Monday, February 28, 2005

Go where this is no path

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Ralph W. Emerson

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Which famous leader are you?

This looks like a variant on the Keirsey test (posted earlier in February 2005).

Friday, February 25, 2005

Does everything happen for a reason?

I heard the comment today that "everything happens for a reason."

Although I would like to believe in a universe that is the product of a purposeful will, unfortunately, many things happen to us randomly, without reason. Violent, evil acts are committed against people for no other reason than that they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I think the best we can hope for, as thoughtful human beings, is to make the most of the cards we are dealt, to be thankful for the gifts we have, and to focus on the things in our lives that are meaningful.


Normally, we think of procrastination as something we do to delay being productive doing something else we're supposed to be doing. But procrastination can be unexpectedly productive, allowing serendipitous events to occur.

Sometimes, procrastination is a way of doing the things we're supposed to be doing with our lives, when instead we're being forced to do something else we don't feel like doing. This is kind of like the flip side of the adage that "life is what happens while you're busy making other plans."

Allow life to happen despite your best plans to ruin it.

Thanks to Ma Petite ChouChou for the idea and John Perry, for publishing "Structured Procrastination."

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Question the answers

The educated person is not the person who can answer the questions, but the person who can question the answers.

T. Schick, Jr

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


If life doesn't answer, ask another question.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Live today

Dream as if you live forever, live as if you die today.

James Dean

The cloud of unknowing

Excerpt of remarks by John Luther Adams on his composition, Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing...

Quantum physics has recently confirmed what shamans and mystics, poets and musicians have long known: The universe is more like music than like matter. It may well be that our most fundamental relationship to the great mysteries is one of listening. Through sustained, concentrated attention to the fullness of the present moment, we listen for the breath of being, the voice of God.

Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing is a work of musical contemplation, an attempt to consecrate a small time and space for extraordinary listening. The work is titled after The Cloud of Unknowing, a fourteenth-century mystical text which has much in common with the teachings of contemplative traditions throughout the world, be they Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Sufi, Native American, or other. The essence of the contemplative experience is voluntary surrender, purposeful immersion in the fullness of a presence far larger than ourselves.

The Cloud of Unknowing teaches that we can achieve communion with God only through the Grace of divine Love. To prepare ourselves to receive this gift, we must enter a state of quiet stillness, suspended between Heaven and Earth. Above--between us and God--lies a mysterious "cloud of unknowing," which our understanding can never penetrate. Between us and the world, we must create a "cloud of forgetting," leaving conscious thought and desire below. In this timeless place of forgetting and unknowing, we may begin to hear that for which we are listening.

Eliot said it this way:

We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
for a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation....

To find communion, we must lose perspective. What, after all, is perspective but a way of removing ourselves from experience?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Never let fear get in the way of anything

Say it again--this time like you really mean it.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Under the oaks

An occasion to break away from staring at boxes on a computer all day delivered me to a drive through a row of old live oaks. The sun beaming down through the canopy of intertwined branches created a pattern of speckled shadow on the road ahead. At other times of the year in New Orleans, the strength of the sun's ray's would be something to avoid, but today, with a cool front over the city, every particle of sunshine raining down and warming my skin was an affirmation of the joy of living.

Find your people

There are the people you are born with and there are the people you find. They are equally important in your life. I am very lucky that the people I was issued at birth are good people....These were my original people and it was a great start on the road to finding people of my own.

Being an adult has taught me that, as important as it is to maintain relationships with your original people, it is also key to find your own....These are the people (male & female!) you identify first week of freshman year or last call at the neighborhood bar. I have found My People in the cubicle next to me, on the playground, and in the chapter room of my Alpha Omicron Pi. One evening, one friend brought another friend running and it sticks forever. Other times the funny stranger across the table at a vendor lunch is just who you need in life.

Don't get me wrong. There aren't tons of Your People out there. That's why it's important to be on the lookout. Your People are hard to find.

Except, I've got a secret to share. Blogging makes it easier. Yes, My People I met through blogging are different kinds of Your People. I will never meet these people. I will probably never even talk on the phone to these people. But, never the less, some of them have truly become My People.

I feel as though there should be an induction of sorts -- a grown-up flying-up ceremony, like moving from Brownies to Girl Scouts -- when someone becomes one of Your People. But it's kind of nice to just let it creep up on you, too -- to notice one day that when Caller ID indicates that one of these people call, that you always pick up... or that each post you leave you look forward to the comments these people leave.

