JULY 2013

* pine then


The advantages of two thousand years of Western civilization are familiar enough: an extraordinary increase in wealth, in food supply, in scientific knowledge, in consumer goods, in physical security, in life expectancy and economic opportunity. What is perhaps less apparent and more perplexing is the way that such impressive material advances may have gone hand in hand with a rise in levels of status anxiety among ordinary Western citizens, by which is meant a rise in levels of concern about importance, achievement and income. A sharp decline in actual deprivation may - paradoxically - have been accompanied by a continuing and even increased sense of deprivation and a fear of it. Populations blessed with riches and possibilities far outstripping those imaginable by their ancestors tilling the unpredictable soil of medieval Europe have shown a remarkable capacity to feel that both who they are and what they have are not enough. These feelings of deprivation may not look so peculiar, however, once we consider the psychology behind the way we decide what is enough. Our sense of an appropriate limit to anything - for example, to wealth and esteem - is never decided independently. It is decided by comparing our condition with that of a reference group, with that of people we consider to be our equals. We cannot appreciate what we have in isolation, nor judged against the lives of our medieval forbearers. We cannot be impressed by how prosperous we are in historical terms. We will only take ourselves to be fortunate when we have as much as, or more than, the people we grow up with, work alongside, have as friends and identify with in the public realm.
(Alain De Botton)

Do you think you can take over
the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.
The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead
and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up
and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.
(Tao Te Ching, Twenty-nine)


A brave and passionate man will kill or
be killed.

A brave and calm man will always
preserve life.

Of these two which is good and which
is harmful?

Some things are not favored by

Who knows why?

Even the sage is unsure of this.
The Tao of heaven does not strive, and
yet it overcomes.

It does not speak, and yet is answered.
It does not ask, yet is supplied with all
its needs.
It seems to have no aim and yet its
purpose is fulfilled.

Heaven's net casts wide.
Though its meshes are coarse, nothing
slips through.

(78, Tao Te Ching)

"To die would be an awfully big adventure."

"You know that place between sleeping and awake, that place where you can still remember dreaming? That's where I'll always think of you."

"I taught you to fly and to fight. What more could there be?"

"I'm not young enough to know everything."

"Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves."

"The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings."

"All children, except one, grow up."

"One girl is worth more use than twenty boys."

"Stars are beautiful, but they must not take an active part in anything, they must just look on forever. It is a punishment put on them for something they did so long ago that no star now knows what it was."

"Let no one who loves be called altogether unhappy. Even love unreturned has its rainbow."

"We are all failures - at least the best of us are."

"Life is a long lesson in humility."

"On these magic shores children at play are for ever beaching their coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more."

- The Little Minister
& The Little White Bird


"A dry soul is wisest and best. The best and wisest soul is a dry beam of light."

"A drunken man has to be led by a boy, whom he follows stumbling and not knowing whither he goes, for his soul is moist."

"Since as above Soul is without limit, infinite expansion is a natural possibility, as seen from the inside of the soul's identity."

"Souls are vaporized from what is moist."

"The sea is the purest and the impurest water Fish can drink it, and it is good for them; to men it is undrinkable and destructive."

"It is death to souls to become water, and death to water to become earth. But water comes from earth; and, from water, soul."

"Souls take their spirit from the waters."

"Even the sacred barley drink separates when it is not stirred."

"Soul has its own inner law of growth."

- Heraclitus, Fragments


The Fundamentals of Existence

From the ultimate perspective, the physical objects we see around us are like shadows under the morning sun. Their appearance is fleeting and wholly dependent upon causal conditions. There is an infinitely fragile quality to their existence, no matter how solid and permanent they might appear to the senses. A person's life can easily disappear in the flicker of an eye. The earth can be obliterated in a matter of moments by a large comet. The sun can be instantly swallowed up by a passing black hole. The cosmos itself could suddenly vanish by some as-yet-unheard-of cataclysmic event. Nothing is safe. A thing's existence is always right on the edge. One slip and it is gone. Consider an eddy which appears in a flowing stream for a few fleeting moments before disappearing again. On the face of it, the eddy seems to have an independent existence separate from the rest of the stream, so much so that we are able to label it with the word "eddy". Yet it is easy to see that it does not really exist. It is simply a portion of the stream spinning around in a temporary, localized fashion. No aspect of its existence can be divorced from the stream in any way. Its appearance as an independent entity is essentially an illusion. In the end, there is no eddy. There is only the stream. This is how it is with all things. An object has no real existence and identity of its own. These are qualities given to it by the rest of Nature.

Things exist by virtue of the fact that Nature makes "room" for them. For example, if Nature dictates there is no room for a particular tree in a particular location, then the tree in question simply won't arise. Or if Nature dictates that the tree should have a certain kind of shape, or possess a particular kind of genetic deformity, or be located on a barren patch of land where it will struggle for subsistence, then that is what the tree will do. It has no say in the matter. In short, a thing is like a "negative image" of the rest of the Universe. It is everything that the rest of the Universe is not. Logically speaking, the two arise and vanish together. Never can the one exist without the other.

David Quinn,
of the