Rebecca Solnit

The desire to go home that is a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the center of the world, that center called love. To awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to cease to speak and be perfectly understood.

  • Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics

The stars we are given. The constellations we make. That is to say, stars exist in the cosmos, but constellations are the imaginary lines we draw between them, the readings we give the sky, the stories we tell.”

  • Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics

Worry is a way to pretend that you have knowledge or control over what you don’t–and it surprises me, even in myself, how much we prefer ugly scenarios to the pure unknown.

  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost

A path is a prior interpretation of the best way to traverse a landscape.

  • Wanderlust: A History of Walking

 

Writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone.

  • The Faraway Nearby

 

How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?(Plato)

The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration- how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?

  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost

 

Despair is a form of certainty, certainty that the future will be a lot like the present or decline from it. Optimism is similarly confident about what will happen. Both are grounds for not acting. Hope can be the knowledge that reality doesn’t necessarily match our plans.

  • Men Explain Things to Me

To write is to carve a new path through the terrain of the imagination, or to point out new features on a familiar route. To read is to travel through that terrain with the author as a guide– a guide one might not always agree with or trust, but who can at least be counted on to take one somewhere.

  • Wanderlust: A History of Walking

But hope is not about what we expect. It is an embrace of the essential unknowability of the world, of the breaks with the present, the surprises. Or perhaps studying the record more carefully leads us to expect miracles – not when and where we expect them, but to expect to be astonished, to expect that we don’t know. And this is grounds to act.

  • Hope in the Dark

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes–you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and knowable, a alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what is may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.

  • Hope in the Dark

If the boundaries of the self are defined by what we feel, then those who cannot feel even for themselves shrink within their own boundaries, while those who feel for others are enlarged, and those who feel compassion for all beings must be boundless. They are not separate, not alone, not lonely, not vulnerable in the same way as those of us stranded in the islands of ourselves, but they are vulnerable in other ways. Still, that sense of the dangers in feeling for others is so compelling that many withdraw, and develop elaborate stories to justify withdrawal, and then forget that they have shrunk. Most of us do, in one way or another.

 

  • The Faraway Nearby

 

The possibility of paradise hovers on the cusp of coming into being, so much so that it takes powerful forces to keep such a paradise at bay. If paradise now arises in hell, it’s because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.

  • A Paradise Built in Hell

 

Paradise is not the place in which you arrive but the journey toward it. Sometimes I think victories must be temporary or incomplete; what kind of humanity would survive paradise? The industrialized world has tried to approximate paradise in its suburbs, with luxe, calme, volupté, cul-de-sacs, cable television and two-car garages, and it has produced a soft ennui that shades over into despair and a decay of the soul suggesting that Paradise is already a gulag. Countless desperate teenagers will tell you so. For paradise does not require of us courage, selflessness, creativity, passion: paradise in all accounts is passive, is sedative, and if you read carefully, soulless.

  • Hope in the Dark

Creation is always in the dark because you can only do the work of making by not quite knowing what you’re doing, by walking into darkness, not staying in the light.

  • The Faraway Nearby

 

Resistance is first of all a matter of principle and a way to live, to make yourself one small republic of unconquered spirit. You hope for results, but you don’t depend on them.

  • Hope in the Dark

 

He ceased to be lost not by returning but by turning into something else.

  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost

 

To dig deeper into the self, to go underground, is sometimes necessary, but so is the other route of getting out of yourself, into the larger world, into the openness in which you need not clutch your story and your troubles so tightly to your chest.

  • The Faraway Nearby

 

A labyrinth is an ancient device that compresses a journey into a small space, winds up a path like thread on a spool. It contains beginning, confusion, perseverance, arrival, and return. There at last the metaphysical journey of your life and your actual movements are one and the same. You may wander, may learn that in order to get to your destination you must turn away from it, become lost, spin about, and then only after the way has become overwhelming and absorbing, arrive, having gone the great journey without having gone far on the ground.

  • The Faraway Nearby

 

I wish that I could put up yesterday’s evening sky for all posterity, could preserve a night of love, the sound of a mountain stream, a realization as it sets my mind afire, a dance, a day of harmony, ten thousand glorious days of clouds that will instead vanish and never be seen again, line them up in jars where they might be admired in the interim and tasted again as needed.

  • The Faraway Nearby

 

What we dream of is already present in the world.

