Sunday, October 31, 2010
Since you saw this spring, why didn't
you become water?
Since you saw the Friend near, why do
you still have love for yourself?
Since you are in the shop of the sweet-seller,
why this bitter look?
Since you are swimming in the river of life,
why are you dry and miserable?
Don't be stubborn, do not flee from happiness.
You are imprisoned in a net from which
you can't escape,
Stop struggling! Stop struggling!
translated by Muriel Maufroy
Many poets are not poets
for the same reason that
many religious men are not saints:
they never succeed in being themselves.
They never get around to being the particular poet
or the particular monk they are intended to be by God.
They never become the man or the artist who is called
for by all the circumstances of their individual lives.
They waste their years in vain efforts
to be some other poet, some other saint...
They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor
to have somebody else's experiences or write somebody else's poems.
There is intense egoism in following everybody else.
People are in a hurry to magnify themselves
by imitating what is popular--
too lazy to think of anything better.
~ Thomas Merton
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
I have my dead, and I have let them go,
and was amazed to see them so contented,
so soon at home in being dead, so cheerful,
so unlike their reputation. Only you
return; brush past me, loiter, try to knock
against something, so that the sound reveals
your presence. Oh don't take from me what I
am slowly learning. I'm sure you have gone astray
it you are moved to homesickness for anything
in this dimension. We transform these Things;
they aren't real, they are only the reflections
upon the polished surface of our being.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
excerpt from "Requiem," written on the occasion of the death
of his friend Paula Modersohn-Becker. This is a portrait she painted of Rilke.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
For this is wrong, if anything is wrong:
not to enlarge the freedom of love
with all the inner freedom one can summon.
We need, in love, to practice only this:
letting each other go. For holding on
comes easily; we do not need to learn it.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Monday, October 25, 2010
For the sake of a single poem,
you must see many cities,
many people and things,
you must understand animals,
must feel how birds fly,
and know the gesture which small flowers
make when they open in the morning.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs—all this resinous, unretractable earth.
~ Jane Hirshfield
Nearer to the earth's heart,
Deeper within its silence:
Animals know this world
In a way we never will.
We who are ever
Distanced and distracted
By the parade of bright
Windows thought opens:
Their seamless presence
Is not fractured thus.
Stranded between time
Gone and time emerging,
We manage seldom
To be where we are:
Whereas they are always
Looking out from
The here and now.
May we learn to return
And rest in the beauty
Of animal being,
Learn to lean low,
Leave our locked minds,
And with freed senses
Feel the earth
Breathing with us.
May we enter
Into lightness of spirit,
And slip frequently into
The feel of the wild.
Let the clear silence
Of our animal being
Cleanse our hearts
Of corrosive words.
May we learn to walk
Upon the earth
With all their confidence
And clear-eyed stillness
So that our minds
Might be baptized
In the name of the wind
And light and the rain.
~ John O'Donohue
from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
This is how a human being can change:
There's a worm addicted to eating grape leaves.
SUDDENLY, he wakes up...
Call it grace, whatever,
something wakes him,
and he's no longer a worm.
He's the entire vineyard,
And the orchard too,
The fruit, the trunks, a
Growing wisdom and joy
That doesn't need to devour.
from The Illuminated Rumi
Friday, October 22, 2010
What can I say that I have not said before?
So I'll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience.
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.
Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.
I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four,
and the leaf is singing still.
~ Mary Oliver
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Last autumn's chastened berries still on one tree,
spring blossoms tender, hopeful, on another.
The view from this window
much as it was ten years ago, fifteen.
Yet it seems this morning
a self-portrait both clearer and darker,
as if while I slept some Rembrandt or Brueghel
had walked through the garden, looking hard.
