haiga, haiku, philosophy, photography, science

Mortality and Defiance


~ Mortality #1 ~
from dancing atoms,
life is short.
~ Mortality #2 ~
I live life
with defiant joy,
all the way.

Defiance ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #328

An earlier version of this post responded to a challenge inspired by Basho’s last haiku, written when he knew he was dying.  Contributors were asked to imagine Basho writing a haiku for his closest followers from his deathbed.  While I admired the resulting excellent sad poems, I defied the expectation of sadness and imagined Basho rallying briefly to encourage his companions with a pair of short haiku in 3-5-3.

My response to the previous challenge bungled the initial line of Mortality #2.  My first thought was that Basho might tell his followers to

Live your lives / with defiant joy, / …

Telling people like me how to live is a reliable way to elicit angry defiance, so I rejected my first thought, neglected to defy my own fondness for alliteration, and settled on

Let’s live life / with defiant joy, / …

despite some misgivings.  Hmmm.  Wish I had used

I lived life / with defiant joy, / …

as what Basho might say on his deathbed.  Hmmm.  I can use it now in the present tense because I am still fairly healthy for my age, in defiance of the odds against those who bungle things more consequential than a line of poetry.  So I use it in the revised Mortality #2 here, with defiant joy.

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haiga, haiku, photography

Sunny Day at Niagara Falls

Wet thunder booms as
water sweeps itself away.
A rainbow lingers.


Photo of Iguazu Falls © Marcio Chagas | Unsplash
(Image has been cropped.)

My haiku was inspired by the contrast between loud rushing water and a silent steady rainbow, as pondered by Boris Glikman in a prose poem about a visit to Niagara Falls.  The contrast cried out to be displayed in the kind of deliberate swerve common in haiku poetry, often between the middle and final lines.

I wrote the haiku, searched for an appropriate image to make a haiga, and was happy to see a hover caption (on one of the Unsplash pages linking to the photo used here) that placed the photo at Niagara Falls.  I am grateful to Andrew Porteus for noticing that it’s really at Iguazu Falls and providing a much needed adjustment to the photo credit when posting the haiga to the Niagara Falls Poetry Project.

My blunder reminds me of my one point of agreement with Ronald Reagan and a great meme:

Troll Quotes _840x657_Vign+PE

Meme as posted by Troll Quotes on Pinterest

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flowers, photography

Rondo con Chiaroscuro

With less dynamic range than my eye, my camera exaggerated the chiaroscuro in the images posted here.  But not too much.  With a nod to a common way to describe tempo in musical scores, I began drafting this post with the title [Chiaroscuro Ma Non Troppo].  Then I noticed a closer connection to music.  My sequence of images is a visual rondo.

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flowers, haiga, haiku, humor, photography

Mountain Laurel


Coming soon:
pink nectar chalice,


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Start the day with a triple espresso?  The bee did but I didn’t.  While shooting laurel blooms in soft light, I was distracted by the hyperkinetic bee.  Neglected to force quick shutter speeds when tracking it.  (The camera chose 1/200 of a second.)  Got one shot with blurred legs but an in-focus tongue, just as the bee was landing.  Otherwise, a blurry bee was mooning me.  That’s life.  Enjoy the good stuff and cope with the rest.

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humor, language, philosophy, photography

Flags, Moles, & Meanings

While pondering “the meaning of food” is rare, pondering “the meaning of life” is common.  Deservedly?  Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Your life and mine are not arbitrary symbols used by a third party to communicate with a fourth party.  Don’t let sweating “the meaning of life” interfere with living.

§1: Colors

Meanings are tricky.  Colors provide a simpler way to explore some of the relevant ideas, but exposure to a common misuse of language may mislead some readers into objecting to the following subsection’s first paragraph.  If U want to object, please wait until U have read §1.3.  Don’t want to object?  U can skip §1.3 but are welcome to read it anyway.

§1.1: What Color is the Number Six?

The question heading this subsection is inane, bordering on nonsensical.  Many different kinds of thing have colors, but numbers don’t.  Making sense is harder than just having sensible-looking syntax.

One of the ways that philosophy made substantial progress in the past century was the realization that some “deep” questions could be as inane as the one heading of this subsection.  Determining which ones are really deep will take a while.  Inane questions may sometimes be failed attempts to pose serious questions that might be more tractable with better wording, so some inanities may deserve more sympathy than the heading of this subsection.

§1.2: What Color is the US Flag?

