Apr 29 2015

Fakhruddin Iraqi – Everywhere veiled

Published by under Poetry

Everywhere veiled
by Fakhruddin Iraqi

English version by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

Everywhere veiled
      by Your own Face
You are hidden from the world
      in Your very manifestation.
Look where I will
      I see Your Face alone;
in all these idols
      I see only You.
Jealous lest You be recognized
      at every instant
You dress Your Beauty
      in a different cloak.

— from Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) , Translated by William Chittick / Translated by Nasr Seyyed Hossein


/ Image by nasrul ekram /

I think we are all reeling. The terrible earthquake in Nepal, where the death toll keeps mounting in a region of the world that is a beacon of spirituality for so many. And then, here in the US, the turmoil in Baltimore in reaction to continuing patterns of racialized police violence across the country.

Even amidst terrible suffering and devastation, we have the opportunity to glimpse the face of God. Sometimes it is in a helping hand or a healing voice. A kind gaze that doesn’t turn away is often the most powerful thing of all. A heart that breaks, yet remains engaged, that is what the world is always yearning for. To see, to feel, to care– these require courage and the willingness to face pain rather than run from it. But, when we do that, and breathe through it, we discover our deep humanity… and perhaps something of our shared divinity.

A broken heart, a willing hand, and a clear seeing eye, these are the pathways to God.

==

Iraqi suggests to us that all of life, all of reality is a game of divine hide-and-seek.

Reading this poem raises a question– As we walk daily through the world, do we merely look, or do we see? And when we truly see, how can we not occasionally pause in mute wonder and melt?

Look where I will
      I see Your Face alone


Recommended Books: Fakhruddin Iraqi

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition


Fakhruddin Iraqi

Iran/Persia/India/Turkey (? – 1289) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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2 responses so far

Apr 29 2015

elegantly

All the gods
and creeds and practices…
when what it all really comes down to
is elegantly yielding.

No responses yet

Apr 29 2015

The Cauldron of Inspiration update


/ Image by Roger Echo-Hawk /

I took last week off to preserve my energies in preparation for my talk over the weekend at the Real Myth and Mithril Symposium. My speech was on “The Cauldron of Inspiration: Bards, Wizards, and the Elixir of Poetry,” exploring of the connections between poetry, enlightenment, and magic.

Several of you mentioned how disappointed you were that you couldn’t be present at the talk. I have been told that there may have been a video recording of my talk. If there was a recording, I will see about making it available to everyone. Stay tuned.


/ Image by Donna Clement /

No responses yet

Apr 17 2015

Pablo Neruda – Too Many Names

Published by under Poetry

Too Many Names
by Pablo Neruda

English version by Anthony Kerrigan

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.

When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formalities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much of signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

— from Neruda: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda / Translated by Anthony Kerrigan


/ Image by FastWhale /

I love this poem by Neruda. The tone of the poem stands out to me, first of all. It hints at spiritual exhaustion and world-weariness, and that is an important part of the spiritual journey.

I am Pedro, you are Rosa. This is my nation, that is yours. This is mine, that is yours.

He is tired of the endless naming and categorization that people engage in, comparing it in one line to the “signing of papers.” It is as if all of these definitions amount to a tyrannical bureaucracy of the spirit.

And he is right.

Being the crazy poet that he is, Neruda has discovered something that we are normally too busy to recognize as we endlessly categorize and define. It is a fundamental truth: None of these things are actually separate.

Sure, I can say that today, when I am writing this, is Friday, and yesterday was Thursday. But where are the days actually divided? We may say that Thursday vanished at the stroke of midnight, and Friday magically appeared. Or we might say at sunset. But those are just moments in the mind. Regardless of who is watching and marking such moments, the days just flow, one into the other, in an unbroken continuity.

Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

We can pretend for convenience that one day is separate from another, but no mind and no culture can actually sever them. When we forget that, we fall into a deluded sense of reality.

The same for nations. We talk “of Venezuelas, of Chiles and of Paraguays.” We talk of this nation and that, this nation against that nation. And we forget that they are just fantasies, just ideas. They may serve a social and organizational purpose, but they aren’t actually real.

