Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Other Syntax

Did the universe really begin?
Is the theory of the big bang true?
These are not questions, though they sound like they are.
Is the syntax that requires beginnings, developments
and ends as statements of fact the only syntax that exists?
That’s the real question.
There are other syntaxes.
There is one, for example, that demands that varieties
of intensity be taken as facts.
In that syntax nothing begins and nothing ends;
thus birth is not a clean, clear-cut event,
but a specific type of intensity,
and so is maturation, and so is death.
A man of that syntax, looking over his equations, finds that
he has calculated enough varieties of intensity
to say with authority
that the universe never began
and will never end,
but that it has gone, and is going now, and will go
through endless fluctuations of intensity.
That man could very well conclude that the universe itself
is the chariot of intensity
and that one can board it
to journey through changes without end.
He will conclude all that, and much more,
perhaps without ever realizing
that he is merely confirming
the syntax of his mother tongue.

——Carlos Castaneda
from The Active Side of Infinity

Sunday, November 1, 2009


All emphasis is the author's.

“I suggest that you pursue a commitment to personal excellence rather than success, based on your own God-given potential. Success and excellence are often competing ideals. Being successful does not necessarily mean that you will be excellent, and being excellent does not necessarily mean that you will be successful. Success is attaining or achieving cultural goals, which elevates one's importance in the society in which he lives. Excellence is the pursuit of the quality of one's work and effort, whether the culture recognizes it or not. I once asked Segovia how many hours a day he practiced. He responded, "Christopher, I practice 2 1/2 hours in the morning and 2 1/2 hours every afternoon." I thought to myself, "If Segovia needs to practice five hours every day, how much more do I need to practice?"

Success seeks status, power, prestige, wealth, and privilege. Excellence is internal-- seeking satisfaction in having done your best. Success is external-- how you have done in comparison to others. Excellence is how you have done in relation to your own potential. For me, success seeks to please men, but excellence seeks to please God.

Success grants its rewards to few, but is the dream of the multitudes. Excellence is available to all, but is accepted by only a few. Success engenders a fantasy and a compulsive groping for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Excellence brings us down to reality with a deep gratitude for the promise of joy when we do our best. Excellence cultivates principles, character, and integrity. Success may be cheap, and you can take shortcuts to get there. You will pay the full price for excellence; and it will never be discounted. Excellence will always cost you everything, but it is the most lasting and rewarding ideal. What drives you-- success or excellence?”

---Christopher Parkening