THE MEASURE OF MY GAIT (redux)

But for my body’s vibrancy

Lost from age

I feel better and better, now in my tranquil maturity

A tree grows high and wide with time

I know heights, now, placid in age

I never knew in youth, when I was figuring it all out

 

And I’ve got a handle on how things work better, now in my tranquil maturity

Better than in my excited youth

The world and I sync better

Than my fits to plug into a system I wasn’t fit to engage

In my early becoming adult

 

So many questions I faced unaware

When to argue

When to articulate a novel thought to stand out before my teachers

The battle to be self at school or workplace—alienation—enforcing conformity

That moment when my professor said I’d better start thinking about a different profession

provoked by my Marxist critique of Wordsworth’s IDIOT BOY

 

I really don’t know why I don’t fight anymore

Or why I used to

Or why I was never happy no matter where I lived: Ohio, Boston, Charlottesville, Florida

And my contentment, indeed happiness, now in Edmonton

 

And of the things I no longer let bother me:

Other people disagreeing with me

Things I have to get done by yesterday

Whether people like me

Traffic, specifically tailgaters

I haven’t time nor energy nor inclination to disturb

My peace

The breadth of my awareness

Expanded and expands still from youth’s constrictions

 

Knowing largely the way it was always done, then,

At home, hometown, Sunday School

Plain, innocent, not knowing things

I remember questioning the merits of my professor’s USC degree, me knowing only UCLA

 

Making judgments in these facile these days

The young’s flash and intensity of passion

Have calmed, calming me, contenting my present

 

There was that time when it all lay in front of me

So much to master, to conquer

Most of it’s past now

The challenges I’ve conquered, arts mastered to such as one may

I’ve laid my foundation, a good one

Upon which I stand, build, have built, refine, expand

I burst the bonds that have constrained my heart

As my soul breathes free, breaks free

 

The future doesn’t beckon anymore

Though I continue leisurely progress in cognition, will, behavior, refinement

Sensibility, sensitivity, sentiment, solidarity

I read now as much as talk

And today, W. H. Auden moved my sensibility, sense, cognition towards where I wasn’t before

And today I’m closer to the time when I’ll die

I ponder whether I’ll die well,

Studying to live well

 

My measured gait is not due to decrepitude

 

I carry the weight of my awareness,

Thoughts, contentedness, purpose, perceptions

Measuring my stride through life

Looking back, down from olding heights,

From the altitude afforded by maturing,

On who I was, what I was, how I did what I did

The mysterious ascending current flowing toward my future

Inhabiting my present, my pacific contentment my ever-evolving mentation

And I will die well

THE EYES OF ALL NEED NOT WAIT UPON ME

He turned toward me

As if for comment, or what didn’t need to be said

To indict Borofsky’s words painted black on a white canvass

I want to be great

I, a Swedenborgian divinity student; he, a photographer married to a conceptual artist

 

The lust to be great is quite a thing different from what is

Great in se

Not likely to produce what is great

 

–What is great–

Greatness is a gift

Vibrational resonance on the sound-board heartstrings thrilling the ode

That is what is human

A gift to us all—co-cooperation—collective consciousness all-soul

That is we human solidarity together

It is great to share all together collected around

A Prime Mover of soul

As is to me Borofsky’s Hammering Man and Picasso’s Untitled in Chicago’s Daley Plaza

Condense what is human freely among the affairs of daily life

These are not what humans commonly thought are metrics of greatness

A publication, a work alive 100 years after the artist’s demise, to be a class in a university, a

critic’s nod, mass appeal

 

Peace breathes in the spirit attendant relaxation of the choke-hold that is

The lust for greatness

And insignificance be not a curse;

The eyes of all need not wait not upon me

The satisfactions of being a good man among our common men are great enough to sustain

To be happy with the faces that you meet

And perhaps to touch a soul or two or two or three among the faces that you meet

And to touch the sky in private

For you don’t have to be tall to see the moon

And to walk humbly with a soul or two or two or three

And to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God

A REFLECTION ON THE ’80’S

I remember back in the ‘80’s

How often I heard how hard life is

How tough you have to get, to be, to get ahead

How many were reading Sun Tzu, The Art of War

How many longed to be back in college

Protected, with their friends, the camaraderie, safe

 

Fighting your way to the top is hard, tough

Clawing your way into obscene wealth is hard, tough

Competing with your fellows, maybe screwing them over

You have to get tough, and it is hard if you choose these paths

I haven’t studied war, and haven’t become tough

I know disappointment, grief, crushed dreams

The consequences of too much love

 

Creativity is hard, but not conflict with my fellows

The satisfaction I know in word or tone shames wealth

I claw my way into creations I love to live with

I compete with my piano, with pen or keyboard

I do not know where the top is, what it is, but I will likely not be there

I know the struggle of satisfying art, soul satisfactions

 

