the sublime

flower tote

“Beethoven is not only about suffering — it’s about many emotions, true happiness and ecstasy.”

Arrival at Temple after Pilgrimmage

“It’s not true that someone has to have been through extreme emotions to play the music, but you have to be able to sympathize and have empathy with the emotions. If I play a piece of Chopin or Schumann, it’s a one-to-one confession all the time, but with Beethoven, the slow movements are not so much a confession but more a kind of preaching. He has a bigger message about humanity. Earlier, I didn’t really understand and appreciate that expression.”
~Leif Ove Andsnes

Penitence -- Pilgrim in Tibet

“In a case like Schubert, who died at 31, he had enough sorrow for a lifetime. There is something about the subtext of his music — people say you have to suffer a little more.”
~Jeremy Denk

Rose sheet music

“Musicians often state that they should wait until they ‘have something to say’ before tackling pieces like Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ or late Beethoven or Schubert, although for the pianist Richard Goode the phrase ‘having something to say’ suggests ‘an act of will — something extrinsic to a genuine involvement,’ he said.”
~Viven Schweitzer, Adapted from “Wait, You Need to Suffer Some More”

Prayer Flags in Tibet

“Which master managed, as Beethoven did in his late music, to weld together present, past and future, the sublime and the profane?”
~Alfred Brendel

horizon from plane



Philadelphia Museum of Art

“But he wanted to see the blue hour spread over a magnificent facade, and imagine that the cab horns, playing endlessly…”
~F. Scott Fitzgerald, Babylon Revisited

Logan Circle

“The blue hour is an oft-poeticized moment of the day – a lingering twilight that halos the sky after sundown but before complete darkness sets in. It is a time of day known for its romantic, spiritual, and ethereal connotations, and this magical moment has frequently inspired artists to attempt to capture its remarkable essence.”
~Jake Wallace, on Mackey’s Hymn to a Blue Hour

New York City rooftop

“It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattly-bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer — I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise… And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper –Rhapsody, from beginning to end. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our blues, our metropolitan madness.”
~George Gershwin on Rhapsody in Blue

“And drowned in yonder living blue
The lark become a sightless song”

on creativity

“The psychological entities that serve as the building blocks for my thoughts are certain signs or images, more or less clear, that I can reproduce or recombine at will.” -Albert Einstein


“Creativity is as much about ‘problem making’ as well as problem solving.” -Vik Muniz

metropolitan opera

“As an adult, for doing this [problem-making], you can end up in prison, or an institution, or a museum, or a convention, as I am standing here speaking to you.” -Vik Muniz

kid with balloon

“Photography adds a layer of ambiguity to the drawing… creating hurdles or layers in which to look at the image.” -Vik Muniz


in search of memory

“Twenty-first-century culture continues to be significantly influenced by events that took place in [Vienna] during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, just as each of us continues to be influenced by every experience we have ever had. For human beings, however, ‘influence’ is far to weak a word. We are made of memories. Every moment of our lives brings to a focus the totality of all the moments preceding it.”

St Stephen's Cathedral

“Kandel’s life work has been to demonstrate that memory, learning, and by extension, every other mental process are the result not of some vague set of unexplainable psychic phenomena but rather of distinctive molecular events determined by physicochemical qualities of cellular life.”

Man hiking in Colorado

“Sigmund Freud repeatedly expressed his hope that psychoanalytic theory would one day be subjected to the scrutiny of basic science. There is profound symmetry in the fact that Kandel, another son of Vienna, should have fulfilled so much of that hope… Freud, who began his career as a neuroanatomist studying the structure of cells, made his greatest contributions as a psychoanalyst. Kandel did it the other way around.”

Vienna State Opera House

Excerpted from The Secret Life of the Mind 

clinical music

“There is overlap between the emotional and social aspects of relating to sick patients and communicating emotion to others through music.” ~Mark Jude Tramo, neurologist, musician

“It is a means whereby one is lifted away from the essential loneliness of clinical decision making and action, into a world of a common enthusiasm and endeavor as the group searches for the beauty of sound [and] the composer’s intent, and those few hours have what can only be described as a healing function.” ~Michael Lasserson, double bass, family physician

“There is alsot he risk taking that offers parallels between medicine and music. It takes a certain amount of fortitude to slice open a patient’s abdomen with a scalpel. No less is required to take on Mahler’s seventh or the late Beethoven string quartets.” ~Danielle Ofri, internist, cellist

“Beauty is not something that gets much shrift in medicine… Beauty is inherently unpragmatic — it doesn’t enhance efficiency, increase productivity, earn a grant, or cure a patient… But perhaps there is indeed something in medicine that is related to beauty. After all, medicine is about life — the wriggling, sensual, bodily aspects of being alive.” ~Danielle Ofri

“Novelists, opera singers, even doctors, have in common the unique and marvelous experience of entering into the very skin of another human being.” ~Willa Cather

neuroaesthetics, part ii

“Participants tended to like movements more that they perceived as physically difficult to perform… [which] informs our understanding of the embodied simulation account of esthetic experience.”