Unfortunately, I can't take you all on a run with me in the hopes of introducing you to some of My People, but I can direct you to my blogroll -- go visit these people; they are truly special.

Leave a comment about some of Your People -- as later visitors come, please check some of these people out -- you never know what new connections might be created.

Barefoot Principessa

Be careful what you ask for

From just across the Sabine comes this interesting little pondering...

Pot stirring

One of my favorite movie quotes comes from the movie Igby Goes Down. "Good things come to obsessive compulsives who fixate."

Fixation is a tricky thing. It can certainly be productive. When you can totally immerse yourself into something and concentrate on what you're doing, you can sometimes surprise even yourself with the results. I'm an obsessive compulsive perfectionist, so fixation is part of my natural territory. I may ignore everything else in order to devote myself to one thing for a while, but it leads to stellar, detail-oriented work and satisfaction in other areas of life.

However, fixation has a less appealing side as well; the side that Katie likes to call "stirring the pot". This basically boils down to letting your curiosity get the best of you when it comes to things that you probably shouldn't really mess with. It's kind of like a train wreck or a bad soap opera. You know that you should look away and you don't particularly want to be involved in the situation by any means, but you still have a morbid curiosity with the outcome. We want to know what happens. We sometimes go out of our way to find out what happens, when we should really just let things lie and allow the drama to spin independently of our input or involvement.


The illusion of life

When one sees that everything exists as an illusion, one can live in a higher sphere than ordinary man.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

You are what you don't eat

Nothing determines who we will become so much as those things we choose to ignore.

Sandor McNab

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Crossing the Mississippi

Crossing the Mississippi River on the Crescent City Connection this morning, I was provided a rare, magnificent view of the river shrouded in fog--a long winding channel filled with white mist. But what to me appeared as a serendipitous gift and an occasion for celebrating life must have been completely lost to the others crossing the bridge at that same moment, they lost in conversations with their cell phones perpetually attached to an ear, and their concentration focused somewhere out in space.

Notice the transient beauty of life around you, and celebrate the serendipitous gifts it offers.

Follow your bliss

To find your own way is to follow your own bliss. This involves analysis, watching yourself and seeing where the real deep bliss is--not the quick little excitement, but the real, deep, life-filling bliss.

Joseph Campbell

Monday, February 14, 2005

The dualism of creation

You yourself are participating in the evil, or you are not alive. Whatever you do is evil for somebody. This is one of the ironies of the whole creation.

Joseph Campbell
The Power of Myth

We must try to minimize the harm we do--to walk more gently upon the Earth, as responsible inhabitants of a planet we share with other living things which have the same right to life as do we.

Find the myth you are living

I asked myself, "What is the myth you are living?" and found that I did not know. So...I took it upon myself to get to know "my" myth, and I regarded this as the task of tasks...I simply had to know what unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me.

C.G. Jung

Sunday, February 13, 2005

If you should fall

Where you stumble and fall, there you will find the gold.

Eastern proverb

More on the will to power

Of all existing things some are in our power, and others are not in our power. In our power are thought, impulse, will to get and will to avoid, and in a word, everything which is our own doing....

What disturbs men's minds is not events but their judgments on events....

Ask not that events should happen as you will, but let your will be that events should happen as they do, and you shall have peace.


Love is prescient

The moment I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don't finally meet somewhere. They're in each other all along.


Saturday, February 12, 2005

Great and immeasurable things

If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable.

Rainier Maria Rilke
Fourth Letter, Letters to a Young Poet


Note: I'm no Virgets fan. I truly loath his campy delivery to dress up often mediocre storytelling. Nevertheless, the man occasionally says something of merit. Here's one redeeming example (all save the last two lines which could have been left out).

By Ronnie Virgets

A Crazy Little Thing
What is your Walgreen-fetched card with the Valentine symbol next to stuff like this? Only writers are foolish enough to think there are right words.

In the interest of love, I am lying in bed and reading a book of letters between couples who made each other crazy.

Love. Coming as close to knowing what you are and what you're doing here as you can get. Being lovingly looked on and seen. The pleasant embarrassments, the doubt and certitude, all there, all splendid.

Even those who pretend to know better don't know any better. This is Mark Twain, writing to his wife on her 30th birthday: "Let us look forward to the coming anniversaries, with their age and their grey hairs without fear and without depression, trusting and believing that the love we bear each other will be sufficient to make them blessed."

