Blur Circle

Steve Yost's weblog

June 27, 2004
Mount Raymore

My buddy Jeff and me at the base of Mount Raymore, 1985. From the J.P. Miller collection of personal correspondence between himself and S. Yost, 1984-present. [Thanks to Jeff for the scan.]

June 22, 2004
common threads

How interesting when threads from different things I'm reading come together.

In Meister Eckhart's The Talks of Instruction he says

You must observe two things about yourself that our Lord also had to deal with. He, too, had higher and lower powers, each having its own function. By his higher powers, he possessed and enjoyed the bliss of eternity while, at the same time, by his lower powers, he went through much suffering and struggle here on earth, and still this did not inhibit the function of the higher powers. So it should be with you. ...Moreover, we should assign suffering solely to the body...The spirit will not be tempted by suffering, the senses and [concerns of] the lower faculties.
And on page 8 of The American Soul [available for two bucks!], Jacob Needleman cites Marcus Aurelius after noting that Washington, Adams, Jefferson and others were inspired by the Stoicists such as Aurelius and Epictetus:
And in the words of the Emperor Marcus Aurelieus, speaking of the need to accept the desires and sufferings attendant upon being obliged to live in a mortal body on earth and the simultaneous duty to act according to the dictates of one's own inner God: "Nothing will happen to me which is not in conformity with the Nature of the All. [But] it depends on me to do nothing which is contrary to my god and my daimon [inner spirit].
So it seems that Marcus Aurelius' Meditations is next on the reading list.

And today (June 23) I find on A&L Daily this review of Flesh in the Age of Reason: The Modern Foundations of Body and Soul by Roy Porter.

The issue at the center of the body-mind problem is which of the two, body or mind, is supreme, which is at the wheel, which is really in possession of the remote and selecting all the channels? The answer has never been clear. ... Flesh in the Age of Reason examines how the self was understood and transformed by "educated elites--opinion makers--[as they] grappled with anxieties as to their nature, individuality, and destiny as thinking and feeling humans." Without claiming to be representative, let alone definitive, the book also attempts to chronicle how, as Porter puts it, "the demise of the soul came about," by which he means the centrality of the soul in the minds of those thinking about these matters. This will of course come as striking news to many people who continue to believe they possess an undiminished soul, but then another part of Porter's story has to do with philosophers' and scientists' attempt to wrest the domain of the soul from Christian theology and transfer its functions to the mind.

The American Soul

The American Soul by Jacob Needleman. From the Amazon description: "The critically acclaimed work that asks: What was the spiritual vision of the founding fathers-and how can we reclaim it today?"

June 19, 2004
that whole world thing

It was good to read Marcus Aurelius at Whiskey River (a blog I'm very thankful for), with thoughts in the same vein as an earlier post here. For me, I think this line of thought was opened a couple of years ago when reading a Rumi poem (Barks' translation) that said something vaguely like "a person who is happy at someone else's misfortune just doesn't get it", and I realized I was starting to get it.

Of course the Golden "Do unto others" Rule expresses the same thing (or even harder, Jesus' admonition "love your enemies; do good to those that hate you"), but as a Rule it's put in terms of a moral standard to uphold. I see it as more of a state of being, a state of grace I guess, that visits. It takes lots of practice to keep the door open for that visitor. I think it's that distinction that Marcus Aurelius is making here.

June 18, 2004
Microsoft, Longhorn, and web development

I rarely post tech stuff lately, but Joel on Software article about development trends and the future of Windows development is lucid, even-handed, and info-rich for developers and software managers.

Got it from Peter O'Kelly's blog.

