A Big Piece of Nothing
some thoughts, some quotations.

  1. You surely remember that story about six blind men and the elephant, don't you ? You know, the one where they want to know what the elephant really is, but couldn't see him (pretty obviously). One of them bumps into the elephant's side and gets the idea that "the elephant is like a wall", another feels the trunk ("oh, the elephant must be a sort of snake") and so on, and so on up to the sixth. But my version of the story doesn't end here as there was also the seventh blind man, a confused one, who managed to miss the entire elephant. "Gee", he concluded "that elephant everyone brags so much about is really a big piece of nothing!". As you may well have guessed that's precisely my attitude.

  2. The above doesn't mean that I disbelieve in elephant (for dummies - God, Outer World, The Essence of Being, Reality, whatever), it's just I don't think it's possible to grasp it with reasoning. No matter how much brainpower and sophistication is involved, eventually every theory can be reduced to unsupported dogmas, axioms, articles of faith ie. it reveals itself as a big piece of nothing. The fact I don't believe in finding doesn't mean I don't believe in searching. As a matter of fact I do think that one can have a hell of a fun out of it, especially if they don't take themselves too seriously.

  3. The elephant story is a misquote. I don't even remember the place I took it from. This page is composed of similar overheard stories, pieces of poetry, my hasty judgements and undeveloped thoughts. Probably you'll find some prevailing moods and common motifs in all this chaos. In any case you'll find a part of me, the compiler. 28 34

  4. The following is a verse by a Romanian poet Miran Alexandru. The Polish translation (not mine) probably doesn't match the original, mine Englishization of the former is surely even worse.

    Grzech niecierpienia i grzech niepłakania
    Mrozi mnie jak chłód, co warzy jabłonie jesienią
    Jak chroniczna choroba trawi mnie myśl bezustannie
    Że nic dotąd nie dałem śmierci i nic zmartwychwstaniu

    The sin of not-crying and of not-suffering
    Chills me like frost that kills appletrees in autumn
    Like a chronic disease haunts me a thought unceasingly
    That I haven't given to death a thing, nor to resurrection

  5. The art of illusion is in essence the art of deceiving the eye by sleight of hand. Conversely, philosophy is in truth the art of fooling the mind by sleight of tongue.

  6. There's that Georgian verse whose author's name I remember not. Forgive poor transcription (I lack Georgian font)

    bindisperia sopeli, upro da upro binddeba
    ra aris chveni sic'oc'khle chit'ivit chamovideba

    The village took the color of dusk, darker and darker it gets
    All what is our life, flies away with the birds

  7. I was amazed how many of the world's nations are "renowned for great hospitality", in their own eyes, of course. The Turks are, so are the Iranians. And you must have heard those legends (err... objective statements regarding our widely known respect for guests) about us, the Poles, right ? This makes me wonder if a tribe exists that wouldn't make this claim. The Scots, perhaps ?

  8. When you think of a dog, get a stick in your hand
    - a caucasian proverb

  9. A poem by Blake, in which he anticipates psychoanalisis (don't ask me, that's what I've read somewhere)

    I was angry with my friend
    I told my wrath, my wrath did end
    I was angry with my foe
    I told it not; my wrath did grow
    And I water'd it in fears
    Night and morning with my tears
    And I sunned it with smiles
    And with soft, deceitful wiles
    And it grew both day and night
    'Til it bore an apple bright
    And my foe beheld it shine
    And he knew that it was mine
    And into the garden stole
    When the night had veil'd the pole
    In the morning glad I see
    My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree

    Caveat ! My wording is probably unexact since I quote from memory and memory is a frail thing indeed. Remember, watch your head and keep it safe.

  10. I don't subscribe to any belief system or philosophical tradition, I'd rather keep my thought independent and untamed. Unfortunately, so many people before me have had similar ideas, that I am by no means original. There's no escape from the footprints of the predecessors, for the world and the thought are not limitless.

