Thursday, October 25, 2018

though we strain

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?

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
(from: Book of Hours, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

one moral duty

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty:
 to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, 
more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. 
And the more peace there is in us, 
the more peace there will also be in our troubled world. 

~ Etty Hillesum
from An Interrupted Life: The Diaries
 with thanks to louie, louie

Hillesum suffers great inner turmoil during her young adulthood, but increasingly transforms into a woman of maturity and wisdom. She writes: "Everywhere things are both very good and very bad at the same time. The two are in balance, everywhere and always. I never have the feeling that I have got to make the best of things; everything is fine just as it is. Every situation, however miserable, is complete in itself and contains the good as well as the bad." In touch with the equilibrium of a bigger picture she is aware of, she continuously draws from this place to find meaning in her current reality.
Her diaries record the increasing anti-Jewish measures imposed by the occupying German army, and the growing uncertainty about the fate of fellow Jews who had been deported by them. As well as forming a record of oppression her diaries describe her spiritual development and deepening faith in God.

On 7 September 1943, the family were deported to Auschwitz. Etty died there on 30 November 1943.
 ~ Wikipedia

Sunday, October 21, 2018

part of each other

Freaks are called freaks and are treated as they are treated - in the main, abominably - because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires.

Most of us, however, do not appear to be freaks - though we are rarely what we appear to be.  We are, for the most part, visibly male or female, our social roles defined by our sexual equipment.

But we are all androgynous, not only because we are all born of a woman impregnated by the seed of a man but because each of us, helplessly and forever, contains the other - male in female, female in male, white in black and black in white.  We are a part of each other.  Many of my countrymen appear to find this fact exceedingly inconvenient and even unfair, and so, very often, do I.  But none of us can do anything about it.  

~ James Baldwin
from Freaks and American Ideal of Manhood


content to be lost

Desert and void. The uncreated is waste and emptiness to the creature. Not even sand. Not even stone. Not even darkness and night. A burning wilderness would at least be "something." It burns and is wild. But the Uncreated is no something. Waste. Emptiness. Total poverty of the Creator: yet from this poverty springs everything. The waste is inexhaustible. Infinite Zero. Everything wants to return to it and cannot. For who can return "nowhere?" But for each of us there is a point of nowhereness in the middle of movement, a point of nothingness in the midst of being: the incomparable point, not to be discovered by insight. If you seek it you do not find it. If you stop seeking, it is there. But you must not turn to it. Once you become aware of yourself as seeker, you are lost. But if you are content to be lost you will be found without knowing it, precisely because you are lost, for you are, at last, nowhere.
 The ALL is nothing, for if it were to be a single thing separated from all other things, it would not be ALL. This precisely is the liberty I have always sought: the freedom of being subject to nothing and therefore to live in All, through ALL, by Him who is ALL.  In Christian terms, this is to live "in Christ," for the Spirit is like the wind, blowing where He pleases, and He is the Spirit of Truth.  The "Truth shall make you free."

But if the truth is to make me free, I must also let go my hold upon myself, and not retain the semblance of a self which is an object of a "thing." I, too, must be no-thing. And when I'm no-thing I am in the ALL, and Christ lives in me.

~ Thomas Merton
from Merton's Palace of Nowhere by James Finley
sketch by the author

Saturday, October 20, 2018


They are to be admired those survivors
of solitude who have gone with no maps
into the room without features,
where no wilderness awaits a footstep trace,
no path of danger to a cold summit
to look back on and feel exuberant,
no clarity of territories yet untouched
that tremble near the human breath,
no thickets of undergrowth with deep pores
to nest the litanies of wind addicted birds,
no friendship of other explorers
drawn into the dream of the unknown.

No.  They do not belong to the outside worship
of the earth, but risk themselves in the interior
space where the senses have nothing to celebrate,
where the air intensifies the intrusion of the human
and a poultice of silence pulls every sound
out of circulation down into the ground,
where in the panic of being each breath unravels
an ever deeper strand in the web of weaving mind,
shawls of thought fall off, empty and lost,
where only the red scream of the blood continues unheard
without anonymous skin, and the end of all exploring
is the relentless arrival at an ever novel nowhere.

~ John O'Donohue
from Echoes of Memory

love many things

Vincent had been in love with and proposed to several women, all of whom rejected him. 
After so many failed relationships, Vincent eventually came to accept his fate.

"I believe that certainly it’s better to bring up children than to expend all one’s nervous energy in making paintings, but what can you do, I myself am now, at least I feel I am, too old to retrace my steps or to desire something else. This desire has left me, although the moral pain of it remains."

