Sunday, February 28, 2021

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919 - 2021)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 I first came to San Francisco from Ohio in the early sixties and was immediately attracted to the wonders of North Beach, dining upstairs family-style at the Basque Hotel or at the old Spaghetti Factory on Grant Avenue, witnessing the antics of would-be beatniks at the Coexistence Bagel Shop and especially browsing and buying books at Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights Bookstore which was, and still is, the epicenter of San Francisco's vibrant literary scene. Scanning my bookshelf, I spot half a dozen or so of the City Lights published Pocket Poets paperbacks including Allen Ginsberg's Howl, of course, which anyone who wanted to seem cool had to flaunt, but also other Pocket Poet books, Kaddish, Planet News and The Fall of America by the same woolly-bearded prophet. Other of my Pocket Poets include Kenneth Patchen's Love Poems and Kora in Hell by William Carlos Williams. Somewhere in my piles of books is buried Ferlinghetti's own A Coney Island of the Mind, Pocket Poet book #1, which has sold more than one million copies. Eat your hearts out, poets!

[Erratum: Actually, Nick, Pictures of the Gone World was Pocket Poets #1. Coney Island was published by New Directions.]

Despite many visits to City Lights and other Bay Area poetry venues I never met Ferlinghetti but yesterday on Facebook I received an elegy from Neeli Cherkovski who knew him quite well, which I am taking the liberty of posting here. Farewell, grand old soul.


Ferlinghetti and I
Would go to the Surf Theater
Way out by Yokohama
He was an aggressive
Driver, his old Volkswagen
Bug had several dents.

Driving through the Stockton
Tunnel he'd proclaim,
"We're leaving the Casbah"
And he would chuckle
As he turned left on Van Ness
Leaving North Beach
And City Lights Books.

We saw a movie set in Paris.
The title escapes me, but
Lawrences's excitement
Over the sights, Notre Dame
In a side view, the Seine
Head-on, Apollinaire's shadow
On Boulevard St. Germaine.

"I should go for a visit," he said
"Like Henry Miller did."

Two days later we headed
To Bixby Canyon, he said
I could carve my name on
The outhouse wall alongside
Kerouac and Ginsberg.

We read from "Leaves
Of Grass" that night by
A campfire. "He's like
An older brother."
Lawrence said of Whitman.

A year later
He wrote from
Paris, "I'm bringing you
A new beret, made right

San Francisco, Paris,
Big Sur, an open
Heart who would
Never grow old,
Who would be an
Ancient bard, who
Would hold a lantern
In the dark.

He wrote
The dog
Trots freely
In the street" and
Told anyone
Who would listen
The secret meaning
Of Goya's greatest scenes.

Neeli Cherkovski


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Quantum Cat Nap



(For August's Birthday)

Tonight when we're in the mood to explore
I'd like to superpose my body with yours:
Schrödinger-Cat style.
Aligning both our buzzing possibility waves
Till each cell of mine's
In tight quantum connection
With each cell of thine.

Our hearts aligned, our pulses
Our lungs aligned, our breathings
Our brainwaves, pelvic twitches
Each capillary's motion
Completely in sync.

I'd like to merge with you fully, love,
In a way no other man has ever imagined.

Such aligned
Let's experience quantum entanglement
Warm and first-handedly
Not like equation in a book.

Let's both deeply feel
Naked quantum superposition 

Of head, shoulder, knees and toes
Fingers, pelvis, both elbows.
Which part is me and which is not?
Neither one of us on top.

Then when we've learned what we can
From our first playful superposition
Let's fall asleep inside one another
Going to sleep me added to you.
Could both of us then experience
The world's first two-person dream?

Then waking up together
From our first quantum Cat Nap
Slowly breaking the superposition
Experiencing our mutual possibilities
Gently re-scrambling themselves
Like tangled bed clothing.

Alone now in my bed
I recall what I've read
About non-locality of the quantum kind:
No space between us, no time
So the physicists say.

So for billions of years, dear,
We've slept together this way.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Goat Cheese Tantra




Thin-sliced mushroom marjoram

Goat cheese omelette:

Bacon, corn chips, cold beer

Hot coffee, dark chocolate.

The joy of taste is a blessing

Each bite an overflowing purse

Whatever part I choose to feed on

I'm eating out the Universe.

Now experience the eating completely

Send the chattering mind down South

As you wholeheartedly sip this liquid, friend,

The Universe cums in your mouth.


Friday, January 1, 2021


This year's New Year's gift from my Buddhist masseuse was a new poet, Alfred K. LaMotte, whom I had never heard of. She sent me his poem My Ancestry DNA Results and a link to his website Uradiance where I found this poem Body. Someone once said that poetry is the art of expressing in words what cannot be said in words. LaMotte has taken up this challenge from a particularly Buddhist perspective: poetry as a finger pointing to the moon. Once you glimpse the moon, ignore the finger. I like what this guy is trying to do.