Or take Emma Goldman, anarchist and feminist, known as one of the fiercest political fires of the 20th century. She wrote this to her lover, Ben Reitman: "Yet, if I were asked to choose between a world of understanding and the spring that fills my body with fire, I should have to choose the spring. It is life, sunshine, music, untold ecstasy. The Spring, o ye gods, that have tortured my body all these years, I will give you my soul only let me drink, drink from the Spring of my master lover."

So what is your Walgreen-fetched card with the Valentine symbol next to stuff like this? Only writers are foolish enough to think there are right words. But sometimes Colossi who stand astride the globe itself join the parade.

Here is Bonaparte himself, complaining that his Josephine is not nearly the lover that he is: "What do you do all day, Madam? What is the affair so important as to leave you no time to write to your devoted lover? What affection stifles and puts to one side the love, the tender and constant love you promised him? Josephine, take care! Some fine night, the doors will be broken open, and there I'll be I hope before long to crush you in my arms and cover you with a million kisses burning as though beneath the equator."

Too much urgency? Impossible! This is love we're talking about here. Katherine Anne Porter found urgency to be the test of love's authenticity: "Love that can put itself off until all the other business of life is settled is not love at all, it is a mere convenience of emotion."

And for many there is no respite this side of the grass. This from 87-year-old Henry Miller, enamored of a much-younger fan with the improbable name of Brenda Venus and without whom he claimed, he would have been forced "to drowse away his last years with the needle and the knockout drops for company."

Here's part of what Miller told his Venus: "Do I really deserve all the beautiful praises you heap on me? You cause me to wonder exactly who I am, do I really know who and what I am? You leave me swimming in this mystery. For that I love you all the more. I get down on my knees, I pray for you, I bless you with what little sainthood that is in me."

Ah, even a notte d'amore comes to an end. Softly, I close the book on love and wait for sleep.

The morning sneaks into the room and creeps along the walls, leaving blue footprints everywhere. The ceiling fan comes slowly into focus. You turn your head slightly to peep and what you see is a close-by eye open and then close, and two silent smiles trade places on the room's big bed.

Your arm stretches out in invitation, and it's accepted. Nobody says anything about a time limit for all this; nobody says much of anything at all. There is a hand laid lightly on your chest, with much more reverence than you deserve and far more than you'll ever get anywhere else.

In less than an hour, your world will open way up and all kinds of people will walk in. Some will want your money, and others will not want your opinion. Some will feel they've not seen nearly enough of you, and others will feel they've seen way too much. Now the world is smaller and fits very comfortably between these sheets. Only you and the perpetual Other -- and you have your arms around that Other, at least for now.

Your eyes close in sweet safety, and your mouth lightly brushes someone else's hair. So much distance between two human beings; so much good in making that distance smaller.

All too soon the hunter inside you will stir, knowing that there are things that must be caught. Milk. Insurance. A 12-volt battery. But at least for right now, all you really need is close by and yours.

Suddenly -- and the thought brings more smile than sadness -- there is the certainty that no part of what's left of the day will be quite as good as the way it's begun. I'm in love, love, love. Sho nuff in love.

Friday, February 11, 2005


Not all who wander are lost.

bumper sticker

Don't go there

You're obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and social conventions you despise, condemn, and know lack all foundation. It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires and all the dead formalities and vain pretenses of your civilization which makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced. In that intolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at every moment they suppress and restrain and check the free play of your powers. That's the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilized world.

Octave Mirbeau
Torture Garden, "The Mission," Chapter 8

Thanks to Dan Nash for finding this.

There's hope for me yet...

Either I'm a half-assed failure in the computer field I fell into as a way to pay the rent (no concern there), or there is hope for me yet.

I am nerdier than 35% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Apparently, the folks who did the nerd test will soon have a personality test, but if you can't wait, take the Keirsey Sorter/Jung Typology Test now. If you like, you can take the full-fledged Keirsey Sorter Test, but they'll give you the first characteristic out of four, and charge you for the rest.

Please Understand Me is a good book to read for more on Keirsey personality types, and the book includes the test you can take yourself, or administer to others.

I don't think anyone should take these things too seriously. They're just discussion openers--at least I hope I'm not that screwed up ;-)

Just in case you're wondering how screwed up I really am, I have consistently turned out as an INFP (Healer Idealist) whenever I've taken the test. Princess Diana, Audrey Hepburn, Albert Schweitzer, Shakespeare, Fred Rogers, and (yeah baby) Neil Diamond are all examples of Healer Idealists.