Perhaps as a consequence of his lack of lasting romantic involvements, an expanded idea of the concept of love developed which seems to be revealed to us in several of Vincent's letters to his brother Theo.

"Since the beginning of this love I have felt that unless I gave myself up to it entirely, without any restriction, with all my heart, there was no chance for me whatever, and even so my chance is slight. But what is it to me whether my chance is slight or great? I mean, must I consider this when I love? No, no reckoning; one loves because one loves. Then we keep our heads clear, and do not cloud our minds, nor do we hide our feelings, nor smother the fire and light, but simply say: Thank God, I love."

"Do you know what frees one from this captivity? It is every deep serious affection. Being friends, being brothers, love, these open the prison by supreme power, by some magic force. Where sympathy is renewed, life is restored."

"Love a friend, love a wife, something, whatever you like, but one must love with a lofty and serious intimate sympathy, with strength, with intelligence, and one must always try to know deeper, better, and more."

"It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done!"

"The best way to know God is to love many things."

 ~ Vincent Van Gogh
with thanks to Brain Pickings and www.vangoghmuseum

Vincent at age 19


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

the inner ground

The way to find the real "world" is not merely to measure 
and observe what is outside us, but to discover our own inner ground.  
For that is where the world is, first of all: in my deepest self... 
This "ground," this "world" where I am mysteriously present 
at once to my own self and to freedoms of all other men,
 is not a visible, objective and determined structure 
with fixed laws and demands.  
It is a living and self-creating mystery 
of which I am myself a part, 
to which I am myself my own unique door.

~Thomas Merton
from Merton's Palace of Nowhere 
James Finley

other nations

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals.
 Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, 
man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge 
and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. 
We patronize them for their incompleteness, 
for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves.
 And therein we err, and greatly err. 
For the animal shall not be measured by man.
 In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, 
gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained,
 living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, 
they are not underlings; they are other nations, 
caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, 
fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.

- Henry Beston
from The Outermost House

Saturday, October 13, 2018

millennium blessing

There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

It does not come in time,
but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

It is insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

We know we must pass
beyond knowing
and fear the shedding.

But we are pulled upward
through forgotten ghosts
and unexpected angels,

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.
~ Stephen Levine 
from Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace

Friday, October 12, 2018

the still point

At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards;
At the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.
And do not call it fixity.
Where past and future are gathered.
Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline.
Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance,
And there is only the dance.

~ T.S. Eliot
from Burnt Norton, #1 of  "Four Quartets"

the mind that frees us or enslaves

It is the mind that frees us or enslaves.
Driven by the senses we become bound;
Master of the senses we become free.
Those who seek freedom must master their senses.

When the mind is detached from the senses
One reaches the summit of consciousness.
Mastery of the mind leads to wisdom.
Practice meditation.  Stop all vain talk.
The highest state is beyond reach of thought,
For it lies beyond all duality.

~ The Amritabindu Upanishad

Tuesday, October 9, 2018


I hadn't noticed
till a death took me outside
and left me there
that grass lifts so quietly
to catch everything
we drop and we drop 

~ Leonard Nathan

Sunday, October 7, 2018

wild rose

Sometimes hidden from me
in daily custom and in trust,
so that I live by you unaware
as by the beating of my heart,

suddenly you flare in my sight,
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only a shade,

and once more I am blessed, choosing
again what I chose before.

~ Wendell Berry
photo by Bryan Griffith

I am not I

I am not I.

I am this one
Walking beside me whom I do not see,
Whom at times I manage to visit,
And at other times I forget.

The one who remains silent when I talk,
The one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,
The one who takes a walk when I am indoors,
The one who will remain standing when I die.

~ Juana Ramon Jimenez
translated by Robert Bly


Where are you searching for me, friend?
Look! Here am I right within you.
Not in temple, nor in mosque,
Not in Kaaba, nor Kailas,
But here right within you am I. 

~ Kabir

a path where they found no path

In the story of Sir Galahad, the knights agree to go on a quest, but thinking it would be a disgrace to go forth in a group, each

"entered into the forest, at one point or another, there where they saw it to be thickest, all in those places where they found no way or path."

Where there is a way or a path, it's someone else's way.  Each knight enters the forest at the most mysterious point and follows his own intuition. What each brings forth is what never before was on land or sea: the fulfillment of his unique potentialities, which are different from anybody else's...when the knight sees the trail of another, thinks he's getting there, and starts to follow the other's track, he goes astray entirely.

~ Joseph Campbell