  11. We are now approaching the voting on entering the European Union. Everywhere one can see the bilboards on which a smiling lady (or gentleman) says: "YES. I am European". Cute, but makes me wonder about who the Swiss are...

  12. My projected chart-breaker:

    We are the Siamese, if you please
    We are the Siamese, if you don't please

    - sung in a lazy voice by a choir of fat Siamese cats and repeated ad nauseam.

  13. Another misquote in search of its author:

    It's only the thought of a suicide that has kept me living

    A commentary to the issue, for two voices:

    *I don't believe there's any significant difference between life and death
    Really ? Then why won't you just kill yourself, huh ?
    *Can't you think ? If nothing changes, why should I bother ?

  14. This time an attributed quote. Taken from "La vida es sueno" by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. First day, second scene. Sigismundo:

    pues el delito mayor
    del hombre es haber nacido

    So the man's greatest felony
    is having been born

  15. Think about it. Think about the Greek tragedy. A hero dies, only because he's meant to die. Take Edipus (or however you'd like to spell it) for instance. There is no fault in him - his terrible fate had been decided long before he was born and there's no way to evade it. Don't you feel that your own situation isn't exactly that different ? I mean, you'll eventually, ehm, perish, and noone is going to ask if you don't mind perishing, right ?

  16. Also, the world doesn't seem fair. You don't get as much care and attention (not to mention fame, fortune and luxury goods) as you deserve, don't you think ? Well, luckily, in the new, better world (or otherworld) -some people will tell you- things are going to get fixed for you. For now, you only have to obey some easy rules... and voilá ! The reward is yours. Sounds familiar, huh ?
    I've always been amazed how easy it is to traffic in eternity and salvation.

  17. If you feel like meditating about the weak nature of man, the curse of mortality, the inevitable fate etc. , here's Omar Khayyam's advice:

    Khayyām, agar z-e bāde masti - khosh bāsh
    gar bā sanami dami neshasti - khosh bāsh
    pāyān-e hame omr-e jahaan nisti ast
    pendār ke nisti, cho hasti - khosh bāsh

    Khayyam, if to your head goes wine, happy be
    if close to your beloved you sit, happy be
    for at the end of all the things stands nothing
    think you're not here, and 'cause you are, happy be

  18. Omar Khayyam was an exquisite Persian astronomer and mathematician, yet thanks to a certain Englishman he's the most widely known Persian poet. Edward Fitzgerald discovered Khayyam for the West, and then for Iran (where his poetry had been almost forgotten). Fitzgerald's translations often bear only vague resemblance to the original; this very fact, as you've probably guessed, makes him my idol. I don't know the Persian version of the poem I quote below (the form used is called "robayyi" or "four-verse") hence the translation from Russian.

    все цветы для тебя в этом мире цветут
    но не верь ничему - все обманчиво тут
    поколения смертных придут - и уйдут
    рви цветы - и тебя в свое время сорвут

    Every flower here blossoms just for you
    But trust not a thing, it is all deceitful
    Mortal generations having come, will leave
    Pluck the flowers now, they'll soon pluck you

  19. "Love of good" quite often gets corrupted into "hatred of evil". Do I need to explain the vital difference ?

  20. Remember the poem in which Blake has anticipated psychoanalisis ? Hmm... come to think about it... I guess it was rather this one:

    Oh rose, thou art sick
    the invisible worm
    that flies in the night
    in the howling storm
    has found out thy bed
    of crimson joy
    and his dark secret love
    does thy life destroy

  21. A wise man never bites more than he can swallow. This holds true not only for food, but also for books... Take small chops of words and thoughts, don't forget to chew them carefully - else you won't digest them well and your mind will get no nutrition.

  22. Not the first quote from an unknown source:

    He who fights monsters must be wary,
    lest he becomes a fiend himself
    For if you look down into the Abyss,
    it gazes back at you.

