Sunday, April 23, 2017

all spirits





Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and 
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.



~ William Shakespeare
from The Tempest, Prospero's soliloquy
photo by Kristjan Rems

Saturday, April 22, 2017

together in a tapestry









We are all bound together in a tapestry that like the sea gives the impression of movement towards something but is actually just a maternal body of material...

The flowers buzz when the vibration of the bees stimulates their pistons and their molecules swell and their petals hum like cellos. Rocks are alive, the firstborn of the natural world, somber without will.

There is no freedom from this universe we were born into, because it is our vague source of sensation, our soul, the container of our guilt.

Skins liquefy in heat. And when a bald baby swallow dies on your palm, you feel warmth pouring over your skin, a kind of burning fountain that scalds you like pepper spray.

Do you think this is a sign of the spirit ripping its energy into you to carry to the other side? I do. There are no actual objects over there, no materials but unformed steaming clouds, colors that harmonize musically, no gravity exists but elasticity composed of invisible images.

 
~ Fanny Howe
from 'The Child's Child'
The Needle's Eye: Passing through Youth

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

people like us







There are more like us. All over the world
There are confused people, who can't remember
The name of their dog when they wake up, and people
Who love God but can't remember where

He was when they went to sleep. It's
All right. The world cleanses itself this way.
A wrong number occurs to you in the middle
Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time

To save the house. And the second-story man
Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives,
And he's lonely, and they talk, and the thief
Goes back to college. Even in graduate school,

You can wander into the wrong classroom,
And hear great poems lovingly spoken 
By the wrong professor. And you find your soul,
And greatness has a defender, and even in death you're safe.




~ Robert Bly
from Morning Poems



.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Our hearts irrigate this earth





.


How is it they live for eons in such harmony -
the billions of stars -

when most men can barely go a minute
without declaring war in their mind against someone they know.

There are wars where no one marches with a flag,
though that does not keep casualties
from mounting.

Our hearts irrigate this earth.
We are fields before
each other.

How can we live in harmony?
First we need to
know

we are all madly in love
with the same
God.



~ St. Thomas Aquinas
(Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West 
by Daniel Ladinsky)


a somebody?








About a decade after he made his oft-quoted proclamation in Leaves of Grass — “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” — Whitman considers the cohesion of those multitudes:


There is, in sanest hours, a consciousness, a thought that rises, independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shining eternal. This is the thought of identity — yours for you, whoever you are, as mine for me. Miracle of miracles, beyond statement, most spiritual and vaguest of earth’s dreams, yet hardest basic fact, and only entrance to all facts. In such devout hours, in the midst of the significant wonders of heaven and earth, (significant only because of the Me in the centre,) creeds, conventions, fall away and become of no account before this simple idea. Under the luminousness of real vision, it alone takes possession, takes value. Like the shadowy dwarf in the fable, once liberated and look’d upon, it expands over the whole earth, and spreads to the roof of heaven.





~ Walt Whitman
 from the essay Democratic Vistas
Illustration by Mimmo Paladino for a rare edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses
with thanks to Brain Pickings



Monday, April 3, 2017

the "goal?"





The traveler who finds his road blocked by a river will use a raft to reach the opposite shore, but, this shore once reached, he will not carry the raft on his shoulders while continuing his journey.  He will abandon it as something which has become useless.

The raft represents the different kinds of methods, intellectual training or moral discipline, which are available as means to bring the seeker of liberation to the "other shore".  On this shore, both have lost their value; they bear no relation to the conditions existing on the "other shore" and, like the raft in the parable, they are only a useless burden.... 

"The country which is nowhere is the real home."

On the other hand, is there any traveler who makes a crossing?  
Is there a somebody who reaches the other shore?

If this was the case, this traveler would carry with him the "hither shore" into the "beyond", just as the dust on the soles of one's shoes is carried from one place to another.  The traveler would transform the "other bank" into "this bank" because here and there are in him, are him and that outside the mind which thinks "here" and "there" are no other "here" and "there".

To go beyond virtue and vice, opinions and beliefs is to go beyond the mental constructions which are built up by the mind, unceasingly, and to recognize, by transcendent insight, that they are void of reality.  It is also to recognize, by transcendent insight, that that which has been imagined as practicing virtue, surrendering to vice, as holding opinions and elaborating theories, as traveling towards a goal and reaching the goal, is nothing but an inconsistent phantom, devoid of reality. 



