Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wisdom from the Best Investors


Warren Buffet said this morning, the economy is like a bathtub--it can't be full in one place, and empty in another. If one part is in hot water, we all are. He's a capitalist who sees the socialist dimension of economics. That's rich.

Go see the bull on Wall Street.  You'll see that if it looks dangerous being in front of the bull, with its lowered horns, you really don't want to be behind the bull, either.

The Sunday New York Times business section listed Richard Fuld, the CEO of Lehman Brothers, as worth in January at 827 million, and his assets this week at a measly two million. As a taxi driver said, "That's gotta hurt."
Warren Buffet has a disinterest in money that allows him to invest dispassionately, and that perversely has made him so wealthy. Money is fickle like that. It doesn't come to those who want it, it comes to those who can see through the illusions of the market to what has enduring value. Warren says that the market is a voting machine in the short run, and a weighing machine in the long run. Even greater than the power of his money is the power of his wisdom, which has such power to influence others in government and Wall Street.
Sir John Templeton said that the time to buy is when blood is running in the streets, and that's what Buffett did this week, investing five billion in banking while others were dumping their plummeting shares.
"No one knows who's swimming naked until the tide goes out," he said.
The tabloid headline of Richard Fuld's testimony in Washington was "Fuld on the Hill."
In this week's New York Times magazine, Christian Oth asked Edgar Bronfman, the"billionaire philanthropist," if Forbes assessed his net worth accurately at three and a half billion; the interviewer also asked how much money he'd lost recently, and Bronfman said he paid no attention.
"You don't get ulcers?"
"My father said, "I don't get ulcers, I give ulcers."
The only thing we have to do to make money is to buy low and sell high, which is so hard that the great investing houses have designed computer systems to do that--still, they trip up.  
Going against the opinions of the majority is tough.  Warren Buffett said, "Don't ask the barber if you need a haircut."
Money magazine’s editor, Eric Shurenberg asked George Soros, “Growing up in Nazi-occupied Hungary must help you keep today’s risky markets in perspective.”
“The prospect of extermination was a formative experience for me.” He laughed. “The Nazis taught me that the abnormal can become normal.”
“And the lesson in that?”
“It’s important in life and investing always to question yourself. Understand that you may be wrong especially when you believe too firmly that you’re right.”
“Have your billions (over nine) made you happy?”
“I’m reasonably happy, but the money’s not the point. It’s an indication that I’ve succeeded in the grand adventure of understanding reality.”
Go see the bull on Wall Street.  You'll understand that while you don't want to be in front of the bull, you don't want to be behind it, either.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In Vino Veritas

On the subway back from the Orpheus & Dionysus conference, I found a book on the remaining seat.
Pointing to “Olympus.” I asked the well-dressed man two seats away, “Is this yours?”
“You stole it,” he said, snatching it and leafing through the thick paperback. “This is where I left off,” he said, finding a page at the end folded down at the corner.
“Be honest,” he said to me. “How far did you get?”
He read a line, then mockingly called it “brilliant.” He dropped the book, distracted.
“Are those real Dolce and Gabbanas?” he asked a big blonde with earbuds in, listening to her Ipod.
“Yes.”
“Your pants are ruined,” he said of her white bell-bottoms.
She shrugged.
“What the heck is Ilium?” he asked me, leafing through the book again. “Because it appears in every chapter.”
“Ilium is where the Trojan War started,” I guessed wildly.
“No it’s not. That’s the Iliad.”
“The Iliad is about Ilium, dum dum.”
He pulled back his chin, cowed by my confidence.
A breathless man entered the car, saw me holding the book and eagerly grabbed it.
“I jumped the turnstiles to get this.” He ran back off the train just before the doors closed.
“You stole it,” my neighbor lowered his head accusingly. “I should have asked him what Ilium was.”
“Look, I’m coming home late Friday night from a conference on Greek myth. Anything else you want to know about ancient Greece, just ask.”
He opened his umbrella and closed it quickly from a strange angle on his lap.
“So what brokerage house are you from, Merrill Lynch?” I asked.
He blushed.
“Did you know,” I said, “that Hera and Zeus didn’t have any children?”
“I bet he had some fun with his thunderbolt.” He flapped his black umbrella open and closed again.
“Is he from Merrill Lynch?” I asked his friend.
“Yeah.”
“Let’s just call me Loser and you Never gonna Happen.”
He fluttered the black silk collapsing umbrella.
As we pulled into Hoboken, he held up a fist until I knocked mine against it.
“Ow,” he said. “Softer.”
I tried again, lightly.
“Owww. I bet you could beat up that guy who came back for his book.”
As the train door opened, he left ahead of me and didn’t look back. I gazed wistfully after him.
That was Dionysus, I saw now.

