life will break you


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Text:

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.

– Louise Erdrich, from The Painted Drum. Used with permission.

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Note:

This text comes from Louise Erdrich’s novel The Painted Drum. It’s been observed that the apples here are a double metaphor. They are us, as we bloom, ripen, and live out our lives, but they are also individual opportunities. We can choose to partake, or we can let them fall to the ground, unused and lost.

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the time before death


Golden sunrise  clouds and rising sun in blue sky above sea and waves, fall, Atlantic Ocean; Falkland Islands
Golden sunrise clouds and rising sun in blue sky above sea and waves, fall, Atlantic Ocean; Falkland Islands

Roger Housden sent me this poem today.  He says: “that Kabir reminds us that it is so easy, and without even being aware of it, to slip into living life as if it were a rehearsal for the real thing. If you are able to take Kabir’s words to heart, you may feel the shock of living now. The truest life – the most passionately lived life – is one in which the gate of the heart is open wide to receive . . . to receive what, who? To receive the Guest, Kabir says. And who is the Guest? What does he or she look like? In the monasteries dedicated to Kabir’s teachings, in India, there are no sculptures of deities, no idols to be worshipped, no devotions to be performed. In the center of the monastery there is an open space with an empty plinth. For Kabir, God cannot be confined to religion, to form, or to name. The Guest is a general term that each of us can fill in as we wish. To stand in that openness is not only possible now, it is for Kabir an imperative. Salvation is not to be found after death; it does not require any belief, but it does demand that you fall down into the well of the heart. It demands that you leave behind your thoughts about your experience, and jump into the experience of living itself.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Sometimes we live in anticipation of an after-life with hopes that all we want and wish for may reside there.  The trick is to find it now as both Roger and Kabir advise.  In the here and now, and to break those ropes, even if only one.  The poem also reminds me of the ‘Eternal Occurence’ by Nietzsche which is a scary one to read but that’s a story for another day.

Here is Kabir’s poem that I share with you:
 

The Time Before Death
by Kabir
(Version by Robert Bly)

Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think . . . and think . . . while you are alive.
What you call “salvation” belongs to the time
Before death.

If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
Do you think
Ghosts will do it after?

The idea that the soul will rejoin with the ecstatic
Just because the body is rotten –
That is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
You will simply end up with an apartment in the
City of Death.

If you make love with the divine now, in the next
Life you will have the face of satisfied desire.

So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
Believe in the Great Sound!

Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for,
It is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that
Does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.

from freedom to knowledge


freedom1   freedom 1 freedom2 freedom3 freedom 4 Break-Through-From-Your-Mold-By-Zenos-Frudakis-Philadelphia-Pennsylvania-USA

I live in London and ideas of “self-mastery” and “you can be all that you wanna be” is less accepted in these territories than say across the pond.

Today, however, I am thinking about limitations, our own self-imposed shackles, golden handcuffs and what binds us within the moulds we set ourselves in and then say that this is my life.  I guess I am thinking about my own prison.

This morning I saw this picture of a sculpture and it moved me deeply.  It captured what I am currently feeling — the tearing away and the breaking from. Some days this feeling is more pronounced than others, more annoyingly persistent.  Some days I am less able to tolerate it.  And maybe this is a good thing despite how uncomfortable it feels.

The sculpture is one by Zenos Frudakis and is simply called ‘Freedom (from) to Knowledge’.

It depicts a human in four movements; extracting himself from the shackles of the exterior wall.

Sartre once said “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.  It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”

the dream of life


The Dream of Life
Alan Watts

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Alan Watts explains quantum physics idea of the multiverse, Buddhist idea of reincarnation, with a dream interpretation. Here he talks about the reason for life’s suffering and joys.

If you awaken from this illusion and you understand that black implies white, self implies other, life implies death (or shall I say death implies life?), you can feel yourself – not as a stranger in the world, not as something here unprobational, not as something that has arrived here by fluke – but you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental.

I am not trying to sell you on this idea in the sense of converting you to it, I want you to play with it. I want you to think of its possibilities, I am not trying to prove it. I am just putting it forward as a possibility of life to think about. So then, let’s suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream you wanted to dream, and that you could for example have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time, or any length of time you wanted to have.

And you would, naturally, as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes. You would have every kind of pleasure during your sleep. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each you would say “Well that was pretty great”. But now let’s have a surprise, let’s have a dream which isn’t under control, where something is gonna happen to me that I don’t know what it’s gonna be.

And you would dig that and would come out of that and you would say “Wow that was a close shave, wasn’t it?”. Then you would get more and more adventurous and you would make further- and further-out gambles what you would dream. And finally, you would dream where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today.