I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

Those borders that look so definite on our school maps, are just made up lines agreed to by people playing games of power, people most of us have never met.

These divisions are all entirely within our heads, not true expressions of reality. Neruda makes this clear by reminding us that they are meaningless at nighttime when we sleep, for that is the only time most people cease dividing up reality. If these separations and divisions had any actuality, they would continue to exist whether or not we sustained them through mental effort. But, no, fall asleep and all that effortful separation falls away.

We imagine that the constant act of definition-separation-categorization is the same thing as clear seeing. In reality, it hinders us from seeing.

When we learn to stop reflexively naming everything we see, then we actually see it for the first time. When I go for a walk and see a cottonwood at the edge of a creek, the most common reflex is to say to myself, “That’s a tree,” or “That’s a cottonwood,” or perhaps, “That’s pretty,” — and then I ignore it, thinking I have seen it.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

But, if I stop and truly look, and avoid the impulse to immediately label what it is I see as a tree, that is when I recognize the immensity of the encounter. I see a majestic being rising from the creekside, growing from its environment, embodying the land that surrounds it, giving the place presence, while patiently watching me to see if I return its gaze. I no longer see my idea of a tree, I actually see the tree. And I see how everything flows into that tree. And when I look honestly, I see how I too am part of the tree, that we are part of each other.

Those endless “names” we give people and things are a way see without seeing. Increasingly we inhabit a world in our own minds and become strangers to the fluid, undefined living reality all around us.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

When what really exists is “a generous, vast wholeness” that only waits for us to rejoin its fluid oneness.

Have a beautiful day… and make it even more beautiful by mixing it up!


Recommended Books: Pablo Neruda

The Book of Questions Neruda: Selected Poems On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems Extravagaria: A Bilingual Edition
More Books >>


Pablo Neruda, Pablo Neruda poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Pablo Neruda

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7 responses so far

Apr 17 2015

real you

The real you
is much too big to be your own.

No responses yet

Apr 15 2015

e. e. cummings – love is a place

Published by under Poetry

love is a place
by e. e. cummings

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

— from E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962, by e. e. cummings


/ Image by *_Abhi_* /

A little love and yes for us all today, from the quirky master of word dance e. e. cummings.

Even high school students forced against their will to read poetry for class are instantly drawn into his surreal phrase constructions, which often manage to say so much more than the most elegantly crafted lines of other poets.

I know you’re smiling after having read this short poem. Try reading it again, this time more slowly, letting the meaning peek out from behind the words.

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

Love is a realm, and all places exist in love. They don’t just exist in love, they move through love, they are animated and given life by this all-encompassing love. It’s not only that everything is found there and moves there, but everything moves “with brightness of peace,” as if all things are ennobled and move with a remembered inner clarity and sense of self.

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

“Yes is a world,” and in that world all worlds live. Yes is life-giving. Yes is the foundation of all worlds. Perhaps he is saying that yes is the great fiat. Anything that is or is becoming, was born of some essential affirmation.

That phrase about how all worlds live “skillfully curled” in yes — one of my favorites!

Notice too the interesting line breaks in this poem, especially the two pairings of “love move” and “yes live”. Unconsciously we read them as complete statements, suggesting to us that love is somehow about movement and that yes and life are one. Think about that for a bit…

Sending love and yes to you all!


Recommended Books: e. e. cummings

E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962 73 Poems 1 x 1 [One Times One] 50 Poems 95 Poems
More Books >>


e. e. cummings, e. e. cummings poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry e. e. cummings

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2 responses so far

Apr 15 2015

contentment

Contentment

(that’s it)

No responses yet

Apr 08 2015

J. R. R. Tolkien – All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

Published by under Poetry

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter (Gandalf’s Song of Aragorn)
by J. R. R. Tolkien

All that is gold does not glitter,
      Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
      Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
      A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
      The crownless again shall be king.

— from The Lord of the Rings: One Vol. Edition, by J.R.R. Tolkien


/ Image by alancleaver_2000 /

This short verse from The Lord of the Rings is pronounced by the wizard Gandalf about the ominous figure called Strider, later known as Aragorn. Where all the world sees a rough, wild forest bandit, Gandalf knows the truth about the inner man, that he is, in fact, the last in a line of ancient kings. Aragorn is the rightful king of the realm.

