Honesty not Truth

Some late October thoughts:

Honesty is a better word than truth now that I do not believe in universal truths. Honesty implies a relationship with your own personal truth. It implies that if we listen to and express ourselves, we are being truthful.

A truth can be told by an untruthful person. Honesty cannot, so is more true.

An honest thing becomes a truth.

A piece of wood can be true. Another piece of wood might be wonky. Not all wood is true.


“I’ve never equated spirituality with sobriety. The people i’ve admired as having some spiritual dimension have really been the wild men. The outrageous people in society. The rogues, even. Who don’t mind losing what they’ve got to get something else. They don’t mind giving up the world – the world doesn’t mean anything to them.”

Richard Thompson from here


“A small-island manifesto for the “mainland” might begin with the realisation that we need to treat other people more carefully. Be open to outsiders and to the world. Live as generalists, not as sclerosed super-specialists. Spend more time outside. Reduce our consumption. Make our own energy or, at worst, buy it by the sack, and then we will use less. Consider animals and plants as well as people. Live more intimately with our place, for it is a complex living organism, too.”

From This island is not for sale: how Eigg fought back in The Guardian

Make the work

“Me? I hate to do the work. I hate to get up 5 in the morning and sit and start writing immediately. I don’t want to carry a laptop everywhere I go so I can stay up and work on the book and write constantly. I don’t want to manage a bunch of websites for a living – it doesn’t interest me. I don’t want to make a plan and follow through. I hate to do the billing, the bookkeeping, and all the organisation. Sacrifice, patience, perseverance – those are not my strong traits. Nor do I want to be optimistic and have faith and see the beautiful road down the way. These things don’t come naturally to me. To do the work is hard, but it’s all we have. If I want a better life I have to do the work. Perhaps, if i do all these petty little duties and I do them well perhaps they will become a habit and they will become good work and they will become the great work of my life. But I got to do the work. Every. Damn. Day.”

James Victore from Dangerous Ideas 12: Do the Damn Work


Collecting koans from Moby Dick

“I’ll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy.”

“…for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself.”

“…see how elastic our stiff prejudices grow when love once comes to bend them.”

“Thought he, it’s a wicked world in all meridians; I’ll die a pagan.”

“A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that.”
“…he had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man’s religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another. This world pays dividends.”

“…a good man — not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but a swearing good man…”

“With the problem of the universe revolving in me, how could I — being left aloft completely to myself at such a thought-engendering altitude,—how could I but lightly hold my obligations…”

“I was the attendant or page of Queequeg, while busy at the mat. As I kept passing and repassing the filling or woof of marline between the long yarns of the warp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and as Queequeg, standing sideways, ever and anon slid his heavy oaken sword between the threads, and idly looking off upon the water, carelessly and unthinkingly drove home every yarn: I say so strange a dreaminess did there then reign all over the ship and all over the sea, only broken by the intermitting dull sound of the sword, that it seemed as if this were the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving and weaving away at the Fates. There lay the fixed threads of the warp subject to but one single, ever returning, unchanging vibration, and that vibration merely enough to admit of the crosswise inter-blending of other threads with its own. This warp seemed neces- sity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads. Meantime, Queequeg’s impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting the woof slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the case might be; and by this difference in the concluding blow producing a corresponding contrast in the final aspect of the completed fabric; this savage’s sword, thought I, which thus finally shapes and fashions both warp and woof; this easy, indifferent sword must be chance—aye, chance, free will, and necessity—no wise incompatible——all interweavingly working together. The straight warp of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course—its every alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still free to ply her shuttle between given threads; and chance, though restrained in its play within the right lines of necessity, and sideways in its motions modified by free will, though thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring blow at events.”

“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange  mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole  universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own. However, nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing. He bolts down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, all hard things visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of potent digestion gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And as for small difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly, good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker. That odd sort of wayward mood I am speaking of, comes over  a man only in some time of extreme tribulation; it Comes in the very midst of his earnestness, so that what just before might have seemed to him a thing most momentous, now seems but a part of the general joke.”

“There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.”