  • Hope in the Dark

 

Some portion of Woolf’s genius, it seems to me, is that having no notion, that negative capability. I once heard about a botanist in Hawaii with a knack for finding new species by getting lost in the jungle, by going beyond what he knew and how he knew, by letting experience be larger than his knowledge, by choosing reality rather than the plan. Woolf not only utilized but celebrated the unpredictable meander, on mind and foot. Her great essay Street Haunting: A London Adventure, from 1930, has the light breezy tone of many of her early essays, and yet voyages deep into the dark.

  • Men Explain Things to Me

Holosynthesis

The people thrown into other cultures go through something of the anguish of the butterfly, whose body must disintegrate and reform more than once in its life cycle. 

In her novel “Regeneration,” Pat Barker writes of a doctor who “knew only too well how often the early stages of change or cure may mimic deterioration. Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit emblem of the human soul, for those whose cat of mind leads them to seek such emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.” 
But the butterfly is so fit an emblem of the human soul that its name in Greek is “psyche,” the word for soul. We have not much language to appreciate this phase of decay, this withdrawal, this era of ending that must precede beginning. Nor of the violence of the metamorphosis, which is often spoken of as though it were as graceful as a flower blooming.

Rebecca Solnit (A Field Guide to Getting Lost)

is religion antiquated?

When people denounce religion in a reductivist way as to imply that modernity should make us all transcend such baseness, it makes me fear for humanity. Those who say this are usually white people in industrialized nations, where they are so far removed from the raw human condition that dwells in the cracks of suffering like poverty like death of children like rampant spread of crippling diseases, that they’ve forgotten their insignificant place in this universe.

 
Religion is ingrained in the subconscious as an archetype – it’s shaped the paths we’ve crossed as a collective from time immemorial. When you look down on it, you have put yourself at the centre of the universe. You’ve erased your human limits and imperfections because modern conveniences insulates you from feeling the powerlessness this man felt.

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Seeking you within myself

 

The Somali term ‘calaf raadis’ ¹ literally means one who seeks their destiny. Specifically, one seeking their soulmate.

So it has me thinking: How are you going to seek something that is your destiny? How do you decide who is or isn’t a soulmate? If you find her/him and you run away, will they follow you? If not, how can you outrun your destiny? And is destiny deterministic or is it decided by your outlook on life?

 
I mean, YOU are the seeker right? So what you’re seeking is a certain criteria by which you filter what you encounter? Criteria based on what you *don’t* want, what you secretly crave, whatever will act as a comfort zone.

 
So, doesn’t that mean that your calaf is … yourself? That whatever you are is a magnet drawing unto itself things of its nature? Like how life falls into place when everything seems to fall apart. How things mysteriously harmonize when you let go of control. How discovering yourself has little to do with piecing together clues and more to do with peeling away layers.

 
So… shouldn’t the prospect be to remove everything that obscures the path between you and your calaf/soulmate? The path being your heart… Would the one you’re seeking recognize YOU? Would you be ready to accommodate for them, or would you cut them down to fit you? How can you find a soulmate when you keep rejecting and repelling your own soul?

 
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
– Rumi


¹ ‘c’, in Somali is pronounced like ع in Arabic, which can pass for ‘a’ in English. So: calaf=alaf

no wonder, land

Maybe the questions I’ve been trying to solve all my life that have taken me down infinite rabbit holes weren’t questions after all. Perhaps they were monologues in my head that echoed through my deserted being, reverberating for years and years to mask the underlying disconcerting silence. A broken mirror reflects back different angles in the various shards of broken glass strewn across the floor. Maybe a broken spirit does so too; fragmented desires and glitches in dreams aren’t meant to be pursued but understood that the whole is no more. But then there’s cutting yourself on the jagged edges of parts of you that have broken, and the daunting task of piecing this existential puzzle back together. What am I supposed to mirror myself in, in the meantime? What if the world’s light burns me when it finds no shiny surface to bounce off?  

This is the reason I’ve been staying in rabbit holes. I can pretend I’m not here.

Pundits & pirates

​The system will always be defended by those countless people who have enough intellect to defend but not quite enough to innovate.

— Edward de Bono (I Am Right You Are Wrong: From This to the New Renaissance: From Rock Logic to Water Logic)

shards of ego

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the
cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don’t know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like
burnt paper.

D.H. Lawrence (Escape)

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