Tuesday, September 19, 2017

when the shoe fits






Ch'ui the draftsman
Could draw more perfect circles freehand
Than with a compass.

His fingers brought forth
Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind
Was meanwhile free and without concern
With what he was doing.

No application was needed
His mind was perfectly simple
And knew no obstacle.

So, when the shoe fits
The foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits
The belly is forgotten,
When the heart is right
"For" and "against" are forgotten.

No drives no compulsions,
No needs, no attractions:
Then your affairs
Are under control.
You are a free man.

Easy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.




~ Chuang Tzu 
(In the Dark Before Dawn)

on summer evenings we sat in the yard




On summer evenings we sat in the yard,
the house dark, the stars bright overhead.
The laps and arms of the old
held the young.  As we talked we knew
by the dark distances of Heaven's lights
our smallness, and the greatness of our love.



~ Wendell Berry


I knew










Although from the beginning
I knew
the world is impermanent,
not a moment passes
when my sleeves are dry.




~ Ryokan
from Sky Above, Great Wind



Friday, September 15, 2017

three in transition






for WCW

I wish I understood the beauty
in leaves falling. To whom
are we beautiful
as we go?

I lie in the field
still, absorbing the stars
and silently throwing off
their presence. Silently
I breathe and die
by turns.

He was ripe
and fell to the ground
from a bough
out where the wind
is free
of the branches 




~ David Ignatow (1914-1997)
from Against the Evidence: selected poems 


...


Attempting To Answer David Ignatow’s Question

I wish I understood the beauty
in leaves falling. To whom
are we beautiful
as we go?


We are beautiful to the Mother as we go.
There are mysterious roads in jade that
Old men follow,
Routes that migratory birds walk on,
The circle dances
Iron filings do,
The things we cannot say.
Salmon find their way to old beds;
Sleeping bodies are not alone.




~ Robert Bly 
 from Holes That Crickets Have Eaten in Blankets




when I fall into the abyss




 

Because I’m a Karamazov. Because when I fall into the abyss, 
I go straight into it, head down and heels up, 
and I’m even pleased that I’m falling in just such a humiliating position, 
and for me I find it beautiful.



Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky
photo:  Felix Baumgartner breaking the sound barrier
 
 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

listen








listen

hiding in this cage
of visible matter

is the invisible
lifebird

pay attention
to her

she is singing
your song




~ Kabir
Sushil Rao translation


hagia sophia







.
There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.  This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans.  There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy.  It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility.  This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator's Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister, Wisdom.

I am awakened, I am born again at the voice of this my Sister, sent to me from the depths of the divine fecundity.

Let us suppose I am a man lying asleep in a hospital.  I am indeed this man lying asleep.  It is July the second, the Feast of Our Lady's Visitation.  A Feast of Wisdom.

At five-thirty in the morning I am dreaming in a very quiet room when a soft voice awakens me from my dream.  I am like all mankind awakening from all the dreams that ever were dreamed in all the nights of the world.  It is like the One Christ awakening in all the separate selves that ever were separate and isolated and alone in all the lands of the earth.  It is like all minds coming back together into awareness from all distractions, cross-purposes and confusions, into unity of love.  It is like the first morning of the world (when Adam, at the sweet voice of Wisdom awoke from nonentity and knew her),  and like the Last Morning of the world when all the fragments of  Adam will return from death at the voice of Hagia Sophia, and will know where they stand.

It is like being awakened by Eve.  It is like being awakened by the Blessed Virgin.  It is like coming forth from primordial nothingness and standing in clarity, in Paradise.

In the cool hand of the nurse there is the touch of all life, the touch of Spirit.

Thus Wisdom cries out to all who will hear (Sapientia clamitat in plateis) and she cries out particularly to the little, to the ignorant and the helpless.

Who is more little, who is more poor than the helpless man who lies asleep in his bed without awareness and without defense? Who is more trusting than he who must entrust himself each night to sleep?  What is the reward of his trust?  Gentleness comes to him when he is most helpless and awakens him, refreshed, beginning to be made whole.  Love takes him by the hand, and opens to him the doors of another life, another day.

(But he who has defended himself, fought for himself in sickness, planned for himself, guarded himself, loved himself alone and watched over his own life all night, is killed at last by exhaustion.  For him there is no newness.  Everything is stale and old.)

