Thursday, February 27, 2014

Random Thoughts

I am fond of museums and of art museums in particular. The closest analogue in America (in America perhaps the only acceptable analogue) to the building of great cathedrals, museums, far from being mere repositories of cultural histories, are in fact repositories of faith, many faiths, perhaps Faith itself, inexhaustible festivals of what Joseph Campbell correctly calls The Masks of God. As with foxholes, there are no atheists in museums.

I have heard often enough from my economist friends that capitalism is the premier organizational force for a society, that its unswerving adherence to the idea, conceived almost as a moral law, that an ever expanding "pie" lifts more out of poverty, feeds more, than any other system, is, in fact, the real world analogue of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. I grant the arc of the thought, but I remind them that the intent of that particular bit of antique legerdemain was distributive, not acquisitive.
(A bit of pragmatic advice: store up your treasure in heaven...there's no IRS there.)

Modern industry has the tendency to sweep all living things before it, but its implement is rarely so simple as a broom and its attitude rarely the reverence of the Jain.

I have taken in my retirement to playing the guitar, a most marvelous instrument: capable of an infinitely complex mathematics it sings yet happily the simplest of fractions.

With time and space sufficient,
Love hardens into beauty,
Thence, by want protracted
And yearning ever hungered
Blossoms into grace:
God's gift though freely
Given's never free,
And time itself's the fee.

The Mevlevi mystic, either as an aid to or as a consequence of his ritual "remembering" of God, allows himself to be moved in the hypnotic whirling dance that, in the western imagination, defines the word "dervish." The psychology of this and all similar religious experiences calls for a specialized investigation, and western science, having exhausted (or been exhausted by) its material bias, begins --- tardily --- to move in this esoteric direction. In time, perhaps, it will reach conclusions and posit tentative truths, doubtless content that it has fulfilled its function by enriching the store of human knowledge and thoroughly oblivious to the fact that this "enrichment" has consisted of nothing but another description of the indescribable, another language of the unspeakable. This ignorance is science's blind spot...and its salvation.

What legacy shall one leave this too much abused world? Perhaps it would be better if it were only silence, only the parturient soundlessness of unmoving grass, the gesture of the trees at rest, the mute affirmation of still water. In such a silence one might at last learn what all the clamorous, dissembling words have so obscured.
Let the whole world be struck dumb for three days, and we will all hear God.

Contrary to the antics of all prophets, all evangelizers, there is no single idea which will save the world. There may be, however, a scant number of themes which, if properly ordered, will dissolve reality. We must find the medium in which reality is soluble.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Few Short Verses from An Earlier Life


          An Introductory Note

If my syntax seems immoderately forced,
it is to somewhat hide my sense from
ears that want perception.
The times, devoid of honor,
require mild deceptions.
If my approach appears oblique,
truth is I speak straight-on,
though sideways, tongue-in-cheek.
No great offense
when Great Ones cooing frontal
lies affront the plainest sense.
A brittle spirit needs its small defense:
all bones break.
(To which I might append
that in the present instance
most bones seem to mend.)

                        Conjugal Pair

They wrestled bound in violent lovelock,
broiled and tumbled through the fury fire in
holocaust and hymn and bent the back of dark
with incantations shining in their limbs:

Rolling, turning, rising, falling,
sweat burnished white and mirror silver
white their faces white their flesh
white the flame that joined their single spine.

...and rainbow arched taut bow drawn
they flung their ancient torch to arc the dawn
and made their covenant with life.


She stood to the world with
undefended ardor only.
Naked as light she came,
as susceptible as hope.

So shy a creature
(too wholly heartcomposed
and cursed with giving)
she froze to death in the icy
emptiness of Real Time
leaving, like her footprints
in the melting snow, the skeleton
and the laugh, nothing more
(a lovewhite hanger for
outmoded flesh and the shadow of her
oncewere eyes).

                  Language Lesson

My son greets me cribside in the morning
in the sunrise tongue he fashions from the
pleasures of his waking.
Foolishly I answer, taking care with
phrasing in his baby grammar, while
he politely shows his four new teeth,
smiling at my errors.

A song outside his window...
I'm sure he wonders how the birds
(who are so small) can answer readily
his language which I (who seem so large)
seem quite unable to recall.

Prenatal Poem
(Against all science, I am certain that I remember)

Adumbration of a future vow,
the dream uneasy draws the dreamer
nearer to the narrow gate,
elicits images in the nightly watch
where figures formed of sea foam
forge the secrets of my natal state
and voices disincarnate whisper
in an unknown tongue.

At last the vigil has begun
that yields in time to waking
in the frightful light...
but first the water rite.

Before the passage comes the dream,
the solitary drama in
the purifying night,
the inquisition by the ghostly shapes,
the trial by combat in the shadow play...

Then at waterbreak I tumble into day.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Many years ago, driven by ambition or called to a vocation, I set out to be a writer. Taken as an ambition it was noble enough; taken as a vocation it was more daunting, more frightening, than I then understood. However taken, its fundamental dictum was the same: write what you know.
And in those earliest years it was clear that I knew nothing, that an education was in order; and so one began. There were books, many books: at first the usual primers, later more elevated, more complex texts, and for a while it seemed that these might suffice, that I might find traced in the confluence of all those bound pages an arc of thought certain enough to permit my scripting of it. The path to knowledge seemed clear.
Things intervene. Another dictum, life's own no doubt. There was a war, domestic turmoil, intellectual carnage, a confusion of loves, a crisis of loyalties, friendships formed and friendships lost, illnesses and healings, a marriage, a wife and child and the imperative to provide, the drudgery and sometimes the exhilaration of work, the monthly web of budgets, taxes, grocery bills, the reluctant submersion in the world's larger thought...perhaps what Cioran calls The Fall Into Time. A dizzying fall, precipitous and disorienting. Now and then, along the way, I managed to take notes. It was as much as I could do.
Through it all there has been doubt. Doubt is corrosive, self doubt the most corrosive of all. The story is well enough known: uncertain even of his senses, my namesake needed first to slip his hand into the wound in his risen master's side to still his doubt. A terrible enough doubt, a terrible enough state of mind, so painfully solitary, to need such reassurance. What then of the need to slip one's hand into the wound in one's own side, the gash in one's own consciousness, in order to confirm one's existence, one's materiality, one's soul?
We are born into an age as though by lottery and pass through that into another and through that into another and through that another. You may call this process education, you may call it history, you may simply call it life. It is the same and it is true for all human societies, all congregations large and small. It is equally true for each individual, standing as each must, naked and steadfast, in the absolute uniqueness and liberty of his own soul.
Absolute uniqueness and absolute liberty...the only acceptable definition of self. Still, there are consequences to our nature as social beings, to our participation, willed or otherwise, in a larger consciousness, a consciousness not truly our own. Duties are imposed, as inescapable as gravity.
Once, some long time ago, a friend sent me a greeting card: "Be patient," it read. "Someday your ship will come in..." (and inside) "...But by then your pier will have collapsed." It may well be that I have been blessed with many prescient friends.
I am left standing then  precisely where I was all those  years ago, essentially knowing nothing. Nothing, that is, but the journey of my own soul, the convoluted elaboration of my own consciousness, at once fragmented and reassembled by the age into which it was born and the ages it has passed through. Some of those fragments I will collect here, whether to appease a narcissism or to complete a therapy I could not say. The conflict between two imperial dicta, the literary and the delphic, remains unresolved, but its unresolved state no longer provides a refuge from the promptings of the soul.
As it turns out, in the end, I must, after all, write something.