Healer Idealists are abstract in thought and speech, cooperative in striving for their ends, and informative and introverted in their interpersonal relations. Healers present a seemingly tranquil, and noticeably pleasant face to the world, and though to all appearances they might seem reserved, and even shy, on the inside they are anything but reserved, having a capacity for caring not always found in other types. They care deeply-indeed, passionately-about a few special persons or a favorite cause, and their fervent aim is to bring peace and integrity to their loved ones and the world.

Deeply committed to the positive and the good, yet taught to believe there is evil in them, Healers can come to develop a certain fascination with the problem of good and evil, sacred and profane. Healers are drawn toward purity, but can become engrossed with the profane, continuously on the lookout for the wickedness that lurks within them.

Just to broaden the terrain of ideas a little

Of course you can find your own weirdness, but in case you're stumped, here are some nuggets of wisdom from the random musings at

Sex is a momentary itch. Love never lets you go.

Arguments out of a pretty mouth are unanswerable.

Time wounds all heels.

Unfulfilled. My fault? No. My choice? Yes.

Other than that she is from southeast Asia somewhere, I don't know who this girl is, but what she has to say is quite thoughtful. Notwithstanding a clear affinity for Christianity and Tony Parsons, she remains generally untethered to any rigid ideological outlook on life. She just seems to be trying to figure out her place in the world, displaying a youthful perspective and self-doubt that I find rejuvenating.

Put yourself in her shoes for a few minutes, and totally loose yourself from the world you know.

The will to power

If I weren't able to contain the temptation and allowed my alter ego to write a blog, it would probably be called

Unfortunately, any merit of Nietzche's phrase was long ago sullied by the Nazis. Let's just say "will to achieve" then, shall we?

More importantly, however, for the individual trying to live a life open to serendipity, the unmitigated expression of "the will to achieve" can get in the way of making the right decisions in life. Thinking too much with your head can lead to faulty choices that result in grief. The same may be said of making choices based too much on your heart's desire. The key to successful living, from a serendipitous perspective, is to have some loose goals--a direction in life--but to remain open to possibilities that may avail themselves.

This might be called the power of positive thinking, but "positive thinking" too often emphasizes that one must always be manically, ecstatically happy, or worse, connotes the mentality of those fly by night business marketing seminars that only produce money for the "gurus" who sell them.

I think one can have an approach to life that allows room for other, more realistic moods. Being up is great, but being down offers time for reflection--and very often, being down is the time when we should be listening to our inner voices.

Find the right balance between working toward your goals, and being open to spontaneous discoveries that may provide you with new and more fruitful options in life.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Roll your own

I made my own serendipity today in the form of leftover homemade shrimp enchiladas topped with green chile sauce for lunch--yum yum.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The quality of a day

Everyone gets the blues; some more than others. I number among the latter. In some cases, it's just a malaise that settles in which can't be attributed to anything in particular--maybe a chemical imbalance (although I'm not convinced that this is always diagnosable as an "illness"). In other cases, it's caused by unfortunate events beyond our control.

This might sound corny, but it deserves mention anyway. In order to get by, we have to find the things in our daily lives that bring us joy: the colors of a sunrise or sunset, the nighttime sky filled with stars, a garden patch, a walk in the park, the journey home from work, putting on some music at the end of the day.

For particularly tough cases of the blues, it may be that we can't find anything in a day that brings us joy, but instead have to look at the single occasion in a week to look forward to. Never, never despair. There's always something truly amazing right around the corner, or right under your nose.

I am confident that, for those who take a moment to look around them, truly special moments will appear in the natural rhythm of the day--things that have always been there, or magical events that occur without expecting them. For the person who develops a heightened sensitivity to the simple pleasures of the world, the richness of life is amplified beyond anything a person with normal perception could experience.

Life is an incredibly precious gift. That's easy to take for granted when trouble comes bearing down on us. Take heart, and be patient in discovering those special moments.

The essence of life is a creative force, but every living thing has a burden to carry. Don't allow the burdens you have to carry to destroy that creative force.

Remember that there is a quality to every day that can improve the joy of living.

Mississippi levee, 7 AM

A hand outside the front door to gauge the weather suggested that knit cap and long sleeves would be prudent for my run today. Not cold, but the humidity made the air clammy.

Moving slowly but surely, I was feeling strong going through the oaks at Audobon Park, so I pushed on toward the river.

A dense fog shrouded the tree line ahead.

On reaching the banks of the Mississippi, I walked a while to rest. Passing a couple of women walking dogs, we exchanged greetings.

