Thursday, December 7, 2017

Their Deeply Incised Letters Always a Problem

  • Two short excerpts from The Tunnel. Rest in Peace, William Gass.

The other large carton unpacked in the same way - box into box - but the feeling it gave me was the opposite of that suggested by the endless nest of Russians dollies it otherwise resembled, for what I was opening was a den of spaces which now covered the floor near my feet. It was plain that every ten-by-ten-by eight container contained cubes which were nine by nine by seven, and eight by eight by six, and seven by seven by five, and so on down to three by three by two, as well as many smaller, thinly sided ones at every interval in between, so that out of one box a million more might multiply, confirming Zeno's view, although at that age, with an unfurnished mind, I couldn't have known of his paradoxes let alone have been able to describe one with any succinctness. What I had discovered is that every space contains more space than the space it contains.

  • Please read out loud if you can, if you want. Think Gass didn't when he wrote it?

I built, of blocks, a town three hundred thousand strong, whose avenues were paved with a wine-colored rug and decorated by large leaves outlined inappropriately in orange, and on this leafage I'd often park my Tootsie Toy trucks, as if on pads of camouflage, waiting their deployment against catastrophes which included alien invasions, internal treachery, and world war. It was always my intention, and my conceit, to use up, in the town's construction, every toy I possessed: my electronic train, of course, the Lincoln Logs, old kindergarten blocks—their deeply incised letters always a problem—the Erector set, every lead soldier that would stand (broken ones were sent to the hospital), my impressive array of cars, motorcycles, tanks, and trucks—some with trailers, some transporting gas, some tows, some dumps—and my squadrons of planes, my fleet of ships, my big and little guns, an undersized group of parachute people (looking as if one should always imagine them high in the sky, hanging from threads), my silversided submarines, along with assorted RR signs, poles bearing flags, prefab houses with faces pasted in their windows, small boxes of a dozen variously useful kinds, strips of blue cloth for streams and rivers, and glass jars for town water towers, or, in a pinch, jails. In time, the armies, the citizens, even the streets would divide: loyalties, friendships, certainties, would be undermined, the city would be shaken by strife; and marbles would rain down from formerly friendly planes, steeples would topple onto cars, and shellfire would soon throw aggie holes through homes, soldiers would die accompanied by my groans, and ragged bands of refugees would flee toward mountain caves and other chairs and tables.


  1. Alone in a hotel room. Read it aloud. Immensely pleasurable.

  2. 1)world war

    coincidentally, i received in the mail today

    The Penguin History of the World: Sixth Edition Sep 30, 2014 by J. M. Roberts and Odd Arne Westad

    2)every space contains more space than the space it contains

    i wandered from "space containing space" to "emptiness", and from there to this book review by meditation teacher culadasa:

    The Psychic Grid
    by Beatrice Bruteau

    This is an excellent explanation of what Buddhists call Emptiness (Sunnata or Shunyata). Written by a Western philosopher, who is also a Christian and has probably never heard of Emptiness, it avoids many of the pitfalls of Buddhist writers on Emptiness.

    The Buddha was a radical empiricist and a pragmatist, which is why his teachings resonate so well with modern science. His message to us was not to assume that our perceptions are a valid representation of reality, and to stop analyzing the world in terms of substance and essence, as consisting of things with inherent natures. The Buddha consistently refused to engage in discussions of ontology, focusing instead on epistemology, what we can know and how we can know it. Nevertheless, all but the most sophisticated of Tibetan and other Mahayana thinkers have mistaken the notion of Emptiness for a doctrine about what exists. It is not. It is a statement that what we perceive is not, and cannot be, what actually is.

    Dr. Bruteau’s discussion of how we create the world we know makes this perfectly clear. Once we understand that reality is Empty of being what it appears to us to be, and why, then questions about whether the things we perceive actually exist or not become irrelevant. “Things” exist – but only in our minds. “Something” exists outside of our minds, there is an Ultimate Reality, but we can never perceive that reality directly. We can never have a direct experience of ultimate reality, but we can have a direct experience that reveals this fact to us – a direct experience of Emptiness. Liberating insight comes through this realization of Emptiness. Ignorance is destroyed, the illusion we have been trapped in for our entire lives is dispelled, and true wisdom follows.

    I highly recommend this book for everyone, but especially for anyone who has struggled to understand the teachings on Emptiness.