More Zen Days in the Realms of Gold

The Way It Goes

There’s a story of a concert master who is fed up with the orchestra and becomes an itinerant musician. In his travels he comes upon an old man sitting in the sun outside his hut and asks if he can rest there a while. After he has rested and drunk from the old man’s well, he feels like playing his violin.  When he finishes, the old man sits quietly and then says, “That is true.”  That’s the way it goes.

That’s the Way it goes
            You are minding your own business
            and along come two tramps at mud time
            or you catch a little silver trout
            and it leads you to Rapunzel
            or up the Amazon to Grovers Corners –
            where you were in the first place.

Get it? Just another way of describing what it’s like to take a slow walk – when you’re not going anywhere and don’t give a damn whether there’s a there there or not. One step   And two   And three – like that. Definitely no Depak Chopra involved.





That’s your Self
strolling along,
at it again,
late for school —
as usual.

Books About the Realms of Gold

Clark's BooksAll Things Are Connected


Let us not look back in anger,

nor forward in fear,

but around us in awareness.”
― James Thurber

That all things are connected  is pretty obvious if you think about it a little.   Your intelligence, for example, isn’t set off all by itself in the cosmos; it’s an aspect of the whole thing, completely interwoven with the whole thing. There is a life force flowing through the cosmos.  Step back and you will see that the cosmos is itself that force — what’s more, you yourself are that force.  All things are connected.   If you think, that’s the cosmos thinking.  Realms of Gold: Excursions in the Sea of Intelligence is designed to explore how all this fits together.

Looking back, it’s easy to see  my books, written over several decades,  were times-out for a look at all this wonderful interconnectedness  that’s so often taken for granted.  If you look at the descriptions below of some of them, you’ll see they were pointed to this present look around.   The Sea of Intelligence is on one thing going on, and we humans are an aspect of it.  This website, Excursions in the Sea of Intelligence, will make that clear. Realms of Gold is about why it matters.

  • Montage, Investigations in Language, which I wrote with William Sparke decades ago, was an interactive book long before the internet. It is full of quotes and stories, and poems and essays and puzzles and photos and science and math and music and grass and sky and air and God knows what. It was designed to engage the mind in thinking about how the world works and how a human being works. If there were any bored readers, I never encountered them.

Montage is all about language too, of course, and how language can imprison the spirit or free it. You can’t read Montage without realizing that prison or the open road is our own choice, to see or to perish, as Chardin rightly said.

  • Image, Reflections on Language traces the emergence of selfhood from before conception to after death. Who were you before your mother conceived you? In the beginning was the Word. What are some productive ways to think about that? How can a spiritual being live in a world of settled ideas? It’s the job of every one of us to disturb settled ideas. How can I take out life insurance without injuring my soul? Where do I live? Is it possible to live where I live? How much of my day is spent on what has happened; how much on what’s up ahead? What’s left?

Image, Reflections on Language does not solicit answers; it simply holds the door open. Reflection on such things enriches our lives, and we don’t care if school keeps or not.

  • Thinking About Thinking sets up explorations into our own minds, using the mind to think about the mind. How does thinking actually work; what is the physics of it, the chemistry, the coding and decoding? Where does metaphor fit in, logic, love? What about the genetic code?

Thinking About Thinking isn’t a how-to book. It’s a playground for messing around with ideas: Whatever you say a thing is, it isn’t. What are some ways to look at that as being true? Whatever you say a thing is, it is. How about some ways that that’s true, too. Can something be true even if it didn’t happen? What are some perspectives from which that idea makes sense? We think by feeling? We feel by thinking? Make both of them true.


If you aren’t smiling, are you really thinking?


There’s so much gained and so much lost in words, in the Word. And there is always Why bother in the first place? Can’t we just memorize the rule book and avoid the pain of figuring things out on our own?

The point of these explorations is not to get answers, which after all are only placebos, but to get a good look at this infinitely large and infinitely small universe. Wonder isn’t an answer. It’s an experience.

  • Teaching Human Beings: The Role of Language in Education is about a way to involve students in this journey no matter what discipline is being investigated. If you are looking at a clump of grass in a biology class or examining the periodic chart in chemistry or the subatomic field in physics or Ode to Joy in music, it’s always about getting a clearer picture of one’s own world, not merely about storing masses of information in the left-hemisphere of the brain. Ask Walt Whitman or Richard Feynman. It’s also about the feeling of wonder that sometimes comes over us on a bus in San Francisco.

Bon Voyage.

Clark McKowen — On Zen Days

Clark McKowen

Clark McKowen



A Rich, Manifold Life —

. . . brought close to the eye






This website is sort of a workshop for getting into the inner and outer reaches of human experience.   In a way,

It’s about getting all I can out of my cornflakes. 

It’s a reminder that the smell of shoe polish has infinite dimensions —  if I’m willing to think about it.  And it’s a lot more fun, at least for me, to enjoy as much of my moments as I can while they are happening.

  • Realms of Gold is about the split between the perceived world — what we ordinarily see — and what we know lies beyond perception.

So if you want to get at the whole thing,  it can’t be just poetry or stories, and it can’t just  be about all those numbers involved in nuclear physics and DNA. The smell of shoe polish  involves applied linguistics, metaphor, semantics, and the arts – in fact, all the disciplines mixed together. It has to includes  physics, biology, and mathematics.

It includes the world within the skull of each person engaged in these explorations.

Various Tangents

I  Iike to mess around with various tangents of whatever’s in front of my eye just now — just to be a bit more awake.  For me, it enriches my day if I’m more in tune with what’s happening — while it’s happening.  I may as well say it up front: These posts always come back to the nutty idea that

Everything is everything.

So, if everything is everything, then chimpanzees are not some isolated, if fascinating, aspect of our planet.  They are all about me — and you.  We may not be very conscious of it, but we humans are always trying to see how we fit into everything.

  • I’m always trying to get a good look at our situation here in the universe. 

Things seem to come alive more when I do that.

 The Shipping News

Clark’s Boat —

Sailing at 10 AM

from Alameda


some region


the Sea of Intelligence