  23. This is the motto of Kierkegaard's "Sygdommen til Doden" [The Sickness Unto Death]:

    Herr, gieb uns blöde Augen
    für Dinge, die nichts taugen
    und Augen voller Klarheit
    in alle deine Wahrheit.

    O Lord, on our eyes veil cast
    for things and matters that won't last
    and give us eyes of the say-sooth
    which will see nothing but your truth

  24. An eastern poet was, surprisingly, more laconic in expressing similar idea. A short quote from Sa'di, a poet of Persian common sense and a storyteller. He earned his living by narrating (with gore and exaggerated detail) his adventures to any willing audience.

    ānche napāyad delbastegi nashāyad

    What forever not serves, heart-attachment not deserves

  25. Nursery rhyme is a fascinating genre. Have you noticed how morbid it often is ? What comes below is just my improvisation, but I daresay it's very typical:

    Little fly, your joyful play,
    my skilful hand will sweep away,
    little fly, you and I,
    I will live, and you will die.

    Or this one:

    Lady bug, lady bug.
    Little lady who's a bug.
    If I pull your wings off, lady bug,
    how will you fly home ?

    Oh, no, you just won't
    my little, little bug lady.
    Your house is on fire
    and your children will burn !

    Now, you may think that it's just me, making up little poems for my own entertainment. But, think about it, where have you met people whose cruelty and callousness would surpass the knack for maiming and torture of some of your peers from kindergarten or elementary ? I sincerely hope that nowhere. Also, have you forgotten how small children always flock together, how they harass any outsiders and how much they enjoy it ? Undoubtedly, there's something very bestial in children. It's quite ironic that one often hears advices to "let awake the child within yourself"

  26. A French army saying:

    Essayer de comprendre, c'est commencer a désobéir

    Trying to understand is the beginning of disobedience

  27. A quote from Pascal. Not that notoriously famous one.

    Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas.

    The heart has its reasons, which the reason doesn't know

  28. The merit of all this quoted wisdom (and maybe of all the printed wisdom, too) lies not in that it reveals some (better, scarce) pieces of truth about the reality. It most probably doesn't. If it matters at all, it's because it can dazzle you (or me) with mastery of the apt wording, and, even moreso, because it can be a trigger. A device which all of a sudden starts a chain of associations, impressions and thoughts, moving back and forth inside your mind, giving life to your own little inner world. If it doesn't force you to think, it's cold and dead. No use whatsoever. Beauty, they say, is in the eyes of the beholder. Meaning, I say, is in the mind of the reader. Would you agree ?

  29. Once upon a time, when I was still studying philosophy, one of my classmates accidentally spilt coffee over my notebook (mundane one, not machine).
    -Omigod- his friend said- what if he'd just solved the Riddle of the Universe and now you've destroyed the solution ?
    Well ? What if I really did ? I mean it's a tempting thing to think, that the Solution exists somewhere you'd never expect it that you can find it just like that and lose it just like that.

  30. It's impossible to be a great Bulgarian poet, as someone once said. Being truly great involves recognition and that comes not with talent but with publicity. And the limelights are not set on Bulgaria. Therefore all the great Bulgarian poets you've (or haven't) heard of don't exist. For sure.

  31. Here's this famous Polish folk saying I made up recently:

    Sam się nie pochwalisz - chodzisz jak opluty.

    If you don't praise yourself, you walk as if bespit.

  32. I'd like to tell you a joke. No, a parable. A joke of a parable and a parable of a joke. Like almost all good jokes it's a Jewish one.
    Two Jewish people are on a walk. One of them notices a bag lying on the pavement, the other one picks it up. The bag is full of money. They can't agree on which of them should take it. They go to the Rabbi to hear his opinion. 'Rabbi, I saw the bag first, therefore it should be mine' says the first one. 'Yes, you're right' says the Rabbi. 'But Rabbi - says the other - it was me who picked up the bag. I think it should belong to me'. 'Yes, you're right' the Rabbi answers him. 'How come, Rabbi ? - intervenes one of the Rabbi's pupils - They just can't both be right !'. 'Yes, you're right, too.' answers the Rabbi. That's it for a joke. Why have I called it a parable ? Well ?