'We awaken in Christ's body as Christ awakens our bodies, and my poor hand is Christ. He enters my foot, and is infinitely me. I move my hand, and wonderfully my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him, for God is indivisibly whole, seamless in His Godhood. I move my foot, and at once He appears like a flash of lightning.' ~St. Symeon the New Theologian, b.949

Philosophers who asked, 'Why am I trapped in this body?' were not trapped in this body. They were trapped in the mind.

Your body is not a tomb, or a trap, or a punishment. Your body is the universe inviting you to wake up and dance.

Your body has no edges. It is an ocean of energy expanding in waves of breath, teeming with stars, swirling with galaxies, overflowing the very rim of time and space. And your dance can be as wild as a whirlwind, or as quiet as a heartbeat. You need not even move; your body is moving anyway, hosts of cells, countless atoms in the marvelous ballet of incarnation. Your body is filled with the same breath Jesus took, the same breath Buddha received to polish his spine and sparkle his emptiness.

When you come Om to the body, you are already where you need to be, and your heart opens like a morning glory to contain the blue empyrean. The axis of infinity runs up your hollow spine, a silver thread of silk to tether your skull to the most distant star, and your belly to the fire of darkness in the center of the planet.

Your body is the lightning bolt that grounds God, connecting heaven and earth. When you spread your arms, you embrace all your ancestors and unborn children. When you sense the rain, the wind, the sun upon your skin, you are covered not just by the grace of angels, but by the fur of every four-legged creature. In truth, it is only the limited mind that insists on distinguishing the spiritual from the physical, the animal from the angelic. Celestial dolphins leaping and playing in the waves of the vacuum, far beyond the Milky Way, are leaping and playing in the waves of your body.

You can wear this little brass trinket of mind around your throat and use it to carry precious pictures, a lock of your grandmother's hair, a prayer, a map, a tiny key. Or you can take off your mind like a woolen shirt. Lay it aside when you want to refresh your Being, bathe in the sea of God's breath, or dance naked with the Goddess. Then when you need it again, you can put the mind back on, use it as an instrument to deconstruct a problem, or as a box to hold important memories. Whenever you need space, you can empty the mind again, sweeping it clear with an exhalation.

But please, don't mistake this mind for your Self. You are not your mind. You are more vast. You are the cosmos. You are the universal body of Christ.

The breath in your body is the very form of the Goddess, who is the Holy Spirit. And a single breath, flowing in gratitude through the energy of your flesh, dissolves your mind into the infinite sky. Be bold. Leap into the unfathomable ocean of your body. Live in the silent grace beyond thought.

I am sure that Jesus was born in a human body just to show us who we really are, and reveal the diamonds in every handful of dust.


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Quantum Tantra: One Hint More

Nick with coyote skull: Rio del Mar beach.


For more than fifty years
I have been trying to discover
some brand new quantum way
to "fuck the Universe".

O, sweet Nick,
When will you realize
that you are actually
fucking the Universe right now?

Only in this present moment
have I spread Myself open.
Only in this moment
Only in this moment
Please give Me your All.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Does Consciousness Create Reality?

Mandrake the Magician

When David Kaiser charted the history of a small group of independent scholars exploring the foundations of quantum mechanics outside the usual channels (How the Hippies Saved Physics, 2011) he said not a word about the AMY Project which focused on a particular physics experiment that looked like it might be able to answer the important question: "Does consciousness create reality?"

Erwin Schrödinger started it all with his famous cat in a box. Unlike the classical objects of everyday life, a quantum object can exist in a superposition of states, can be,  for instance, in two places at once. Schrödinger assumed that quantum mechanics applies to everything, not just the very small, and devised a clever thought experiment in which a cat-in-a-box is both alive and dead at the same time until someone opens the box and looks. Observation destroys the superposition and the experimenter will see either a dead cat or a live cat.

Schrödinger's thought experiment which is totally impractical to carry out, is suggestive of the notion that consciousness might act on the quantum level to bring reality into existence.

Recently in 1976, a pair of physicists from Durban, South Africa, Donald Bedford and Derek Wang, proposed a practical experiment they called An Interfering Schrödinger Cat (D. Bedford and D. Wang, Il Nuovo Cimento 32B, 243 (1976))

Bedford and Wang's experiment is a simple variation on the familiar double-slit experiment, in which a beam of light goes through two slits at once and creates an interference pattern of alternating dark and light regions on a screen behind the slit.