~ Jane Hirshfield
Sunday, October 17, 2010
- .If you are the amber mareI am the road of bloodIf you are the first snowI am he who lights the hearth of dawnIf you are the tower of nightI am the spike burning in your mindIf you are the morning tideI am the first bird's cryIf you are the basket of orangesI am the knife of the sunIf you are the stone altarI am the sacrilegious handIf you are the sleeping landI am the green caneIf you are the wind's leapI am the buried fireIf you are the water's mouthI am the mouth of mossIf you are the forest of the cloudsI am the axe that parts itIf you are the profaned cityI am the rain of consecrationIf you are the yellow mountainI am the red arms of lichenIf you are the rising sunI am the road of blood.~ Octavio Paztranslated by Eliot Weinberger,from Collected Poems 1957-1987 .
Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.
All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can't be touched.
Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.
Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.
The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.
I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.
The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause
~ Octavio Paz
Thursday, October 14, 2010
a small anchovy gleam
leaving the upturned pot in the dish rack
after the moon has wandered out the window.
One of the late freedoms, there is the dark.
The leftover soup put away as well.
Distinctions matter. Whether a goat's
quiet face should be called noble
or indifferent. The difference between a right rigor and pride.
The untranslatable thought must be the most precise.
Yet words are not the end of thought, they are where it begins.
~ Jane Hirshfield
You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose. Don't write love poems; avoid those forms that are too facile and ordinary: they are the hardest to work with, and it takes a great, fully ripened power to create something individual where good, even glorious, traditions exist in abundance. So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty Describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world's sound - wouldn't you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attention to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. And if out of , this turning within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it. So, dear Sir, I can't give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to, the question of whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
excerpt from a letter to a young poet
Paris, February 17, 1903
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The demand to be safe in relationship inevitably breeds sorrow and fear. This seeking for security is inviting insecurity. Have you ever found security in any of your relationships? Have you? Most of us want the security of loving and being loved, but is there love when each one of us is seeking his own security, his own particular path? We are not loved because we don't know how to love.
What is love? The word is so loaded and corrupted that I hardly like to use it. Everybody talks of love - every magazine and newspaper and every missionary talks everlastingly of love. I love my country, I love my king, I love some book, I love that mountain, I love pleasure, I love my wife, I love God. Is love an idea? If it is, it can be cultivated, nourished, cherished, pushed around, twisted in any way you like. When you say you love God what does it mean? It means that you love a projection of your own imagination, a projection of yourself clothed in certain forms of respectability according to what you think is noble and holy; so to say, `I love God', is absolute nonsense. When you worship God you are worshiping yourself - and that is not love.
Because we cannot solve this human thing called love we run away into abstractions. Love may be the ultimate solution to all man's difficulties, problems and travails, so how are we going to find out what love is? By merely defining it? The church has defined it one way, society another, and there are all sorts of deviations and perversions. Adoring someone, sleeping with someone, the emotional exchange, the companionship - is that what we mean by love? That has been the norm, the pattern, and it has become so tremendously personal, sensuous, and limited that religions have declared that love is something much more than this. In what they call human love they see there is pleasure, competition, jealousy, the desire to possess, to hold, to control and to interfere with another's thinking, and knowing the complexity of all this they say there must be another kind of love, divine, beautiful, untouched, uncorrupted.
Throughout the world, so-called holy men have maintained that to look at a woman is something totally wrong: they say you cannot come near to God if you indulge in sex, therefore they push it aside although they are eaten up with it. But by denying sexuality they put out their eyes and cut out their tongues for they deny the whole beauty of the earth. They have starved their hearts and minds; they are dehydrated human beings; they have banished beauty because beauty is associated with woman.
Can love be divided into the sacred and the profane, the human and the divine, or is there only love? Is love of the one and not of the many? If I say,`I love you', does that exclude the love of the other? Is love personal or impersonal? Moral or immoral? Family or non-family? If you love mankind can you love the particular? Is love sentiment? Is love emotion? Is love pleasure and desire? All these questions indicate, don't they, that we have ideas about love, ideas about what it should or should not be, a pattern or a code developed by the culture in which we live.
So to go into the question of what love is we must first ideals and ideologies of what it should or should not be. To divide anything into what should be and what is, is the most deceptive way of dealing with life.
