Tempura with carpione Rabbit macaroon Baccalà and tomato Oyster and lemon verbena Treasures From the Sea: Sustainable and Salvaged Aubergine, calamari, tomato, olive and capers Mediterraneo Fish soup Asbstract of asparagus, prosciutto and peas tagliolini Polenta and rice in praise of pizza “La Cina è vicina” Flower salad Mont Blanc in springtime Yellow is bello
SP68 bianco Arianna Occhipinti NonLoSo Trebbiano d’Abruzzo ‘Fonte Canale’ 2013 Tiberio Timorasso ‘Farewell’ 2012 Walter Massa GLOCAL Vouvray Les Haut Lieu 2007 Huet Arcese bianco 2013 Bera Birra ‘Clandestino’ Carussin Siccagno Nero D’Avola 2009 Occhipinti Moscato ‘Filari Corti’ Carussin Picolit 2013 Marco Sara
"The Messiah was at the gates of Rome unrecognized, dressed in rags. But one man who recognized that this was the Messiah went up to him and asked him, ‘When will you come?’ I think this is very profound. It means that there is some inadequation between the now and now. He is coming now; the messianic does not wait. This is a way of waiting for the future, right now.
The responsibilities that are assigned to us by this messianic structure are responsibilities for here and now. The Messiah is not some future present; it is imminent and it is this imminence that I am describing under the name of messianic structure."
According to Levinas and Derrida's ethic of hospitality, there is an infinite and unconditional obligation to not look away from the Other. And it is this which is our basic moral obligation. While for Kant, this was a universalist claim (his Golden Rule), for Derrida, it was much more personal and particular--but with the focus always on the other (or the relation between the self and other). Derrida liked a story he heard from Maurice Blanchot:
The Messiah was at the gates of Rome unrecognized, dressed in rags. But one man who recognized that this was the Messiah went up to him and asked him, ‘When will you come?’
Derrida did not believe any messiah would ever come. And yet he insisted that this messianic structure was what opened human beings up to ethical goodness.
In Japan, I knew a gentleman who ran a 200 year old miso shop. K san was also a bon vivant par excellance! Studying Enshu school tea ceremony, he wore stylish kimono by day and organized French film festivals on the weekends. He also spent a fortune on tea bowls and art, which he often would show to his friends.
Everyone in town knew him and his miso shop was a gathering place of local luminaries.
Of all the interesting things he was involved in, my favorite of his activities was his gramophone club. Once a month like-minded collectors would show up with a favorite record (or not) and sit around listening to old records while drinking sake. Need I say anymore to his incredible sense of style?
Appropos of all this, years ago in Berkeley, I sat in a class where my beloved guru Hubert Dreyfus was struggling to get us to wrap our minds around the fact that there are different understandings of being, which thereby lead people into differing ways of doing things. Take for example, he said, tea. There are people in Japan who will sit and spend 45 minutes just to make one cup of tea. Can you imagine, he asked. Think of how different that is from our world of plopping a tea bag into water and nuking it in the microwave.... 30 seconds and presto: a terrible-tasting cup of tea--probably made in a disposable Styrofoam cup no less. He laughed and laughed. I had not been to Japan at that point so didn't understand what a 45 minute cup of tea could mean....I was 18.
Time can bend... Can't we just slow down and talk about the weather or talk about ideas (instead of people and things)? Can't we think outside the corporate box of fast food and corporate junk. In tea ceremony, everything is made by a craftsperson and names are attached to things and things are attached to stories. This is why those old bowls have charisma. And that matters.
And then we can maybe slow down eough to feel sound waves washing over us in delight --since every old record only has two songs on it. So we listen again and again.... hear the air between the notes.
Uncompressed and amplified.
As I wrote about here, this all reminded me of a great show Robert Harrison did for entitled opinions with fellow Stanford professor Gabriella Safron on the history of listening."Generalizations are always problematic," he said, "but there is one generalization you can make about western civilization that won't get you into any trouble. And that is that Western civilization is one that thorougly philoscopic." That is to say that Western culture from very ancient times has priledged vision over the other senses. There is no question about this; from Plato's Ideal forms (eidos: visible aspect) to a Proustian vision, it was spiritual vision (and rational in-sights) that were thought to be the means to knowledge.