~ Alexandra David-Neel and Lama Yongden
from The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects

 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

on the value of not-knowing







All sorts of torturers, dictators, fanatics, and demagogues struggling for power by way of a few loudly shouted slogans also enjoy their jobs, and they too perform their duties with inventive fervor. Well, yes, but they “know.” They know, and whatever they know is enough for them once and for all. They don’t want to find out about anything else, since that might diminish their arguments’ force. And any knowledge that doesn’t lead to new questions quickly dies out: it fails to maintain the temperature required for sustaining life. In the most extreme cases, cases well known from ancient and modern history, it even poses a lethal threat to society.

This is why I value that little phrase “I don’t know” so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself “I don’t know,” the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto. Had my compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie never said to herself “I don’t know”, she probably would have wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families, and would have ended her days performing this otherwise perfectly respectable job. But she kept on saying “I don’t know,” and these words led her, not just once but twice, to Stockholm, where restless, questing spirits are occasionally rewarded with the Nobel Prize.

The world — whatever we might think when terrified by its vastness and our own impotence, or embittered by its indifference to individual suffering, of people, animals, and perhaps even plants, for why are we so sure that plants feel no pain; whatever we might think of its expanses pierced by the rays of stars surrounded by planets we’ve just begun to discover, planets already dead? still dead? we just don’t know; whatever we might think of this measureless theater to which we’ve got reserved tickets, but tickets whose lifespan is laughably short, bounded as it is by two arbitrary dates; whatever else we might think of this world — it is astonishing.

But “astonishing” is an epithet concealing a logical trap. We’re astonished, after all, by things that deviate from some well-known and universally acknowledged norm, from an obviousness we’ve grown accustomed to. Now the point is, there is no such obvious world. Our astonishment exists per se and isn’t based on comparison with something else.

Granted, in daily speech, where we don’t stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like “the ordinary world,” “ordinary life,” “the ordinary course of events” … But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.



 ~  Wisława Szymborska
with thanks to  Brain Pickings by Maria Popova
 art by Salvador Dalí from a rare edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
 

looking for the face








~ Robert Lax
with thanks to louie, louie

Friday, March 31, 2017

thorn witness





.


Apparent shapes and meanings change.
Creature hunts down creature. Bales

get unloaded and weighed to determine
price. None of any of this pertains

to the unseen fire we call the Beloved.
That presence has no form, and cannot

be understood or measured. Take
your hands away from your face. If

a wall of dust moves across the plain,
there's usually an army advancing

under it. When you look for the Friend,
the Friend is looking for you. Carried

by a strong current, you and the others
with you seem to be making decisions,

but you're not. I weave coarse wool.
I decide to talk less. By my actions

cause nothing. A thorn grows next to
the rose as its witness. I am that

thorn for whom simply to be is an act
of praise. Near the rose, no shame.



.
~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks, with Nevit Ergin 
from The Glance




Wednesday, March 29, 2017

a small green island






There is a small green island
where one white cow lives alone,
a meadow of an island.
 
The cow grazes till nightfall, full and fat,
but during the night she panics
and grows thin as a single hair.  "What shall I eat
tomorrow?  There's nothing left!"
 
By dawn, the grass has grown up again, waist-high.
The cow starts eating and by dark
the meadow is clipped short.
 
She's full of strength and energy, but she panics
in the dark as before, and grows 
abnormally thin overnight.
 
The cow does this over and over,
and this is all she does.
 
She never thinks, "This meadow has never failed
to grow back.  Why should I be afraid
every night that it won't?"
 
The cow is the bodily soul.
The island field is this world where
that grows lean with fear and fat with blessing,
 
lean and fat.  White cow,
don't make yourself miserable
with what's to come, or not to come.
 
 
 
~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks
 
 
 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

nothing?






Once upon a time there was a man who had about twelve cows, and he loved his cows.  Every morning and evening he would praise them for the amount of  milk they were giving and praise them for their beauty.  One morning he noticed that the amount of milk had lessened.  Each day for a week he noticed the same thing.  So that night he decided to stay up and see what was going on.

About midnight, he happened to look up at the stars, and he saw one star that seemed to be getting larger.  It was - and the light got stronger as the star came closer and closer to earth.  It came straight down towards his cow pasture and stopped a few feet from him in the form of a great ball of light.  Inside the light there was a luminous woman.  As soon as her toes touched the ground, the light disappeared, and she stood there like an ordinary woman.