Now how am I going to find out what this flame is which we call love - not how to express it to another but what it means in itself? I will first reject what the church, what society, what my parents and friends, what every person and every book has said about it because I want to find out for myself what it is. Here is an enormous problem that involves the whole of mankind, there have been a thousand ways of defining it and I myself am caught in some pattern or other according to what I like or enjoy at the moment - so shouldn't I, in order to understand it, first free myself from my own inclinations and prejudices? I am confused, torn by my own desires, so I say to myself, `First clear up your own confusion. Perhaps you may be able to discover what love is through what it is not.'
The government says, `Go and kill for the love of your country'. Is that love? Religion says, `Give up sex for the love of God'. Is that love? Is love desire? Don't say no. For most of us it is - desire with pleasure, the pleasure that is derived through the senses, through sexual attachment and fulfillment. I am not against sex, but see what is involved in it. What sex gives you momentarily is the total abandonment of yourself, then you are back again with your turmoil, so you want a repetition over and over again of that state in which there is no worry, no problem, no self. You say you love your wife. In that love is involved sexual pleasure, the pleasure of having someone in the house to look after your children, to cook. You depend on her; she has given you her body, her emotions, her encouragement, a certain feeling of security and well-being. Then she turns away from you; she gets bored or goes off with someone else, and your whole emotional balance is destroyed, and this disturbance, which you don't like, is called jealousy. There is pain in it, anxiety, hate and violence. So what you are really saying is, `As long as you belong to me I love you but the moment you don't I begin to hate you. As long as I can rely on you to satisfy my demands, sexual and otherwise, I love you, but the moment you cease to supply what I want I don't like you.' So there is antagonism between you, there is separation, and when you feel separate from another there is no love. But if you can live with your wife without thought creating all these contradictory states, these endless quarrels in yourself, then perhaps - perhaps - you will know what love is. Then you are completely free and so is she, whereas if you depend on her for all your pleasure you are a slave to her. So when one loves there must be freedom, not only from the other person but from oneself.
This belonging to another, being psychologically nourished by another, depending on another - in all this there must always be anxiety, fear, jealousy, guilt, and so long as there is fear there is no love; a mind ridden with sorrow will never know what love is; sentimentality and emotionalism have nothing whatsoever to do with love. And so love is not to do with pleasure and desire.
Love is not the product of thought which is the past. Thought cannot possibly cultivate love. Love is not hedged about and caught in jealousy, for jealousy is of the past. Love is always active present. It is not `I will love' or `I have loved'. If you know love you will not follow anybody. Love does not obey. When you love there is neither respect nor disrespect.
Don't you know what it means really to love somebody - to love without hate, without jealousy, without anger, without wanting to interfere with what he is doing or thinking, without condemning, without comparing - don't you know what it means? Where there is love is there comparison? When you love someone with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your body, with your entire being, is there comparison? When you totally abandon yourself to that love there is not the other.
Does love have responsibility and duty, and will it use those words? When you do something out of duty is there any love in it? In duty there is no love. The structure of duty in which the human being is caught is destroying him. So long as you are compelled to do something because it is your duty you don't love what you are doing. When there is love there is no duty and no responsibility.
Most parents unfortunately think they are responsible for their children and their sense of responsibility takes the form of telling them what they should do and what they should not do, what they should become and what they should not become. The parents want their children to have a secure position in society. What they call responsibility is part of that respectability they worship; and it seems to me that where there is respectability there is no order; they are concerned only with becoming a perfect bourgeois. When they prepare their children to fit into society they are perpetuating war, conflict and brutality. Do you call that care and love?
Really to care is to care as you would for a tree or a plant, watering it, studying its needs, the best soil for it, looking after it with gentleness and tenderness - but when you prepare your children to fit into society you are preparing them to be killed. If you loved your children you would have no war.
When you lose someone you love you shed tears - are your tears for yourself or for the one who is dead? Are you crying for yourself or for another? Have you ever cried for another? Have you ever cried for your son who is killed on the battlefield? You have cried, but do those tears come out of self-pity or have you cried because a human being has been killed? If you cry out of self-pity your tears have no meaning because you are concerned about yourself. If you are crying because you are bereft of one in whom you have invested a great deal of affection, it was not really affection. When you cry for your brother who dies cry for him. It is very easy to cry for yourself because he is gone. Apparently you are crying because your heart is touched, but it is not touched for him, it is only touched by self-pity and self-pity makes you hard, encloses you, makes you dull and stupid.
