Archive for the 'Lessons' Category

The nature of things

November 4, 2014

Nine days ago my wonderful, beloved uncle died of cancer. Last Friday I stood by his coffin, spread with native wildflowers (tea tree and gum blossoms) and a little bunch of late season forget-me-nots, and read from Thoreau’s Walden and Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.


I am made up of the causal and the material. Neither of these will disappear into nothing, just as neither came to be out of nothing. So every part of me will be assigned its changed place in some part of the universe, and that will change again into another part of the universe, and so on to infinity.


It is the nature of all things to change, to perish and be transformed, so that in succession different things can come to be.


What a tiny part of the boundless abyss of time has been allotted to each of us – and this is soon vanished in eternity.

I will miss him so much.


July 6, 2014

“I need to be alone for certain periods of time or I violate my own rhythm.”

Lee Krasner (1908-1984), via la douleur exquise.

February 24, 2014


n. a recurring thought that only seems to strike you late at night—an overdue task, a nagging guilt, a looming and shapeless future—that circles high overhead during the day, that pecks at the back of your mind while you try to sleep, that you can successfully ignore for weeks, only to feel its presence hovering outside the window, waiting for you to finish your coffee, passing the time by quietly building a nest.

From the ever-wonderful Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

Twelve ways I like to frequently endanger myself

May 10, 2012

  1. “Wearing of thin shoes and cotton stockings on damp nights and in cold, rainy weather. Wearing insufficient clothing, and especially upon the limbs and extremities.”
  2. “Leading a life of enfeebling, stupid laziness, and keeping the mind in an unnatural state of excitement by reading trashy novels. Going to theatres, parties and balls in all sorts of weather, in the thinnest possible dress. Dancing till in a complete perspiration, and then going home without sufficient over-garments through the cold, damp air.”
  3. “Sleeping on feather-beds, in seven-by-nine bedrooms, without ventilation at the top of the windows, and especially with two or more persons in the same small, unventilated bedroom.”**
  4. “Surfeiting on hot and very stimulating dinners. Eating in a hurry, without masticating your food, and eating heartily before going to bed every night, when the mind and body are exhausted by the toils of the day and the excitement of the evening.”
  5. “Beginning in childhood on tea and coffee, and going from one step to another, through chewing and smoking tobacco and drinking intoxicating liquors, and physical and mental excesses of every description.”
  6. “Marrying in haste and getting an uncongenial companion, and living the remainder of life in mental dissatisfaction. Cultivating jealousies and domestic broils, and being always in a mental ferment.”
  7. “Keeping children quiet by giving paregoric and cordials, by teaching them to suck candy, and by supplying them with raisins, nuts, and rich cake. When they are sick, by humoring their whims, indulging their fancies, and pampering their appetites, with the mistaken notion of being extra kind to them.”
  8. “Allowing the love of gain to absorb our minds, so as to leave no time to attend to our health. Following an unhealthy occupation because money can be made by it.”
  9. “Tempting the appetite with bitters and niceties when the stomach says No, and by forcing food when nature does not demand and even rejects it. Gormandizing between meals.”
  10. “Contriving to keep in a continual worry about something or nothing. Giving way to fits of anger.”
  11. “Being irregular in all our habits of sleeping and eating, going to bed at midnight and getting up at noon. Eating too much, too many kinds of food, and that which is too highly seasoned.”
  12. “Neglecting to take proper care of ourselves, and not applying early for medical advice when disease first appears. Taking celebrated quack medicines to a degree of making a drug shop of the body.”


A.k.a. “Twelve Ways to Commit Suicide,” from the American Medical Journal, reprinted in the Manhattan and de la Salle Monthly, 1875, and brought to my thinly-garbed and fiendishly cake-munching attention by the Futility Closet.

**Oh, actually I prefer to sleep under open windows – especially when there’s a draught.

February 11, 2012


“Eat, sleep. Sleep, eat. Exist slowly, gently, like these trees, like a puddle of water, like the red seat in the tram.”


Sartre, Nausea, London: Penguin, 2000: 223.


January 20, 2012
The low creeps with an awful calmness, like this morning.
I feel blunted, reduced. But it will pass.
The only thing is to keep moving.
I’ve learned that much, even if it is hard.

What I have learnt today

January 2, 2011


That I can do anything with discipline and clarity, and that this is achieved by closing my eyes and so stopping doing anything at all.


A little note I wrote to myself a year ago

September 18, 2010
“My chance for failure came and went with my illness.
I could have given up.
But I didn’t. In the light of that, every day can only be a success.
I cannot fail, because I have already met and owned that war.
I chose to live and learn. And by doing both every day, I WIN.”

What I have learnt today

August 25, 2010

This afternoon I think I understood the inexclusivity of love. And that its measure is the willingness with which you can let a love go, and honestly wish them well.

(Because love is not selfish. And it remains, even when all else has been said and done and taken away.)

What I have learnt today

July 4, 2010

No one can make me sad without my allowing them.
(It’s a matter of self respect as much as anything else.)