He said to her, "Are you the one who has been stealing milk from my cows?" "Yes," she said, "my sisters and I like the milk from your cows very much."  He said, "You are very beautiful, and I'm glad that you like my cows.  And so, this is what I want to say: If you marry me, we can live together, and I will never hit you and you won't have to take care of the cows all the time.  I'll take care of them part of the time myself.  Will you marry me?"  She said slowly, "Yes, I will.  But there's one condition.  I have brought this basket with me, and I want you to agree that you will never look into this basket.  You must never look into it, no matter how long we are married.  Do you agree to that?"  "Oh, I do,"  he said.

So they were married, and they lived together very well for six or seven months.  Then one day, while she was out herding the cows, he happened to notice that basket standing in a corner of the house.  He said to himself,  "Well, you know, she is my wife, so it could be considered to be my basket.  After all, this is my house, and the basket is in my house, and so it could be considered my basket!"  After he had said this, he opened the basket and then began to laugh.  "There's absolutely nothing in the basket!  Nothing! There's nothing in the basket!"  He kept saying these words and laughing so loud that his wife eventually heard the laughter.

She came into the house and she said to him, "Have you opened the basket?"  He began laughing again.  "I did!"  he said.  "I opened the basket!  There's nothing in it! There's nothing in the basket at all!  There's absolutely nothing in the basket! Nothing is in the basket!"

She said,"I have to leave now.  I have to go back."  He cried out. "Don't go!  Don't leave me!"  She said, "I have to go back now.  What I brought with me in the basket was spirit.  It's so like human beings to think that spirit is nothing."

And she was gone.




~  An African Story
from The Soul is Here for It's Own Joy - Sacred Poems from Many Cultures
edited by Robert Bly
african rock art from Chad



 

Friday, March 24, 2017

the name






I got sleepy while driving and pulled in under a tree at the 
side of the road.  Rolled up in the back seat and went to sleep.
How long? Hours. Darkness had come.

All of a sudden I was awake, and didn't know who I was?
I'm fully conscious, but that doesn't help.  Where am I?
WHO am I? I am something that has just woken up in a back
 seat, throwing itself around in panic like a cat in a gunnysack. 
Who am I?

After a long while my life comes back to me.  My name
comes to me like an angel.  Outside the castle walls there is a
 trumpet blast (as in the Leonora Overture)  and the footsteps
that will save me come quickly quickly down the long staircase.
It's me coming! It's me!

But it is impossible to forget the fifteen-second battle in the 
hell of nothingness, a few feet from a major highway where
the cars slip past with their lights dimmed.



~ Tomas Tranströmer
 art by Picasso


Sunday, March 19, 2017

a multitude of others






From "the incessant workings of his mind and the physical activity displayed by the body... nothing of all that is from him, is him.  He, physically and mentally,  is the multitude of others.

On the mental plane, this "multitude of others" includes many beings who are his contemporaries: people he consorts with, with whom he chats, whose actions he watches. ... the individual absorbs a part of the various energies given off by those with whom he is in contact, and these incongruous energies, installing themselves in that which he considers his "I", form a swarming throng.
To a Westerner, Plato, Zeno, Jesus, Saint Paul, Calvin, Diderot, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, Napoleon, and many others constitute a diversified crowd,...
 These names are only examples. The guests, whom X shelters in his particular guest-house, are not at all the same as those who live with Y.

"that which is compound", which is constituted by the combination of elements as a house is made up of stones, wood, etc., is only a collection, a group and in no way a real "ego".  Thus the individual is empty, everything is empty, because one can find nothing in it except the parts which constitute it.




 ~ Alexandra David-Neel and Lama Yongden
from The Secret oral teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects
art by Picasso

Saturday, March 18, 2017

birds of passage







The
Classroom
Surely becomes disarrayed
When the teacher is out of sight
Because of our grand
Volcanic 
Spirits.

The 
Birds of passage
Arrive with a broken 
Wing,

Though
Are then lifted by God
So high and
"Low"

To experience the heart
Of everything.

The mind surely becomes disarrayed
When the Teacher is out
Of sight.



~ Hafiz
from The Gift
translations by Daniel Ladinisky

 

Friday, March 17, 2017

and love says






And love
Says,

"I will, I will take care of you,"

To everything that is
Near.


~ Hafiz
from The Gift
translation by Daniel Ladinsky