When you cry for yourself, is it love - crying because you are lonely, because you have been left, because you are no longer powerful - complaining of your lot, your environment - always you in tears? If you understand this, which means to come in contact with it as directly as you would touch a tree or a pillar or a hand, then you will see that sorrow is self-created, sorrow is created by thought, sorrow is the outcome of time. I had my brother three years ago, now he is dead, now I am lonely, aching, there is no one to whom I can look for comfort or companionship, and it brings tears to my eyes.
You can see all this happening inside yourself if you watch it. You can see it fully, completely, in one glance, not take analytical time over it. You can see in a moment the whole structure and nature of this shoddy little thing called `me', my tears, my family, my nation, my belief, my religion - all that ugliness, it is all inside you. When you see it with your heart, not with your mind, when you see it from the very bottom of your heart, then you have the key that will end sorrow. Sorrow and love cannot go together, but in the Christian world they have idealized suffering, put it on a cross and worshiped it, implying that you can never escape from suffering except through that one particular door, and this is the whole structure of an exploiting religious society.
So when you ask what love is, you may be too frightened to see the answer. It may mean complete upheaval; it may break up the family; you may discover that you do not love your wife or husband or children - do you? - you may have to shatter the house you have built, you may never go back to the temple.
But if you still want to find out, you will see that fear is not love, dependence is not love, jealousy is not love, possessiveness and domination are not love, responsibility and duty are not love, self-pity is not love, the agony of not being loved is not love, love is not the opposite of hate any more than humility is the opposite of vanity. So if you can eliminate all these, not by forcing them but by washing them away as the rain washes the dust of many days from a leaf, then perhaps you will come upon this strange flower which man always hungers after.
If you have not got love - not just in little drops but in abundance - if you are not filled with it - the world will go to disaster. You know intellectually that the unity of mankind is essential and that love is the only way, but who is going to teach you how to love? Will any authority, any method, any system, tell you how to love? If anyone tells you, it is not love. Can you say, `I will practice love. I will sit down day after day and think about it. I will practice being kind and gentle and force myself to pay attention to others?' Do you mean to say that you can discipline yourself to love, exercise the will to love? When you exercise discipline and will to love, love goes out of the window. By practicing some method or system of loving you may become extraordinarily clever or more kindly or get into a state of non-violence, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with love.
In this torn desert world there is no love because pleasure and desire play the greatest roles, yet without love your daily life has no meaning. And you cannot have love if there is no beauty. Beauty is not something you see - not a beautiful tree, a beautiful picture, a beautiful building or a beautiful woman. There is beauty only when your heart and mind know what love is. Without love and that sense of beauty there is no virtue, and you know very well that, do what you will, improve society, feed the poor, you will only be creating more mischief, for without love there is only ugliness and poverty in your own heart and mind. But when there is love and beauty, whatever you do is right, whatever you do is in order. If you know how to love, then you can do what you like because it will solve all other problems.
So we reach the point: can the mind come upon love without discipline, without thought, without enforcement, without any book, any teacher or leader - come upon it as one comes upon a lovely sunset?
It seems to me that one thing is absolutely necessary and that is passion without motive - passion that is not the result of some commitment or attachment, passion that is not lust. A man who does not know what passion is will never know love because love can come into being only when there is total self-abandonment.
A mind that is seeking is not a passionate mind and to come upon love without seeking it is the only way to find it - to come upon it unknowingly and not as the result of any effort or experience. Such a love, you will find, is not of time; such a love is both personal and impersonal, is both the one and the many. Like a flower that has perfume you can smell it or pass it by. That flower is for everybody and for the one who takes trouble to breathe it deeply and look at it with delight. Whether one is very near in the garden, or very far away, it is the same to the flower because it is full of that perfume and therefore it is sharing with everybody.