I couldn't see more than twenty feet out over the water. The outlines of construction cranes and sleeping willows were just visible a little way up the river.

Waves lapped gently against the levee wall. The traffic of cargo ships and tugboats hadn't started yet. And although I couldn't see anything through the fog, the sounds that emerged from beyond echoed clearly. Most prominently were heavy diesel engines idling. Occasionally a low thud sounded in the distance as heavy objects collided at a dock somewhere.

A group of seagulls squawked as they swooped down on a pile of garbage containing a box of Popeye's chicken bones--likely remnants of some Mardi Gras festivity. I could allow this to discourage me, but today I'll just accept that litter is a simple part of the reality of New Orleans.

The sun emerging from behind the clouds began to burn off the fog, which then rose like wisps of steam from the river.

A train horn pierced the fog several times. Then the crossing bells clanged the alarm. Turning the corner away from the river, a couple of utility cars promptly passed.

The crossing fence rose, and I was off to finish my run.

This path is a special one. It has revealed to me many occasions for rejoicing in the simple fact of being alive.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

What goes around, comes around

At distinct and memorable moments in my life, people have stepped in to lend me a helping hand, for an assortment of things. There was no reward in it for them. They just did it because they saw I was in need, and it was the right thing to do. More than that, I think they did it because they wanted to.

On one occasion, I wanted to see and sense the distance between Honduras and the United States, so I refunded my airline ticket and set a course by bus. Over a six-week period, I stopped at various destinations, watching my money carefully. Unfortunately, I had poorly planned just how expensive things get once you cross the border into the U.S.

My dad forwarded a bus ticket to me in Houston so I could get home. I stayed one night in a hotel, and hitched a ride from Brownsville to Houston. Once in Houston, I got the bus ticket and headed home. I only had a few bucks left in my wallet though, and the bus ride was something like 36 hours. I thought I should be very sparing in spending any of that money.

At a fast food rest stop, the guy sitting next to me got up. When he returned, he gave me a bag of food. I don't know what he sensed. We hadn't talked much. Somehow he knew I must have been hungry. Did I look that bad off after six weeks on buses across Guatemala and Mexico?

As it happens, when I finally arrived in Wisconsin, I had exactly enough change left in my pocket to call home.

I have many other stories like that, and have tried to be aware of situations where I can be a help to someone else.

We are all in the world together, for better or worse. Help a person in need. You'll bring them happiness, you'll feel better about yourself, and somewhere, sometime, who knows, your gift may just come back to you.

Monday, February 07, 2005

To give is better than to receive

One way to kick start a little serendipity is to ask how you can help someone else. Volunteering to give of your time, talent, and energy can open up new doors of opportunity. But be careful whom you ask to help. There are snakes who will take your good will and use it for their own reward, without paying due respect to your contribution.

I'll have to tell the story of Jim Sheppard the missionary some day. He perhaps mastered the helpful approach only too well.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The river knows its own course

The world we live in is filled with obstructions that block our perception of who we are and why we are here. The path to understanding our place in the world and how to find contentment is blocked by all manner of technology, social distractions that divert us from our inner purpose, and obstructions placed in our way by others whose intentions are not benevolent.

We are powerless to control some things in life. This is the very nature of the universe, from which we were created. The universe simply does appear to be constructed of uncertainty, of creation and destruction, of good and evil, of yin and yang. This dualism is present in our very essence. And from this, is derived all manner of personal distraction, ill-intended action, and manifest evil.

Indeed, language itself is an imperfect, insufficient way of revealing truth. To "speak the truth" is itself an untruth. Even as I meditate on the concept of serendipity, I shall ever fail to be able to reveal the truth as long as I resort to words alone. The best I can hope for is to approximate the actual truth.

External obstructions do not merit too much attention. In fact, to the extent that we are not destroyed by them, and learn to overcome them, we become stronger.

We are sentient creatures in a material universe with which we must interact, with no more worth than any other thing, but with a higher place of obligation to fulfill our purpose in that universe.

We need to learn not to become distracted, but to focus on the things we can control. To remain focused on our inner voices, to the meaning and direction that is revealed when we free ourselves from distraction and just listen.

Of course this isn't easy. It takes practice. It requires an ability to tune out the distractions that draw away our attention.