The path I have chosen tends toward calm

The friends I continue to make make community, trust

I continue to learn, learn peace, wisdom, love

I find that is a struggle with mortal stakes

That life is hard, yet it doesn’t make me tough, and I wish no retreat

Into adolescent protection, sophomoric camaraderie

The realization of such a longing would be retreat indeed

From all of my struggle to grow in peace, wisdom, love

And I wish nothing more

ODE TO THE NIGHT

I feel more at home, and love the dark of night

Then, my creativity, my psyche’s spark,

Flows into art and I drink in others’ insight

I love the peacefulness when everything is dark

 

Daylight is a threat to this contemplative

I strain to shut it out and turn into my mind

In night, the dark, the stillness lets my spirit live

And music, verse, and thought flow freely as the wind

 

I walk the night and love the darkness, the quiet

Day is noisy; light is a distraction

When I try to grasp a poem or express my spirit

Only nighttime gives my spirit satisfaction

Melanie: Woodstock’s Unsung Voice

We still hear about Woodstock, even in 2020.  But we hear only what the media wants us to hear about it.  Media accounts of Woodstock make it look like the festival was all about drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll.  But it wasn’t.  Peace and love filled to spirit of the festival.  Love isn’t just free love, or sex.  It is a love for each other.  And we don’t hear much about the spirit of Woodstock.  And spirituality at Woodstock.  Even in the four-hour documentary movie about Woodstock, there is no footage of Melanie.  Melanie’s take on Woodstock makes the festival a spiritual experience.  Indeed it was, or it wouldn’t be remembered.  No one would remember just a week-end of drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll.

Listen to Melanie’s words about Woodstock in her song, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”:

We were so close there was no room
We bled inside each others wounds
We all had caught the same disease
And we all sang the songs of peace
Some came to sing, some came to pray
Some came to keep the dark away

Melanie had a spiritual experience while performing at Woodstock, and the crowd knew it, and they were with her.  She says,

“At that moment, 500,000 people saw me have this spiritual awakening because I realised that I wasn’t a body. The body is a separate thing to whatever you want to call it, the spirit or the soul or whatever. The actual being of me was not that body. I left.  That moment that happened in front of those people, that was the uniqueness of Woodstock, for me. And even though people didn’t know what was happening, they knew something had happened. And they were with me.”

Melanie doesn’t use drugs, so the spirituality was real.  There was that spirit, that spirituality at Woodstock, too.  There were those who came to pray, to keep the darkness away, who sang songs of peace, who were so close they bled inside each others’ wounds.

For whatever reason, we don’t hear about that aspect of Woodstock.  And we don’t hear about Melanie.  She is Woodstock’s unsung voice.  But for those of us lucky enough to know Melanie’s music and beautiful spirit, Melanie’s take on Woodstock gives as much light as 500,000 lit candles raised against the dark.

SOME WORDS I GREW UP WITH

Vietnam, establishment, protest, revolution, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., assassination, J. Edgar Hoover, Twiggy,

Woodstock, Buffalo Springfield, Richie Havens, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Crosby, stills, Nash, and Young, Janis Joplin, Cream, Ravi Shankar, Jefferson Airplane, Melanie, Ten Years After, Mountain, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer

mind expansion, weed, LSD, hash, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau

The Man, tear gas, mod, freaks, hippies, bikers, jocks, counter-culture, mini-skirt, long hair, crew-cut, bell-bottoms, Spock, freedom, riots, tie-dye, Motown

peace, Nature, love

Moderating Rage: Trump’s Antics

I am appalled and galled at Trump’s antics.  Lately, I am sad that 800,000 government workers are facing life issues because Trump won’t pay them.  I am worried that the US government is closed for business.  And there’s so much to do.  And, finally, I am troubled at how many people still support Trump, and that those people are fellow Americans, citizens of my own country.  (However, I am somewhat relieved that lately only 34% of Americans support him, meaning that 66% don’t.)

So shall I pass my time galled, appalled, worried, and troubled?  If I do, Trump is getting me.  He’s pushing my buttons from his luxury resort in Florida or in the White House–way, way far away from where I live.  So I have a dilemma.  Shall I go about my business and not care about my home country’s problems?  That kind of callous disregard strikes me as un-Christian, and unbecoming.  I care for my fellows.  Yet, I’m not strong enough to stretch my concern to the whole world.  I have sufficient concerns in my personal life, and in the world I touch.

I’m re-thinking Voltaire’s concluding line from Candide.  “Il faut cultiver notre jardin”–“We must cultivate our garden.”  In Voltaire’s novel, after innumerable calamities which were explained away with a metaphysics that said we live in the best of all possible worlds and all things work out to the best that they can, the small group we follow through the story finally ends up tending a garden they collectively own.  When the metaphysician tries to explain why ending up tending a garden is the best possible outcome in the best of all possible worlds, then we get that line, “We must cultivate our garden.”  What that means, I think, is that we have enough to handle with the immediate problems we tend to in our lives.  Whether we live in the best of times or the worst of times, all that really matters is what we can manage in the life we live in and the lives we touch.  I did act with passion in my 2018 vote, in absentia, reading the instructions, printing up the ballot from the emailed copy sent me, mailing it snail mail to the district in which I vote.  And that is all I can see that I can actually do about the troubling matters in my home country.

