Thursday, December 23, 2010

Some poetry by T.S.Eliot I'm grateful I found

I'm sitting at home, sick as a dog,  feeling sorry for myself and Dorothy who has to put up with my sniffling and sniveling. I tried to go into work yesterday so I wouldn't get too far behind but I felt like an aching zombie inconsiderately exposing the still living to bad juju.  Besides that, my daughter Katie and her husband, Brian,  have left on their travels abroad.  They'll be gone at least six months and possibly a lot longer.  I'm thrilled for them but letting go is tough.  (Katie's keeping a blog, Leap and the Net Will Appear  where you can keep track of their exploits.)

So in this sick, disassociated, depressed frame of mind I came upon some poetry which helped me move closer to the positive side of the scale..  I'm grateful I found it and feel compelled to share it with my faithful readers.

The following are excerpts are from East Coker, one of Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot.  He captures much of what I've been trying to say in this blog over the past month or so.  I find it exciting to find poetry that speaks so directly to me.  

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

............And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate,
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate - but there is no competition -
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

Thank you Mr. Eliot.  The Wikipedia entry says that he considered the Four Quartets his greatest work and that it is what led to him being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"The secret voices of the innermost truth"

The title of this post, which comes from the quote from Siddhartha in my last posting, is an intentional pushing on the boundary of what I think I should try to write about. In other words, "who am I to write about the "secret voices of the innermost truth?"  and. who am I not to write about it?.  How far should I go in a public forum trying to sort out the mysteries of life and my role in the drama?  I suppose it comes back to goals.  I am not doing this to teach or influence.  I am writing as a process of seeking clarity.  To find out, as Hesse says, what is necessary. For some inexplicable reason I'm finding it easier to examine these things by writing this blog.

But the question of how much I should expose myself to other souls is a significant one.  I have to admit, I love getting comments.  They make me feel less isolated and alone.  But there is always a feeling that I'm dropping my pants in public. That embarrassing feeling probably helps me to not get too personal but I don't like it and wonder how much it is limiting what I could be discovering.

In the last section of Siddhartha, Govinda asks Siddhartha, "Haven't you found certain thoughts, certain insights, which are your own and which help you live?  If you would like to tell me some of these, you would delight my heart."   Siddhartha's replies, "...There have been many thoughts, but it would be hard for me to convey them to you....I have found: wisdom cannot be passed on.  Wisdom which a wise man tries to pass on to someone always sounds like foolishness....knowledge can be conveyed but not wisdom.  It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it,  but it cannot be expressed in words and thought."   Despite this statement Siddhartha presses on, perhaps trying to explain why words of wisdom become foolishness.

"The opposite of every truth is just as true! That's like this: any truth can only be expressed and put into words when it is one-sided.  Everything is one-sided which can be thought with thoughts and said with words, it's all one-sided, all just one half , all lacks completeness, roundness, oneness....But the world itself, what exists around us and inside of us, is never one-sided....a person is never entirely holy or entirely sinful.  It does really seem like this because we are subject to deception, as if time were something real.  Time is not real, Govinda, I have experienced this often and often again.  And if time is not real, then the gap which seems to be between the world and eternity, between suffering and blissfulness, between evil and good, is also a deception."

So when does foolishness end and truth begin.  The answer becomes,  at the same time.   The fool and the sage are the same.

Vision of faith

I was on  a retreat in a lodge nestled in Ponderosa pine trees outside of  Prescott Arizona in about 1988.  The priest leading the retreat asked us all to lay down on the floor, on our back, and get into a comfortable position using pillows and blankets. He then started a guided meditation asking us to imagine a restful place, etc.  I eventually stopped hearing his words and found myself lost in a corn field.  It must have been late summer because the stalks seemed twice as tall as me.  Initially I felt fairly calm. Isn't this interesting.  Nothing but cornstalks everywhere I looked.  Then I realized I had no idea where I was and no idea what direction to move.  This grew into sheer panic.  Pure fear.  Then it happened. An event which is in many ways beyond words but still fills my heart.  I looked up and exactly the same moment I was looking down at myself. Zap! I was floating above the cornfield and my eyes locked with the eyes of the small lost boy I saw below. A boy who was me at about the age of eight. At the same time I was the boy below looking up at the floating boy in the air.  We were the same but separated.  There was instant peace, tranquility, calmness, joy.  From above I could see the way I needed to walk.  I also could see a path beyond the cornfield that led up a mountain with a setting sun behind it.  The boy took a deep breath and walked confidently forward.

This vision remains important to me. It strengthens me. It reminds me that the answer to "what is necessary?" is always waiting inside as long as I don't let fear block out the signal.  It is the inner light of the Quakers, the secret voice of Hesse.  It is real and it is good.