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Truth and Beauty

“Truth and Beauty are fundamentally different. Whereas Truth is a property of statements, beauty reveals itself in the course of an experience with an object.” Howard Gardner Do you know what you value? I value beauty. I say in my profile that I value beauty and excellence, as well as truth and kindness. Beauty is #1. The older I get, the more my values coalesce around the holy trinity of values espoused by Aristotle and others: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. What is the difference between the three? This post isn’t about making those distinctions. For that I recommend Gardner’s book, Truth, Beauty and Goodness Reframed. Or check out his lecture on the topic. I found Garner’s book to be helpful and insightful. For audio book lovers, it is available on Hoopla for free with a library membership, in many cases. That is how I “read” it. Beauty is a personal thing. I like blurry backgrounds in my photos, you don’t; I’m mesmerized by the beauty of daisies blowing in a breeze, you find them ugly …

Stones at the Sea Edge

The Quality of Light

My father was a master of illusion. Early in his career he was a photoengraver. He etched images in copper plates to run on mechanical presses. Later he worked the large camera in a newspaper’s composing room. He was an expert at creating half-tones, those images newspapers use that are made up of variously spaced and sized dots. Given enough distance from the surface, you don’t see the dots, and your brain’s pattern recognition system creates a meaningful image. Dad enjoyed the process, the technical challenges, and the end result. He was a stickler for quality, frustrated at younger workers who didn’t want to learn the subtler nuances of the craft, didn’t see the point of excellence in daily details. On Friday evenings when I was in junior high, I would stay downtown and wander from pinball arcade to Chinese restaurant to street corner with friends and then around 11:30 I would head to the newspaper office to get a ride home with Dad. If I got there early I sat on a stool inside …

3 Most Formative Books is Neil Pasricha’s ambitious project to uncover and discusses the 3 most formative books of inspiring people so that he can compile a list of the 1000 most formative books in the world. I heard about the project from an interview Neil did with Dr. David Van Nuys on Shrink Rap Radio. I quickly became a regular listener to 3 Books, and have decided to make my own list. I like the word “formative.” Not favorite or “best” books, but the ones that formed you. What books shaped me the most? These three: These books fall roughly into the three categories of books that I’m drawn to year after year. Books of new ideas and theories (Spiral Dynamics), books about religion or spirituality (Pagan Temptation) and books that move me with their story and prose. As a highly sensitive person (or empath in the colloquial terminology) I exhibit the characteristics that HSP expert Elaine Aron summarizes as DOES D is for Depth of Processing O is for Overstimulation E is for Emotional Reactivity and Empathy …

Original Review of The Pagan Temptation

Re-post of a book review I made in 2010 of Thomas Molnar’s classic, Pagan Temptation in preparation for a new review of the book in 2020

Comparing 2 Takumar 55mm Lenses

A comparison of two lenses in the Takumar line of 55mm lenses, shows minimal difference, with the newer SMC version having slightly more accurate, less pink tones.

A Year of Bokeh

It started when I looked at a photo by Eden Bromfield and thought, “woah, how did he get that shot?” I’d been looking at photos for months, deciding what I was most drawn to. What type of photos did I want to take? I liked both the ultra sharp landscapes that I would later come to understand are the result of a technique called photo stacking. And I liked soft (gasp) out-of-focus photos I would later learn were the result of a fortuitous geometry in the heart of specific lenses. But back then, gazing at that photo of Eden Bromfield’s I was simply lost in the beauty of it. The delicate over-lapping discs and rings of light echoing the cap of the mushroom and the general sense of glowing luminosity. I was enchanted. Learning the technique took a few months but it led me on a journey which culminated, finally a year later, in this shot: Different Kinds of Bokeh After viewing a number of the images with those glowing haloed backgrounds, I notices the …

BC Ferry silhouetted against Sunrise

Beauty Will Save the World

“Too often, beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy…. Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence.” – Pope Benedict XVI Speaking to a collection of artists. The wounding, eye opening, joyful, grasping of profound meaning that the Pope described is an experience I’ve had. In fact I’ve had this experience many times and I now spend most of my free time putting myself in contexts where it might occur. It is not, of course, …

Westholme Tea Farm

Westholme Tea Farm is dedicated to reflecting wabi sabi in their tea and tea utensils.

Coming Out as an Empath

The same sensitivity and awareness that causes increased pain, also empowers empaths to know deeper and richer levels of solitude, sabi, and mono no aware. They see all kinds of beauty and they tend to see it everywhere. They feel deep connections in nature, and with others. Their heart it touched every day.  I intuitively knew that if I numbed my pain, I would also numb my joy.

Meekness,Wu-wei, and De

Because powerful people lose empathy the longer they have power, some mechanism is needed to counteract this phenomenon if they are to remain responsive to those they lead, and a benefit to the community. Various traditions, including Christianity, Daoism, Zen, and Stoicism, have all discovered ways to foster meekness and related qualities.

Why Advice to “Man Up” is Flawed

For those looking for a bottom line to this topic, it is this: Don’t simply repress your emotions, or put on a mask of toughness; instead, learn the techniques, skills, and strategies for developing grit and resiliency. But there is more than just Positive Psychology and getting grit.

