Writer Billie Hinton has posted a beautiful meditation on how love transcends loss, and the powers of memory and family.
She sees, they are all spiritual moments.
Billie’s books can be found on Amazon.
In my last post, I promised to ponder ways to stop the year 2011 from ending prematurely. I failed as always. The clocks struck midnight, the neighbors’ kids made a bit of noise, and I went to bed.
December 31 always arrives for me with a feeling that reminds me of high school: If I could just turn back the clock a bit, I’d do better on the final exam. No really, this time I’ll study more! Not that I did badly in school, but I could have done better. And I doubt I’m alone in the belief that if time would just slow down, I could do better in my life today.
The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down,
You can’t let go and you can’t hold on,
You can’t go back and you can’t stand still,
If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will.
— The Grateful Dead
Such existential angst makes champagne contraindicated. I’m glad to say, if nothing else, that I woke this morning free of hangover. And despite having a nastyass cold, I went for a walk in the sunshine out on the bluffs.
So it goes. So we find our consolations where they are. For me, that means January 1 should remind me that I am a by the grace of God a Christian man, and by my actions a great sinner.
I guess my point is that if we’re going to assess and take stock, undertake a fearless and thorough moral inventory or something less than that, it’s good to start with the basics. Remembering first what’s at the core.
Here’s a little video. Really, it’s music with a picture to look at while you listen. Some might recognize it as the icon of The Holy Trinity.
Here’s an alternative picture.
The music is cool, because it’s the Valaam Monastery Choir in Karelia, Russia, but they’re singing the 103rd Psalm in English.
Whatever you find at your core, the light in me sees the light in you. God bless. And let’s just forget this whole New Year’s Day thing, remembering Matthew 6:34: “ Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
Or as they say in certain other rooms, One Day At A Time.
Robert Bly is one of my favorite poets. He has shared the top of my list since probably 1985. I love his poems. I love his delivery. I cherish his sanity. It is so with all of those who inform our lives.
Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t
Escape from silence?
Watch and listen to this.
What is it about the ones whose lives are meaningful to us? What do they have that we need, and need to emulate? I propose that we are seeking clarity, a sense of our place and time, perhaps a tesseract to who we’ll be and to those who’ve raised us up.
I’ve always loved the first sentence in the anonymous book, The Way of a Pilgrim. “I am by the grace of God a Christian man, by my acts a great sinner.” That’s clarity.
My grandfather used to tell me, “stay in the boat,” and that was clarity.
John F. Kennedy said,
We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
The passage of a half century has turned that inside out. It’s not that the government is afraid to let us see the truth. It’s that the people are afraid to face it. We are a nation afraid of each other, not to even mention everybody else. We are afraid of the religions of our neighbors. And fear is not the opposite of courage. Indifference is the opposite of courage. Fear is the opposite of clarity, of truth, of sanity.
I am a Christian, not afraid of Muslims, or Jews, Buddhists, or Hindi. I love them and wish them peace. I’m not even afraid of the Westboro Baptist Church, though it makes me sick and I promise you it is no real church at all. I know this by a simple shibboleth: there is nothing in what they do or say that points toward Christ.
This week we have, many of us, been fixated on the personal implosion of a man who has lost his mind. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of this group of audacious lunatics, whose greatest and most ardently held tenet of faith is that they’ve figured out who and what God hates. Those people are insane. They have forgotten the face of love.
There are two things I know about God. First, that there is a God and I’m not Him. Second, that God is love.
With that I invite you, gentle reader, to join me in a search for simple clarity, whatever it looks like to you. Let’s choose one word, then another, and put them in their order. Let’s remember the faces of our loved ones, thankful that someone held our hand when we cried, hopeful for someone to do it again when we die. Because another favorite poet, William Stafford, had this moment of clarity:
Your good dogs, some things that they hear
they don’t really want you to know —
it’s too grim or ethereal.