Wisdom is the wage of Experience, and its price


An Anglican bishop from 1100 AD has written on his tomb in Westminster Abbey:
When I was young a free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.
But it, too, seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family and those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed my self first, then by example I would have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.

Turnover

"People think that when they get to heaven they will turn over a new leaf," Thoreeau said. As if, once we’re dead, we’ll have the energy to retrace all our steps backwards, like a spiritual Ginger Rogers—in our gown and gold slippers. I grow tired trying to retrace an hour’s steps when I lose something. I usually decide that what’s lost is not worth the time to search.
The church down the street decided to hold a rummage sale and donations filled their entire community room. They sent out a plea for help.
We tried to sort through the drifts of cast-off clothing.
On the news, an old woman was discovered after weeks trapped in her house by her clutter with her husband’s corpse. The firemen dug for hours in protective masks to reach her.
In the debris scattered outside lay a large wooden spoon, the kind sold to tourists on tropical islands.
It reminded me of a Jewish story. A man visited hell, and the people there complained they were tortured by hunger. Banquets of food lay spread out, and long spoons.
“You see how they make us suffer, with these spoons that are too long for us to hold to our own mouths,” the damned wailed.
Then the man went to heaven, and found the same banquet spread. People there laughed and fed each other with the same great spoons.
This morning, instead of rolling feet first out of bed, I slid my head down the edge of the bed and looked upside-down through the window. The tips of the pines bowed with the wind that brought gold-rose clouds swirling. Is that how God sees the world, mostly heaven? For us, our interior life so overwhelms, that we hardly notice sky—is heaven as distracting to God? We think we would be happier if we knew that God paid more attention to us. But maybe the only way to true happiness is to be more like God, and see as he sees.

Money



Ever notice how the faces on coins never look you in the eye? Hades, god of death, is the god of wealth, as well. The only faces that look straight out of coins aren’t human: animals and mythic figures like Victory and Justice. The animals are all conservative in their use of energy, predatory and long-lived: snakes, owls and eagles. No mice or ants need apply, despite their industry.
One tribe had money so large it became symbolic: even when one huge stone sunk in deep water and couldn’t be retrieved, the people still granted its owner the full value.
American money is so ugly that it’s hard to desire it for itself. One wants to exchange it as quickly as possible. With its pale cast, our money reminds me of ice, precarious, able to survive only in the cold, melts through one’s hand.
The gambler struggles with the unreality of money, its lack of satisfaction. How fitting that one of the main Vegas institutions is called “The Mirage.”
Money changes nothing but itself.
Songs have never been designated as money, nor mouths, nor things that have a will of their own, or a fate that may cause them to die unexpectedly.
With money as with words, more doesn’t equal better.
Money can’t hold wisdom, nor can it buy any.

A Brief History of Fools


There were natural or dimwitted fools and artificial ones. Natural fools were more valuable and were sold at monster auctions; the more foolish they were, the more they cost.
Fool was one of the few positions open to women in Medieval times. However, it seems that more men had a gift for it.
Master Henry was King Henry III’s fool; he was also poet laureate.
MaƮtre Jehain was the fool of King John II of France; when the king was imprisoned, the fool went with him.
In 1461, the kings of Bohemia and Hungary grew tired of war and sent their fools to fight each other, agreeing to abide by the results; the Hungarian fool won.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Medical Alert

MEDICAL ALERT from Francine Prozac
Imagine a disease that afflicts nearly every single person on earth, with the possible exception of the hermit—
And absolutely no one is working on a cure!
Shocking?
Well, it’s sad but true.

Lovesickness strikes millions each year, especially this time of year. No one knows how it happens. Some say it’s the close quarters of dry, poorly ventilated rooms.

