herself as its “owner” — a “strange and inappropriate word” — of this “perfectly magnificent piece of Maine shoreline.” There, she would soon meet her soul mate, whose love would bolster Carson’s moral courage in catalyzing the environmental movement; there, she would compose her next book, dedicating it to her beloved Dorothy for having gone down with her “into the low-tide world” and “felt its beauty and its mystery.”

The Edge of the Sea was an ambitious guide to the seashore — the place where Carson found “a sense of the unhurried deliberation of earth processes that move with infinite leisure, with all eternity at their disposal”; the strange and wondrous boundary the ocean-loving Whitman had once extolled as “that suggesting, dividing line, contact, junction… blending the real and ideal, and each made portion of the other.”

The book was also an admonition against what we stand to lose — writing in the early 1950s, Carson noted the systematically documented and “well recognized” fact of global climate change. But was primarily a celebration, for that is always the most effective instrument of admonition — a celebration of what we have and what we are, an ode to “how that marvelous, tough, vital, and adaptable something we know as LIFE has come to occupy one part of the sea world and how it has adjusted itself and survived despite the immense, blind forces acting upon it from every side.”hasuikawase1.jpg?resize=680%2C1014

Spring Moon at Ninomiya Beach, 1931 — one of Hasui Kawase’s stunning vintage Japanese woodblocks. (Available as a print.)

Inevitably, in telling the story of life, the book takes on an existential undertone, rendered symphonic under Carson’s poetic pen. Watching the fog engulf the rocks beneath her study window as the night tide rolls in, she considers the totality of being, which the world’s oceans contour and connect:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngHearing the rising tide, I think how it is pressing also against other shores I know — rising on a southern beach where there is no fog, but a moon edging all the waves with silver and touching the wet sands with lambent sheen, and on a still more distant shore sending its streaming currents against the moonlit pinnacles and the dark caves of the coral rock.

Then in my thoughts these shores, so different in their nature and in the inhabitants they support, are made one by the unifying touch of the sea. For the differences I sense in this particular instant of time that is mine are but the differences of a moment, determined by our place in the stream of time and in the long rhythms of the sea. Once this rocky coast beneath me was a plain of sand; then the sea rose and found a new shore line. And again in some shadowy future the surf will have ground these rocks to sand and will have returned the coast to its earlier state. And so in my mind’s eye these coastal forms merge and blend in a shifting, kaleidoscopic pattern in which there is no finality, no ultimate and fixed reality — earth becoming fluid as the sea itself.

greatwave_hokusai.jpg?resize=680%2C457

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Japanese artist Hokusai, 1831. (Available as a print and as a face mask, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

The year of Carson’s death, as Dorothy scattered her ashes into the rocking bay, James Baldwin would echo these existential undertones in his poetic insistence that “nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever… the sea does not cease to grind down rock.” Carson — still alive, still islanded for a mortal moment in the ocean of ongoingness — adds:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngOn all these shores there are echoes of past and future: of the flow of time, obliterating yet containing all that has gone before; of the sea’s eternal rhythms — the tides, the beat of surf, the pressing rivers of the currents — shaping, changing, dominating; of the stream of life, flowing as inexorably as any ocean current, from past to unknown future.

[…]

Contemplating the teeming life of the shore, we have an uneasy sense of the communication of some universal truth that lies just beyond our grasp. What is the message signaled by the hordes of diatoms, flashing their microscopic lights in the night sea? What truth is expressed by the legions of the barnacles, whitening the rocks with their habitations, each small creature within finding the necessities of its existence in the sweep of the surf? And what is the meaning of so tiny a being as the transparent wisp of protoplasm that is a sea lace, existing for some reason inscrutable to us — a reason that demands its presence by the trillion amid the rocks and weeds of the shore? The meaning haunts and ever eludes us, and in its very pursuit we approach the ultimate mystery of Life itself.

yaggi_nature_sm.jpg?resize=680%2C460

Art from Geographical Portfolio — Comprising Physical, Political, Geological, and Astronomical Geography by Levi Walter Yaggy, 1887. (Available as a print, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

As The Edge of the Sea alighted in the world, critical praise and honors came cascading, trailed by invitations for lectures and acceptance speeches. Always uncomfortable with attention and public appearances, Carson became even more selective, prioritizing women’s associations and nonprofit cultural institutions over glamorous commercial stages. When she did speak, her words became almost a consecration, as in a speech she delivered before a convocation of librarians:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWhen we go down to the lowest of the low tide lines and look down into the shallow waters, there’s all the excitement of discovering a new world. Once you have entered such a world, its fascination grows and somehow you find your mind has gained a new dimension, a new perspective — and always thereafter you find yourself remember[ing] the beauty and strangeness and wonder of that world — a world that is as real, as much a part of the universe, as our own.

rachelcarson_1951.jpg?resize=680%2C338

Rachel Carson, 1951

Savor more of Carson’s lyrical reverence for the sea and the strange wonder of life in Figuring. Couple this fragment with a stunning illustrated celebration of our water world based on Indian mythology, then revisit Carson’s life-tested wisdom on writing and the loneliness of creative work, the story of how her writing sparked the environmental movement, and Neil Gaiman’s poetic tribute to her legacy.