And sometimes when they look in the fire
they see time going on and someone alone,
but they don’t say anything.
If I have hurt you, but I know
I have hurt you and left your love
withering like doves stunned
on wires, through countless days
of incredible sun, forgive the sun.
I have wandered off again,
looking for the perfect way
to make amends. I can’t imagine
finding it, except that you might
fly away and leave the wires
trembling and bare.
December 29, 2010*
Wiser men than myself have counseled the wisdom in taking personal inventory and when we are wrong, promptly admitting it. I’m sure they didn’t mean that coming face-to-face with one’s defects of character on an annual basis would be sufficient, and I hope no one thinks I’ve truly been so remiss. Still, as the year of entropy and disaffection yawns to a close, it seems fitting and proper to sweep the sidewalk just a bit. To the foregoing new poem, I would add just a bit.
I am a sinner who does not expect forgiveness. But I am not a government official.
— Francis Wolcott, Deadwood
No, that doesn’t seem quite right, normatively. I’ll try again.
I am by the Grace of God a Christian man; by my actions, a great sinner.
– The Way of a Pilgrim, anonymous, Russia, 19th century
That’s better, because … you know … I offer my sincere contrition, gentle reader, if I have offended, this year. So I do hold out hope for absolution. Feel free to confer it in the comments. Bogdaproste. Many thanks for that, and for your attention in 2010.
*Amends by Kyle Kimberlin is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.
– Kenji Miyazawa, poet and story writer (1896-1933)
Personally, given this as the alternative, I’m not so much bothered by paying $3 a gallon. Yet this does remind me of a passage from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott:
Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on. Now, if you ask me, what’s going on is that we’re all up to here in it, and probably the most important thing is that we not yell at one another. … “Ah! Stuck in the shit! And it’s your fault, you did this …” Writing involves seeing people suffer and, as Robert Stone once put it, finding some meaning therein. But you can’t to that if you’re not respectful.” [Bird by Bird, page 97.]
What a fine little book Bird by Bird is. I keep it handy all the time. It’s one of those books that serves as a sort of tuning fork for my creative world, and it’s in no way to blame for my stuttering, atonal FAIL. I’ve never been able to confirm the Stone quote, but it’s cool too.
In my experience, pain isn’t a good fuel. Recovery is, maybe. But pain is like a wildfire; it makes it’s own weather. It’s self-propelling, whether physical or psychic, because the stress of being in pain makes the pain worse. And the best path from pain back into recovering life is a good nights sleep, such as only comes when the pain subsides. That’s why the driving force of human advancement is as much pain relief as enlightenment, maybe more. But neither Miyazawa or Lamott are saying that pain itself is the creative groundwork. It’s the burning of it, the finding of meaning therein that serve the artist. Am I right?
Lamott goes on to call the writer, “a person who is standing apart, like the cheese in ‘The Farmer in the Dell” standing there alone but deciding to take a few notes. You’re outside, but you can see things up close through your binoculars.” Interesting. Compassionate detachment.
Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
So the poem I posted earlier this evening, Shelter, is about compassion. It’s something to hope for, standing on a high place, because I do not hope to know.
The words, “sacred spaces” have been bubbling around in my brain for several days, like a snippet of a song I can’t quite remember. I think it started while I was listening to music. Maybe it’s the title of a piece of instrumental music. Doesn’t matter. I’ve been thinking about the spaces that have served the sacred in me.
This shouldn’t be confused with sacred places, like a church. I’m thinking of something more personal, subjective, and intimate than that. Otherwise, what I’m thinking about would exclude those of us not given to the practices of priest or acolyte. Even if you are not religious, I maintain that your experience includes time abiding in spaces that are sacred to your soul.
I’m mulling it over, and a certain lost kitchen keeps appearing in my mind, with a soft light, people now with God, and hopefully there will be smells of cooking. You can mull it over too, if you want, and see what comes up for you.