Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Launch into the deep,

gazing beyond
photograph by Christopher Parsons, 2000

Today I found an old file filled with various items I had saved from a basic bookmaking and letterpress course (circa 2003).

One of those items was a large sheet printed with an excerpt from a book I was reading at the time. Our group had selected the excerpt for one of our letterpress assignments.

I am as moved by these words today as I was back then, one fine day in August of 2003. I hope you can find a moment in your day to sit back and spend some time with them.

The world's spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind's muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance. "Launch into the deep," says Jacques Ellul, "and you shall see."

excerpt from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard


  1. Lovely photograph and lovely words to accompany it.

  2. Denise, this is a beautiful place you have created here! I love the words and photographs you share. It's so peaceful, real, and introspective. Thank you for visiting my blog & I hope your week is going well.

  3. I love the image of the mind being like a muddy river - so true... I wonder if there is a correlation between the earth's health and our own mental health..? Or is that just me trying to say that our job at acknowledging the trash and letting it float by is harder now than ever -- what with all the extra pollution (both literal and otherwise)..? I guess I'm just wondering when it's appropriate to act and when to let go -- it's the balance between the two...isn't it?

  4. I read your post today while at work, and then later when I was out jogging in the sprinkling rain, it came into my mind. I don't have a very insightful response, but I can at least say that it gave me a few moments of peace while I was out doing something where my mind normally runs 100 mph

  5. Maria-

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    My guess is that there is a huge correlation between the health of the earth and our health (mental and physical). My interpretation of this text is that Annie Dillard is referring to creativity and suggesting looking beyond the minutiae to see what is truly important (big picture, forest through the trees, etc.). If we get lost in the little stuff we don't have time for the big stuff, our priorities. If we look at her ideas in terms of trash and pollution (both literal and otherwise), I still see it the same way. What is truly important? Living our lives in a way that produces less trash and pollution is most important.

    ...but wouldn't it be fun to sit down and have a coffee with her and ask her what she really thinks?

  6. Jen-

    Thank you for your note.

    Sometimes it is what I allow to just wash over me that has the greatest impact. It seems this text worked that way for you, just a quick read at work, and then it came back to you on your jog.

    I'm glad it brought you a few moments of peace.

  7. I guess this passage just brought me back to what we'd been discussing about blogging and noise... I've been thinking a lot about that, and how I'm finding a need to protect myself a little bit from it, which implies a more active role than what this know? But I realize I'm reading it very literally. And I do think your analysis is what the author intended... And you must know I'd take coffee and conversation any time..!

  8. Maria-

    I am so with you--I'm definitely struggling with blogging noise. I don't want to be reading about what everyone else is doing and thinking about so often that I'm unable to live my own life. It's difficult because there is so much interesting information out there in blogs, books, NPR, Twitter, FB, email, newspapers, galleries, museums, lectures, etc. It's really time for me to step back and prioritize. I'm exhausted just thinking of it all.

    I think both of our comments about coffee & conversation say a lot. This new electronic way of communicating is so artificial. Imagine if we actually had coffee and a conversation, in person, with each person we communicate with electronically each day. It's not possible. There aren't enough hours. We are so overwhelmed because this is so artificial.

    So, I suggest you move to San Francisco so you and I can just sit down, have some coffee together, and chat from time to time. Deal?

  9. beautifuL picture! and lovely bLog...good that i stopped by...bonjour from the moutains of south france!

  10. Gini-

    That's the lovely thing about blogs, I'm able to have visitors from places like the mountains of South France.


  11. yes i found my 'equipment' in a japanese library in Paris...i got the help of a japanese book too...i wish i could come to san francisco just for a coffee with u!haha...i do beleive im a blog addict but i have a 9 months old baby and a boyfriend that tells ma off! and i thank them otherwise i'LL be on the computer all day long!
    talk soon

  12. Denise, dear: I'd take you up on it, if only it were that simple...! SF, here I come...dragging husband, kid and dog across country. Poof! :)
    I'm so glad we've connected, though... I guess that's really what makes this hardest, though, don't you? I'm really grateful to have "met" you, and I probably wouldn't have, had it not been for blogging.... But I think you need to limit input, otherwise you'll go bananas. I know I will. Which, hey -- isn't that what the passage is saying?? Perhaps a different approach than what you and I are talking about here, but same goal....
    So, coffee. Sometime. Who knows? Stranger things have happened. ;) Meanwhile, I will continue to stop by here to get a little respite from the noise...

  13. Maria- All so true. It's like a rat with cheese. You make a great connection (my "meeting" you) and you are happy. Just like the rat who finds some tasty cheese and wants some more. You can't blame the guy! I'm still working on limiting my input, one little baby step at a time. I am making progress. We can both figure it out, right? Yes, we can.

  14. This was a touching selection, and I am enjoying reading through your posts. You have an excellent blog here.

  15. Des, Thank you for taking a look around Chez Danisse. It's good to know you enjoyed yourself.