When the helpless one awakens strong at the voice of mercy, it is as if Life his Sister, as if the Blessed Virgin, (his own flesh, his own sister), as if Nature made wise by God's Art and Incarnation were to stand over him and invite him with unutterable sweetness to be awake and to live.  This is what it means to recognize Hagia Sophia.





~ Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton



what we need is here



Geese appear high over us
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.


~ Wendell Berry
.

the world of names






Marc Chagall, 
Elijah Touched by an Angel, from the Bible suite, 1958, 
The Jewish Museum, New York


Once a rabbi met the prophet Elijah. The rabbi asked Elijah, “When will the messiah come?” 
Elijah said, “Go and ask him yourself when he’s coming.” 
The rabbi said, “Where is he?” 
Elijah said, “He’s sitting at the city gate, covered in bandages’ 
(an alternate version of this story has the messiah changing the bandages of the lepers at the city gate). 
So the rabbi went and asked the messiah, “When will you come?” 
The messiah said, “Today.”
The rabbi came back and relayed this to Elijah: “The messiah is coming today!” 
Elijah responded with temperance, saying “the messiah meant today, if you listen to God’s voice.” 

The tradition practically begs us to realize, the messiah is here. The world to come is here. The unknown is as close as your breath. What this means is that, as Wendell Berry writes, “What we need is here”; yet we must be careful to not grasp in the presence of that knowing, lest we fall to irretrievably into the world of names. 





~ Joshua Boettiger, 
from NAMING THE UNNAMEABLE
Advice on living in two worlds

Friday, September 8, 2017

empty yourself into Reality


.



As a river empties into the ocean,
empty yourself into Reality.

When you are emptied into Reality
you are filled with compassion,

desiring only justice.

When you desire only justice,
the will of Reality becomes your will.

When you are filled with compassion,
there is no self to oppose another

and no other to stand against oneself.



~ Pirke Avot 2:4 —
a compilation of ancient Jewish teachings and maxims.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

the inner landscape of beauty





~ John O'Donohue

Friday, September 1, 2017

flow like the Tao





Who can free himself from achievement
And from fame, descend and be lost
Amid the masses of men?
He will flow like Tao, unseen,
He will go about like Life itself
With no name and no home.
Simple is he, without distinction.
To all appearances he is a fool.
His steps leave no trace.  He has no power.
He achieves nothing, has no reputation.
Since he judges no one
No one judges him.
Such is the perfect man:
His boat is empty.




~ Chuang Tzu
translation by Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton




the only time you are alive






You think you will never forget any of this, you will remember it always just the way it was. But you can't remember it the way it was. To know it, you have to be living in the presence of it right as it is happening. It can return only by surprise. Speaking of these things tells you that there are no words for them that are equal to them or that can restore them to your mind. And so you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment, in this presence.

But you have a life too that you remember. It stays with you. You have lived a life in the breath and pulse and living light of the present, and your memories of it, remember now, are of a different life in a different world and time. When you remember the past, you are not remembering it as it was. You are remembering it as it is. It is a vision or a dream, present with you in the present, alive with you in the only time you are alive.




~ Wendell Berry
from Hannah Coulter




above time







These roses under my window make no
reference to former roses or to better ones;
they are for what they are;
they exist with God to-day.

There is no time to them.
There is simply the rose; it is perfect in
every moment of its existence.

Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts;
in the full-blown flower, there is no more;
in the leafless root, there is no less.

Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature,
in all moments alike.
There is no time to it.

But man postpones or remembers;
he does not live in the present, but with
reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of
the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe
to foresee the future.

He cannot be happy and strong until he too
lives with nature in the present, above time.


~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
 from Self-Reliance, an 1841 essay
with thanks to Love is a Place

Friday, August 25, 2017

members of each other










The way we are, we are members of each other. 
All of us. Everything. 
The difference ain't in who is a member and who is not, 
but in who knows it and who don’t.

...

It was a community always disappointed in itself, 
disappointing its members, 
always trying to contain its divisions and gentle its meanness, 
always failing and yet always preserving a sort of will toward goodwill…
And yet I saw them all as somehow perfected, 
beyond time, by one another’s love, compassion, and forgiveness, 
as it is said we may be perfected by grace.

And so there we all were on a little wave of time lifting up to eternity, 
and none of us ever in time would know what to make of it. 
How could we? 
It is a mystery, for we are eternal beings living in time.




~ Wendell Berry
excerpts from Jaber Crow