There’s another quote relevant to this issue.  “Turn it over.”  While I have limited power to care about the whole, wide world, there is One who does have the power to care about it.  I do wonder, at times, what that One is up to in this world.  But that One does know what He/She/It is up to.  Where does that leave me?

What I am finding is that I need to come to terms with my own passions.  I didn’t like George W. Bush.  I couldn’t watch him on TV.  I didn’t, however, feel outraged and appalled as I do now.  So am I going to ruin my present getting mad at politicians I don’t agree with?  The real issue is how I come to terms with those things I disagree with.  I have come to a decision.  I will no longer watch MSNBC and wallow in gall, and drive around town perseverating about all the bad things Trump is doing to the US.  My heart and soul matters more than that.

My own heart and soul is the garden I must cultivate.  How I spend my now, my eternity, matters to me.  I have cultivated peace in relation to my personal enemies.  I now need to do that in regard to my disagreement with Trump’s antics.  There were people appalled with Obama, too.  I can remain in the ready in relation to my vote; I can stay informed about the political development in my home country; I can act in my immediate environment for the good of the world I touch; and I can remain personally at peace.  There are heights I can ascend to in my soul–joy, peace and love.  There are broken individuals I can buy a sandwich for at the convenience store near where I live.  And these things matter more to me than going about my business appalled at Trump.  “Il faut cultiver notre jardin.”

Learning Peace

Effort isn’t always good

Forced achievement

Being natural, unaffected, at peace

Listening

Passive

The way of water

The uncarved block

 

What we put on

Mentally, personality, affected responses

Is too much self

Proprium

 

I am learning peace

To act without effort

Just learning

“Are you at peace?” she asked me years ago.

“I have satisfaction,” I replied.

“That’s not what I asked,” she said.

I am learning peace

Just learning

The Clear Mirror of the Mind

There is a Buddhist saying that goes, “My mind is a clear mirror, I must keep it free of dust.”  That line was taken a step further with the words, “I have no mind, where can the dust gather?”  That latter line is a very high, esoteric Buddhist teaching.  It is not appropriate for me at this stage of my development.  I have a mind.  And I have lately been watching it.  I’m discovering the value of keeping the mirror of my mind clear.

It’s easy to allow petty grievances and resentments to fill our mind.  We can dwell on bad experiences, arguments in the past we are carrying on in the present, reasons to think ill of our neighbor, even think ill of our friends and intimates.  But lately, I’ve been trying to interrupt these movements of the mind.  I am realizing that my mind is a clear mirror that must be kept free of dust.  It is just as easy to fill the mind with pleasant thoughts, with happy truths, with friendly ideas.

The present is all we have.  I am realizing that I want to live in a pleasant present, not one filled with uncomfortable thoughts.  I think of that Yes lyric, “There’ll be no mutant enemy we shall certify.”  Do I have enemies?  Not in my living room.  Not when my partner and I are out on a date.  Why rehearse past grievances or past enmities in the present?  There are those words, “Be as prudent as serpents but as gentle as doves.”  While I need to protect myself against enemies, I don’t need to replay in my mind their past actions against me.  In fact, the less I think about my own issues, the better I feel.  When my mind and my actions are on how I can make the world around me better, or manifest goodness in my present, I find I feel better.  One miserable day I had an unpleasant morning, lost some money at the casino, and was feeling bad about myself.  On my way home, I stopped at a convenience store.  A man there asked me for some money to buy a coffee.  I never give out money, but I went into the convenience store with the man and gave the clerk the money for his coffee.  The clerk thanked me, the man thanked me twice, and I felt good about losing another dollar for this man.  Losing a hundred dollars at the casino just made me mad, while losing another dollar for the coffee redeemed the day.  It is my choice whether I will dwell on the money I lost at the casino and get mad, or dwell on the dollar I gave the man for coffee and feel good.  And so in all the other affairs of my life.  Having a mind like a clear mirror free of dust isn’t a bad way to go through life.  It’s a good present.

THE LEXICON OF LANGUAGE

Human community is the lexicon of language
Shared speech defines word and syntax
I know holy language, spoken among
Those self-identified spiritual
The lexicon of holy books, prayer, chant, doctrines
To whom these matter
I know ecstasy and peace
I know sin and craving
Shadow only exists by sunshine
I know secular language, spoken among
Those self-identified disinterested to spirituality
The lexicon of sciences, literature, arts, pop-culture, ego-gratification, social standing
To whom only these matter, or matter largely
I know class, sophistication, cultivation
I act the fool, commit faux-pas, social blunders
What honest human doesn’t, can’t, won’t
Secular language grounds the holy
As bark encloses trees, skin encloses the body, callous
Only flowers are unprotected

Previous Older Entries