Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Morning Meditations

A small gathering of brief thoughts and quotes that made me stop and think, over the past few months. A rainy spring morning, the rain knocking the tree pollen out of the air, delaying transplanting the marigolds and geraniums, pattern of quiet drops on the roof like river stones tumbling in an eddy pool, mood of inward blossom and bone.

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

St.-Ex. gets it right so often. He distills wisdom into aphorism without preciousness or sentiment. Wisdom as hard as the desert, as clear as the cold star-filled wonder of the desert night sky.

Yesterday I was blindsided by an unexpected surge of feeling around the discussion of suicide. It kept coming up. I remembered those times when I didn't care if I lived or died, when I would put myself in dangerous situations, and left it up to the gods to make the choice for me. I'm still here. Now, though, even on my worst days, those days when something inside grows long claws and growls with red-glowing eyes, I want to be here. There is void enough in living, no need to rush towards death. A truth seen through the eyes of the heart, and a gratitude for the learning.

Stay at your table and listen. Don't even listen, just wait. Be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked.
—Franz Kafka.

The gathering of experiences like fuel for an invisible fire, over which the thin mists of the ancestors still gather for warmth and solace. Sitting waiting for lightning to strike. Going about your daily business, but mindfully, with attentiveness, always paying heed to the smallest tone and bloom. The world reveals itself to you as a glorious presence, and everything catches light and becomes significant, more than it is, a treasure glowing in an opening patch of sunlight, a door through which the actinic light of other worlds shines out. Every moment takes on immense splendor. Nothing is too small to be loved, too mundane to be exalted. The kingdom of heaven is a state of grace, all unexpected, but all we have to do is wait, and here it is. And again, glowing from within, catching light and revealing itself as the thin crust of solidity over an expanding tide of light.

The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.
—from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451

Immersion in life, the embrace between wind and dream, the oblique stolidness of flesh. How often we live in our heads rather than our selves. Words about things, rather than the thing itself. Wanting to touch the moon, not just be the finger pointing. In a pool of rain, drops ripple everywhere, then dissolve.

The good writers touch life often. They touch it, they hold it, they embrace, they evoke. You can feel it in your soma, your presence, your flesh. The speaks more truth than the mind. There is the wonder of tale-telling, but as part of life, not as a substitute for it. Writing that is an experience, that creates a unique and fresh experience in the reader, rather than writing that merely chatters about an experience. Too many writers afraid to be touched by life, or to touch life. They use their tools and words to keep life at a safe remove, so that they are neither disturbed nor affected. The illusion of safety: keep your distance.

Not to have a story to live out is to experience nothingness: the primal formlessness of human life below the threshold of narrative structuring.
—Michael Novak, Ascent of the Mountain, Flight of the Dove

Harking back to the poet's truth, the bard's truth, the Singer's truth, the truth of the Book of Genesis:

The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.
—Muriel Rukeyser

Biography is biology: we are made of stories. We construct narrative to be able to tell our stories sequentially.

The only reason for time is so everything doesn't happen at once.
—Albert Einstein

We construct our realities in manageable sequential packets, like quanta of energy ticking by. We want things to be discreet, separated, chopped into grains and granules. We analyze by reducing. In doing so, we lose the glory, the light shining through, the connectivity. It helps to manage, but it doesn't enliven.

Underneath the illusion of narrative is the void of nothingness. Not that there is nothing there, but that there is Mystery there. Awakening is sinking and cooling into that void. Slow down time until it stops; then you can be everywhere at once, at any time. There is light in that void, that arises from the very cells of being. It's not a dim, dark, ignorant place of fear. It's calm and cool and collected.

The worst problem of language-based art is this belief that it must be narrative, must be sequential, must be conventionally comprehensible. We can break free of that, and still have meaning. Tossing meaning out with the sense of narrative can be done two ways: by saying it doesn't matter, since life is meaningless anyway; and by affirming that meaning is something we create for ourselves. That we project onto the screen of the world, the scrim between us and the stage of our actions. Life's a play, indeed, but the stage is sacred space.

We can be non-linear and non-sequential, in a a poetry in which time is loosed and everything happens all at once, without losing our center. We stand in the center of a revolving whirlwind of possibility. We reach out with fingers to touch a facet of a spinning world-jewel as it rotates around us, choosing one or two facets out of which to make our story. Things change, and we change ourselves to make them. Shapechanging begins with changing the shape of the soul, and the shapes of story and body follow from there.

For after all what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed.
—Blaise Pascal

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