Table of Contents

The Cloth of Gold Beneath the Sackcloth of Ordinary Reality

Everthing About Me Was Screaming to Be Recognized There are lots of ways to describe what this website is up to. It’s about somehow or other getting “an intense vision of the facts,” as the poet William Carlos Williams called the process. The philosopher Pierre Tielhard de Chardin said “to see or to perish” is…

Wonder Moments

Teaching in the Realms of Gold

The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. –Carl Sandburg, 1916 [I read a reflection recently about the role of moments of wonder, joy, and even terror in classrooms, and it fitted so well with this Realms of Gold website that I…

Eno’s Adventures in The Realms of Gold

The Spirit’s Body A “scientific” description of how spirit becomes flesh I wrote the story of Eno as if it were science fiction, but it is a fairly accurate scientific – as we commonly think of that word – description of how spirit – that’s a metaphor, too, for some kind of life force –…

How to Talk With a Rock — The Barrier of Species

What They Don’t Teach in Schools (Continued)  Knowing and Knowing About      Lots of the posts on this site are about how we come to know something, not the kind of “knowing” picked up in books or from people like teachers or politicians or parents and so on, but the deep knowing, like knowing how…

Natural Learning: The Role of Telepathy

In Your Bones I’ve been writing in a number of posts on this website about the Mess-Around Theory of how to learn.  That’s the name I made up for a theory I invented,  and I’m laying odds it will pretty much work for anything you want to do or get good at or know. Since…

The Heart – The Missing Factor in Most Classrooms

Learning by Heart How can you get so good at something that it seems like magic?  If you’ve ever watched a tech work on your computer, you’ve seem her zip through dozens of steps in seconds – without even seeming to have to think about it.  Well, the fact is, she doesn’t have to think…

Doing Hard Things

No Hard School Subjects x(t) = a0     + a1 cos (wot + q1) + a2 cos (2wot + q2) + … + aN cos (Nwot + qN)     In my December 8, 2013, post  I said, You can do anything you really want to do. Here are three ideas from that post: No…

Taking Hard Subjects — The Golden Apples of the Sun

There are no hard subjects Though I am old with wandering Through hollow lands and hilly lands, I will find out where she has gone, And kiss her lips and take her hands; And walk among long dappled grass, And  pluck till time and times are done The silver apples of the moon, The golden…


Don’t waste your time taking notes.  Don’t let your school work interfere with your education.  – Mark Twain.     If you write down everything that happens, you may as well be a stenographer.  Stenographers are paid to do transcripts, not to understand what a lecture boils down to.  That’s what you’ll want to know,…


Passing Grade, Least Effort If  you’ve decided you want a passing grade with the least effort – for whatever reason – you’ve come to the right place.  (If you’re taking a course that sets your mind on fire, you’ll do the things I’m suggesting  intuitively.)  Your guiding principle? Take charge. Game Plan for Boring Lectures…

How to Be a Brilliant Student Without Even Trying

Escape from the Prison House I was talking recently with my friend and former colleague of thirty years Karl Staubach about his time in the Army during the Korean War. He had finished a year or so at the University of Michigan when he abruptly enlisted, even though he would have been deferred.  Why?  Well,…

How to Take Classes, Part 1

Once you think about it, it will be obvious that school subjects are not English, history, chemistry, biology, and so forth. School subjects memorizing reading textbooks taking classes doing assignments taking tests handling stress   Right? Of course. When you go to school, you spend your time on those things. They make up the structure…

Mastery Learning

Playing to Win — Updated from Get Your  A Out of College School is a wonderful place for an education.  Somebody ought to try it sometime. When we realize we are in charge of our own learning and always have been, it changes everything.  We choose how we learn, when we learn, and what.  It’s…

It’s a Sucker’s Game

Schooling Is Not Education Maybe I haven’t made it clear enough why I wrote Get Your A Out of College. Mainly, it made me feel bad to see my sweet, innocent students trying be play the school game without knowing the hidden rules.   If you take two minutes  – one, if you’re on your toes…