NO ONE IS IMMUNE!
Rich and poor, young and old, men and women—the malady can befall all. That hermit is probably hiding in the cave because he’s a severe case.
Look around, you’ll see the tell-tale symptoms of the afflicted: the twitching fingers of someone itching to check for messages that never come fast enough to assuage the pain, zombie women popping Good ‘n Plentys like self-prescribing addicts under cover of the dark movie theater, and hapless bodies scattered across the park lawn like victims of some secret weapon that blows out the brain but leaves the body behind.

FACT: An 89 year-old billionaire from Texas came down with the love sickness after a night in a pole-dancing bar, and in fourteen months, he was dead.

FACT: You might be the next victim.
(Don’t laugh—that’s one way the disease is thought to be passed from person to person.)

Many try home remedies: cold showers, garlic, writing poems. Guess what? They don’t help much.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Help support my campaign to find a cure. Cash, checks and chocolates are welcome. Every little bit of chocolate helps.

A Child's Christmas

At a Christmas service, a young child stood clueless in the crowded pew, wondering what was going on. She couldn’t see past the coats on all sides. The elder sister explained it all for her:
"Christmas was the day God died in a stable manger."
What a shining example of reasoning things out for oneself, from parental warnings about the dangers of really filthy places.
But in a way, the girl is right: the old idea of a lone, distant God died in the incarnation, and in becoming flesh, God also accepted his eventual death. Incarnation and Passion are inextricable, as Bill Tully says. And each event requires us to give up something. The nativity requires us to give up our aloofness, the old faith that God doesn't need us—from the moment he was born, he was in grave danger.
At Easter, the girl must have taught her sister about how God was born out of an egg. Because at Easter the resurrection shatters the hardened, hollow world. If the graves were broken open and the saints walked, we have to give up our belief that anything spiritual is ever laid to rest.

Bottoms Up


The earth weighs six sextillion tons, yet it does not plummet to the bottom of the universe.
Why?
Because the universe has no bottom.
We create riddles by starting with the answer, but the world creates riddles first, with no answer in sight.
Dostoevsky writes in Brothers Karamazov, “Absurdities are all too necessary on earth. The world stands on absurdities, and without them perhaps nothing at all would happen.”

Don't Look Now



This is a computer image with the black holes that riddle the universe highlighted.










At the center of most galaxies lie black holes. While the universe is expanding and forming new things, the black hole is compressing and making things one again, as they were at the Big Bang. 
Black holes are like little round rear view mirrors, so while we’re flying down the highway to nowhere, we can see where we’ve come from, oblivion, and whether it’s catching up to us.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Plan Ahead


After Legg Mason Opportunity fund tumbled 20%--two times more than the benchmark index, Bill Miller wrote about the Nobel-Prize winner Ken Arrow, who was enlisted to make long-range weather forecasts for the military during WW II. He said his forecasts were worse than useless. The general said that he knew the forecasts were of no use, but needed them anyway for planning purposes.

Shrek


Shrek in the movie strikes a chord in all of us, the part that wants to be left alone, to be ourselves, uncurtailed by social norms. He resists pressure to try to get along with others, to brush his teeth. The ogre is the ego with an “r.” as in Ogrrre.
“Ogres are like onions,” Shrek says.
“They stink?” Donkey asks.
“Yes. No,” Shrek says.
“Oh, they make you cry.”
“No. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers.”
“You know, not everybody likes onions.”
Ogre comes from the ancient Latin word for Hades.
Shrek comes from the Yiddish word for fear.
Donkey is the id, the animal self. He says,
“Remember when you said that ogres have layers?”
“Aye?”
“Donkeys don’t have layers.”
Maybe we love both characters so much, because we’re pressured to suppress both ego and id in daily life, in favor of the superego.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Atonement