Harrison mentions being amazed at the way our video technology progresses constantly--while that of our audio continues to degenerate. This is also something that is unquestionably true. When I returned permently to California after twenty years, one of the many things that surprised me was how sound systems seemed to have disappeared. In Japan, we continued with a sound system and most of our friends had stereos. It was rare to listen to radically compressed digital music. Based on my own experience at least, I would say that Harrison is correct that while video technology has progressed in stunning ways, over those same two decades since I've been away our sound techology probably has degenerated. At least that is how it felt for me.
The show on listening is fascinating and I highly recommend it. After discussing ancient Greek philosophy (vision) and the Hebew Bible (listening), Saffron discusses how difficult it is for us to even imagine a time when information was taken in mainly by sound. This was a world where there was a shared calendar too, and for example the liturgy was repeated every year like a clock and people let information sink in over time by listening over and over again. They discussed the way that ritual listening has all but disappeared from our modern lives.
Now, we prioritize new information and that is almost always taken in through independent reading. Saffron, who is a Slavic languages specialist, talks about the pleasure people must have in repeated listening. To hear something again and again. For Easter, she described the Orthodox tradition of greeting one another with the paschal greeting: Christ has risen, truly He is risen...
The point is that the sound travels from producer to consumer without ever disappearing into some electronic circuit to be changed or shaped. Jascha Heifetz plays his violin into a horn, those vibrations become scratches, those scratches become vibrations, and I hear Heifetz play. Everything is on the surface; nothing ever goes into a black box. I am one step away from direct, physical connection to Heifetz, as I would be if I handled his bow or tried on his hat. It is a form of aural time travel.
As I mentioned here, my time travel field guide says that time travelers are ultimately characterized by a reckless abandon and the disregard for mistakes.It's true I think.... but time travelers can also be divided into two sorts: those who prefer the past to those who prefer the future for their destinations.
Speaking for myself, I had never even contemplated going forward in time... my eyes, I guess are inevitably in times past~~~~ traveling backward through history books and paintings-- and sometimes in bowls of tea.
Cities are smells, said the great Mahmoud Darwish:
Acre is the smell of iodine and spices. Haifa is the smell of pine and wrinkled sheets. Moscow is the smell of vodka on ice. Cairo is the smell of mango and ginger. Beirut is the smell of the sun, sea, smoke, and lemons. Paris is the smell of fresh bread, cheese, and derivations of enchantment. Damascus is the smell of jasmine and dried fruit. Tunis is the smell of night musk and salt. Rabat is the smell of henna, incense, and honey....
Each somehow singular, that cities have their own distinct and discrete smells, weather, feeling, music and mood is something immediately discernible to anyone who travels around the cities of India; of Southeast Asia; of Europe where --despite close proximity, the cultures/spirits/aurae/airs/colors-- are so incredibly and beautifully different. Smells especially can so vividly evoke--or even "capture"-- the spirit of a city; so that, as Darwish goes on to say, A city that cannot be known by its smell is unreliable.
In this study of passion our other principle aim has been to evoke a Town, the Town as essential character, associated with states of mind, counselling, dissuading, inducing the hero to act. And in reality, this town of Bruges, on which our choice fell, does seem almost human. It establishes a powerful influence on all who stay there.
It molds them through its monuments and its bells.
When the medievals looked out at the night sky, they did not see dark skies as we do now, but they rather saw a universe jam-packed with stars and planets and angels and music (Lewis writes beautifully in the essay about how the heavens were filled with heavenly music). And all this activity, they believed was put in motion not by causes and effects but rather out of love. But he cautions us not to misunderstand Dante's famous line about the love that moves the heaven and stars; for this is less about modern conceptions of love with their ethical connotations as it is an appetites or desires. So, as Lewis describes it, the Medieval universe was rotating in its desire or appetite for God. It was a musical, ordered and festive universe; for Lewis says the angels and seraphim spend their time engaged in festivals of great pagentry):
The motions of the universe are to be conceived not as those of a machine or even an army, but rather as a dance, a festival, a symphony, a ritual, a carnival, or all these in one. They are the unimpeded movement of the most perfect impulse towards the most perfect object.
One has to admit that there is something incredibly aesthetically pleasing to understand the universe in these terms.