Turning C’s into B’s

  Big News Here:   In most schools and colleges a B+, a B, or a B- is recorded as a B.  A C -, a C, or a C+ ends up in your files as a C.   I’m about to betray the system and reveal one way to tip a C+ over to…

The Barrier of Species: Bridging Worlds

I look deep into their eyes and feel their presence in ways I could never imagine. [This dog], Mozart,  was the real turning point in my realization that animals are living beings emotionally similar to us, able to think, and fear, and communicate –  and all that stuff came from Mozart.  – Pet resort owner…

Ticky Tacky Little Boxes, Part 2

Nearer to God     Recently while  reading  Joaquin Miller’s 1873 Life Amongst the Modocs –  about life as the  Mt. Shasta Modocs lived it and the world of the miners who ripped open the mountainsides and polluted the salmon streams that had nourished Indian tribes for many centuries –  I came on a passage…

The Myth of Species

Bridging the Worlds In the English department in the college where I taught, we had  ESL classes – English as a Second Language.  They were for people who’s mamas spoke Spanish or Urdu or Farsi.   But what about the native speakers of English in our regular English classes?The language a child learns from his mother’s…

Reframing the Neighborhood: The Tao Way

Neighbors Bay winds have been blowing wild-grass seeds into the  ice-plant beds in front of some of my neighbors’ bay-front homes and setting up residence there, so that now there are wild grasses just outside their back fences, and my neighbors would like the gardeners to do something about that.   I walked over an…

Game-Changer Checklist for High Test Scores

THE TAO OF TEST-TAKING •   Get the feel of it:    Relax and mess around.  The more fun you have the higher your score – guaranteed. Browse.     Browse.     Browse •   Do easiest questions first. Rack up easy points: Build confidence. Don’t make the test tough. Use your own natural intelligence. Make common-sense guesses.…

Tests into Puzzles III

LOOK . . . THEN LEAP. Always look over a test — any test — before you start.   You’re  trying to get the feel of it.  What sort of a test is it?  Do the questions look easy?  Hard?  Do you see any item you can answer right off the bat? Take a look…

Tests Into Crossword Puzzles II

            A SKELETON TEST Want to get good at playing the piano?  Practice. Want to get higher scores on tests?  Practice. Here’s a “test” my colleague Karl Staubach made up to show how you can pull out answers from a test without knowing much at all.  This skeleton test has…

Turning Tests into Crossword Puzzles

  I have resented to this day When any but myself presumed to say That there was anything I could not be.                                     – Robert Frost The Testing Mania There is so much wrong with giving each other tests I hardly know where to begin.  Your own sweet Self has no interest in the hoops…

A Problem of Making Connections

            ONLY CONNECT Memory One had a lovely face, And two or three had charm, But charm and face were in vain Because the mountain grass Cannot but keep the form Where the mountain hare has lain.   Here’s my problem: I included Yeats’s “Memory” in a recent post because…

Unnecessary Beauty

One afternoon I picked a spear-shaped bud along the lagoon path.  Look what happened overnight. Nature — What will you think up next!

The Method of Places – The Most Powerful Memory Tool

    Find a familiar place to store each thing you want to recall, look in that place, and there it is.   Example: If you want to recall nine or ten grocery items, say lettuce            toilet paper            butter          cereal          hamburger                  milk                sugar          potatoes           tea put them in rooms in your home. “In the…

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…

Intelligent Memorizing Strategies in the Realms of Gold

  Getting Curious Usually when you become absorbed in something — or fall in love with it; it’s the same thing – remembering happens without conscious effort.  All of a sudden it’s been “memorized.”  For example, scores of poems are stored in my memory, but I didn’t “try” to memorize or learn any of them. …

Green Fire: Intimations of Higgs Boson

How does the universe create a rock out of sunlight?               You know those holograms you can stick your hand into, those laser projections you see at those science exhibits that I mentioned in an earlier post?  What if you could flesh out holograms and make them “physical,” like…