Instead of a single pair of slits, Bedford and Wang introduce a two-component superposition of single slits that modulate the light beam. Small objects like atoms are easy to superimpose; whether large objects like metal plates with holes in them can be made to coexist in a Schrödinger Cat-like state is problematic. For this reason any macroscopic superposition whether theoretical or actual has come to be known as a "cat state". When the objects being superposed are tiny, one sometimes hears physicists describe such situations as "kitten states"

Two Experiments: 1. Double Slit and 2. Two-Slit Superposition

One way of looking at the Bedford and Wang proposal is that as long as the superposition of two slits is not looked at, the light will go through both slits and form an interference pattern. However if someone looks at the slits, the superposition will collapse into a mixture of single slits and the interference will vanish. Thus, on the face of it, this experiment looks as though it might be able to test the conjecture that observation changes reality. The Bedford and Wang experiment seems to offer the potential to demonstrate a concrete difference between the world unlooked at and the world observed.

The notion that mind creates reality has a long history, most famously exemplified by the Irishman  George Berkeley (1685 - 1753), Bishop of Cloyne in County Cork, whom his fellow countryman, William Butler Yeats, eulogized thus:

And God-appointed Berkeley that proved all things a dream
That this pragmatical preposterous pig of a world
its farrow that so solid seem
Must vanish on the instant if the mind but change its theme.

More recently, this idealist philosophy (the world is not made of things but of ideas) has been championed by the Dutchman Bernardo Kastrup, expressed in such books as The Idea of the World and Why Materialism is Baloney.

The belief that matter can exist on its own without reference to mind might be called "independent material existence." The opposite belief is then "anti-independent material existence" abbreviated AIME which we shortened to AMY. The aim of our AMY Project was to examine the exciting possibility that there might exist a physics experiment that could refute the materialist hypothesis and perhaps establish the truth of Bishop Berkeley's exhortation:

All the choir of heaven and furniture of earth
in a word, all those bodies which compose the frame of the world
have not any substance without a mind.

The AMY Project involved about a dozen people, including myself and Saul-Paul Sirag, as well as philosopher Abner Shimony, physicists Bruce Rosenblum, Henry Stapp, John Cramer, Casey Blood, Beverly Rubik, Evan Harris Walker plus Erwin Schrödinger's last graduate student in Dublin, Ludvik Bass. At the invitation of physicist Amit Goswami, back in 1991, Nick Herbert spent two days at the University of Oregon in Eugene presenting the original B&W experiment and some of its variations.

In their original paper, Bedford and Wang argued that the superposed slits would cause no interference whether observed or not. This conclusion was independently verified by the calculations of Casey Blood at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ. In retrospect one can now recognize that the two light paths and the two superposed slits are quantum-entangled (unlike the simple double-slit experiment) and it is easy to show that entangled particles do not show interference effects.

So, in the B&W experiment, there is no interference on the screen before looking. And no interference after looking. Nothing happens when someone looks at the superposed slits.

So all that excitement was for nothing. The Amy Project failed in the sense that the B&W experiment does not test the idealist hypothesis. But there do exist quantum experiments where looked at and unlooked at systems gave different results, such as those cited by Bruce Rosenblum & Fred Kuttner in their Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness. However, despite these authors' contentions, such experiments do not reveal a hidden power of mind.

Why not? Because "looked at" in physics means deploying some sort of physical instrument. Just paying attention is not enough. The action of mind in physics experiments is simply to select which machine to deploy to ask nature a particular question. Different questions require different machines. So, in my opinion, consciousness, even in quantum physics, seems to play the same indirect role in creating reality as choosing which gear to put your car in when climbing a hill.

Bedford and Wang not only proposed a theory, they actually carried out an experiment. However there is some doubt whether B&W were actually able to superpose two macroscopic slits. Recently an elegant experiment by Kim et al has succeeded in achieving exactly the B&W configuration using the resources of modern optics. All sorts of variations that Bedford and Wang never dreamed of can now be carried out on this sophisticated platform. Needless to say, none of these experiments can be used to support or refute the idealist hypothesis. All is not lost, however. There are other paths to reality besides quantum physics.

OK, we were wrong. But can you imagine how exciting it felt to believe for a while that you were working on an actual physics experiment that might prove this world is a dream?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Nick Attacks Another iPad

Morning meditation--Apple iPad tablet computer: friend or foe?

After one failed attempt three years ago to replace a failing touch screen in a iPad 3 (see Nick Destroys an iPad), a tech friend gave me another iPad 3 with a cracked screen so I could try again. Since the crack was small (and localized in the bottom left) most of the touch screen worked, I added a screen protector and case and happily used this slightly defective tablet for several years. But over time the defective area of the touch screen gradually widened till I realized that if I did not replace it soon, my tablet would become fully unusable.

