Monday, January 01, 2007


Part I – Literary Landscape

Standing on the edge of Walden Pond,
It is possible to wonder
What all the fuss is about.

Thoreau came here to escape the industry of the nineteenth century -
restless, nervous, bustling, trivial nineteenth century America.
He came to live as deliberately as Nature,
To develop living poetry like the leaves of a tree
Standing at the still point of a turning world.

The Tao Te Ching says that
When men lack a sense of awe,
There will be disaster.
Walden was a refuge
From mechanized life –
A piece of untamed land,
Where the trees had not been cleared,
Where the soil had not been stripped,
And the waters still mirrored
Endless sky.

In the pioneer days of America, settlers hesitated
For forty years on the edge of the prairie.
They made their homes among miles of
Unbroken forest – beech, sweet gum, sycamore,
Oak, pine, magnolia – Tall and slender,
Struggling to reach the sunlight. There,
Where the land was cleared by the touch of God,
The pioneers stopped because the trees stopped.
We can only get a sense of a place
By comparing it to some place we’ve already been.
Cultural identity requires memory.
Cultural identity requires history.

As they moved west, the pioneers
Civilized the ground,
Grave by grave.
Thoreau was simply
Looking for home.

Some say that men and women on the frontier
Have a better chance of knowing a Supreme Being,
A more intuitive understanding of Eden,
Prelapsarian majesty, freedom,
The American Dream.
Keep the land,
The older generation says,
They aren’t making any more.
New communities are built on the growth of the soil,
Nourished by blood and bodies.
Our identity comes from those
Who surround and protect us as we age.

This truth cannot be unmade.
It lingers in our bones
Until we become one with the earth –

Our words and spirits are natives,
Absorbed in the landscape.

Part II – Time Past and Time Future

When I was a child,
Death seemed ever-present.
Perhaps it was because the world was new,
Because I myself was new –
A seed of oblivion,
With no remembered experience of continuity.

My grandmother collected clocks,
Insistent reminders of every dissipating second.
They kept me awake all night long,
Fearful that morning would never come.
Precedent meant nothing to me. At the time,
The world was De-substantiation:
Dematerialization, Attenuation, Liquidation, Vaporization…..

Now I know:
Nostalgia for the Past
And Hope for the Future
Exist in Time.
I know
This world was here long before me
And it will be here long after.
In a sense,
I exist only in Time.

Time is the only thing
Not susceptible to Time,
Because Time exists only in the mind
That perceives Before and After,
And allows us to function in the Now –
In a million moments of distraction,
In a million moments of contemplation
As we struggle to impose order
On our thoughts and impressions,
To find meaning in our lives,
And seek meaning beyond.
Time disappears only when we forget
What we know.

We discover ourselves when we unlearn.
There is only one moment.
Let the world dissipate.

Heraclitus says
God is day night winter summer
War peace satiety hunger,
Fire mixed with spices
Named according to the scents of each.

One summer day,
I stood on the shore
Of a lake where my ancestors lived.
In a sense, they are still here and,
For me, this is sacred earth –
A fountain of youth. I am
One blood, many bodies,
Divided by Time.

Months later, I fly over the place
Where my ancestors settled
On my way to somewhere else.
From the air, all settlement looks haphazard.
So what am I,
Looking down on those scattered trees
Beside a meandering river – one body of water,
Seemingly arbitrary in its course,
Seemingly arbitrary in its separation from land
And air – a speck of dust?
A reflection?

I exist only in the Now-Moment
We call Experience –
Experience of a still lake, a meandering river,
Roots, branches, earth, fire,
A conflagration, a mélange of hope and memory –
All these things in
A single moment,
A single thought,
A seed of oblivion,

This is the moment for which we wait.

Part III – The Awful Daring of a Moment’s Surrender

Headed west,
I am overwhelmed by vastness:
The expanse of the prairie,
The height of the Rockies,
The depth of the Grand Canyon.
There no use in trying to explain this feeling.
Words are not fit to the task.

At times, the silence is terrifying.

Months or years later,
I will try to remember these first impressions –
But memories of grandeur are fleeting.
Like smoke or spirit.
Instead, I will remember the names
Attached to the peaks and valleys –
Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, Venus
Buddha, Confucius, Osiris, Thor
Krishna, Vishnu, Shiva, Ra –
Names that conjure a less frightening
Feeling of awe.

This moment – when
Myths and legends are
Here and Now – is not here
if we try to hold on to it.
When the Soul knows something,
It loses its unity.
Therefore we must go beyond knowledge,
And hold to unity.

Meister Eckhart says
There is the soul’s day
And God’s day,
And nothing in all creation is so like God
As stillness.

I remember a day, ten years gone, when I was
Standing in an open field
Half a mile from my childhood home,
And a family of deer ran past me
It was an ordinary event, but
I am not thinking of the event.
Something in my mind broke loose
Like the tip of a melting iceberg.

I was empty.

Ever since, I have sought proof
That this was not a unique experience.
Others have tried to find words
To dispel the fear that arises from seeing without knowing:

In that unitive state, one sees without seeing,
Hears without hearing, thinks without thinking,
Knows without knowing…
We are saved by hope,
But hope that is seen is not hope…
When I pray for something, I do not pray.
When I pray for nothing, I really pray…

So the darkness shall be the light,
And the stillness the dancing.

When I first saw the sun setting over the Pacific,
I tried to remember when I had first seen the sun rising over the Atlantic.
But memory fails me.
I close my eyes
And imagine sunlight,
The way it dances on the face of the water.

There is nothing else in all the world.
I focus on this
Until the sunlight is gone –

Without fear,
Without hope.

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