Love is something that is new, fresh, alive. It has no yesterday and no tomorrow. It is beyond the turmoil of thought. It is only the innocent mind which knows what love is, and the innocent mind can live in the world which is not innocent. To find this extraordinary thing which man has sought endlessly through sacrifice, through worship, through relationship, through sex, through every form of pleasure and pain, is only possible when thought comes to understand itself and comes naturally to an end. Then love has no opposite, then love has no conflict.
You may ask, `If I find such a love, what happens to my wife, my children, my family? They must have security.' When you put such a question you have never been outside the field of thought, the field of consciousness. When once you have been outside that field you will never ask such a question because then you will know what love is in which there is no thought and therefore no time. You may read this mesmerized and enchanted, but actually to go beyond thought and time - which means going beyond sorrow - is to be aware that there is a different dimension called love.
But you don't know how to come to this extraordinary fount - so what do you do? If you don't know what to do, you do nothing, don't you? Absolutely nothing. Then inwardly you are completely silent. Do you understand what that means? It means that you are not seeking, not wanting, not pursuing; there is no center at all. Then there is love.
The world is not simply there. Everything and everyone we see, we view through the lenses of our thoughts. Your mind is where your thoughts arise and form. It is not simply with your eyes but with your mind that you see the world. So much depends on your mind: How you see yourself, who you think you are, how you see others, what you think the meaning of life is, how you see death, belief, God, darkness and beauty is all determined by the style of mind you have.
Your mind is your greatest treasure. We become so taken up with the world, with having and doing more and more that we come to ignore who we are and forget what we see the world with. The most powerful way to change your life is to change your mind.
When you beautify your mind, you beautify your world. You learn to see differently. In what seemed like dead situations, secret possibilities and invitations begin to open before you. In old suffering that held you long paralysed, you find new keys. When your mind awakens, your life comes alive and the creative adventure of your soul takes off. Passion and compassion become your new companions. As St. Iraneus said in the 2nd Century: The glory of God is the human person fully alive.
~ John O'Donohue
Monday, October 11, 2010
The "mystery of things" - where is it found?
Where is it, that it does not appear
At least long enough for us to see
It is a mystery?
What does the river, what does the tree
Know about it?
And, I who know no more about it than they,
What do I know about it?
Whenever I look at things and think
What men think about them,
I laugh like a stream
Falling with a cool sound
Over the stones.
For the only hidden meaning things have
Is that they have no hidden meaning.
Stranger than all that is strange,
Than poets' dreams and philosophical ideas
Is this: things are actually
Just what they appear to be
And there is nothing about them to understand.
Yes, here is what my senses learned
All by themselves:
Things to not have meanings: they have existence.
Things are the only hidden meanings of things.
~ Thomas Merton
Poems from The Keeper of the Flocks,11
You, darkness, of whom I am born -
I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest
But the dark embraces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations - just as they are.
It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.
I believe in the night.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Monastic Life, I,11
Saturday, October 9, 2010
There is a touching innocence in the mystery of the human self.
Even after thousands of years of experience and reflection,
we still remain a mystery to ourselves...
there is something deeply unpredictable and unfathomable.
... Even when you approach your self tenderly
with the candle of receptive and reverential seeing,
all you achieve is a glimpse.
There is something in the sacred darkness of the mind
that does not trust the facility and quickness of light.
Darkness resists the name.
Darkness knows the regions which the name
can never reach or hold or dream.
The dark must smile at the proud pretense of words
to hold networks of identity and meaning,
but the dark knows only too well the fragile surface on which words stand.
Darkness keeps its secrets.
Light is diverse and plural:
sunlight, moonlight, dusk, dawn, and twilight.
The dark has only one name.
There is something deep in us
which implicitly recognizes the primacy and wonder of the dark.
Perhaps this is why we instinctively insist on avoiding and ignoring its mysteries.