In the film, Atonement, the costumes and sets remind one how much was lost in the war, and how much the English sacrificed to win.
I loved how water divides and united the characters. The lovers Cecilia and Robbie die in different tunnels—the soldier stands at the shore he thinks divides him from his love, but she is floating in the same water, when the London tunnel she’s come to as a bomb shelter floods.
As a young girl, Briony wants to know that Robbie will save her from drowning. Later, she wishes she could save him or her sister. Briony atones by making them live on in her head.
Robbie saves Briony from drowning, then yells at her. He rescues the twins lost at night in the wild and is arrested on his return for child abuse, because of Briony’s confused accusation. Robbie makes mistakes, too: his passion for Briony’s sister causes her to break the vase, and he mails the obscene letter, wrongly choosing to entrust it to the child Briony.
The one act of lovemaking in the book also breaks things—Briony’s faith and the barriers between class. Is love selfish and violent? In youth, yes, but the war is a purifying fire. Perhaps Cecilia should have tested Robbie, to see if he could save her. But no one can save loved ones in the war; one can only try to save anyone one comes upon. The scene of the sisters in the hospital is echoed in the slaughtered girls that Robbie stumbles upon. The characters put aside selfish desire and devote themselves to selfless service.

Riddles and Dreams


The octopus has three hearts. One only lives six months; after sex, it involuntarily self-destructs. It is so adept at learning tricks, running mazes and solving problems that scientists list it as exempt from experiments that cause pain. They call it an honorary vertebrate.
The octopus changes color to match the reef and stones it passes. The mimic octopus imitates the poisonous lionfish and sea snake. It can slip down a one=inch hole. The creature not only takes on the color of the rock, but the bits of algae clinging to it—and it transforms its skin into the texture of the object around it. The Riddler of the ocean.
The octopus is like one’s dream life, where things change quickly, and are not always what they seem.
Falling asleep, one dives into a lake where time pools. One finds oneself back in torn-down homes, old schools, and one can’t seem to graduate.
One scientist said that we think the world is made of solid objects, but there are none—there isn’t even something remotely resembling solid in this world.
Every night in my dreams, I wander so far off that I have no idea how to get back to reality. But there is no going back in time.

Truth and Immortality


In Richard Price’s new novel, Lush Life, everyone is acting except the victim’s father, and the central character, Eric. Eric gives up trying to be someone other than himself, and the father fails to make anything of his son’s death—it undoes him, so both men free-fall through the novel. Eric doesn’t fit into anyone’s scenario—that flummoxes the cops, who construct a crime line in which he, the victim, becomes the killer.

There are so many scenes happening on the same stage of the Lower East Side—the ghosts Eric sees from the past, the hipster scene in which young people try to construct a scene in which they make a difference. . The Chinese lie to protect themselves from retributions and extradition. The kids from the projects trying to play tough, taking street names like stage names. The cop, Yolanda, makes up stories of her own youth to get young boys to open up and tell their stories. Manny, her partner, tries to teach the hapless father to play act, to save his son, but Manny no longer has faith that he can play the father to his own drug-dealing sons. The tragedies of the sons break through the illusions of paternal power.

“If you speak the truth,” Oscar Wilde said, “sooner or later you will be found out.” Odds are, you’ll be found dead.

The Veil


Rick Moody’s memoir, The Black Veil, draws on Hawthorne’s story, “The Minister’s Black Veil.” We want to see what we feel will disturb us, what others hide. But it’s the veil that disturbs, not what lies beneath it. Under the veil likes a perfectly ordinary face. The veil haunts, and people beg for the minister to remove it. But who doesn’t veil their true nature, the face they see in the mirror, from others? And who is bold enough to lift the veil from another’s face. In Hawthorne’s story, and in Moody’s memoir, no one dares.
Are there things that can only be seen through a veil?

Poe defines art as the reproduction of what the senses perceive in nature through the veil of the soul.


