Daily Archives: February 11, 2003

Work on the Soul

Work on the soul is busy work – it is unstructured, free-for-all work, meaning long stretches of silence, staring at ceilings, talking nonsense syllables to listening walls and trees; it is caterwauling at unseen demons, driving all night to the Devil’s radio, running and stomping and stretching and rolling in a ball in the corner of the bathroom weeping.

It is about space and time precisely because it has no space and time. It is finding that quiet place despite the intrusion of the outside world, beyond the realm of the noise, of the clutter, of the trains and automobiles that ceaselessly interrupt the silence of humming lights and appliances and blood forced through stretching veins and arteries.

It is hard and laborious effort that requires concentration, yet not that concentration of mind locked onto a single idea (at least not our definition of single signifying one small isolated incident on a palette of far more colorful and homogenous choices).

The work of the soul is to encompass and devour the cacophonous interruptions of space and time and yet let them live on, unaffected by our presence. When we search to find that secret, dark, silent place, we find that it is not secret, for it is populated by strangers we greet by name – our illusions of self, of others, of the two intertwined and the two in distant mirrors; not dark, for it is bathed in light – not a light directed outward so the faces of our “oppressors” are brought into view, or so the flaws of our acquaintances and lovers can be more closely examined, but a searchlight, microscopic in its laser-like precision, where we are brought face to face with our own illusions, preconceived notions, and false and hasty impressions of our belief system, a system which compared to the new view we have encountered of the universe may be reduced to babbling, meaningless chaos; nor is it silent, for with our outer eyes closed, we hear the tick and clanging of the universal clock of time, the rasping of the hinges of space, which we can only eradicate with our own song – which we can scream or whimper, call or challenge, whistle, hum or orate, knowing that our voice is but a pin drop in the giant chorus of our existence singing from before our birth beyond time until now.

from The Secret Undertown Ministry, Pseudographic Xenophoria, 1994

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Current Reading List

For those who are interested in this sort of thing, here’s what is currently on my reading list (we just got Barnes & Noble gift cards for birthday presents, and I couldn’t resist running out and purchasing new things)…

Perfume (Patrick Suskind) – translated from German, this is a very strange psychological murder mystery about a man born with no scent, who interprets the world by smell, and ends up becoming a master perfumer and a distiller of human essence (yep, that’s where the murder comes in). A fascinating book, until recently out of print but now available again.

The Story of my Experiments with Truth: The Autobiography of Mohandas K. Gandhi – a very humble retelling of Gandhi’s early life (basically up to his return to India from South Africa and the beginning of the Indian Independence struggle). He was very honest about his own faults, and this book was the inspiration for most of the world’s civil rights struggles since its publication.

I, Claudius (Robert Graves): I had a friend in high school who was always carrying this book around, but I never read it. I saw the PBS version (I think Derek Jacobi was Claudius?). It’s an interesting counterpoint to Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, which I’m also reading. And ever since I read the White Goddess, I have loved Graves’ writing style and point of view. Trivia: Robert Graves was the first cousin of Lady Olivia Robertson, the founder of the Fellowship of Isis.

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Morning Dew

On a cold morning, like this one has turned out to be,
it crunches lightly underfoot, the crisp grass tines
bending to earth with each soft step,
wetting shoes with a coating of earth-cloud-moisture.
It glazes the car’s windshield, seeming so permanent
at first glance.

Yet with the sweep of a sleeve, it is gone;
In a few moments of first rising sun, it is dissipated.
The world is made of moisture such as this appears to be,
it quenches the thirst of genius and madmen
in the early hours of dawn; the veneer of parched desert
can be peeled away, and the sweet, cool wet marrow
of life can be trickled on the tongue,
a tempting treat to feed the mind’s desiccated spaces.
Yet with the raising of a fist, it is gone;
In a few moments of burning books, it is destroyed.

On a cold morning, like so many in the past have been,
there are those who fail to embrace the waking world
that waits, patient, for our tentative acknowledgment,
offering nourishment for our ravenous souls.

They see only thoroughfares to transport human need,
a path to wear down.

Yet with the touch of a breeze, it is gone;
In a few moments of senseless violence, it is desolated.

11 FEB 2003

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