Treatise on Emptiness

In a bookstore I accidentally ended up at the section on Tao, or

more precisely, by the Treatise on Emptiness.

I rejoiced, since that day I was perfectly empty.

What an unexpected meeting — the patient finds the doctor,

the doctor doesn’t speak.


–Adam Zagajewski, from “Without End”


One always dies too soon or too late. And yet, life is there, finished: the line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life.

Jean-Paul Sartre

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

George Eliot


Which form of proverb do you prefer: Better late than never, or Better never than late?

Lewis Carroll

The beauty of the unconscious is that it knows a great deal—whether personal or collective—but it always knows that it does not know, cannot say, and dare not try to prove or assert too strongly; because what it does know is that there is always more—and all words will fall short. The contemplative is precisely the person who agrees to live in that unique kind of brightness (a combination of light and dark that is brighter still!). The Paradox, of course, is that it does not feel like brightness at all, but what John of the Cross calls a “luminous darkness,” or others call “learned ignorance.”

In summary, you cannot grow in the great art form, the integration of action and contemplation, without 1) a strong tolerance for ambiguity; 2) an ability to allow, forgive, and contain a certain degree of anxiety; and 3) a willingness to not know and not even need to know. This is how you allow and encounter mystery. All else is mere religion.

Fr. Richard Rohr


It's a momentous day here at Phoenicia Publishing: we just released our first e-books!

I've been reading books on my laptop and Android phone for quite a while now.

And here's the verdict: I've decided I like it, even though I'm not a 100% convert.

I like the ability to take my reading — lots of reading, in fact — with me wherever I go, on one nearly weightless device that fits in my pocket. And I like being able to buy, for less, books that I don't particularly want to keep as physical objects in a physical library. I like being able to search them, make bookmarks, look up words: all those interactive features.

If I can get a book I want to read at the local library, that's often the option I choose – it's free. But I live in a French-speaking province and can't always get what I want, which has been a problem ever since we moved here. And, like most people now, I like the instant gratification of being able to download a book and start reading right away. It's clear to me that the future of publishing lies, at the very least, with a mix of e-books and print books, and more likely with forms of electronic publishing that we can't even imagine yet, but which include a lot of multimedia content impossible with the printed page.

Most people don't have to think about all this, well, beyond their own pockets, but the problem is…I'm also running a publishing company. A small company, yes, but it's a furry little entity dedicated to being a fast and adaptable hare rather than a ponderous tortoise. At Phoenicia we publish mostly poetry — one of the most challenging formats for e-books, which are still pretty hobbled when it comes to complex typography. The other thing we will be publishing are art and photography books: also a type of book that needs careful, beautiful design.

Ebook_1_200pxI've spent the past couple of weeks thinking and exploring and learning, and today we released our first two e-books at Phoenicia: Dave Bonta's Odes to Tools and Ken Pobo's Ice and Gaywings, winner of this year's qarrtsiluni chapbook contest. Both are available in the Kindle/.MOBI format, and as EPUBs for the iPad or other EPUB readers, like the Nook or Sony, for a cost of only $2.99. Full-length e-books will be priced similarly to most commercial ones: around $10.00.

It was fun learning the new technology and I'm proud of the finished products. And it feels like a pretty big deal – a big step into the future.

(Dave Bonta has another book, a collection of his wryly funny and sometimes poignant "Words on the Street" cartoons that's just come out in multiple formats, through Bauble Tree Books in London. Check it out!)

I've been pretty low-key about Phoenicia here on the blog, but will be talking a bit more about it in the coming months – we've got several exciting projects in the works that I think will be interesting to Cassandra's readers, and, as always, the authors and I really appreciate your support! Nobody's getting rich – or even making any money to speak of – but I'm trying to develop a model that at least gets excellent, deserving work into print — and now, e-ink — which is a whole lot better than having it languish forever in a virtual folder in a virtual desk drawer!

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.