That night in Hawaii, seeing once again the great splendor of night sky remembered from my childhood, I realized how much we had lost. Our gracious and wonderful host at the observatory said that he really understood the Dark Sky Movement since the vision of the night sky is such a crucial part of our human heritage --and indeed we have lost so much. Before getting back in the car to go back down the mountain, I took one last look at the myriad stars twinkling so beautifully in the sky. Sadly, I recalled Emerson's famous quote about the stars since the envoys of beauty no longer come out to light the universe in smiles anymore.
"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”
And within 5 centuries, dozens of cave temples covered in murals of impossible beauty were to be created across thousands and thousands of miles along the Silk Road-- all the way to Japan.
I told him: We really should start a railway company and put down tracks to connect all the temples so that pilgrims can ride with us on our glorious mural express.
Being a practical sort of guy, he was dubious about the diplomatic and political hurdles, and so I sought to persuade him.
It would be a wonderous beginning, that's for sure. I mean, starting in India, the Murals of Ajanta would set the mood, right?
He said he was listening. So, I continued:
It must be a riny narrow gauge train with blue cars and a carmine red engine and red caboose. "Just like the one we rode to Shimla," I say. And it won't be for everyone either-- for like Mecca, our train will be a place reserved only for true believers-- for believers of love and beauty.
He smiled and answered that, It wouldn't be easy since the mountains kind of get in the way.
That's when I tell him my plan to dynamite our way through the mountains:
What do you think about blasting a huge tunnel that goes for miles and miles under the Himalaya—and then we can use laser lights to recreate all the murals that were lost on the tunnel’s dark walls for our dear passangers? Wouldn’t it be romantic? They can dine on Cantonese cuisine by candlelight as they watch the evening laser light mural show? After all, so much has been lost.
Are you in or not, my darling?
I'm in, he says at last. And asks, Where to from Ajanta?
Well, first it's up to Ladakh.
Ladakh? Isn't that a little off the beaten track?
No, not really. For in that remote region, downtown Leh might as well be downtown Manhattan. And everyone loves Manhattan.
Just a few kilometers outside of the town of Leh is-- of course-- the Monastary of Alchi, which has paintings that have almost stained my mind with their dazzlingly rich colors. As I have written in these pages before, sometimes when I close my eyes before sleeping at night--even now all these years later-- I see those colors. And, it was Alchi that first inspired me to dream this dream journey dream from Ajanta to Dunhuang and then all the way across to Horyuji-- traveling on the glorious mural express.
I spent some time last year translating two documents for the Oriental Library about two other cave temple sites along the Silk Road: Bezeklik and Kizil. As I looked at photos from the sites, I become dazed like a pilgrim-- nearly blinded by the beauty of the Flaming Mountains and and the seering noonday sun of the desert, I imagine stepping into a darkened cave temple, and there I find myself in another dimension-- a place of pilgramage.
This from my translation:
The architecture follows an iconographic programme, functioning as the stage for the carrying out of a Buddhist pilgrimage. device for this procedure. Entering the cave, the pilgrim first contemplates the past lives of the Buddha as he or she passes along murals depicting scenes from these past lives. The pilgrim would next circumambulate the corridor moving in a clockwise fashion. Along the back walls, the pilgrim would view scenes Sakyamuni’s nirvana scene and in order to contemplate his or her own existence...
Like falling in love; like mountains of the mind; indeed, like all pilgramages-- this is an imaginary possession achieved via the colloboration between physical form and human imagination; a dream journey that occurs at precisely that disjuncture between the real and the imagined. Pilgramage. I wonder if this is not yet another essential human practice on the decline (an endangered species?) Pilgramage being of particular significance since it is both practiced collectively together with others and serves to connect inner and outer understanding.
Recently, I listened to an old TED Talk lecture with Matthieu Ricard, on his book the Habits of Happiness. In the lecture, Ricard talks about the Buddhist idea of a pebble being tossed about on the waves on the ocean. Most of us exist in such a state that like a pebble being tossed about in the water, our state of mind is so dependent on outside forces that we are happy when things are going well and then crash when bad things happens. The Buddhists tell us to combat this doomed way of being, we need to cultivate our inner serenity, inner freedom, and confidence through what Ricard calls mind training (ie meditation). For it is mind that "translates" all our outer experiences into inner meaning, he says. As a translator myself, this image of mind "translating" experiences into meaning speaks to me very strongly. Ricard urges us to think about how illusory our control inevitably is over outer circumstances. And indeed we meet people all the time who have everything in the world and yet remain unhappy. And vice versa, those suffering great adversity who seem strangely quite happy.