Not all those who wander are lost

I’ve seen this line quoted on bumper stickers (though I have yet to see it on high status car, like a Mercedes Benz!). Don’t you feel something in yourself responding to this line? Maybe it gives us all, with our sometimes meandering lives, a sense of redemption and an awareness of hidden purpose.

At the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn is a ranger, an armed man who travels alone through forests and wild places. The village folk, not knowing who he really is, assume he is untrustworthy, a meandering ruffian with no good purpose — he is a wanderer.

While it is true that he will eventually become king, he is not yet ready to assume the role at the beginning of the story. He does not yet know or perhaps even trust his own character. So he has spent his early years in the wilds, a solitary warrior facing shadowy foes. But it is precisely because of his years of wandering that he is ready to be king when the time comes. His wandering is what has tested his will, strengthened his spirit, broadened his knowledge, and taught him how to find pathways in unknown lands.

Early in life we fix on a goal, dream a dream, hear a calling, but the path to achievement is never without turns and switchbacks. If, day after day, we walk the same straight path, then it is certain we are lost. The direct road is rarely the right one. Here’s a lesson even the wise find troublesome: To reach the goal, we must be willing to lose sight of it in the world, while ever holding it close to the heart. Every hero with a great destiny understands this on some instinctive level. And every good storyteller knows why: The purpose of the journey is never simply to reach the destination; the journey exists to test and strengthen the hero. Without disorientation and hardship along the way, the hero will not be ready to take up the mantle of success when the time comes. The journey makes the hero, not the destination.

A good reminder for all of us as we courageously step out into the day…

===

I thought this poem by J. R. R. Tolkien might offer me a good opportunity to remind everyone that I will be delivering a talk at this year’s Real Myth and Mythril Symposium greyhavensgroup.com/events/realmyth/ on April 26th in Niwot, Colorado (just outside of Boulder). Speakers at this conference discuss myth and fantasy literature, exploring their importance to culture, imagination, and history.

My talk is titled “The Cauldron of Inspiration: Bards, Wizards, and the Elixir of Poetry”

Wizards and magic are mainstays of modern fantasy fiction. But when we search for the real wizards of the ancient world, we find instead poets, musicians, storytellers. Why were the bards revered as seers and sorcerers in their day? Let’s journey through heroic tales and poems of power as we explore the deeper mysteries of magic, enchantment, and inspiration…

If you happen to be in the area, come by and hear my talk, and say hello afterwards. The symposium is popular though and space is running out, so make sure you get a ticket soon.


Recommended Books: J. R. R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings: One Vol. Edition


J. R. R. Tolkien, J. R. R. Tolkien poetry, Christian poetry J. R. R. Tolkien

England (1892 – 1973) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

More poetry by J. R. R. Tolkien

2 responses so far

Apr 08 2015

mundane effort

The most mundane effort,
when approached with a sense of service
and a questing heart,
becomes an act of beauty.

No responses yet

Apr 03 2015

Ryokan – The I Ching States Happiness Lies in the Proper Blend

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The I Ching States Happiness Lies in the Proper Blend of:
by Ryokan

English version by John Stevens

Hot-cold
good-bad
black-white
beautiful-ugly
large-small
wisdom-foolishness
long-short
brightness-darkness
high-low
partial-whole
relaxation-quickness
increase-decrease
purity-filth
slow-fast.

— from Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan, Translated by John Stevens


/ Image by x-horizon /

A reminder for us today from that master of wisdom-foolishness, Ryokan, to walk the slim pathway between the extremes, to touch both but not be held by either.

Absolutes are for fundamentalists and those weary of the journey. The rest of us continue to navigate that hidden line where opposites meet. We learn the way by knowing our hearts.

Hot-cold
good-bad
black-white

This is a tension I myself have wrestled with in my own journey. As a passionate young seeker, I so wanted holiness, which I understood mostly in terms of physical purity and isolation from the world. I ate only very specific foods, not much of them, and often fasted. I lived much of my 20s and early 30s in retreat, seeking out remote, natural environments to call home.