~ John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes
photo by Kathleen Connally
Friday, October 8, 2010
Between the material world and the world of feeling there must be a border - on one side, the person grieves and the cells of the body grieve also; the molecules also; the atoms. Of this there are many proofs. On the other, the iron will of the earth goes on. The torture-broken femur continues to heal even in the last hour, perhaps beyond; the wool coat left behind does not morn the loss of its master. And yet Cavafy wrote, "In me now everything is turned into feeling - furniture, streets." And Saba found in a bleating goat his own and all beings' sorrow, and this morning the voice of that long-dead goat - which is only, after all, a few black-inked words - cries and cries in my ears. Rilke, too, believed the object longs to awaken in us. But I long for the calm acceptance of a bentwood chair and envy the blue-green curve of a vase's shoulder, which holds whatever is placed within it - the living flower or the dead - with an equally tender balance, and know no difference between them.
~ Jane Hirshfield
Fishes are born in water
Man is born in Tao.
If fishes, born in water,
Seek the deep shadow
Of pond and pool,
All their needs
If man, born in Tao,
Sinks into the deep shadow
To forget aggression and concern,
He lacks nothing
His life is secure.
~ Lao Tzu
translated by Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton
Thursday, October 7, 2010
To be calm, to be serene! There is the calmness of the lake when there is not a breath of wind; there is the calmness of a stagnant ditch. So is it with us. Sometimes we are clarified and calmed healthily, as we never were before in our lives, not by an opiate, but by some unconscious obedience to the all-just laws, so that we become like a still lake of purest crystal and without an effort our depths are revealed to ourselves. All the world goes by us and is reflected in our deeps. Such clarity! obtained by such pure means! by simple living, by honesty of purpose. We live and rejoice. I awoke into a music which no one by me heard. Whom shall I thank for it? The luxury of wisdom! the luxury of virtue! Are there any intemperate in these things? I feel my Maker blessing me. To the sane man the world is a musical instrument. The very touch affords an exquisite pleasure.
journal entry, June 22, 1851
photo by Kathleen Connally
And yet, though we strain
against the deadening grip
of daily necessity,
I sense there is this mystery:
All life is being lived.
Who is living it, then?
Is it the things themselves,
or something waiting inside them,
like an unplayed melody in a flute?
Is it the winds blowing over the waters?
Is it the branches that signal to each other?
Is it flowers
interweaving their fragrances,
or streets, as they wind through time?
Is it the animals, warmly moving,
or the birds, that suddenly rise up?
Who lives it, then? God, are you the one
who is living life?
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Pilgrimage, II,12
You work with what you are given,
the red clay of grief,
the black clay of stubbornness going on after.
Clay that tastes of care or carelessness,
clay that smells of the bottoms of rivers or dust.
Each thought is a life you have lived or failed to live,
each word is a dish you have eaten or left on the table.
There are honeys so bitter
no one would willingly choose to take them.
The clay takes them: honey of weariness, honey of vanity,
honey of cruelty, fear.
This rebus—slip and stubbornness,
bottom of river, my own consumed life—
when will I learn to read it
plainly, slowly, uncolored by hope or desire?
Not to understand it, only to see.
As water given sugar sweetens, given salt grows salty,
we become our choices.
Each yes, each one continues,
this one a ladder, that one an anvil or cup.
The ladder leans into its darkness.
The anvil leans into its silence.
The cup sits empty.
How can I enter this question the clay has asked?
~ Jane Hirshfield
from Given Sugar, Given Salt
art by Vic Muniz
art by Vic Muniz
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Jasper, feldspar, quartzite, agate, granite, sandstone, slate.
Some can be rounded, some not.
Some can be flaked, some not.
A person too, hold her lines of possible fracture.
Snow falls over the cities and mountains.
Cries of the late geese pass through it,
forsythia blossoms far inside their buds.
Each pebble, each planet, gives off a recordable singing.
I have heard them.
Monastic the strangeness.
Perhaps, through, that is the only destination -
beauty & strangeness.
Whose notes abandon the instruments that make them.
~ Jane Hirshfield
art by Karla Nolan
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Poor flowers in geometric beds
Of formal gardens:
They seem to dread the police...
And yet so fair, they flower in the same way,
With the same ancient smile
They had for the gaze of the first man
When he saw they were out
For the first time, and lightly touched them
Wondering if they spoke!
~ Thomas Merton
from The Keeper of the Flocks