Thursday, February 11, 2021

On Opposites, Mess, and Inevitable Reality


Last week, while reading a post elsewhere about the virtues of pellet ice and the GE Opal ice maker that makes it, I was surprised and intrigued to realize there are some people with a strong dislike for the sound of ice clinking in a glass.  Especially so, since that’s a sound I deliberately seek out and set up for, enjoying it so much we maintain a continual two-bag supply of store-bought ice with an extra bag in reserve to prevent run-out. Since that type of ice is clearer and harder than the ice our refrigerator freezer produces; it yields (to my ears) a lovely, soothing and satisfying sounding clink in the water and iced teas I drink on a daily basis.  While its possible my enjoyment of that may trace back in part to memories of dinner parties hosted by my mom where the ice water served crystal goblets produced  elegant musical tinks, there may also be an element of ASMR involved. Whatever the case, I hadn’t considered the possibility of something so seemingly benign and pleasing from my perspective in my pursuit of happiness bringing up such an opposite response from others in their pursuit of the same. 

I was also surprised and intrigued to encounter another pair of opposites when I read Victor Davis Hanson’s  mention of hubris and nemesis in his recent declaration that Biden "will face Nemesis in a way that few other presidents have ever encountered the cruel Greek god. Biden’s hubris and that of the media/Democratic Party fusion almost guarantee such divine retribution".   

And that consideration was followed by this from Living Your Unlived Life, by R.A Johnson: 

"I must state again:  Nothing exists in our human dimension without its opposite close by. 

I once designed and built a special clavichord, a very exotic instrument called a Clavichord d ’Amour. None have survived from the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries when this beautiful instrument held a high place in the musical world; only one paragraph could be found in an obscure treatise describing its physical structure, followed by long paragraphs extolling the fineness of its tone.

After I spent two winters of spare time in the designing and building, a fine instrument resulted.  While working on this project, I was daily reminded of the polarity of all experience:  shuffling around in piles of wood shavings, companioned by glue pots and a general mess of cast-off wood and metal.  The glue was the old horsehide concoction, perfect for inlay work.  How to make horsehide glue.  You skin an old horse, boil its hide for a week, skim the fat off, boil it down to the proper consistency, and what are you left with?  Mess.  That is the lesson I learned on the search to find the dulcet tones of the Clavichord d ’Amour --possibly the most delicate and refined sound ever known to humankind.

What about the mess that we all make daily with any activity we undertake?  And what about the poor horse?  Mess!  How do we cope with this inevitable reality in our pursuit of the beautiful and the true?.. 

We live in a time of division and polarity, yet the ancients sagely advised that the middle way is best. This does not mean a watered down compromise, but a synthesis.  Life is filled with contradiction and tension, yet if we learn to hold that tension rather than force one-sided solutions, we might yet open to experiences that are whole and holy." 

While I haven’t yet reached the point of holding tension easily, without giving way to the pull of drama or veering off into the mess of despair, living with the awareness of the closeness of opposites and the roles they serve to invite clarity has been helpful.  Balance in the midst of polarity continues to be my prayer.

The blue ice pictured above has been forming in the Straits of Mackinac this past week during the single digit weather we've been having with the picture below showing more of the "gorgeous ice shards" that have piled up along the Lake Michigan coast in previous years. 


chickelit said...

While I haven’t yet reached the point of holding tension easily, without giving way to the pull of drama or veering off into the mess of despair, living with the awareness of the closeness of opposites and the roles they serve to invite clarity has been helpful. Balance in the midst of polarity continues to be my prayer.

One way is to get out of your habit or mantle and exposure yourself to the opposite. I recently moved back to Wisconsin--alone. My landing was assisted by a sister-in-law who is my polar opposite, politically. We knew this about each other. She introduced me to some good people with whom I have little in common, politically. Some have become friends.

What I remember about days of yore is that people didn't openly discuss politics. My parents didn't. And if people didn't wear politics on their sleeves nor in their yards. OK maybe the men did for a few weeks on their lapels. Just my observations. Nowadays I can almost guess a woman's politics at a glance or a listen.

One can make great strides in sharing human warmth and kindness by avoiding politics for the most part. Be eager to listen to both sides. My dad worked for two newspapers when I was kid. The same company published both the editorially left and right papers. Most families were defined (confined?) by one or the other, but he read both. I once asked him why: "to get the whole picture" he replied. That was synthesis.

I once parsed the difference between synthesis and analysis here but of course in a chemistry context. If I were to echo that analysis today, I would expand on the synthesis aspect. We have have far too much analysis in our politics today.

chickelit said...

BTW, I make and sell fake ice cubes that look and feel like the kind that clink in glasses. They even clink like real ice. Adding just a tinge of blue dye adds realism.

Trooper York said...

I too love ice in my drink. I was never a big brown liquor guy so I didn't order a scotch or a rye like my older friends or my Dad did. That was always an old man drink.

Now I am very circumscribed in what I can drink basically limited to one glass of wine or beer a night. So I just don't indulge since the wife is also precluded from partaking. We just drink cold spring water with a couple of ice cubes. It is surprisingly satisfying.

