Thursday, December 31, 2015

Becoming







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Nowhere is it the same place as yesterday.
None of us is the same person as yesterday.
We finally die from the exhaustion of becoming.
This downward cellular jubilance is shared
by the wind, bugs, birds, bears and rivers,
and perhaps the black holes in galactic space
where our souls will all be gathered in an invisible
thimble of antimatter. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Yes, trees wear out as the wattles under my chin
grow, the wrinkled hands that tried to strangle
a wife beater in New York City in 1957.
We whirl with the earth, catching our breath
as someone else, our soft brains ill-trained
except to watch ourselves disappear into the distance.
Still, we love to make music of this puzzle.


–Jim Harrison
Saving Daylight



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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

meeting





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... we die to each other daily. 
What we know of other people is only our memory 
of the moments during which we knew them. 
And they have changed since then. 
To pretend that they and we are the same is a 
useful and convenient social convention 
which must sometimes be broken. 
We must also remember that at every meeting 
we are meeting a stranger.

–T. S. Eliot
(The Cocktail Party, excerpt)

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Monday, December 28, 2015

she






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I think the dead are tender. Shall we kiss? --
My lady laughs, delighting in what is.
If she but sighs, a bird puts out its tongue.
She makes space lonely with a lovely song.
She lilts a low soft language, and I hear
Down long sea-chambers of the inner ear.

We sing together; we sing mouth to mouth.
The garden is a river flowing south.
She cries out loud the soul's own secret joy;
She dances, and the ground bears her away.
She knows the speech of light, and makes it plain
A lively thing can come to life again.

I feel her presence in the common day,
In that slow dark that widens every eye.
She moves as water moves, and comes to me,
Stayed by what was, and pulled by what would be.


–Theodore Roethke




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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Kierkegaard Proposes, excerpt






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The older Kierkegaard has entered his front door and is creakily attempting to lock himself in when it comes over him all at once, one last great wave of gloomy illumination: what if God’s greatest blessing is to render a person’s existence so intolerable, so completely unendurable that the next time he [or she] happens to grope for the familiar fear of dying, he [or she] discovers it is gone, is nowhere to be found, has in fact been replaced by a simple weightless sense of well-being and peace he (or she) had long forgotten he (or she) was capable of feeling.

–Franz Wright



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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Beannacht





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John O'Donohue
David Whyte
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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

regeneration






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Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit emblem of the human soul, for those whose cast of mind leads them to seek such emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.

–Pat Barker
Regeneration



Tuesday, December 22, 2015

homecoming





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Imagine the time the particle you are
returns where it came from!

The family darling comes home. Wine
without being contained in cups,
is handed around.

A red glint appears in a granite outcrop,
and suddenly the whole cliff turns to ruby.


–Rumi


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Monday, December 21, 2015

maybe




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They say every atom in our bodies was once a part of a star.

Maybe I’m not leaving, maybe I’m going home.

—Vincent Freeman
Gattaca


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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Our Real Home, excerpt






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As soon as we are born, we are dead.
Our birth and death are just one thing. 


It is like a tree: when there is a root there must be twigs. When there are twigs, there must be a root. You cannot have one without the other. 

It is a little funny to see how at a death people are so grief-stricken and distracted, tearful and sad, and at a birth how happy and delighted. It is delusion; nobody has ever looked at this clearly. 

I think if you really want to cry, then it would be better to do so when someone’s born. For actually birth is death, death is birth, the root is the twig, and the twig is the root. If you’ve got to cry, cry at the root, cry at the birth.

Look closely: if there were no birth there would be no death.
Can you understand this?


–Ajahn Chah




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Saturday, December 19, 2015

galaxies colliding





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At 19, I read a sentence that re-terraformed my head: "The level of matter in the universe has been constant since the Big Bang."

In all the aeons we have lost nothing, we have gained nothing - not a speck, not a grain, not a breath. The universe is simply a sealed, twisting kaleidoscope that has reordered itself a trillion trillion trillion times over.


Each baby, then, is a unique collision - a cocktail, a remix - of all that has come before: made from molecules of Napoleon and stardust and comets and whale tooth; colloidal mercury and Cleopatra's breath: and with the same darkness that is between the stars between, and inside, our own atoms.

When you know this, you suddenly see the crowded top deck of the bus, in the rain, as a miracle: this collection of people is by way of a starburst constellation. Families are bright, irregular-shaped nebulae. Finding a person you love is like galaxies colliding. We are all peculiar, unrepeatable, perambulating micro-universes - we have never been before and we will never be again. Oh God, the sheer exuberant, unlikely face of our existences. The honour of being alive. They will never be able to make you again. Don't you dare waste a second of it thinking something better will happen when it ends. Don't you dare.