June 14, 2004
The Seven Storey Mountain

The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

June 10, 2004
Rachel McCartney

Rachel McCartney again. Saw her not long ago headlining a packed Saturday night show at Passim, at the top of her form. Why she's not yet signed is a music biz mystery.

morning is at the edge of chaos

Can I keep up my (re)budding morning meditation? I shouldn't even talk about it; words detract from it. It should have no purpose other than itself, yes. Nevertheless, I find it's the only thing that keeps me from the feeling that Joe alluded to: the "You're kidding me? That was it?" at the end of the day, or the spiral eyes in Matt Groening's Life In Hell rabbit. It gives me a purchase on the moments. And then oh, it's good, even when it ain't.

June 08, 2004

The thought process went like this: I could sure use a change of setting like Beth. I want to get out of this burbish town, somewhere more vital. Where would I go? Somewhere closer/in Boston? Nah, it's still so hard to make friends there. Montreal like Beth? Maybe. Pretty cold in the winter though. San Francisco? All those superficial Californians. Seattle? Boring, says a friend of European origin who lives there. Need more culture and nightlife. Europe, maybe France? Nah, French culture is too far from my midwestern how-ya-doin'. OK, pure self-in-a-vacuum fantasy: how about a Zen monastery in Japan, where I'd magically instantly learn Japanese. And I'd very gradually and slowly learn, most of all, to just be where I am.


The pastor's sermon on Sunday was mostly about dissatisfaction, and one illustration noted the "ironical fact" that "it's often in the wealthiest communities where things are most messed up." The point was that we're not so much dissatisfied with any particular thing -- if we're of that temperament, we'll always manage to find something to be dissatisfied with. I've seen it in myself and others around me.

And it occurred to me that there's probably not so much irony in that illustration: it's that temperament that drives certain people to always seek greater wealth (which some people succeed in doing). So blessed indeed are the poor in spirit. The real challenge is to recognize that we're evolutionarily designed to try to continually improve our circumstances (running to stay in one place in the overall competitive milieu), and notice when that's working against us.

June 03, 2004

Just added a new Listening section to the blog. It's down on the lower left.

fIREHOSE - Flyin' the Flannel

fIREHOSE - Flyin' the Flannel my current top pick on Launch. Elemental!

Bettie Serveert

Bettie Serveert

Daniel Lanois - Shine

Daniel Lanois - Shine First heard of him on an Eno album. Produced much U2 among other big things. Sweet music, not big.

June 02, 2004
drums oh drums

I've always been happy being a beginner at something. So recently I took up the drums. In February I bought a sweet drum kit from a guy on craigslist, wedging it with some initial effort into our family space and routine. Since then I've practiced every day for an hour or more that flies by way too fast. In some imaginary life of leisure, it'd be half the day.

Overenthusiastic, I answered an ad for a drummer after three months of practice, and a guy came over to sort of audition me. I didn't make the gig. He said I slowed down "about one percent" on every song, and what a good thing that he had such a metronomic ear. I realized he was right, and that as an instrumentalist, I'd always played around the beat laid down by the rhythm section, pushing and pulling. He reminded me that the role of the drummer is first of all to lay down a rock-steady beat. Redoubling my efforts, I'm going over all my exercises, working for that locked-in crispness with newly critical ears. When I get that, then I can push/pull the tempo, and it'll be more conscious.

Looking for inspiration, I read practice tips on a website. Among the good advice about rudiments, warmups, and dynamics, my favorite is this: "Don't practice! Make each and every moment on the set a spiritual quest. The chops/techniques will come." Yeah, baby. I need to remember that, and avoid the sense of a frantic need to catch up to everyone who started when they were seven years old.

Drummer Michel Dorge:
Q: What profession most intrigues you?
A: The one I'm in.
Q: What is your greatest regret to date?
A: I wish I would have started to play squash at the age of 7 instead of 23.

From Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (regarding another kind of practice):

After you have practiced for a while, you will realize that it is not possible to make rapid, extraordinary progress. Even though you try very hard, the progress you make is always little by little. It is not like going out in a shower in which you know when you get wet. In a fog, you do not know your are getting wet, but as you keep walking you get wet little by little.
Practicing and not practicing. On little cat feet.