Anne Truitt’s last book, Prospect, is an interesting title for a final volume, with its suggestion of beginnings. Maybe only in this book of looking back can she see the plan. Or maybe she realizes she is about to become a field, like the color fields she worked in. And we are going to mine her. I am so grateful for her generosity.
“Heraclitus postulated that two great laws order the universe: the Logos, the law that nothing changes, and the Flux, the law that everything is always changing. He conceived of these laws as at once opposite and identical, as the convex and concave sides of a curving line are at once opposite and identical.”
She speaks of finding a sense of distance in moments of complete absorption in her work, as if she hovered in the space between these two forces.
Honesty is generosity.
“Purity of aspiration seems necessary to inspiration,” Truitt says in Daybook, which I’m reading now.
Some artists wallow in bad behavior, with the excuse that they need the depths from which to create art. Others philander, pursuing one trend after another. But Truitt works to refine her personal life through thoughtfulness. Her columns stand for her finely honed vision of the essence of life and art.
Truitt writes,
“The work of others may suggest techniques or even solutions. But the essential struggle [of the artist] is private . . . It is of necessity a solitary and lonely endeavor to explore one’s own sensibility, to discover how it works and to implement honestly its manifestations.”
That last phrase alone presents an endless task. Creating art that delivers the experience of our epiphanies is like translating from a language no one knows. One has to decipher the unvoiced language of one’s soul and then find a way to convey it in paint or words.
Truitt also offers her experience of looking for her lost children in a garden that’s closing—a scene that reminds one of the loss of paradise. She finds her lost children have been returned home by a policeman. She takes from this the idea of looking outside of the problem for the solution. When she loses her art studio, she decides to see it as a new freedom, and turns from sculpture to painting. She calls it the principle of reverse solution. Loss and separation give us the freedom to move beyond former limits, to find new material, ideas and life.

Vanishing Point

I’m reading the Dictionary of Imaginary Places, gathered from world literature and myth.
One entry is Ibansk, a town invented by the modern Russian writer Zinoviev. All its inhabitants are named Ivan. The great monument to the leader has keeled over and will soon fall into the river—the artist “has been dealt with appropriately.”
This passage describes the conundrums of the soviet state, in which figures disappeared from historical photographs, and towns and regions disappeared from state maps:
“The history of Ibansk is made up of events which almost failed to happen, which almost happened but at the last moment somehow did not, which were expected but never happened, which were not expected but did happen, which happened in the wrong way at the wrong time in the wrong place, which happened but are not acknowledged to have happened, which happened but are not accepted as having happened.”
I'm reminded of a haunting book, "The Commissar Vanishes," which shows how soviet archivists removed those Stalin executed or exiled as enemies. Sometimes historical photographs are published repeatedly, but with more and more figures removed each time, until Stalin stands alone with Lenin. Sometimes these overworked retouchers failed to remove the shadows of the dead, or a hand placed on another figure's shoulder.  Then in the next version, that person with the shoulder disappears, though the hand of the first condemned man may remain, suspended in empty air.
Here is a website with examples of the photos:

Van Gogh gives critics a finger


Van Gogh wrote to his brother,
“It is fiendishly difficult not to feel anything, not to be affected when those bloody idiots say ‘does he paint for money?’ . . . One doesn’t really care a rap, but it gets one one’s nerves all the same, just like listening to off-key singing or being pursued by a malicious barrel organ. Don’t you find that to be true of the barrel organ, and that it always seems to have picked on you in particular? For wherever it goes, it’s the same old tune . . . .
When people say something or other to me, I shall finish their sentences even before they are out—in the same way as I treat someone I know to be in the habit of extending his finger to me instead of his hand (I tried the trick on a venerable colleague of my father’s yesterday)—I too have a single finger ready and, with an absolutely straight face, carefully touch his with it . . . in such a way that the man cannot take exception, yet realizes that I am giving as good as I damned well got.”

Never Grow Up, Never, Never Die

After mother's death, I spent years sorting through business. After sorting through a nine-foot stack of papers, I finally read a book she'd saved from her childhood Peter and Wendy, the novel Barrie wrote after the play, Peter Pan.
“All children, except one, grow up,” Barrie begins his story of Peter Pan. Of course that one person is oneself.
Peter’s last name, Pan, comes from the ancient Greek god whose name means “all.” We all have a childlike spirit, but as in the story, all of us age and lose touch with that spirit.
Out of the stiff, old pages fell a thin slip on which my mother had penciled elaborate scores for a game between sisters some rainy afternoon in the 1920s. My mother kept meticulous score of her weekly bridge game until her last illness. No one grows old to their own mind, though it may seem they are old to everyone else.
Barrie writes, “They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.’”
My cousin Tom and his wife Patricia sent me silent films his father took in the 1920s. No one ever mentioned them—they must have been untouched for almost a hundred years. I watched with a sense of recognition my mother as a young child. She jumped from a rock I’ve walked down myself, near our homes. She sat next to her mother, then reached up to embrace and kiss. And as clearly as if she were sitting before me, I felt her spirit, her love that strove always to share happiness, or, lacking fortune, to create it by sharing the gesture.
I was surprised at the surreal whimsy of Barrie’s writing, which seems so contemporary. He says that one’s mother goes through one’s thoughts when one sleeps like someone going through drawers.
“I don’t know whether you have ever seen a map of a person’s mind . . .. A map of a child’s mind is confused, and keeps going around all the time.” Inside it is Neverland.”