“Again: as the profound calm which only apparently precedes and prophesies of the storm, is perhaps more awful than the storm itself; for, indeed, the calm is but the wrapper and envelope of the storm; and contains it in itself, as the seemingly harmless rifle holds the fatal powder, and the ball, and the explosion; so the graceful repose of the line, as it silently serpentines about the oarsmen before being brought into actual play—this is a thing which carries more of true terror than any other aspect of this dangerous affair. But why say more? All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life. And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side.”

“There is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.”


This represents my first complete attempt at arranging and scoring. It’s also the first time I’ve used MuseScore.


Newcastle is an English folk song that I first heard on the album Within Sound by Shirley Collins. I’ve since heard a couple of other versions including one by The Broadside Band which Shirley herself recommended during an appearance on Radio 3’s Private Passions. Shirley’s sung version is slow and beautifully sung. The lyrics are tender. I find it very moving. The Broadside Band play it as it was originally – a dance tune. My arrangement began as a dance tune but ended up somewhere in between. A lilting, rolling moderately-paced thing. You can download it as a PDF by clicking here. Enjoy!

El Boss

“Well, you’ve got to look at it … you go out on stage each night as if, one, it’s the most important thing in your life you can do, two, it’s only rock’n’roll. You’ve got to be able to keep those conflicting points of view in your mind at the same time without letting either of them drive you crazy, or taking either of them at 100% face value. That’s sort of how you live with it.”

Bruce Springsteen. From here

Setting up

“Then, as ever, she turns to a folk song for solace. “A lot of people criticise folk songs,” she relates, “because so many of them start with ‘As I walked out one May morning’, and they think, ‘Oh, here we go again’. But all it’s doing is, it’s setting up a song, setting up a song like a fairy story says once upon a time. And you know May mornings are perfectly lovely to me so I never minded that. But what I do say is, you know, when you’re out on this walk you might meet a lover, or an old lover, returning from fighting abroad for seven long years, you might meet a seducer, you might meet the devil, who you could outwit, or you might meet death, who you couldn’t. And I just loved that thought. You know, that it’s everything, that it’s all inevitable eventually, you know, and that it’s so wonderful.”

Shirley Collins
from Wire, November 2016


Collecting a faggot of sticks
wrapping them in a peeled-over constellation.
Foot down. Sketching dream houses
Cut shin. Noticing diesel fumes
and inseparable plastics.
Not trying to separate indigestion from the peeled-over arc of the universe.
Push shove pull tug.
Hurtling nowhere and cool with that.

September 26, 2016

East of

“…But there are others who go down, submerge in the common slough, and then rise more themselves than they were, because—because they have lost a littleness of vanity and have gained all the gold of the company and the regiment. If you can go down so low, you will be able to rise higher than you can conceive, and you will know a holy joy, a companionship almost like that of a heavenly company of angels. Then you will know the quality of men even if they are inarticulate. But until you have gone way down you can never know this.”

From East of Eden by John Steinbeck


“I think there are enough tables and chairs and people in the world already.”

Ian McKeever

I’m currently working with the brilliant Ian McKeever. Here he is talking about his practice and abstract art.

The sincere music for a landscape

When I walk I sing
cobbling together a landscape
walked through and song
derived. I keenly feel my
boytime presence. Could I
have guessed at my own
sincerity, the soundtrack,
the dog companion,
the weight of the world or
the light touch?

When I was a boy I walked
behind my parents joining
the brotherhood of complaining
mile after mile. Today’s boy
follows the dog in a daily
circle. Choice and luck,
parent, boy.

The sail

The shimmering skein of death-
The wind that rattles the skein is
The capacity of life to unfear death.

The blowing curtain
The sleeping dog
The Lego box rumbling
The light through an airplane window
The irregardless music
The bus
The bus’ shake
The tiny cracks in the wall
The crow
The family scattered
The piano keys
The heart and lungs
The glorious dead
The desert
The sun tending each flower
The cloudburst of day
The exhaling night
The sweet lonely organ
The marsh, coast, lake
The tumbling mountains
Black coffee in a white cup
The spilled coffee
The mop
The egret, heron
The physics of flight
The rivet
The drawing
The hero
The scumbag
The whining wind in March
The fine tuning
The chain link

The amalgam of these things is power-fuller than death
And in the infinite seeing is the stings’ antidote

The wind
The wind
The sail.