The Zen of Remembering

As Good as Necessary                                                To remember well enough to get through your classes with high grades or to remember what you need at the store or to turn out the lights when you get ready for bed, you don’t have to be a memory whiz.  You don’t have to be a Matteo Ricci…

Books About the Realms of Gold

All 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…

  • Pointing the Cart Where It Wants to Go
       Smart Entities Don’t Exist in Isolation [These posts can be read separately, but they’re sequential, too.   If you’d like to follow the thought process, start with the first posting.  There is a list of latest posts on the left.] Here’s  a little about how this website is set up.  It started out as a book … Continue reading
  • Chapter 1 OnLooking Into John Keats and This Book
      On the Person in the Mirror [ These posts can be read separately, but they are sequential, too,  each continuing from where the previous one left off.  So if you would like to follow the thought process, start with the first posting.  There’s a list of recent posts to the left of each page.] … Continue reading
  • Surface Features
    [ These posts can be read separately, but they are sequential, too,  each continuing from where the previous one left off.  So if you would like to follow the thought process, start with the first posting. The latest posts are listed on the left of each page. ] There’s More to Anything Look at the … Continue reading

Going To and Fro on the Earth, and Walking Up and Down on It — Looking for Poems


Mount Diablo — 3849 Feet

I Brought Back All the World on My Face

Dear McKowen: I have spent a Sunday up on the mountain of Diablo: Motorcycling up and down, looking at the scenic view . . . I brought back all the world on my face–cheeks set aglow by sunset sky, planes, hawks, people, woods, horses, spring flowers and wind.

Years ago I found those words in a reflection of Lupe, a student of mine, from Puerto Rico, at Diablo Valley College. No wonder I enjoyed my work. Let’s make Lupe’s reflection look more like a poem:

           Dear McKowen

I have spent a Sunday
up on the mountain of Diablo:
Motorcycling up and down,
looking at the scenic view.
I brought back all the worldimages
on my face–cheeks set aglow


by sunset sky, planes, hawks,
people, woods, horses,
spring flowers and wind

How does that look? Any better?

This makes me think of a class I had with some students one morning years ago. I remember putting a poem of William Carlos Williams on the chalkboard one day and pretending–just for fun, but more than that too–that I had written it to my wife and had left it on the refrigerator that morning.

Plums Realms

So I asked the students if they thought Ruth should forgive me. Shouldn’t she be glad I ate the plums? They discussed that back and forth for a while. Some thought it was pretty sneaky.

Then I asked if I could get away with telling Ruth that my note was actually a poem? Maybe she’d go for it? Did they think my note was a poem? Come on!

Well, what if I had typed it up and arranged the words like this:

                                                  THIS IS JUST TO SAY

imagesI have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I thought she ought be damned glad to have such a swell husband even if he did eat the plums. (I did later  confess that William Carlos Williams was actually the guilty party.)

And along that same line of thought I asked if, say, someone had written a note like that instead of writing a regular reflection, should I forgive him or her? And I played around with that a while: Is he or she “getting it” – getting what the study of our language and its literature is all about? I asked. Isn’t eating a delicious plum, whether school keeps or not, precisely the same thing as reading a delicious poem?


A Delicious Poem

Remember when Piglet asked Pooh, “When you get up in the morning, Pooh, what’s the first thing you think about?” And Pooh says, “What’s for breakfast? And what do you think about, Piglet?” “I wonder what exciting is going to happen today,” says Piglet. Pooh ponders that and then says, “It’s the same thing.”

Pooh and Piglet

It’s the same thing.

Get it?

There are delicious plums right under our noses – wonder moments – lying about on sidewalks and in the dust balls under the bed – everywhere. And as Auntie Mame said to Patrick when things looked dour, “ Remember, my little love, life is a banquet, and some poor bastards are practically starving to death!”


Life is a banquet.

It’s a matter