  33. A day is coming when I'll put all these Persian verses on a separate page. For now this robayyi of Omar Khayyam is still here.

    az āmadanam nabud gardun rā sud
    vaz raftan-e man jalāl-o jāhash nafozud
    vaz hich kasi niz do gusham nashenud
    kin āmadan-o raftanam az bahr-e che bud

    from my coming the world didn't become glad
    and my leaving to its glory not a thing did add
    and from no one, too, my two ears did hear
    'bout my life and death - what meaning it had

  34. My sight is good but my eyes are bad. When they look around they tend skip what's right and focus at what's wrong. At bad things, bad people, bad traits in people. The Persian word for 'pessimism' is 'bad bini' which means 'bad seeing'. What an accurate word it is. 4

  35. I have recently discovered Yeats. Lines 1 and 3 of the following I like the most.

    I sing what was lost and dread what was won,
    I walk in a battle fought over again,
    My king a lost king, and lost soldiers my men;
    Feet to the Rising or Setting may run,
    They always beat on the same small stone.

  36. Man, being reasonable, must get drunk
    The best of life is but intoxication

    The above - o surpise of surprises ! - despite the suspicion its content may rise, is not a work by Polish poet but a Lord Byron's one.

  37. Contemporary Persian poetry remains hidden in the shadow of the sweet-spoken classics. 33 17 I brought one Sohrab Sepehri's verse into the light only to mutilate it by translation. Just look and compare (don't know Persian ? - learn !).

    har koja raftam, baasham, aasemaan maal-e man ast

    wherever I am, or would I be
    only the sky belongs to me.

  38. This is how I remember what Leon Leszek Szkutnik once said

    Kto chce zostać świętym, musi być okrutny wobec siebie.

    He who wants to become a Saint must be cruel to himself.

  39. Lo and behold! Our strictly copyrighted transcultural greeting:

    Shalom aleykum !

    It's Piotr Krawczyk's and mine contribution to the peace process in the Palestine. 31

  40. This page has seen many pessimistic verses. This time - a different kind of fish:

    dar nāomidi basi omid ast
    pāyān-e shab-e tire sepid ast

    During the darkest hours hope gives a lot of light
    Even the darkest nights end in a morning bright.

  41. A XVIIIth century Ottoman traveller writes about Poland:

    Ludność Lehistanu dzieli się na trzy grupy.
    Rusini uprawiają rolę, Żydzi zajmują się handlem, a Polacy
    kłócą się, piją i oferują swoje usługi ambasadorom ościennych mocarstw.

    The population of Lehistan (ie. Poland) is divided into three groups.
    The Rusins cultivate the land, the Jews carry on trade and the Poles
    quarrel, drink and offer their services to foreign ambassadors.

    Now, after WWII, border changes and resettlements, Poland has became a ethnically uniform country. Rusins and Jews live here no longer. Use your imagination.

  42. I have been wondering... why no one is ever tempted by Good ?. Do you know why only the Evil is thought of as attractive ?

  43. As Ayatollah Khomeini once almost said in that famous interview with Falacci:

    I am an islamic revolutionary, baby 

  44. The difference between Polish and Russian interrogation techniques is best rendered by the fact that 'pytać' in Polish means 'to ask (a question)', whereas its Russian twin word 'пытать' [pytat'] means nothing other than 'to torture'.

  45. This is a peculiar fragment. It's number changes but it's place doesn't - it's always the last one. A good place for farewell. Well then, I hope you've enjoyed your stay here as much as I enjoyed writing all this. Don't hesitate to write me (peterlin -at- jzn -dot- pl) any comments, impressions, thoughts you do have or might have. Ah yes, and please come back as often as you wish - there might be new threads of thought waiting for you.

Back to the main

I owe this page, as I owe everything, to K.D. , whose smile makes the impossible happen