Type A, B, and C Personalities

Type A Medical commentary from the late 1960s through the 1990s speculated about two types of personalities associated with disease. Cardiologists Meyer Friedman and RH Rosenman coined the phrase “Type A Personality” several years after they noticed that their waiting-room chairs needed re-upholstering sooner than those in other medical offices. Cardiac patients, more than most, were sitting on the edge of their seats and fidgeting and fussing with their arms and hands. In 1976 Rosenman and Friedman began research that confirmed their original suspicions. They found that there was a common set of traits associated with cardiac patients and identified the primary one as a propensity to be easily stimulated to anger. They also noted a high degree of competition and hostility. Type A people are hard working goal setters, but tend to lack a sense of joy in their accomplishments. Type B People with Type B personality were said to be more tolerant and relaxed than Type A individuals. They are thought to be more reflective, less hostile and aggressive, and not overly prone …

Back Pain and TMS

TMS, or Tension Myoneural Syndrome, is a theory that explains the kind of pain that persists for long periods despite the absence of clear physical damage or injury. It is most often associated with back, neck, and intestinal pain, but has been applied to a wide variety of conditions including itching, tinnitus, and fibromyalgia. Even when physical abnormalities such as a bulging disk seems to present a likely cause, the strategies taught by Dr. John Sarno and others are effective at reducing and often eliminating the pain. One of the best explanations of TMS is in this video by Dr. Howard Schubiner: Dr. Schubiner and Dr. Sarno focus on education as a means to help people see the “true” cause of their pain, and then take steps to eliminate it. After first reading Crooked and Everyone has Back Pain, I read Dr. Sarno’s book, The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain. Towards the end of the book Dr. Sarno lays out the formula for exposing and confounding the brain’s covert plan of distraction-by-pain, by exploring the emotional issues underlying …

Ice on Water

Non Dual Thinking

When I wrote about why sabi was important, I touched on it’s role in fostering non-dual thinking. Non-dual thinking is a bit of a buzz word in certain Integral and “Progressive Christian” circles. Two of my favorite writers, Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault, have been speaking about it for many years, and I’ve heard some interviews in which advocates for non-duality claim to see a perspective even beyond non-duality. But for now, I think it is fair to say that most of us need to first experience the shift to non-dual thinking. But why? Non-dual thinking grows almost unconsciously over many years of conflict, confusion, healing, broadening, loving, and forgiving reality. – The Center for Action and Contemplation. Dualing Thoughts Most thinking involves a process we call categorization. The word category comes from the Greek word, kategoria which literally means accusation. In it’s verb form kategorein means “to speak against; to accuse, assert, predicate.” Going even deeper we discover that the root kata means “down to”  or “against.” Aristotle used the word to refer to …

Sabi is the Bedrock of Zen

John G. Rudy in his book, “Wordsworth and the Zen Mind” says sabi is the bedrock of Zen enlightenment. Here is the full quote: Chief among the moods of Zen – and the one that, for all practical purpose, forms the bedrock of Zen enlightenment – is sabi, the spirit of non-attachment or freedom. – John G. Rudy This matter-of-fact assertion by a scholar deeply immersed in the poetic work of the English Romantics seems at first to be slightly provocative. Provocative for me because I’m not sure if I would say that sabi is the spirit of non-attachment. Sabi is Paradoxical As I explored here, I see sabi as a paradoxical state or mood; a combination of loneliness and satisfaction, or perhaps even sadness and contentment. These elements are popularly considered both negative and positive respectively – thus the paradox. How is this possible to be contented and lonely at the same time? I think if we can answer that question we will glimpse the mechanism at the heart of sabi’s essential “spirit.” Sabi is Internal Before …

The Stages of Beauty

Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language. – Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac

Frosty River

Secondary Benefits

I said on the “Why is Sabi Important” page that there are secondary benefits to embracing sabi and moving into a way of looking at the world through a sabi lens. Here I will, in the coming months, unpack this in more detail. Accepting All That Is? Well, maybe not all that is, but I have found that much if not most of our suffering comes from wishing things were different than they are.

Trees in the Mist

A Long Missed Shift

There have been NO MUSHROOMS in Nanaimo so far this fall. With failing hope on my walk today I wandered from time to time off the trail, poking mournfully at the ground with my walking stick. Eventually I gave up and decided to just enjoy the walk. As I came around one curve in the path I stopped and looked at this scene: Something in the way the branches filled up the space with horizontal lines, the autumn light, late in the day, and the deep reassuring stillness caused a sort of mental pop in my head. I felt it like a knot un-knotting. Pop, un-knot. I was suddenly full of a warm shy contentment angling up towards joy at the edges. I smiled. It has been a very long time since such a feeling has come to me. I carried on down the trail, swinging my stick and breathing in the green smelling air, lungs not big enough to take in as much as I would like, shoulders not broad enough to throw back …


Haecceity (from the Latin haecceitas – pronounced heck-see-ity) is usually translated as “thisness.” Duns Scotus is believed to be the first person to use the word to denote the wholly unique components that make a person or object unlike any other person or object. In a certain sense it is the emergent quality of a thing that we recognize as being one of a kind and therefore worth great value. A sensitivity to “thisness” is one of the central muscles of a poetic mind. With it we move out of categorizing all stones as “stones,” which is a time saving device, into contemplation of this particular stone, which is a time occupying device. We pick up the stone, we turn it over, we appreciate it for it’s thisness. This of course is not a muscle exclusive to the poetic mind. The scientific mind also requires this working, this using of effort. In thisness the scientist and the poet stand together — in curiosity, in wonder sometimes, at the profoundness of this one unique thing, this …

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