Big Thetas, Omegas, and O’s

All the niggly-wiggly, petty-piggily parts
that are not in the grand scale get jettisoned,
with the Greek-of-this and the Greek-of-that
meaning the more you know of every little tittle,
the swifter you can drop it from the whole.
And that that, God help us, is reasonable!
Just so.

There is something I need to remind myself of often: concentrate on what yields fundamental joy and do not worry about the little things that have little effect.

This concept actually has a sort-of parallel in science. Ever wonder how your GPS figures out—from the near-infinite number of routes available—what is the fastest route?

The science of algorithm development is amazing and subtle. Often, the idea is not to concentrate on how long a particular task takes, but how the analysis scales proportionally to the size of the dataset. The important thing is to get to the essence of the math so you can throw out the parts that only have a minor effect on the end result. (If you’re techy enough to want to know more about the mathematics of all this, try this article as a starter and don’t blame me if you fall in a hole you cannot crawl out of! :-))

Thank you for reading Big Thetas, Omegas and O’s. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at home and is a macro study of a leaf of red cabbage. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Like being there


Mom bought our first color TV in ’67,
so we could watch Bob Gibson personally
best the Red Sox in the World Series.
She loved baseball to be sure,
but she loved it even more on that Trinitron
(although, to be fair, the image was fuzzy
and the too-much-red/too-much-green worse.)
Still, I’d run home from school as fast as I could
so we could agonize over every pitch and play.
In the final inning of the final game,
I cursed a few times and not only
didn’t she notice, but she cursed along too.

Sometimes in life, it’s not about the doing,
but about the done and who you were with at the time.
Which is why, I suppose, I don’t watch baseball anymore.

September is the anniversary of my mother’s passing. In honor of her memory and her favorite time of the year—the end of Major League Baseball’s regular season and the start of the playoffs for the World Series—I decided to post this poem. My only sibling, my sister, gives it a “perfect!” So there.

Read on only if you are a baseball nerd… 🙂

The ‘Impossible Dream’ Boston Red Sox team of 1967 (at the time, the first winning Red Sox team in a decade) was formidable, anchored by future hall-of-famers Carl Yastrzemski and ace pitcher and Cy Young award winner Jim Lonborg. Yet, despite this, their making it into the World Series at all was a near miracle, since in the last weekend of regular season, four teams were in the pennant running, separated by 1 game apiece.

But then, when the Sox got to the World Series, they ran into Bob ‘Hoot’ Gibson‘s St. Louis Cardinals. The seven game series that followed was one of the most entertaining, nerve wracking, nail biter series of all times. After 4 games it looked like the Cards were a lock, but the Sox fought back and won the next two, forcing a game-of-the-decade showdown, only to face Gibson on the mound and lose, yet again, to him. With 3 wins (rare for a pitcher in a 7 game series) and even some productive hitting (also a rarity for pitchers) Gibson was the well-deserved Most Valuable Player of the series. In an odd twist of fate, Boston’s ‘Curse of the Bambino‘ was not broken until 2004 (despite attempts in ’75 and ’86) when they swept the Cardinals for their first World Series since 1918. Meanwhile, St. Louis is second on the list (after They Who Shall Not Be Named) for most Series wins, 11 out of 19 appearances.

Thank you for reading Like being there. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is a domain free stock image which I blurred and then oversaturated the reds and greens. That sure bought back some memories! To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Comes an age

While cleaning, I shifted
the cutting board and found
a chocolate chip, an escapee
from our last batch of brownies.
We’d quit sugar sometime after that,
on the day we heard that Glenn had died,
the same day we understood
Laura’s cancer was more advanced
than first thought. Or maybe
it was the day we heard that
Amber needed surgery and that
we needed to pray, a lot.
I can’t remember.
Still, it was delicious.

As Phil, one of my dearest friends noted, this poem is about memory and immediacy, the “zigzag, random syntactical firing, following the shiny object, jumbled train of thought” thing we all go through. Sometimes I feel like I’m a squirrel trying to cross the road.

Thank you for reading Comes an age I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken for this poem in my home. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Linger a while—thou art so fair!

She wants to reach out, pick up the phone and call,
talk some and remember, laugh, cry and share.
She wants to turn it all back and remember the little things
that were the big things, and wonders if even now
they can still go there as can she. It’s not easy, or fair—
that’s life—but at least it could be together.