–Caitlin Moran
hidden shores



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How a Hawk Clarifies Love and Loss, Beauty and Terror, Control and Surrender






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After her father’s sudden and soul-splitting death, Macdonald, a seasoned falconer, decides to wade through the devastation by learning to train a goshawk — the fiercest of raptors, “things of death and difficulty: spooky, pale-eyed psychopaths,” capable of inflicting absolute gore with absolute grace. Over the course of that trying experience — which she chronicles by weaving together personal memory, natural history (the memory of our planet), and literary history (the memory of our culture) — she learns about love and loss, beauty and terror, control and surrender, and the myriad other dualities reconciling which is the game of life.
Macdonald writes:
Here’s a word. Bereavement. Or, Bereaved. Bereft. It’s from the Old English bereafian, meaning ‘to deprive of, take away, seize, rob.’ Robbed. Seized. It happens to everyone. But you feel it alone. Shocking loss isn’t to be shared, no matter how hard you try.
Out of that aloneness a singular and paradoxical madness is born:
I knew I wasn’t mad mad because I’d seen people in the grip of psychosis before, and that was madness as obvious as the taste of blood in the mouth. The kind of madness I had was different. It was quiet, and very, very dangerous. It was a madness designed to keep me sane. My mind struggled to build across the gap, make a new and inhabitable world… Time didn’t run forwards any more. It was a solid thing you could press yourself against and feel it push back; a thick fluid, half-air, half-glass, that flowed both ways and sent ripples of recollection forwards and new events backwards so that new things I encountered, then, seemed souvenirs from the distant past.
Rippling through Macdonald’s fluid, mesmerizingly immersive prose are piercing, short, perfectly placed deliverances, in both senses of the word: there is the dark (“What happens to the mind after bereavement makes no sense until later.”), the luminous (“I’d halfway forgotten how kind and warm the world could be.”), the immediate (“Time passed. The wavelength of the light around me shortened. The day built itself.”), the timeless (“Those old ghostly intuitions that have tied sinew and soul together for millennia.”), and the irrepressibly sublime (“Looking for goshawks is like looking for grace: it comes, but not often, and you don’t get to say when or how.”).

Choosing a goshawk, a creature notoriously difficult to tame, became Macdonald’s way of learning to let grace come unbidden, a letting that demanded a letting go — of compulsive problem-solving, of the various control strategies by which we try to bend life to our will, of the countless self-contortion and self-flagellation techniques driving the machinery of our striving. Recounts the frustration of failing to get her goshawk, Mabel, to obey her commands — frustration familiar to anyone who has ever anguished by any form of unrequited intentionality — Macdonald writes:
I flew her later in the day. I flew her earlier. I fed her rabbit with fur and rabbit without. I fed her chicks that I’d gutted and skinned and rinsed in water. I reduced her weight. I raised it. I reduced it again. I wore different clothes. I tried everything to fix the problem, certain that the problem couldn’t be fixed because the problem was me. Sometimes she flew straight to my fist, sometimes straight over it, and there was no way of knowing which it would be. Every flight was a monstrous game of chance, a coin-toss, and what was at stake felt something very like my soul. I began to think that what made the hawk flinch from me was the same thing that had driven away the man I’d fallen for after my father’s death. Think that there was something deeply wrong about me, something vile that only he and the hawk could see.
Macdonald peers directly into the black hole of fury, a familiar rage directed as much at the rebuffer as at the rebuffed self:
The anger was vast and it came out of nowhere. It was the rage of something not fitting; the frustration of trying to put something in a box that is slightly too small. You try moving the shape around in the hope that some angle will make it fit in the box. Slowly comes an apprehension that this might not, after all, be possible. And finally you know it won’t fit, know there is no way it can fit, but this doesn’t stop you using brute force to try to crush it in, punishing the bloody thing for not fitting properly. That was what it was like: but I was the box, I was the thing that didn’t fit, and I was the person smashing it, over and over again, with bruised and bleeding hands.
And yet somehow, Macdonald unboxes herself as she trains Mabel into control and Mabel trains her into the grace of surrender, of resting into life exactly as it is rather than striving for some continually unsatisfying and anguishing version of how it ought to be. She captures this beautifully in the closing vignette — an earthquake, quite an uncommon occurrence in England, rattles her house and sends her panic-stricken into Mabel’s quarters, terrified at the thought that earthquakes alarm wildlife and often cause animals to flee. Macdonald writes:
I race downstairs, three steps at a time, burst through the door and turn on the light in her room. She is asleep. She wakes, pulls her head from her mantle-feathers and looks at me with clear eyes. She’s surprised to see me. She yawns, showing her pink mouth like a cat’s and its arrowhead tongue with its black tip. Her creamy underparts are draped right down over her feet, so only one lemony toe and one carbon-black talon are exposed. Her other foot is drawn high up at her chest. She felt the tremors. And then she went back to sleep, entirely unmoved by the moving earth. The quake brought no panic, no fear, no sense of wrongness to her at all. She’s at home in the world. She’s here. She ducks her head upside down, pleased to see me, shakes her feathers into a fluffy mop of contentment, and then, as I sit with her, she slowly closes her eyes, tucks her head back into her feathers, and sleeps. She is not a duke, a cardinal, a hieroglyph or a mythological beast, but right now Mabel is more than a hawk. She feels like a protecting spirit. My little household god. Some things happen only once, twice in a lifetime. The world is full of signs and wonders that come, and go, and if you are lucky you might be alive to see them. I had thought the world was ending, but my hawk had saved me again, and all the terror was gone.




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full post at the excellent
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Saturday, December 12, 2015

truly

 
 
 
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Don’t move. Just die over and over. Don’t anticipate. Nothing can save you now because you have only this moment. With no future, be true to yourself and express yourself fully. Don’t move.

–Shunryu Suzuki







Friday, December 11, 2015

above everything





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I wished for death often
but now that I am at its door
I have changed my mind about the world.


It should go on; it is beautiful,
even as a dream, filled with water and seed,
plants and animals, others like myself,
ships and buildings and messages
filling the air -- a beauty,
if ever I have seen one.


In the next world, should I remember
this one, I will praise it
above everything.
 


–David Ignato 



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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

begin





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Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.


Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.


Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.


Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.



–Brendan Kennelly



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