In the end, I think just as Ricard says, it all comes down to working to cultivate practices and habits which will enrich us by forming and strengthening what is an underlying ethical-aesthetic sensibility-- for it is that which will help us to flourish and feel serenity. Ricard talks of meditation while the Dalai Lama speaks above about the "shaping power" of pilgramage. The Dalai Lama's words above recall the project of the Confucian Rites as proper comportment through the cultivation of ethico-aesthetic sensibility, don't you think? I know I am not the only one who wonders what is at stake for the human race when collective and shared practices which have long served to connect inner and outer understanding via the human heart are lost forever (Are we really destined to become McPeople like I fear?).
He was standing there holding court about the state of science education in the country. He was also discussing the lack of political vision, and I thought how the level of this decline came with an astounding --and perhaps corresponding-- level of malaise. Looking back, other than World War II and perhaps the country's early days of Revolutionary politics, has anything truly excited and united people here more than scientific innovation and the space program?
We went to see the movie Instellar last night. Despite being a huge fan of Kip Thorne, I had been dreading this for weeks. I have never really enjoyed seeing Hollywood movies and this one promised to be both too intense and too long...My astronomer, however, really wanted to go --so what could I do? We went and --in a nutshell-loved it. As he said it, this was the movie he had been waiting for all his life. It's true, it had all the theories I had loved reading about as a kid--wormholes, black holes, exoplanets and time travel...and it was absolutely stunning to boot! The critics hated the "cosmic love letter" aspect of the movie, but I really loved that part since I too believe that love is a lot like gravity.
“Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends the dimensions of time and space.” More than a pricey ad for NASA,Interstellar feels like Nolan’s love letter to the human spirit. Sometimes, the glass of Tang is more than half full. Sometimes it’s positively overflowing.
"O Marvel! a garden amidst the flames. My heart has become capable of every form: it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks, and a temple for idols and the pilgrim's Kaa'ba, and the tables of the Torah and the book of the Quran. I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love's camels take, that is my religion and my faith.... " Ibn Arabi
The Bombay monsoon has finally fallen into character, after a destitute June. As I was falling asleep to the sound of heavy rain a few nights ago, my attention was once again momentarily drawn to the dense ecology of sounds that the droplets made as they struck several surfaces. There was the light, wind-swept tympanic percussion on the window pane, there were the lone droplets on the balcony ledge, the corpulent plops upon the leaves of the potted plants in the balcony, and there was the dense tumescent swoosh, the ‘white noise' of the environment, amidst several discrete sounds of varying time and frequency that I could distinguish, in a short audition. Perhaps it was no longer that a few minutes. It felt much longer and so it is when we enter these strange, somewhat unsettling meditative states.
Ah, the rain in India....Can anyone deny the exhilarating feeling of experiencing a monsoon shower there? Or how it feels to fall into a trance watching the long rains (長雨→眺め). After feeling the pressure rising all day, waiting until that moment when at last the heavens open up from above-- It is indescribable... How many films and songs are there that express the sentiment? (And, more importantly, will I ever have my own truly Bollywood wet sari moment?)
It's not just exhilaratingly life affirming and intensely romantic, either; for just as Gautam says, the sound of rain--like the sounds of insects singing-- washes over us and affects us much like music.
A high-pitched plink upon the tāla leaves, a murmuring patter upon the branches, a harsh clatter upon the rocks and a violent crash upon water – the rain falls, keeping the beat, like vīṇās in a concert.
In Japan, the celebrated heavy plum rains of June (梅雨) are followed by the time of frogs singing in the paddies and the symphony of insects singing in the evenings. These sounds atune us to the world, and as Gautam says, like music, they can generate feelings of happiness-- and dare I say, contentedness? There was a famous Japanese study in the 80s that attempted to "scientifically" prove what Japanese have always suspected, I think--that
“. . . Japanese and Westerners alike heard music, machinery and noise sounds in the right brain and language sounds in the left brain, but Japanese heard vowels sounds, crying, laughing and sighing, the cries of insects and animals, waves, wind, rain, running water and Japanese musical instruments in the left brain, the same as language, while Westerners heard these sounds in the right brain together with music and noise.”