Replacing an iPad touch screen is no easy matter; the experts at Boulder Creek Computer refuse to handle this kind of repair. But I had already experienced one such take-apart and so was prepared for some of the difficulties I might encounter. Before anything else, I copied all my photos and text onto a laptop and made a complete backup of the rest of the data. Now I was ready to begin to remove and replace the defective touch screen.

Preparing to open the iPad
Sunday morning, I cleaned off my kitchen table and gathered some specialized tools. The touch screen is not held on by screws but is glued to an aluminum base with a rather strong adhesive. To open up the case, one heat-softens the adhesive (with a hair dryer and/or a microwave-heated hot pad cleverly called an iOpener) and then gently and slowly pries up the glass using various prying tools. To prevent the successfully pried-open sections from re-adhering, guitar picks are inserted around the separated periphery.

On my first attempt to remove a touch screen, I was able to remove the old screen without breaking it, but this time, despite my carefulness, the screen cracked along the edges in several places. That adhesive was really strong! Since the touch screen was broken anyway, cracking the edges of this old screen would not affect the repair but it did damage my ego a bit that I was not able to effect a perfect tear down.

Old touch screen: most of the shattered edges happened during removal
After removing the touch screen, the next step was to prepare the aluminum case for a clean installation of the new touch screen. This step requires the removal of all previous adhesive. And all pieces of broken glass, of course,

For efficient adhesive removal, I found Adhesive Tape Remover Pads, of the kind used by medical workers to remove sticky bandages from human skin, to be very useful. These pads do not dissolve the adhesive but make it tacky enough so it can be rolled up with an Exacto knife, similar to the way one can remove rubber cement by forming it into a self-sticky ball.

Clean and open iPad on the right; brand new touch screen on the left.
Now that the iPad case is clean, it's time to install the new touch screen. The screen connects to the computer via a ribbon cable that plugs into something called a Zero Insertion Force (ZIF) connector. Instead of pushing the cable's pins into a socket, the ZIF connector works like a mouth, you open the mouth by flipping up a latch, then you insert the cable. Flipping down the latch closes the mouth and its "teeth" grip the ribbon cable tightly in all the right places.

In my last attack on an iPad, my repair was frustrated by bad ZIF connectors. No matter how carefully I worked the latches and the cables, the connector's gold teeth just shattered and short of major surgery, replacing the touch screen was impossible.

This time I found that all ZIF connectors were working properly so that it was relatively easy to remove the old and insert the new ribbon cables in their proper places and successfully latch them down.

I clamped the new screen in place. But before heating the adhesive for final assembly, I tried to start up the iPad. Everything seemed to work except the new touch screen.  Perhaps the connections were misaligned. I once again dissembled the gadget, carefully plugged the ribbon cables into the ZIF connectors and clamped the touch screen back in place. Same result: no touch sensitivity. I also tried a "soft reset" with the same result.

iPad with non-functioning touch screen
So Nick's second attack on an iPad resulted in another defeat. I don't have any idea why the new touch screen didn't work but I've done the best I could with this project. In any case I learned a lot in this iPod take down and got three years of good use out of this gadget before I now consign it to the dust bin of history.

And now for something completely different: the funniest commentary I've run across yet on the bat flu virus:

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Secret Body

Secret Body (2017) by Jeffrey Kripal

(for Jeffrey Kripal)

I was a Hidden Treasure
And desired to be known
Nearer to you
Than your pubic bone.

Every flower flaunts it
Every photon hides a clue
What She showed to crowds at Fatima
She's poised to show to me and you.

You want to make love to the Cosmic Beauty?
You yearn to do so right now?
Well, the Universe is telling you all that She needs
In the only way She knows how.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Happiness in the Mouth


The Chinese characters for "Coca Cola" 
spell "happiness in the mouth"
which we Americans find quaint
and a bit risque'.

We say: all day my legs, my back, 
                                     my shoulders hurt
We never say: all night my knees, my neck, 
                                      my wrists were blissful.

We suffer head aches, ear aches and belly aches.
And how many heartaches have we felt? A lot.

But seldom are we gladdened by head joy, 
                                       by ear joy or belly joy.
And how often do we feel heart joy? 
Not often enough.

We are a nation of whiners!
Our language gives us away:

You make me sick
You hurt my feelings
You are a pain in the neck
You are a thorn in my side
You are a royal pain in the ass.

I say: get off my aching back!
Your constant bitching makes me sick!

You make me wonderfully well
You gladden my feelings
You are a happiness in my throat, 
             a merriment in my bones
You are a delight in my pancreas
You are my blissful urethra
You are a royal joy in the ass

You are my body's felicity
You are my heart's delight
You are the bliss in my juices
You are a pleasure in every vertebrae
You are a happiness in the mouth.