Mary Shelley Starts Writing Frankenstein (on a Dare)

June 13, 2021 (lithub.com)

Mary Shelley starts writing Frankenstein (on a dare).

Mary Shelley

You never know what might happen when you go to Lord Byron’s house. Or, to be more precise, when you go to the Swiss mansion that Byron has rented for the summer of 1816 to get away from all those pesky scandals swarming around him in England. But actually, it’s more than likely that Percy Bysse Shelley and his future wife, then still called Mary Godwin, who were renting another house nearby that season, knew exactly what they were getting into when they befriended Byron. 

“At first we spent our pleasant hours on the lake, or wandering on its shores,” Mary Shelley later wrote in an introduction to Frankenstein; it was only Byron who was getting any writing done. “But it proved a wet, ungenial summer,” she wrote, “and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house.” (In fact, 1816 would later become known as the Year Without a Summer, because of the effects of the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Mount Tambora the previous year—it would have been bizarrely cold and a little frightening.) One day in this un-June-like June, Percy, Mary, Lord Byron, and the writer John Polidori were holed up in Byron’s Villa Diodati, reading ghost stories to each other (in translation, natch), when Byron, inspired, challenged each of them to write their own dark tale. Over the next three days, storms raging outside, they each attempted to rise to Byron’s demand.

“I busied myself to think of a story,” Mary wrote.

—a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror—one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. If I did not accomplish these things, my ghost story would be unworthy of its name. I thought and pondered—vainly. I felt that blank incapability of invention which is the greatest misery of authorship, when dull Nothing replies to our anxious invocations. Have you thought of a story? I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative.

But then, as she slept one night, it came to her: “My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie,” she wrote. “I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision,—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.” (The exact hour of this vision has been pinpointed by astronomers: it was between 2 am and 3 am on the morning of June 16. Which seems like exactly the time you’d expect a good idea for a horror story to come to a writer, especially such a goth one.)

In the morning, she began to write it all down.

This story would, of course, become Frankenstein.Not that Mary was the only one to rise to Byron’s challenge—John Polidori would write “The Vampyre,” an early example of the modern vampire story, and Byron himself came up with the poem “Darkness.” But only Frankenstein would truly achieve immortality—despite mixed and sometimes misogynistic reviews at the time of its publication. (At least Percy always loved it.) Over the last 205 years, it has spawned scholarly research, uncountable numbers of adaptations, some great and some terrible (but maybe still great), as well as at least a few definitely not great book covers. The novel is still the most frequently assigned book in American colleges. And unlike the heads of all the friends you tried to build for yourself in the backyard over the years, it rather holds up. Not too shabby for a book written on a friend’s challenge.

Finally, for the record . . . it’s “Frankenstein’s monster.” Thanks, we’ll see ourselves out. 

According to research at Cambridge University

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a word are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed erveylteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

The Hungry Ghost: A Biopsychosocial Perspective

Dr Gabor Maté Presentation by Dr. Gabor Maté for the Howard Centre, Burlington Vermont. January, 2017. Dr. Gabor Maté is a renowned speaker, and bestselling author and is highly sought after for his expertise on a range of topics including addiction, stress and childhood development.

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Anyway You Want Me (That’s How I Will Be)

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Elvis Presley

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The Best of Elvis 1956

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Mitakuye Oyasin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ (All Are Related) is a phrase from the Lakota language. It reflects the world view of interconnectedness held by the Lakota people of North America.[1] This concept and phrase is expressed in many Yankton Sioux prayers,[2] as well as by ceremonial people in other Lakota communities.[3][4]

The phrase translates in English as “all my relatives,” “we are all related,” or “all my relations.” It is a prayer of oneness and harmony with all forms of life: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees and plants, and even rocks, rivers, mountains and valleys.[2]

From work in the 1940s, American scholar Joseph Epes Brown wrote a study of Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ and its relevance in the Sioux ideology of “underlying connection” and “oneness.” He noted how the phrase has been misappropriated and misused as a slogan and salutation by peoples from outside the Lakota cultures.[4]

Francis White Bird asserts that only Lakota can use this phrase because it applies only to Lakota culture.[5]

More at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitakuye_Oyasin

Book: “The Lost Art of Heart Navigation: A Modern Shaman’s Field Manual”

The Lost Art of Heart Navigation: A Modern Shaman’s Field Manual

The Lost Art of Heart Navigation: A Modern Shaman’s Field Manual

by Jeff D. Nixa 

Discover your soul’s purpose by following the shamanic path of the heart

• Explains how to engage your heart’s navigational guidance system to access your spiritual core directly and find your life purpose and spiritual identity