To wit, once the father of a dear friend hid a cricket in a small bamboo cage under his coat and as we sat talking. He wanted to perform an experiment to try and discern just precisely how long it would take a foreigner to "hear" the music of the insect. He thought that since I was probably processing the sound as a background noise, I would tune it out... and sure enough after an hour of my shockingly dismal response, he declared that I must try and atune myself to the sounds of nature and hear them like I hear human voices in order to be actively nourished by the music of nature.
And there was an email from my friend who loved climbing up the Temple of Dawn. Climbing up the steep and narrow steps with its jagged pieces of Chinese ceramics and glass adorning the walls all the way to the top, it reminded him of all the many boats that had for so long passed through this city of angels. From the top of the pagoda, the view overlooking the great river, with the city sprawling endlessly beyond, never--not ever-- ceased to delight him. But he missed Japan. And so with Rachmaninoff's tears playing in his head, he sent me an e-mail from Bangkok:
I love Japanese rain, especially slow,light rain at a Shinto shrine as it gets dark in the evening, just dark enough for color to disappear. When I am faraway, just thinking about rain dripping off a torii in the late evening makes me homesick for Japan. And so I listen to Rachmaninoff's tears and dream.
"mood is a form of attunement between nature and spirit; between habitat and inhabitant"
And as he describes the autumn rain in Rome, I too am swept away in the mood of gathering clouds, overflowing waters. Streaking colors and a Roman deluge.
In Japan, even a thousand years ago, the monsoon rains of June had been known as the plum rains (梅雨). Pronounced "meiyu" in Chinese and "tsuyu" in Japanese, the rains received their name on account of the fact that they coincide just about the time when the plums are ripening and growing heavy in the trees. And, because the rains can be very so strong in that part of the world that they can literally drive the plums right off the branches.
In Japan, there are few holidays or events during the rainy month-- something rare for Japan-- just rain, rain and more rain.
There is a famous tale of a lady-in-waiting at the Heian court who spent her days lost in the rain.
In fact, the whole affair started in early summer as she watched the long rains fall from the skies-- day after day. She had by that time scandalized the court by her affair with the emperor's third son. Falling madly in love she was divorced by her husband and disinherited by her father. Her beloved then up and died of the plague, leaving her to fend off the gossips and those who would have liked nothing more to banish her forever from the glorious capital.
And, so she sat watching the rain, which were a symbol of both her tears and her longing for him ("Him" being just ambiguous enough for by this time her feelings had shifted from the dead prince to his younger brother, who was luckily still alive).
The brother of her dead lover wrote to her:
You are thinking only of the long rains Forever falling everywhere. Into my heart also the rain falls– Long melancholy days.
And she responded, for by this time she was almost overcome by longing. The fragrance of orange blossoms (tachibana), said to be the flowers of remembrance, had transported her feelings from one man to another.
The Court had by then reached its limits.
"But," argued the Lady, "what is a girl to do?" She pleaded boredom and the season. Rains and fireflies and the scent of tachibana flowers, one couldn't help but be in the mood...
The sound of nature has great power to affect our shared moods. Their sounds and rhythm make us feel alive, or lull us into a trace--sometimes even plunging us into love.... My own Guru Hubert Dreyfus says that
Heidegger would point out that a minimally meaningful life requires sensitivity to the power of shared moods that give mattering to our world and unity and meaning to events.
According to Heidegger, moods are not something inside a person but rather are something that a person can be in. That is, moods come over us; overcoming us. The German word famously reflects this, as philosophers like to remind us that die Stimmung [stimmungen?] means mood in terms of atmosphere ("ambiance"). Often likened to music or to weather, Heideggerean mood wraps itself around our bodies. It is something that we unconsciously attune ourselves too. Indeed, it is one way we have to grasp the way the world discloses itself to us.I like the idea of treading on a path (道) as a way of knowing since it gets closer to a kind of Heideggerian (or Japanese philosophical ) notion of knowledge as understanding and fascination--not as efficient resource consumption or self-augmenting-- but rather as an embodied know-how and attunement to the "vibrations" of the world ~~~~~and to the music of the spheres....