support not struggle
April 22, 2020, 3:24 pm
Filed under: chronotopes, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

The totality of life it seems, in the contemporary world, is competition and struggle: family life, education, work and career, even friendship. For the most part competition today is seen as a good thing: it keeps us on our toes, makes our work and thinking sharper, is good for the bottom line. But for many competition and struggle is less than ideal – I for one can’t see the point – and there’s lots of evidence that the positives are easily matched and often outweighed by the negatives: the unequal outcomes of the meritocratic system logically end in jealousy, fear, and despair.

We are told that competition is not only good but also ingrained in our natures. Is that true?  Below is a counter argument: humans are motivated, throughout our evolution, by love and shared connection. And in our evolution and by our affinity one for another, we don’t naturally struggle against each other, on the contrary we naturally support each other.

Man is appealed to to be guided in his acts, not merely by love […] but by the perception of his oneness with each human being. In the practice of mutual aid, which we can retrace to the earliest beginnings of evolution, we thus find the positive and undoubted origin of our ethical conceptions; and we can affirm that in the ethical progress of man, mutual support not mutual struggle — has had the leading part.

Peter Kropotkin, 1902, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution


a question of where love comes from
March 30, 2018, 3:45 pm
Filed under: chronotopes, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

Image result for Mother and Son antonioni

Some people grow up scrounging for the little love they can get, and end up never really finding the consolation of a deep and abiding affection. Often they were orphans, went to boarding school, or somehow were separated from their parents.

Other people grow up fully immersed in love, and learn to not doubt the source of it. For them love is a limitless wellspring to which they eternally return for succour; it nurtures in them confidence and entitlement.

I imagine for the first group the alienation and pain can last a lifetime and even spread over several generations of lives. The entitlement of the second group can be painful to anyone looking in from an outside position of deprivation. If there is empathy then perhaps they are somewhat less aggrieved, but if no empathy then exponential suffering.

Genevieve Fox on love:


From the moment of my diagnosis, and then my prognosis, a positive one affording me a 70–80 percent chance of my curative treatment being successful, I pondered the nature of love: Had I left my sons enough of it? Does love endure? Is love bankable? What, in short, is the measure of love?

I stumble upon the answer courtesy of an illness that forced me to look back on a childhood marked by loss and the absence of love. An orphan’s life such as my own, lived with a hotchpotch of strangers and then, from the age of fifteen, alone, kept me on my mettle. Looking back on that time with my mother-eyes, I only now see that if you’re parentless and live on your wits, if you don’t belong and wish to do so, you look out for love, take it if you find it, look out for more. But you don’t bank the love; you live off reserves, and do not accrue funds. My sons, by contrast, are emotionally entitled; they default to a state of happiness whose roots reach deep, deep into the constancy of love. There is, for them, no question of where the love comes from or if and when the supplies will dry up. This is not because I am in remission, following a successful treatment, and they no longer fear for my health. It is because they have never known a dry riverbed. The experience of love is alchemical; it creates in a child a place of abundance, of safety.

Words to Live By, Genevieve Fox

stand up for the stupid and crazy
December 16, 2016, 8:56 am
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , ,

Sylvia Plachy

Here is an uncorrupted description of the idea of American individualism and  freedom, which of course has been so utterly debased to be unrecognizable: randian selfishness, libertarian isolation, war and hate and poverty.

It’s a recipe for a lovely dish. Do these things: love all beings, commune with the marginalized, spurn ideology, read poetry, resist authority; and you will become … a great poem: distilled calm, revealed truth, aspect of beauty, before your tribe, for people to see.

This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.

—Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass,” 1855

I hope you’ve had some nice sun today
January 31, 2016, 12:37 am
Filed under: departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

The city of Melbourne gave their trees email addresses so people could write in about problems like broken branches. But people used them to write little love missives. Here are some of the letters sent to trees:

To: Golden Elm, Tree ID 1037148

21 May 2015

I’m so sorry you’re going to die soon. It makes me sad when trucks damage your low hanging branches. Are you as tired of all this construction work as we are?


To: Green Leaf Elm, Tree ID 1022165  

29 May 2015

Dear Green Leaf Elm,

I hope you like living at St. Mary’s. Most of the time I like it too. I have exams coming up and I should be busy studying. You do not have exams because you are a tree. I don’t think that there is much more to talk about as we don’t have a lot in common, you being a tree and such. But I’m glad we’re in this together.



To: Willow Leaf Peppermint, Tree ID 1357982

29 January 2015

Willow Leaf Peppermint, Tree ID 1357982

Hello Mr Willow Leaf Peppermint, or should I say Mrs Willow Leaf Peppermint?

Do trees have genders?

I hope you’ve had some nice sun today.




When You Give a Tree an Email Address, The Atlantic

March 20, 2016

My birthday, and Lisa and I met at her apartment in the slope, put scissors, string, pens, index cards and tape in cloth bags, put on our coats and set out for the park. Across the street, past the park gates, by the mansion house, across West Drive, the Picnic House, down the hill, and onto the knoll ringed by huge oaks, where we lay on our backs and conjured thoughts of friendship with the towering beauties. Then we wrote quick poems – Lisa’s is below – and tied them to two trees, one oak in the circle on the knoll, and the second the Orange Osage tree in the meadow to the east. A beautiful day. I asked Lisa the week following, had she been in the park and seen the poems? She said she had the very next day, but the poems had been removed.

tree twotree one

Ahh to be a cloud above the

Osage Orange


whose craggy orange bark

and limbs bring

shelter to actors

like you and me.

The Prospect Park Players

their director, cast and crew

composed of rabbits, otters, possums,

and the occasional shrew or two

bring us plays of great

renown  each June, July

and August!