Flags do have colors, but the question heading this subsection is still inane.  The US flag is red, white, and blue.  While mostly red, the Chinese flag also has some yellow.  How many nations have flags of just one color?

Nobody is silly enough to speak of “the” color of a nation’s flag, but people often do fall into the trap of speaking of “the” thingamajig when there are in fact several relevant thingamajigs.  I posted 4 varied examples (and there are many more).

It does make sense to say that white is the color of the stars in the US flag, that green is the color of the fake foliage in my Xmas wreath, and so on.  But look at the ribbon on my wreath:


The color I see at any place on the ribbon is intricately context-dependent.  Where is the light coming from?  Where am I standing?  While the solid red ribbons on other wreaths are easier to describe, my iridescent ribbon is prettier to see.

§1.3: Numerals Ain’t Numbers

For clarity and emphasis, I will wrap words in square brackets when I want to write about them rather than with them.  Italics will be only for titles or foreign words; quote marks will be only for quotations.

Nobody confuses the English word [six] or the German word [sechs] with the number six.  The words are names for the number, not the number itself.  Likewise for the numeral [6], but people often do confuse numerals with the numbers they name.   Now that Arabic numerals like [6] have displaced Roman numerals (and strings of them like [VI] to mean six) for nearly all purposes, the confusion usually does not matter.  But it matters here.

One of the many kinds of synesthesia responds to reading various letters or numerals by also seeing various colors that are not in the text.  It’s called “grapheme-color synesthesia” and discussed on many web pages, with some variations in details of the definition.  (What about a color response to a whole word rather than just to a prominent letter in it?  To a symbol like [@] that is neither a letter nor a numeral?)  Close reading of the oversimplified definition in Psychology Today (and elsewhere) suggests that the authors were thinking of numerals when they wrote “numbers” in something like

Grapheme-color synesthesia occurs when
letters and numbers are associated with specific colors.

Some discussions of this kind of synesthesia do say “numeral” when discussing color responses to reading numerals, as they should.

I found one page that touches all bases and, despite prose obfuscated by refusing to use the word [numeral], recognizes the distinction between names and what they name.  The Syntax Tree goes on to assert that some synesthetes do have color responses to numbers themselves, not to numerals.  How could that be verified?  The page does not say.

Suppose Ulrika Zweisprachen is bilingual in English and German.  Suppose she sees the color lime green when reading a passage in English with the word [six], a passage in German with the word [sechs], or a passage in either language with the numeral [6].  The number six does have the color lime green for Ulrika, but not by itself.  Pedro Doslenguas may see orange when reading a passage in English with the word [six] or a passage in Spanish with the word [seis].  And so on.  In short, numbers don’t have colors.

In a comment on a much earlier version of this post, Sue Ranscht remarked that [nonsense] (where [inane] appears now) was an overstatement.  She also broadened my horizons about kinds of synesthesia.  I had only known of the sound-color kind.  Thanks, Sue.

§2: Words


© tunedin123 | 123RF Stock Photo
(Image has been cropped.)

The word [mole] has utterly different meanings in chemistry, dermatology, and espionage.  Even if we suppose it makes sense to attribute a meaning to life, pondering “the” meaning of life may still be like pondering “the” color of the US flag, “the” color of an iridescent ribbon, or “the” meaning of [mole].

Like mathematical notations (and many hand gestures), words are arbitrary symbols with enough consensus about what they mean to support use in communication.  Who uses life to say what to whom?  Your life and mine are not arbitrary symbols used by a third party to communicate with a fourth party.  Numbers don’t have colors and don’t need them.  Words don’t have unique meanings and don’t need them.  Life doesn’t have or need anything like “the meaning” of a word.

I posted 4 imagined responses by an old Yankee to a novice philosopher’s bloviations; one of the responses is

Wehrds need meanings; life don’t.

§3: How to Live

Maybe some concerns about “the meaning of life” are poorly worded concerns about how to live fully and righteously.  Preferring the workable to the grandiose, I try to abide by a short list of simple rules:

  • Have some fun.
  • Do more good than harm.
  • Don’t sweat “the meaning” of it all.
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flowers, growing old, history, photography

Never Give Up — Continued

Consciously, I had nothing to add when I posted a photo recently.  But the pot always simmers.  I brooded on the word “victory” in a comment by Sue Ranscht.  I recalled the epic journey across northern Norway in World War 2 by Jan Baalsrud, the sole survivor of a commando force betrayed by a Nazi collaborator.  I seized another day of magical light and found there was more to show and to say.

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