Paradoxically, she also wants to forget, to hold onto
what was her mom and not the hag she’s become,
but God, it is so very, very hard! And it’s late. And she’s tired.
And that phone just sits there, not ringing—no, never that—
but still, keeping her up with its infinite, sweet choices,
even though none of them, she suspects, is hope.

I love the title of this poem, even if I have taken it out of context. About the poem I will say no more, having said more of the story than I probably ought. But about the title…

Verweile doch! Du bist so schön! from Göthe’s Faust, is probably the most well-known and often quoted line in German literature. That 19th-century play deals with the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil for worldly gain. This passage, translated as Linger a while—thou art so fair! comes from the scene where Faust is sealing the deal and confirming that if ever he has a moment that is sublime and lingering, then at that instant the pact is complete and he will die and go to hell for eternity.

The full passage is:

Werd ich zum Augenblicke sagen:
Verweile doch! Du bist so schön!
Dann magst du mich in Fesseln schlagen,
dann will ich gern zu grunde gehen!

One translation is:

When I say to the Moment flying;
‘Linger a while—thou art so fair!’
Then bind me in thy bonds undying,
And my final ruin I will bear!

But that key line has many other interpretations, all of which I love:

Beautiful moment, do not pass away!

‘Ah, stay a while! You are so lovely!’

Do stay with me, thou art so beautiful!

And many, many more.

Thank you for reading Linger a while—thou art so fair! I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken last fall in our hometown of Putnam, CT on an early morning walk. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Mahvash Sabet Released From Prison

 

Those of you who have followed this blog (as irregular as it has been) have read my previous posts and poems by Mahvash Sabet, a Bahá’í prisoner of conscience immorally incarcerated in her native Iran because of her Faith. She is one of seven such unfortunates who are referred to as the Yaran or Bahá’í 7. It is with great joy that the Bahá’í world recently announced her release from prison, after enduring ‘ten years of unjust imprisonment and harsh treatment.’

Mahvash’s poems come from her wonderful book of poetry, Prison Poems, available here in the United States and here in Great Britain. I recommend you obtain a copy of this volume as soon as you can.

Mahvash Sabet’s release does not, sadly, indicate a softening in the hard-line government of Iran’s attitude to the human rights abuse of members of the Bahá’í Faith—there are still nearly 100 Bahá’ís incarcerated in Iran, including some of the original Yaran. Nor is Iran the only country guilty of such duplicity. Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara, a Bahá’í in Yemen, was recently sentenced to hanging, solely because of his religion.

Still, we take what joy we can in this world when we can. In light of Mahvash’s joyous release, I would like to feature another of her poems, particularly apt now:

The Blossom

The prayer of the flower was answered.

After giving up its colour, leaving a complexion jaded,
after giving up its fragrance, with a scent that had faded,
after leaving all its petals drop down one by one—at last
it turned into a tender fruit: one of the finest.

Would that our lives might blossom with such taste.

Would that our lives might…

Thank you for visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

 

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Meta, an abstraction of the part

The sum of all that is, is data,
yet those who know only data
know less than they think.

The sum of all data is knowledge,
yet those who have only knowledge
know less than their data.

The sum of all knowledge is not wisdom,
it is words; the wise who do not surrender
to this are fools, lonely in their selves,
except for themselves.

And what is the sum of all surrender?
It is to be at the beginning of all things,
which is to say at the end of all things,
which is to say, exactly, with You.

I am a computer geek and deal with the differences between data, knowledge, and wisdom on a daily basis. The rest of the poem is a non-professional issue. 🙂

Thank you for reading Meta, an abstraction of the part. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Quebec, Canada, last year. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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The privilege

The snowstorm is since gone,
the driveway plowed, the sidewalks cleared
and the curbside gaps cut for each door.
I’ve shoveled out and cleared off the woodpile
and am lugging in the last load
when I glimpse him, 50 years gone,
standing there in the bitter white-on-white.

It snowed then, in that place, at that time,
in my mind, even more so than now:
mountains of the stuff so that it took
hours and hours to dig yourself out.
It was cold then, too—shivery, wet, break-your-back cold,
with the snow caking your mittens
and your arms leaden with the lifting. How I hated it.
But I did it.

So I wave to him, that little one
and smile as I lift the last of the firewood onto the porch.
I get it, dad, I get it.

What can I say? An absolutely true story, exactly as written. I was bringing firewood in from the woodpile after having cleaned up the snow from a recent snowstorm when my mind drifted back to snow clearing as a child those many years ago. So much has changed—so little has changed.

Thank you for reading The privilege. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at our home, but of a storm several years ago. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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