We hope to see you a

few months hence, bring

a chair and a sandwich

and your good sense.

-Lisa S.


the stars are very near and bright
June 12, 2014, 2:46 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

 In Norm MacDonald’s online interview with Russell Brand they talked about sex and love. MacDonald, a Canadian, is a sad repressed 50 year old who clearly has had trouble throughout his life with loving. Brand is a Brit who has had many trysts and I suppose relationships too. MacDonald’s schtick is naïve bumpkin – the language of the repressed; Brand’s is erudition, the tool of the seducer.

Playing a naïve bumpkin is a trap: you’re put in the role by upbringing and then you are held there for life by your own fear. Freya Stark said, “the thwarting of the instinct to love is the root of all sorrow and not sex only but divinity itself is insulted when it is repressed. To disapprove, to condemn –the human soul shrivels under barren righteousness.” Teach me how to get out of the pit – MacDonald pleaded between the lines with Brand.

Here’s another example of erudite lover to help us dig our way out. Must read more love letters; and even better, must write more.

Come back. Because tonight you are in my hair and eyes, And every street light that our taxi passes shows me you again, still you, And because tonight all other nights are black, all other hours are cold and far away, and now, this minute, the stars are very near and bright. Come back. We will have a celebration to end all celebrations.

Excerpt of love letter by Kenneth Fearing, The Lost Art of the Love Letter, The School of Life


a man can’t be a whole society
May 21, 2014, 7:04 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

Steve Giovinco, On the Edge of

We don’t want to go home for Christmas because of the discomfort and fights and recriminations. There’s something wrong with the family and we’d rather be alone. But at the same time we’re lonely and need people to be with.

Anyway, not everyone doesn’t go home for the holidays; some people like their families. I wonder what is the difference between those who get along and those who don’t? It could be fundamentalism – families that are too perfect, led by charismatic or autocratic fathers (or mothers, or siblings), who push the air out, make a hermeticism that is too pure. Children and relations who need less purity – the chance to act out, to be imaginative, to rock the boat, let go the party line – eventually just stay away.

Airlessness may affect every family, but moreso the nuclear family – as the chance to challenge lousy authority increases as the power of a single family head is diluted by more and more aunts and uncles and cousins and sibs. Love is not a closed system, it is ecumenical.

Here is Vonegut’s case for extended arrangements. He says, a man can’t be a whole society to a woman, and they fall apart. A woman needs more, and so do we. This is from Vonegut’s famous commencement address.

No matter what age any of us is now, we are going to be bored and lonely during what remains of our lives.

We are so lonely because we don’t have enough friends and relatives. Human beings are supposed to live in stable, like-minded, extended families of fifty people or more.

Your class spokesperson mourned the collapse of the institution of marriage in this country. Marriage is collapsing because our families are too small. A man cannot be a whole society to a woman, and a woman cannot be a whole society to a man. We try, but it is scarcely surprising that so many of us go to pieces.

So I recommend that everybody here join all sorts of organizations, no matter how ridiculous, simply to get more people in his or her life. It does not matter much if all the other members are morons. Quantities of relatives of any sort are what we need.

Kurt Vonegut

body atlas
January 7, 2014, 3:41 pm
Filed under: unseen world | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Happiness and depression are felt all over the body, while anger and pride only in the chest and head. These are images from research on emotion response by a group of scientists from Finland. The researchers used stimuli – words, images, stories – to provoke emotion and the subjects indicated where the emotion manifested on their bodies.

From Body Atlas, Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari K. Hietanen

An Atlas Of The Human Body That Maps Where We Feel Emotions, Fast Company, Jessica Leber

caution and love
May 29, 2013, 10:59 pm
Filed under: the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: , ,

thCAKASWLTOf all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

the conditions of love

In his book Love: A History, professor of philosophy Simon May makes a distinction between conditional and unconditional love.  Unconditional love is what we believe in today:  the selfless, giving prescription that is rooted in an arriviste secular theology of love is all.

Conditional love on the other hand – for which May is making a case – is messy, grounded, engaged and emotional; a personal longing and search for a place – embodied in a person – to call home.

Unconditional love – ungrounded and selfless – can cause us to want to be godlike, to have unreasonable expectations, and will erode away our relationships.

Here is May on the difference between conditional and unconditional love:

all love (very much including romantic love) is thoroughly conditional: it is a desire for one whom we experience as indestructibly grounding our life, as a harbinger of ‘home’; so that to see it as the opposite – as entirely unconditional – is to infuse our relationships with false expectations and so to sabotage them from the start.

Love’s tremendous capacity to give and to sacrifice arises not from ‘disinterestedness’ or ‘selflessness’, but precisely from the rapture we feel for those people who inspire in us the hope of such an indestructible grounding for our life. This is the rapture that sets us off on – and sustains – the long search for a secure relationship between our being and theirs.

Continue reading

a need
September 18, 2012, 11:34 pm
Filed under: the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: , , , ,

Not Love Perhaps
This is not Love perhaps – Love that lays down
Its life, that many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown –
But something written in lighter ink, said in a lower tone:
Something perhaps especially our own:
A need at times to be together and talk –
And then the finding we can walk
More firmly through dark narrow places
And meet more easily nightmare faces:
A need to reach out sometimes hand to hand –
And then find Earth less like an alien land:
A need for alliance to defeat
The whisperers at the corner of the street:
A need for inns on roads, islands in seas, halts for discoveries to be shared,
Maps checked and notes compared:
A need at times of each for each
Direct as the need of throat and tongue for speech.


Amour Sans Tomber, Sara Aanwyl