Tabula Rasa

1
Arvo Pärt at 36,000 ft.
The voices of the strings weave
Through the air, rise and fall, play
Against each other.

Outside, the clouds
Mingle and separate, fall away
Beneath us, behind us.

Just as time
And music fade
Into silence.

2
To live without expectation,
The future as a blank slate,
To engage with what comes
As it comes
In its own time.

Trying to imagine that.
Knowing that we expect the future
To resemble the past.

The batter looking for a fastball
Doesn’t recognize the change up, and swings through it, surprised.

3
The point where the patterns intersect,
The point where the patterns disperse,
Here the mind is free to play.

Fullness and emptiness have the same rules.

Your plans cannot escape these rules, or contain them.
This is the first rule.

It doesn’t matter that you don’t acknowledge the rules.
This is the second rule.

4
I never expect the face in the mirror.
Recognize it, of course. Know it’s mine.
But it surprises me every time
Like a note played off key
Or an off-speed pitch.

5
The difference between knowledge and expectation:
We all know we will die. And yet death arrives unexpected.

The number of times I watched my father’s head
Move through shades of red and purple
As he coughed at the dinner table, then lit a cigarette.

And yet it was years later, and something else entirely.
I watched him slip quietly into Silentium, all the machines switched off.
I was utterly unprepared.

 

©  Mark Milner, 2017

And now for something completely different

Enough of politics! (At least for now…)

The longer I live, the more I believe it is important to have a wide diversity of interests, hobbies and pastimes. For many years, now, I have ridden motorcycles. Learning to ride – which I am still doing, really, after more than ten years – has been an extraordinary journey, one made up of dozens of smaller journeys. It. Hasn’t always been fun. For example, crashing a few years ago. But even with that, I wouldn’t give it up willingly, and I’m glad I decided to learn it in the first place.

Learning new things and acquiring new skills is one of my chief enjoyments in life. That’s why a few years ago – shortly before crashing my motorcycle – I bought a bass guitar. It’s why I recently bought an electric guitar – so I can learn both together. (If I had a bigger place and more money, I’d probably get drums, too.) It’s why I love to read, to watch documentaries (and films generally), and to attend lectures and exhibitions.

Learning about new places is the best part of traveling. When we went to Morocco a few years ago, I tried to pick up a little Arabic and Berber, partly to amuse our guides and the locals, but mainly because it was fun to learn. Traveling on the motorcycle is like that, too, even though I’ve only been places where a version of English is spoken. Learning to find my way around, though, is a lot of fun, especially if I’m on my own and only have paper maps to go by.

A while back I started to develop an appreciation for baseball, too. I don’t think there’s a professional sport more given to arcanity than that. Learning the different types of breaking balls a pitcher can throw, the infield fly rule, why – generally – you don’t bunt with two strikes: this all takes time to acquire, to say nothing of the history you learn from announcers as you watch the game on TV.

I don’t quite know what it is that makes learning so fun for me. I know not everyone shares this passion for knowledge acquisition. In fairness, though, they may just have different things they like to learn about. Woodworking, knitting, quadratic equations. Different strokes, right?