• Includes shamanic practices to meet your power animals, consult with spirit guides, embark on journeys in the spirit world, slay your inner dragons of self-sabotage and fear, clear emotional wounding patterns, and find your personal spirit song

• Offers case studies and troubleshooting help for common pitfalls and obstacles on the heart-centered shamanic path

• Includes access to 4 guided audio journeys narrated by the author

Each of us has a vision for our lives, our soul’s purpose awaiting release in our hearts. The most important task we have is to learn what that purpose is and then bring it into the world. In our world of endless busyness and “hurry sickness,” many people are experiencing soul loss as they live out dreams of endless motion, empty tasks, anxiety, and negative thoughts. But you can change your world and discover the shamanic heart path that activates your wildness, your power, and your soul’s purpose.

Blending earth-honoring shamanic practices and modern depth psychology, Jeff Nixa explains how to practice the lost art of heart navigation to help you find your life purpose and spiritual identity, conquer the fear, doubt and criticism that stand in the way of that vision, and become a shamanic shapeshifter of your life. Providing heart-opening exercises to slow your mental racing and detect your heart’s navigational guidance system, he shows how to awaken your wild and free heart, access your spiritual core directly, deactivate trauma-based emotional patterns, retrieve vital energy, work with your dreams, and become an artist of the soul. You will learn how to meet your power animals and consult with spirit guides, embark on shamanic journeys in the spirit world for help and information, slay your inner dragons of self-sabotage, find your personal spirit song, and create the joyful life that your heart is attuned to seek out.

Offering case studies and troubleshooting help for common pitfalls and obstacles on the heart-centered path, this shamanic manual provides hands-on practices and ceremonies–including access to 4 guided audio journeys narrated by the author–as well as wisdom from the author’s own journey and the powerful teachers he has worked with, including Sandra Ingerman, Mikkal, spiritual elders of the Oglala Lakota people, and plant-spirit medicine shamans of the Amazon jungle. Allowing you to understand the precise contours of your authentic self and your visionary heart, this book offers a map to a vibrant new life aligned with your soul and deepest calling.

(Goodreads.com)

Book: “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

by Sogyal Rinpoche 

“A magnificent achievement. In its power to touch the heart, to awaken consciousness, [The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying] is an inestimable gift.”
San Francisco Chronicle

A newly revised and updated edition of the internationally bestselling spiritual classic, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, written by Sogyal Rinpoche, is the ultimate introduction to Tibetan Buddhist wisdom. An enlightening, inspiring, and comforting manual for life and death that the New York Times calls, “The Tibetan equivalent of [Dante’s] The Divine Comedy,” this is the essential work that moved Huston Smith, author of The World’s Religions, to proclaim, “I have encountered no book on the interplay of life and death that is more comprehensive, practical, and wise.”

(Goodreads.com)

Book: “Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm”

Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm

Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm

by Thich Nhat Hanh 

“Written in words so intimate, calm, kind, and immediate, this extraordinary book feels like a message from our very own heart….Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most important voices of our time, and we have never needed to listen to him more than now.”
—Sogyal Rinpoche

Fear is destructive, a pervasive problem we all face. Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master, poet, scholar,  peace activist, and one of the foremost spiritual leaders in the world—a gifted teacher who was once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.—Thich Nhat Hanh has written a powerful and practical strategic guide to overcoming our debilitating uncertainties and personal terrors. The New York Times said Hanh, “ranks second only to the Dalai Lama” as the Buddhist leader with the most influence in the West. In Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting through the Storm, Hanh explores the origins of our fears, illuminating a path to finding peace and freedom from anxiety and offering powerful tools to help us eradicate it from our lives

(Goodreads.com)

Book: “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times”

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

by Pema Chödrön 

The beautiful practicality of her teaching has made Pema Chödrön one of the most beloved of contemporary American spiritual authors among Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. A collection of talks she gave between 1987 and 1994, the book is a treasury of wisdom for going on living when we are overcome by pain and difficulties. Chödrön discusses:

   •  Using painful emotions to cultivate wisdom, compassion, and courage
   •  Communicating so as to encourage others to open up rather than shut down
   •  Practices for reversing habitual patterns
   •  Methods for working with chaotic situations
   •  Ways for creating effective social action 

(Goodreads.com)

Book: “The Denial of Death”

The Denial of Death

The Denial of Death

by Ernest BeckerSam Keen (Goodreads Author) (Foreword), Daniel Goleman (Goodreads Author) (Foreword) 

Winner of the Pulitzer prize in 1974 and the culmination of a life’s work, The Denial of Death is Ernest Becker’s brilliant and impassioned answer to the “why” of human existence. In bold contrast to the predominant Freudian school of thought, Becker tackles the problem of the vital lie — man’s refusal to acknowledge his own mortality. In doing so, he sheds new light on the nature of humanity and issues a call to life and its living that still resonates more than twenty years after its writing.

(Goodreads.com)

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