Sunday, January 24, 2010

Anam Cara

To Bless the Space Between Us
by John O'Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.





"Every day the glory is ready to emerge from its debasement."
~Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav




Monday, January 11, 2010

Meditation on The Epiphany: Baptism of Christ (Luke 3:22)


"...and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove"



Things are not as they seem: the innuendo of everything makes
itself felt and trembles towards meanings we never intuited
or dreamed. Take, for example, how the warbler, perched on a

mere branch, can kidnap the day from its tediums and send us
heavenwards, or how, held up by nothing we really see, our
spirits soar and then, in a mysterious series of twists and turns,

come to a safe landing in a field, encircled by greenery. Nothing
I can say to you here can possibly convince you that a man
as unreliable as I have been can smuggle in truths between tercets

and quatrains on scraps of paper, but the world as we know
is full of surprises, and the likelihood that here, in the shape
of this very bird, redemption awaits us should not be dismissed

so easily
. Each year, days swivel and diminish along their inscrutable
axes, then lengthen again until we are bathed in light we were not
prepared for. Last night, lying in bed with nothing to hold onto

but myself, I gazed at the emptiness beside me and saw there, in the
shape of absence, something so sweet and deliberate I called it darling.
No one who encrusticates (I made that up!) his silliness in a bowl,

waiting for sanctity, can ever know how lovely playfulness can be,
and, that said, let me wish you a Merry One (or Chanukah if you
prefer), and may whatever holds you up stay forever beneath you,

and may the robin find many a worm, and our cruelties abate,
and may you be well and happy and full of mischief as I am,
and may all your nothings, too, hold something up and sing.

"And the Cantilevered Inference Shall Hold the Day"
by Michael Blumenthal

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent Meditation (Is 52:10)



Pablo Picasso. Mother and Child. 1921-22.

Among the most familiar Christmas texts is the one in Isaiah: "The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (7:14) Less familiar is its context: Isaiah has been pleading with King Ahaz to put his trust in God’s promise to Israel rather than in alliances with strong military powers like Syria. "If you will not believe, you shall not be established," Isaiah warns Ahaz (7:9). Then the prophet tells the fearful king that God is going to give him a baby as a sign. A baby. Isn’t that just like God, Ahaz must have thought. What Ahaz needed, with Assyria breathing down his neck, was a good army, not a baby.

This is often the way God loves us: with gifts we thought we didn’t need, which transform us into people we don’t necessarily want to be. With our advanced degrees, armies, government programs, material comforts and self-fulfillment techniques, we assume that religion is about giving a little, of our power in order to confirm to ourselves that we are indeed as self-sufficient as we claim.

Then this stranger comes to us, blesses us with a gift, and calls us to see ourselves as we are -- empty-handed recipients of a gracious God who, rather than leave us to our own devices, gave us a baby. ~William Willimon From a God We Hardly Knew

. . .

Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? (Is 53:1)

He that is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has overthrown the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. (Lk 1:49-53 - Mary's Song)

The LORD has made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
(Is 52:10)



Monday, November 16, 2009

Paying attention to the Poet

These messages in a bottle are from Bill Holm, Minnesota-born author, musician, and scholar.

Wedding Poem For Schele and Phil

A marriage is risky business these days
Says some old and prudent voice inside.
We don't need twenty children anymore
To keep the family line alive,
Or gather up the hay before the rain.
No law demands respectability.
Love can arrive without certificate or cash.
History and experience both make clear
That men and women do not hear
The music of the world in the same key,
Rather rolling dissonances doomed to clash.

So what is left to justify a marriage?
Maybe only the hunch that half the world
Will ever be present in any room
With just a single pair of eyes to see it.
Whatever is invisible to one
Is to the other an enormous golden lion
Calm and sleeping in the easy chair.
After many years, if things go right
Both lion and emptiness are always there;
The one never true without the other.

But the dark secret of the ones long married,
A pleasure never mentioned to the young,
Is the sweet heat made from two bodies in a bed
Curled together on a winter night,
The smell of the other always in the quilt,
The hand set quietly on the other's flank
That carries news from another world
Light-years away from the one inside
That you always thought you inhabited alone.
The heat in that hand could melt a stone.

-----

Advice

Someone dancing inside us
has learned only a few steps:
the "Do-Your-Work" in 4/4 time,
the "What-Do-You-Expect" Waltz.
He hasn't noticed yet the woman
standing away from the lamp.
the one with black eyes
who knows the rumba.
and strange steps in jumpy rhythms
from the mountains of Bulgaria.
If they dance together,
something unexpected will happen;
if they don't, the next world
will be a lot like this one.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

September 1, 1939

This poem has haunted me for years ever since I read it for the first time shortly after September 11, 2001. According to this morning's Writer's Almanac it "became one of Auden's most famous poems, but in later years he rejected it. He refused to give permission for it to be in anthologies, and when he did include it, he either changed 'We must love one another or die' to 'we must love one another and die,' or he took out the stanza entirely.."

Have to wonder why. Got any clues? By my sights that and tends to lend a mobius twist to that already remarkable line. But to consider taking it out? Even rejecting his work entirely? That gives me pause. What was he thinking? Sounds like it was something of a torment for him. Well, he was a poet for Christ's sake. And an Anglican at that. Anglicans eat ambivalence like popcorn.

The line that especially rings for me is the error bred in the bone... not universal love, but to be loved alone. Talk about adding a mobius-loopy twist to things. Got me thinking about double helixes (DNA among others) and alternate universes. Flesh and Spirit. When all I really want to do at the moment is have a little lighter-hearted fun with my friends - in the face of it all. Go figure. In the world we shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer...

There yet remaineth a place for good old-fashioned pretzels and beer. And thou. Blithe and bonny and bon vivant. As my 11 year old daughter Maggs recently wrote, "Yay! I'm... be! Yay!!"

It was on this day in 1939 that Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and World War II began. How tempting is it now to reduce the world to a worry bead.

September 1, 1939 by W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
and darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism¹s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow,
"I will be true to the wife.
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages;
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

-- W. H. Auden

Friday, August 28, 2009

Twitterpated



Human be'ns are such funny critters, don't you think?