everyone arrives at their destination, or in some cases the destination (if such a thing even exists), from a different path. we all walk completely paths, because we are not wired the same, not designed, and through our design and our origination point is how she shape ourselves. it is kind of like a video game, if you really think about it - you are born as a particular character, in a particular place, none of which is your decision. where you live has its own levels of difficulty related to survival and development as a "functional human being" - or at least "functional member of a society." additionally, with every moment that passes our personalities are shaped by what we react with and how we react to it. thus we become individuals, and as individuals we have our strengths and our burdens which we either must face or avoid for the rest of our lives.

and so i think of meditation, that mode of existence that is most often wilful, but can sometimes be thrust upon us by an unexpected spiritual experience. many people today seem to be arriving at the door of meditation from very different paths. for some, the practice was taught at an early age as part of a long historical tradition - for others, it is a safe place at which they have arrived from a long and arduous journey.

what meditation does for me is provide an instantaneous doorway to the framework of my consciousness.


wandering star

summer has begun, and the air contains the same fragrant cool greenness i remember from last year, and the year before. birds both familiar and not join together in their choral cacophony, a near-constant accompaniment to the sun's dance across the sky. shadows are cast on mountainfaces and bedsheets by shaking leaves, drifting clouds. the swirling of ephemeral lost souls caught out of the eye's corner a second too late. in the dampness of twilight an eerie orchestra of chirping frogs illuminate the forested soundscape. these sounds more than any other contribute to that peculiar feeling of a cocoon being constructed all around me, whether starry night-colored or blisteringly iridescent with the violent impulse of new. life.

each season of each year seems to contain the same incarnations of self, like four continuous trajectories which differ only in where they stand amidst the elements. my sun self, the summer self, is when my age technically advances in number. the spring self rests in its annual hibernation. memories flood back triggered by the exact impact of the sun at high noon, as heat is only this intense when it hugs me from its current position; by the exact cool warmth, or warm coolness, of water now fit for swimming when i plunge myself into its depths against my skin's first desires. the moon shows her face to me when i need her embrace, and mysteriously is kept from me when my strength is to be found within.

my capacity to wield wisdom grows and shrinks inward and shoots up after rains and is killed off with disease at irregular intervals, and that is all part of the cycle. i accept the fact that i will keep feeling lost, even after i thought i've been found. i accept that being lost is not the end, and that to remain found i will need to work harder to retain my memories of success with greater accuracy, rather than those of failure.

i sit on the porch of my mind and watch the passing wind, like a mountain. i thank those who have graced my life and are no longer here. i learn the lessons that i need to learn. i acknowledge that my mind sometimes implants memories, sometimes misremembers... and embrace impermanence.

tanaka ryohei, gingko tree

lately i have been listening to portishead almost without end. i'm surprised that this group has hardly (if ever) been given a mention here, but i think it's because i have had them simmering on the back burner of my musical awareness for years and wasn't quite giving them their due.

my favorite thing about portishead is their incredible propensity to create completely unique soundscapes. "but isn't that what every good band does?" yeah, but no. not quite like this. the quality of production of their songs renders each as an entire self-contained world with its own rules, patterns, eccentricities. my favorite music does exactly this, where the first few seconds set the stage with a set of parameters, and then the listener is walked through the world of the song in an exploratory unraveling. the feeling of "this world is somewhere i never want to leave" is what causes me to put a song on repeat, and portishead has so many songs like this, songs which create mini utopias for my mind to bathe in infinity.

too dramatic? hear for yourself~

"strangers," dummy (1994)

perfectly-placed samples which weave together distantly-connected worlds
 the places each of those worlds evoke, all at once
images flashing, painted by sound
 hazy vocals which hearken back to times long past
disjointed lyrics that provide emotional texture rather than a chronological narrative
 time that exists outside of our time

"roads," dummy (1994)

skeleton of harmony presented before being fleshed out
 bluesy loneliness translated into sound
a road stretched out for miles in the dark
 as yet unwalked

"the rip," third (2008)

this song randomly came up in my listening experience and i basically couldn't stop listening to it. from the first section, so innocent yet sad, to the sweeping majesty of the synths, i love the journey from the ground into the sky.

arthur wesley dow, the derelict
i claw at what has been lost too often, rather than embrace what is already in my hands. thinking too much has been my downfall. my feet know where they are to go.

the mind creates the abyss,
the heart crosses it


sun guitar

i was brought to tears this morning by an emotion quite complex, something rare and unique and unusual but so very real...

listening to the following recording, the rare collection of tracks from the 1908s collected as the album oyiwane by a group of nigerian schoolchildren, induced a variety of feelings in mine chest.

i've been drawn to the sounds of niger for a little over a year, thanks to artists such as les filles de illighadad and mdou moctar (and many others found primarily through saharan-based recording project sahel sounds), and this album fulfilled many of the same searching beings within me.

aside from the monumental rareness of the circumstances leading to this recording being available for digital streaming in 2019 (the story of how sahel sounds acquired the recordings is quite extraordinary), the sheer timbre of children's voices singing atop such sparse guitar and rhythmic accompaniment is something i didn't know i would react to quite so strongly. the lyrical content of these songs deals primarily with the current political issues of the time, and served as a message to the greater nigerian population about the need for education (for all, but especially young women).

the group's song "oyiwane" (referring to the tuareg greeting "o-yi-wan") won first prize at a musical competition held in 1985 among city schools local to agadez, niger. due to this success, a generation of all-girl groups was cultivated and a popular genre was created.

for some reason this album made me think of the beauty some humans are compelled to create. whether knowingly or not, there is plentiful evidence that a decent number of humans, when confronted with life's hardships, resorted not to violence but to art and education. it moves me to see the creation of beauty in this world when logic and all things cold demand that there be nothing more than existence, nothing more meaningful in this life of ours than struggle and survival.

not sure why that got to me so, but damn!


which reminds me, i have been meaning to post about the following artist, mdou moctar, for a while now. i am just now becoming re-acquainted with his solo folk album, sousoume tamachek (2017), and wanted to share the experience with you.

moctar taught himself to play a handmade guitar in secret while growing up in a village where popular music was initially frowned upon for religious and traditional reasons. after making himself known among friends and neighbors as an extremely gifted musician whose lyrics were respectful and spiritual, the attitude towards creating guitar music softened and moctar would often find himself among the people in the village performing soft and intimate songs that he had written.

this album collects, years later, these initial personal songs that moctar was playing with his friends, and it is one of my favorites for this very special reason.

i think i am going to get to see him perform live in april! the closest place he's coming to me is about 6.5 hours away, but that's not too bad. it would be cool to support something like this that i am so fascinated by.


once a young woman said to me:

"hafiz, what is the sign of someone who knows God?"

i became very quiet, and looked deep into her eyes, then replied:

"my dear, they have dropped the knife. someone who knows God has dropped the cruel knife that too many use upon their tender self and others."

- hafiz (translated to english by daniel ladinsky)