And, you know what? It worked. My energies began to take on a more sustained, deeply meditative state. I found myself opening in profound ways. I found a way to embody holiness. It worked… for a while.

Sure, I could have continued living in that way, with ever more precise refinements in my practice, and possibly deepening the sense of holiness I felt, and that would have satisfied a certain hunger in my soul. But I started to see a problem with all of that. When I was entirely honest with myself, I noticed that I was becoming more brittle and ethereal, disconnected from people and less able to interact with society. I had created a safe bubble of “purity” around me, and I easily lost my balance whenever that was even slightly disrupted.

I came to the decision that true spirituality was not about some sort of aloof, fragile perfection, but must include an embodied mastery that required grounding and human interaction and the humility to be less than perfect. Much of my journey since then has been about strength, stability, and connection — facing my weakest qualities, instead of retreating into elevated states. I moved back to more populated areas. I began to eat more food, and eat more solid foods, which took a significant mental shift. I even went through a period of lifting weights in order to put some muscle on my overly thin body so I could feel more physically present in the world. And I created the Poetry Chaikhana as a way to connect and share with a much wider world.

Today, my path lacks the certainty it once had. And I am less likely to be floating in blissful states as often as I once did. There are days when I consider that perhaps I should return to the sweet intensity of that interiority. But I remain committed to the long journey — a more rounded sense of embodied mastery. And I am still a stumbling beginner in so many ways.

Like a tree, we need our roots to sink deep into the earth, thickening their grip; that gives us the strong foundation to grow and reach and spread new branches heavenward season after season and not fail at the first gust of wind.

brightness-darkness
high-low
partial-whole

We need to integrate it all. We need wholeness to experience lasting holiness.

We might just notice that opposites are not opposed, but joined. And we dance along the seam of connection.

One last bit of advice: When you dance, dance slow-fast!

(That’s the long and the short of it… :)

=

If you celebrate Passover, may it be a day of protection and liberation. If you celebrate Easter, may it be a day of renewal and new life!


Recommended Books: Ryokan

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing
More Books >>


Ryokan, Ryokan poetry, Buddhist poetry Ryokan

Japan (1758 – 1831) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Apr 03 2015

naivete

Innocence is not naivete.
Naivete must be carefully removed.
Innocence is your true nature.

No responses yet

Apr 01 2015

Jacopone da Todi – As air becomes the medium for light when the sun rises

Published by under Poetry

As air becomes the medium for light when the sun rises
by Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

English version by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes

As air becomes the medium for light when the sun rises,
And as wax melts from the heat of fire,
So the soul drawn to that light is resplendent,
Feels self melt away,
Its will and actions no longer its own.
So clear is the imprint of God
That the soul, conquered, is conqueror;
Annihilated, it lives in triumph.

What happens to the drop of wine
That you pour into the sea?
Does it remain itself, unchanged?
It is as if it never existed.
So it is with the soul: Love drinks it in,
It is united with Truth,
Its old nature fades away,
It is no longer master of itself.

The soul wills and yet does not will:
Its will belongs to Another.
It has eyes only for this beauty;
It no longer seeks to possess, as was its wont —
It lacks the strength to possess such sweetness.
The base of this highest of peaks
Is founded on nichil,
Shaped nothingness, made one with the Lord.

— from Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality), Translated by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes


/ Image by YorkshireSam /

As we approach both Passover and Easter, I thought this poem by the Franciscan monk, Jacopone da Todi, might give us some good things to contemplate…

As air becomes the medium for light when the sun rises,
And as wax melts from the heat of fire,
So the soul drawn to that light is resplendent,
Feels self melt away…

What I find fascinating about these opening images is how much they sound like the sort of metaphors Indian yogic masters use.

With these simple, comprehensible images, we can begin to get an idea of how the soul is transformed in exalted states. In nearness to the Eternal, the soul, like wax near a fire, melts. The self is no longer a fixed, hardened thing, but something fluid, formless, dynamic. And, in this responsive, formless state, the soul loses its dull opacity, becoming clear, allowing the light to shine through it.