“Anecdotally, this finding resonates with the fact that spectators routinely pay high proces to watch the outstanding physical mastery of acrobats in Cirque du Soleil, slam-dunking basketball players in an NBA game, or the exacting precision of the Bolshoi corps de ballet. If every audience member cold reproduce the movements made by the acrobats, athletes, or dancers, then such events would no longer be spectacular.”

~ Calvo-Merino et al., Towards a sensorimotor aesthetics of performing art


Aesthetics: the perception, production, and response to art, as well as interactions with objects and scenes that evoke an intense feeling, often pleasure

How much of the aesthetic experience resides in a perceptual experience and how much resides in the emotional response to the artwork?

Early vision extracts simple elements from the visual environment such as color, luminance, shape, motion, and location (Livingstone and Hubel, 1987, 1988). Intermediate vision segregates some elements and groups other together to form coherent regions in what would otherwise be a chaotic and overwhelming sensory array (Ricci, Vaishinavi, & Chatterjee, 1999; Vecera & Behrmann, 1997). Late vision selects which of these coherent regions to scrutinize and evokes memories from which objects are recognized and meanings are attached (Farah, 2000).

Any work of art can be decomposed into its early, intermediate, and late vision components. Artists isolate and enhance different visual attributes (Matisse – color, Calder – motion). Artists endeavor to uncover important distinctions in the visual world.

How does one quantify seemingly ineffable experiences, such as the Kantian idea of “sublime?”

— Adapted from Chatterjee, 2010

wanderlust quelled, paradise found

“… it hits me how much books and writing have fueled our shared wanderlust… A curious boy reads about deserts and dinosaurs and Eastern intrigue, and the man wants to go find them.”

“Unlike Bangkok, with its huge shiny malls stocked with Maserati dealerships and Starbucks, Chiang Mai retains a provincial feel, its walled old center woven with quiet, narrow lanes.”

“In a corner, a young monk with a saffron robe and a shaved head sits at a table. The Chedi Luang wat holds monk chats — a chance for monks and everyday folks, mostly tourists, to talk. ‘Lay people have a lot of problems,’ says the young monk, Pena Met, ‘but in the temple we follow the middle way, with less problems.’ It turns out he’s got wanderlust. He wants to talk to tourists, to learn English, to read books written in English; he has even downloaded TED lectures onto his computer to find out about other lands and other ways. Finally, he says it: ‘I really want to go to America!'”

Travel is all about stepping through gateways into other worlds, but usually just for a time. You drop in but climb out again. I’m about to leave. My father isn’t — he’s here on the ultimate travel journey, a one-way ticket.”

“… Presenting the world as a place of wonder to be dived into, not feared. To take big mouthfuls of the world. To be an opportunistic omnivore.”

~ Excerpted from Last Goodbye in Chiang Mai

belle epoque

A consortium of visitors have come and gone, dropping by for old times sake as much as to uncover the incontrovertible truth that is inherent in my current environment. Culture shock is an understatement. Dually represented is an understatement. My friends came with high expectations of what they would see, and left with a broader, deeper understanding of the region via close observation of its people and its customs. No provocation from me was needed; the course of events played out flawlessly, like my friends were invisible actors inserted into an alternate reality. And from them, I have learned. Thus came an apt time to post a long-forgotten article in an ever-so-appropriately named magazine called Garden and Gun. (Now there’s a fitting publication if there ever was one — it encompasses all aspects of the culture!) I couldn’t have planned it better myself, these words ringing even more true than upon first reading. The images are of a quintessential Southern railway; the beauties in them are some of the most vibrant people one will ever meet. The writing in these excerpts, well, they speak for themselves.

“Southern women, unlike women from Boston or Des Moines or Albuquerque, are leashed to history. For better or worse, we are forever entangled in and infused by a miasma of mercy and cruelty, order and chaos, cornpone and cornball, a potent mix that leaves us wise, morbid, good-humored, God-fearing, outspoken and immutable. Like the Irish, with better teeth.”

“To be born a Southern woman is to be made aware of your distinctiveness. And with it, the rules. The expectations. These vary some, but all follow the same basic template, which is, fundamentally, no matter what the circumstance, Southern women make the effort. When you are born into a history as loaded as the South’s, when you carry in your bones the incontrovertible knowledge of man’s violence and limitations, daring to stay sweet is about the most radical thing you can do.”


“Southern women can say more with a cut of their eyes than a whole debate club’s worth of speeches. Southern women know the value of a stiff drink, among other things. For my mother, being Southern means handwritten thank-you notes, using a rhino horn’s worth of salt in every recipe, and spending a minimum of twenty minutes a day in front of her makeup mirror so she can examine her beauty in “office,” “outdoor,” and “evening” illumination.”

— Excerpted from Garden and Gun Magazine