I would love to have store bought ice but don't have the space in the fridge. So I stick to the ones I make although when I get ahead of the game a freeze some and empty them into a Ziploc to have a supply.

Ice is great.

ndspinelli said...

Ice is great, and it's disappearing in restaurants. You get iceless water that may be cold, cool or room temp. This is leftism taking away our right to have fucking ice water. I always ask for a glass of ice if given iceless water. The higher end places are more likely to try and fuck you.

Of course, this is not about ecology. It's about $$$'s. Do you think those dot head shit motels care about the ecology when they ask you reuse towels. Shiiiit!

The clink of ice drove my aunt who had a demanding husband and would clink his ice when he wanted a refill. Sound, like everything, is relative. I too love ice. I have an auto ice maker for the first time. It's heaven. The house we're in in San Diego also has an auto ice maker.

edutcher said...

The commissars and gauleiters will have their ice, but good luck to all the kulaks.

PS Beautiful brushstrokes, Mama. Something of yours?

Sixty Grit said...

My refrigerator has an icemaker. When a hurricane is headed my way I will run the icemaker and fill some bags with ice for when the power goes out. Otherwise I don't make or use ice.

However, that was not always the case. There is one thing I like more than just about anything on a hot summer day - that is an old style Coca Cola (made with sugar, not HFCS) in a glass full of ice cubes. The bubbles and the foam take me back many decades to when I was a youth and the world was simple. Fizzy!

But these days that kind of Coke is only available at Home Depot, and even there it is not consistently available. It is shipped in from Mexico and sought out by the illegals and the old timers like me. It is the real thing and mostly I can't tolerate drinking it on a regular basis, but dang, I sure like it, even if it doesn't like me.

As for ice outside - well, it has been so cold lately that on some mornings there is a thin coating of ice on the outdoor water dish. The squirrels were complaining, but they managed to get bust through and get a drink. I dislike that kind of brutal cold snap - I tend to stay inside when it is that cold and wait for warmer weather.

Now, as to the second photo you posted MamaM - what is the story on that one? The blue ice is beautiful, so long it is no where near me.

MamaM said...

Bragging about open windows with warm breezes wafting in helped bring about the use of those photos of blue ice for this post, SixtyG! I wasn't of a mind to include pictures until I heard about the hint of spring you were experiencing in NC coupled with SonM's mention of 67 degrees in ATL. Plus they capture the glass shard quality that the ice-dislikers say they dislike, in addition to conveying the coldness they also dislike with blue (as noted and used by chickelit in his attempts to use synthesis to grasp reality).

It's Nature with her painterly qualities who composed and compiled those two scenes. The first shows this year's batch of blue ice forming up north of us, and the second one was taken in March of 2019 in South Haven, Mi (on the west coast of Michigan--the east side of the Lake.) Both photos are the work of Joel Bissel at

Lots more here from that series:

Sixty Grit said...

I just went for a short run. Didn't want it to be short but we are having "wintry mix" right this minute. I prefer warm breezes. But it is February and you get what you get. So after two furlongs my dog and I headed inside. Mmm, warmer. So our warm weather has retreated and the polar vortex has arrived.

I was scrolling up the site when I saw the lower portion of the second picture you posted and thought it was a painting - further scrolling revealed the lighthouse and sky then I realized that it was a photograph. An amazing photograph. That website you linked to has more astounding pictures of an environment I can appreciate from my house, no problem. Wouldn't want to be there taking those pictures, nope.

As for ice clinking in glasses, I don't care one way or the other. But I hate the squeaking of snow under my shoes - that is a sensation I try to avoid, or at least I did. Maybe it doesn't bother me much these days, or maybe I just don't walk in snow much, either way, I am over it.

Dad Bones said...

MamaM: That Lake Michigan ice provides a good polar opposite to a forest fire. My first thought was that the air around the ice was at least more breathable than trying to breathe smoke. That's not an easy choice considering I've gotten to the point that cold dry air can give me some good sinus headaches that aren't so easy to shake. Holding the tension is a great phrase. My former self that had more energy and money to seek out climatic areas that I thought would be more beneficial to my health has given way to simply holding the tension where I am. With relentless below zero temps lately it's definitely tense where I am but you can't hold back spring so I'm hanging on and glad to be here.

Sixty: I haven't checked lately but the Mexican food section in Walmart used to carry Mexican coke with real sugar. For a decadent period that lasted a little too long I was using it to make some really good rum & cokes. Glad I ended that but it provided some work for my dentist.

MamaM said...

Chickelit, if you head back this way again, this comment is for you:

I appreciated your link on synthesis, along with the other thoughts shared. In later reading I came on this with another mention of synthesis, from the same book mentioned above:

What is required for true maturity is not a regression to teen-like irresponsibility or more tiresome responsibility (often interpreted as dutiful obedience to social norms). True maturity involves becoming more response-able, deepening our capacity to respond more flexibly, passionately, and powerfully to life's challenges, to live a life that is self-creating and authentic, and to synthesize the opposites tempering one with the other.

And to that I say, "Yes, amen and may it be so!"

chickelit said...

@MamaM: I Jen Psaki'd my way back here (circled back) and found your comment. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.