Its will and actions no longer its own.
So clear is the imprint of God
That the soul, conquered, is conqueror;
Annihilated, it lives in triumph.

The old, inanimate self melts away, and this new fluid self moves. But it moves naturally, not of its own accord. The liquid self moves as it is moved.

In yielding, it discovers its own life.

So it is with the soul: Love drinks it in,
It is united with Truth,
Its old nature fades away,
It is no longer master of itself.

This concept of yielding, of freeing oneself of will, is a difficult one to understand and accept in any age, but especially so in the modern era when accomplishment through strong will is culturally idolized.

The soul wills and yet does not will:
Its will belongs to Another.

The most immediate objection is that without will, we can do nothing. On a certain level, we prove our existence by doing, by taking action in the world, right? There have been enough statements by mystics and saints throughout the world about the importance of non-will, that we should explore this question more deeply…

Deeply examined, we find that will is not what we thought it was. Or, rather, that there are different expressions of the will. We can say that will is volition or the impulse to action, or we might broadly define it as freedom of choice, as in “free will.”

Mystics often use phrases like “self-will” to express a more fundamental understanding of what the will is and how it works. You can say that self-will is selfish will, in opposition to the will to be of service, for example, but that doesn’t quite get at the heart of the matter. Self-will is will that is tainted by the petty self, the unmelted self, or the ego. Self-will is not just selfish will. It’s quite possible to perform great philanthropic works and have it still be from self-will. Self-will is will that is under the control of the ego, compels action that serves the ego, and compels action that reinforces the ego. Self-will renews the trance of the ego.

Consider, is there a way to drop this self-will, to be free from its clutches, without becoming an inactive lump on the couch? Is there a form of will that does not originate with the ego and constantly return our attention to it? Finding this second will, what is it like? This other will is profound, immense, powerful, yet not our own. It is a form of will that does not serve the little self. It is not possessed by us, and it does not concern itself with possession of things or experiences. To unleash this will in our lives requires an elegant balance between yielding and stepping forward, between passivity and attentive action, between selflessness and presence. Actions take place through us, but we are not the actors. What we normally think of as the self is not directing the action.

This frees up a great portion of psychic energy, and we become awestruck witnesses to life playing out through us and all around us — a vision of immense beauty!

It has eyes only for this beauty

Thank You

I want to again thank everyone who has made a donation recently in response to my request for help from the Poetry Chaikhana. I know that even sending a few dollars is an effort. It requires writing out and mailing a check or figuring out how to fill out the PayPal page. After all, the poetry emails themselves are free, there is no actual requirement to step out of our comfort zone and reach out in this way. So, to everyone who has willingly changed your day’s rhythm in order to make a donation and help me out, I truly thank you!


Recommended Books: Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality) All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time


Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti), Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti) poetry, Christian poetry Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

Italy (1230 – 1306) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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One response so far

Apr 01 2015

not fully present

What we call the ego
is the individual’s particular way
of not being fully present.

No responses yet

Mar 27 2015

W. S. Merwin – Just Now

Published by under Poetry

Just Now
by W. S. Merwin

In the morning as the storm begins to blow away
the clear sky appears for a moment and it seems to me
that there has been something simpler than I could ever
believe
simpler than I could have begun to find words for
not patient not even waiting no more hidden
than the air itself that became part of me for a while
with every breath and remained with me unnoticed
something that was here unnamed unknown in the days
and the nights not separate from them
not separate from them as they came and were gone
it must have been here neither early nor late then
by what name can I address it now holding out my thanks

— from The Pupil: Poems, by W. S. Merwin


/ Image by phuket /

A noticed moment. The noticed essence within the moment.