Monument Proposal for New York City

In his poem,“The Monument,” Joseph Brodsky writes an argument for the erection of a monument, revealing only in the last word what it shall honor: the lie. All the monuments built in Brodsky’s Soviet town were lies to liars.
What monument would I propose for NYC?
A statue to the street people, who are always to be found around monuments, but never on them. The sight of the ragged drunk keeps many of us in our uncomfortable dress, running to the office after getting pressed into the train, while the homeless lounge on the benches, drinking vodka at 9 AM. We endure tough, tedious jobs that are beneath us so we won’t have to sit beneath monuments to dead men.

What would Leonardo Do?


Leonardo da Vinci said to students seeking inspiration, “Look at the crack in the wall.”
The line that the shifting earth inscribes, the short line written over a long time. Is the path our life inscribes like that, determined by the slight shifts we make in the world. We’re distracted by the wallpaper patterns that people keep slapping up, but the cracks underneath are the pattern of real things. Leonardo conveyed the depths of a persona. I suspect it’s not the depths of Mona Lisa we see, but the depths of Leonardo da Vinci.
Dick Davis writes in his poem, “Leonardo” of how the painting began to crack in the artist’s lifetime:

The wrinkles growAs if paint too
Partook of sin.

Fools and the Wise


I read Grace Paley's interview in the Paris Review, where she says,
“The longest review I’ve ever had was an attack in Commentary magazine. Kind of virulent. My publisher doesn’t send me terrible things that people have said. I’m not the kind of a writer who gets into literary fights. I prefer political ones. As for my attitude towards other writers, I’m kind of short on disdain or contempt. That is, I don’t belong to the school of “I can only live if you die.” I tend to be interested in writers whose work is different from mine. Of course I’m saddened and angered equally by work made of contempt, hatred, misogyny, and too many adjectives.”
The interviewer says people describe her as wise. She responds,
“That’s because I’m old. When people get old they seem wise, but it’s only because they’ve got a little more experience, that’s all. I’m not so wise. Two things happen when you get older. You have more experience, so you either seem wiser, or you get totally foolish. There are only those two options. You choose one, probably the wrong one.”
I think one is both foolish and wise continually. We all choose to lapse into idiocy in vast areas of life. The best we can do is to choose wisely. Not to be an idiot about health, welfare, spiritual and love life, friends. While focused on those I fall behind in keeping up with technology, society, and clutter, checking the car, magazines, chores, cleaning, moisturizing, answering emails.

Grace Paley said in one essay on writing, “Directive:”
“Choose some mystery about your parents.
If you feel before you start that you understand everything—he’s a sadist and she’s a masochist, drop the subject.”
You don’t understand how little you understand.

What are we waiting for?

“Eternal life does not make sense if we do not love our life. Eternal life makes no sense if we don’t live now. Eternal life is living here and now with all that we have,” Mark Bozzutti-Jones said in sermon yesterday.
I keep thinking, “As soon as I get through these problems, I can start really living my life.” But the problems never end. They’re like the sea I swim in. How I move through them defines my life. When the problems run dry, I’ll just be washed up.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Milky Way


Walking home last night with Christine Reick-Sonntag, I looked up at the Costa Rica mountain sky. “The Milky Way,” I cried, and she started, saying, “Oh, it’s the same in German, Milch Strasse.” The word in Ancient Greek also comes from milk, “Galactica.”

The stars are a river—you cannot step into the same sky twice. The stars brush past us—the light is part of them, and is passing each instant over our skin. The fragile light has traveled millions of years to reach us.

Stars travel in all directions at once. The stream of the Milky Way is made of stones flowing in waves like water everywhere.