That would be within the infinite multiplicity of choices you would have. Of playing that you weren’t god, because the whole nature of the godhead, according to this idea, is to play that he is not. So in this idea then, everybody is fundamentally the ultimate reality, not god in a politically kingly sense, but god in the sense of being the self, the deep-down basic whatever there is. And you are all that, only you are pretending you are not.

choices


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Nikki Giovanni is one of the best-known African-American poets who reached prominence during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her unique and insightful poetry testifies to her own evolving awareness and experiences: from child to young woman, from naive college freshman to seasoned civil rights activist, from daughter to mother. 

Here is one of her poignantly thoughtful poems, Choices.

CHOICES

if i can’t do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don’t want
to do

it’s not the same thing
but it’s the best i can
do

if i can’t have
what i want … then
my job is to want
what i’ve got
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more to want

since i can’t go
where i need
to go … then i must … go
where the signs point
through always understanding
parallel movement
isn’t lateral

when i can’t express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express
and none of it is equal

i know
but that’s why mankind
alone among the animals
learns to cry

There is a fantastic analysis on this poem. It says that the poem has a double meaning. It has to do with the choices one makes, but it also talks about the thing or choices that the individual believes they should have that they do not. Just because a person wants something they may not get it. They have to make a choice between things that they may not have wanted to make a choice between to begin with. It is about settling to things because they may not have other options. The human races ability to make choices gives them another element of emotion that other species may not experience, this is why they cry, and this is what breaks us down.In the first stanza it is say if I cannot do what I want then I should not be doing what I do not want to do. Basically, if people are not presented with the ability to make the choice they want, then they should not be forced to do what they do not want to. The second stanza ties in with the first saying, these two things are not the same, but they are better than being forced to do what they do not want.

The third stanza goes on to say if I cannot have what I want then I should be satisfied with what I’ve got at least there is still something to want. Meaning, even though people do not get what they want, they should want and be happy with what they have, because things could be worse. They could have less or not have anything at all. It also saying at least there is more to want, saying that at least they are not on the other end of the spectrum. There one would have nothing else to look forward and work towards; for they have everything they could want, leaving them feeling almost empty.

The fourth stanza is saying since one cannot go where they want then they have to go where they are told by the signs. This is trying to hint at unfairness. When someone cannot go where they want, when they are blocked from it, they have to go where they are told or allowed to go. Even though it is not fair it is what they have to do if they do not want to get in trouble.

Nikki Giovanni wrote mainly to women, about women’s rights. She also strongly stood for civil rights. Each stanza, or part of this poem, relates to how unfairly women, different races, and more specifically, women from different races are treated.

The poem goes on to say, since one cannot go where they want then they have to go where they are told by the signs.

So I say follow your signs no matter how long or far because what you’re looking for is also looking for you 💙.

i am no bird; and no net ensnares me


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July 7 was an emotional earthquake,” she said. “In an earthquake, everything is shaken to the core. The foundations are split and everything is exposed and you can’t start rebuilding until you have sifted through the rubble and the muddle. Issues of faith are part of that rubble and muddle.”

This was cited in an interview conducted many years ago in the NY Times.

It was believed that Jenny Nicholson was reading The Magician’s Nephew on that day in July 2015 whilst on the tube at Edgware Road.

In the same article it was said that Mr. Lewis — “A Grief Observed,” published in 1961 after the death of his wife, the American poet Helen Joy Davidman — at a time when his faith was shaken into the suggestion that God “hurts us beyond our worst fears and beyond all we can imagine.”

In the recent BBC documentary, London Underground, agreed to halt a train briefly at the place where her daughter died. The moment was entwined with her musings on the Pietà — the Christian vision of Mary cradling the broken Jesus after his crucifixion. After the bombing, she said, “physically holding and cradling” her daughter was impossible. But she had wanted for months to enter the tunnel “and just stand a moment at that place where my daughter’s life ended.”

Parents don’t want nor expect to outlive their children. It seems unnatural and but I continue to witness that so much of what happens in our world is unnatural. I’ve given up trying to make sense of it all.

Yet I do know that amidst all the madness, courage, strength and hope, do exist. It is not lost. It is not gone.

And so as a Londoner but more as a human being, I’d like to wish you much peace, much faith to all left behind, and struggling to find faith even after 10 years.

My thoughts are with you, my heart holds yours for we are after all, all connected.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

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keeping quiet


Silence

KEEPING QUIET

by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go

–––

Every single poem in Extravagaria is rewarding beyond words, beyond time. Pablo seems to be saying that it would be a different feeling, or a different experience to see the world come to a halt, where everything stops, and everyone comes together in strangeness, a sudden moment of inactivity, which the world has not often seen.

I like that — for everything to stop, to stay still, to be quiet, to slow down.

And to think.

About Life.

About Death.

And the bit that happens in-between.