Many cross their own spiritual rivers as though they were obstacles on the way to satisfying their desire for other things--other distractions--not realizing that the river is the intended path for their lives. They are not listening to the river. Siddhartha (Herman Hesse) learned that life is filled with many distractions, all of which can teach us something about the larger universe, but true meaning rests in listening to the river of our souls, listening for that still quiet voice that is only revealed when you see that the river is not an obstacle, but is in fact the path for your life. Our lives may be bounded by the banks of that river, and limited by the path the river follows, but it knows the way. When we follow that path, we find true meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.

There may be many ways for that meaning to emerge in this material world. We could do many things, pursue many professions. The relatively prosperous western world in which we (I) live, contains many possibilities for our lives. We may feel confused by all the possibilities. But this only underscores the need to more deeply cultivate a profound relationship with our inner selves.

We must also not be so distracted by our inner voices that we lose sight of the role we play in the lives of others. In the western world (and Americans are the worst in this regard), we enjoy privilege without a sense of obligation. That others should suffer when we enjoy such incredible material luxury is denying ourselves the fulfillment that could be obtained by learning about the hardship suffered by others, and by sharing with them the gifts we enjoy. Our inner voice knows this truth--that we must engage our physical presence with others, and in so doing, fulfill that mission to which we are called into the universe.

There is in my thought process a yet incomplete notion expanding upon the metaphor of our lives as rivers. We move in a three-dimensional space, interacting over time with objects in that space, and with other people in that universe. As we move through that universe, we pass through spaces and intervals filled with opportunities, and alternately with difficulties. We may not be able to control what happens to us at any time and place, but by being tuned into the possibilities, and by connecting those possibilities with our own sense of purpose, we can remain aloft in a sense of fulfillment.

We can ride the tide of the river afloat, rather than be pulled under by struggling against it.

The river knows its own course. Follow the river.

On courage

How could we be capable of forgetting the old myths that stand at the threshold of all mankind, myths of dragons transforming themselves at the last moment into princesses? Perhaps all dragons in our lives are really princesses just waiting to see us just once being beautiful and courageous.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Eighth Letter, Letters to a Young Poet

Friday, February 04, 2005

Only the heart sees clearly

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Little Prince


Something I wanted;
Nothing I expected;
Everything I needed.

Be open to serendipity

According to scientist Louis Pasteur "Chance favors the prepared mind." Be open to serendipity in the development and implementation of plans. Serendipity is a natural ability to gain knowledge and make useful discoveries from accidental events and occurences. This tip may seem foreign to systematic planning, but it is not. Rather serendipity is the fortuitous result of planning and of being prepared. Serendipity is linked to the tip on exploiting favorable circumstances.

The word serendipity has its roots in "The Three Princes of Serendip", a Persian story about three princes who had the knack of discovering things quite by chance. The word was first used by Horace Walpole in a letter to Horace Mann in 1754.

"War is the province of chance. In no other sphere of human activity must such a margin be left for this intruder. It increases the uncertainty of every circumstance and deranges the course of events."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself."
- General Douglas MacArthur

On observing the lenten season

I'm no practicing Catholic, but for those who are raised in New Orleans, there's almost no other choice. Being a transplant to the city, I'm surrounded by others who exercise ritual almost as though it were a response of the sympathetic nervous system. I'm not criticizing what others accept as an article of their faith. In some respects, I admire the adherence to ritual. When combined with true thoughtful reflection, it can provide a path to a more enriched, enlightened existence. But reflection need not be a product of any particular faith.

Notwithstanding my own faith as a doubting agnostic, some practices are unavoidable to the outside observer--like the strict observance of the lenten season after a harvest of debauchery. On the suggestion of a friend, I decided I would join the observance this year by giving up my increasing tendency to curse like a m-fing sailor every time some a-hole with a cell phone fails to use a turn signal, blocks the fast lane, stalls at a stop sign, or cuts me off.

Of course, succumbing to one's anger is destructive spiritually, closing off one's awareness of serendipitous moments.

Forthwith, I shall be taking some cues from my dad, who is known to cuss with such exclamations as "oh crumb", or "dagnabit", or "holy cow".

I'm looking for other suggestions...

To thine own self be true

Whatever you are by nature, keep to it; never desert your line of talent. Be what nature intended you for and you will succeed.

Sydney Smith (1771 - 1845)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

La belle dame sans merci

O WHAT can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms!
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look’d at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
“I love thee true.”

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept, and sigh’d fill sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream’d5
On the cold hill’s side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—“La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!”

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

John Keats

For the curious, worthwhile notes on the poem. And check out the amazing work by Russian composer Valentin Silvestrov using the Keats poem as a setting.