In the morning as the storm begins to blow away
the clear sky appears for a moment…

This is so often the way of it. Whatever it is we continuously search for, whether a spiritual recognition or merely contentment in the midst of a frantic world, we conceptualize this “thing” we want, we search for it, we strain for it… and it eludes us. But then, through weariness or surrender or silence, somehow we fall into the present moment, and there we discover what we have been searching for. But, while it is what we wanted, it is not what we imagined at all. It is simpler than the complicated fabrication of our minds, less defined, somehow just there.

and it seems to me
that there has been something simpler than I could ever
believe
simpler than I could have begun to find words for

It is strangely familiar, as if it has been quietly unnoticed all along. As if we just lacked the quiet eyes that could see it. “…remained with me unnoticed / something that was here unnamed…”

We so want a goal that we can acquire and claim, that we can name among our many named possessions. What do we do when the thing found is no thing at all, nameless, ungraspable, yet undeniably there in the still spaces?

by what name can I address it now holding out my thanks

We are left with a choice: We can name it nonetheless, expanding and refining our definitions, bringing it into the realm of what is known — yet haunted by the knowledge that it is but a thin sliver of what remains unnamed. Or we can yield into the mystery of it and dwell there, in the quiet unnamed spaces, taking its home as our own.

…Or we can play the game of poets, juggling words to hint at the wordless, taunting the known with the undefinable, making our home in the spaces in between.


Recommended Books: W. S. Merwin

East Window: Poems from Asia Migration: New & Selected Poems The Pupil: Poems Present Company Sanskrit Love Poetry
More Books >>


W. S. Merwin, W. S. Merwin poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry W. S. Merwin

US (1927 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Buddhist

More poetry by W. S. Merwin

2 responses so far

Mar 27 2015

every corner

In every corner of the world,
the entire mystery of life and death
can be found.

No responses yet

Mar 25 2015

Rainer Maria Rilke – I find you, Lord, in all Things

Published by under Poetry

I find you, Lord, in all Things and in all
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Stephen Mitchell

I find you, Lord, in all Things and in all
my fellow creatures, pulsing with your life;
as a tiny seed you sleep in what is small
and in the vast you vastly yield yourself.

The wondrous game that power plays with Things
is to move in such submission through the world:
groping in roots and growing thick in trunks
and in treetops like a rising from the dead.

— from Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Stephen Mitchell


/ Image by Ben Frdericson /

First, let me say “thank you” to everyone who has sent in a donation in response to my request for help on Friday. And thank you, also, for the many notes of support and encouragement. I am deeply moved by the broad community response. Wow.

=

Now, for today’s poem. It has been too long since we had a poem by Rilke…

and in the vast you vastly yield yourself.

Isn’t that a great line? But it’s not just a nice poetic turn of phrase. In the second verse Rilke is really saying something of deep insight about this:

The wondrous game that power plays with Things
is to move in such submission through the world…

The “power” he is talking about is obviously not power over; not the domination of the warlord or the predator. Following on his first verse, we can read power as the power of the Lord “in all Things.” It is the power of life itself, awareness, presence. The use of the word “power,” makes us question the assumptions of common language: Perhaps this is real power, rather than the fleeting hold of force and fear. How are life and presence the greater power…?

This real power plays a game in the world of things. It asserts its power through submission, rather than control. Like water, it yields and so finds its destination. It allows, and so fulfills its purpose. It is supremely humble, and so able to be humbly present everywhere, in all things, without prejudice or rejection. It rises from the lowest to the highest, vivifying everything it touches–

groping in roots and growing thick in trunks
and in treetops like a rising from the dead.

This power flowing through us and all our “fellow creatures” binds us all with the same life. You’ll notice, it is not even our life at all. Rilke says “your life,” the Lord’s life. It is something we participate in, a current we ride as it flows through us and the world, but it is not our own. Rilke is hinting at a larger vision in which there is only one Life flowing through a million “Things.”

Hildegard von Bingen, the great medieval mystic, called this the Viriditas or Greening power of God.

Too much of our relationship with the natural world is built on ideas of separation and domination. Such foolishness can only ever harm us. When we see clearly, we see as Rilke does that we are part of the same shared Life. To harm the natural world is to rebel against God. Is that language too religiously loaded? Reread Rilke’s poem, and then think about it.

Have a lovely day in this lovely green world!


Recommended Books: Rainer Maria Rilke

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus
More Books >>


Rainer Maria Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Rainer Maria Rilke

Germany (1875 – 1926) Timeline
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2 responses so far

Mar 25 2015

like a tree

We don’t float to heaven.
Like a tree, we sink roots deep into the rocky soil,
and so, year-by-year, reach higher into the heavens.

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