Daily Archives: July 22, 2003

On Living and Dying

Go forth gentle into that coming night;
for a new world to come, the old must give way.
Know this: there is no dying of the light.

Though we may grasp at things still within sight,
because the wise make peace with this world, they
go forth gentle into that coming night.

Good deeds, their sparkle faded, seem not bright
as the lamplight from our wick fades away.
Know this: there is no dying of the light.

Release your wild and worried fears in flight;
the doubt that lingers, let it fade today.
Go forth gentle into that coming night.

Each of us sees in death distress and fright,
imagining this chapter’s end is gray.
Know this: there is no dying of the light.

So now, my friends, perched there on that sad height,
no curses give; do not this life betray.
Go forth gentle into that coming night;
know this: there is no dying of the light.

for Sogyal Rinpoche and Dylan Thomas

22 JUL 2003

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Speaking in Parables

Sometimes it seems that words are so inadequate to describe the true nature of things. As a poet, I find that lack of expressive ability most trying – particularly when what is being described is seen, but not so much with the organs of sight, but with the entire being. English, I think, is limiting in that there are so few ways to clearly illustrate the perceptions of all the senses and translate those experiences and impressions to a world that seems so caught up in the way things look as a means for definition. As a Musician, I can appreciate the sound of things – in fact, it is the tone in a voice that conveys to me so much more than the words that voice is using. Perhaps it is an identification with a more “animal” level – dogs, for example, don’t really much care what you say to them; they are more interested in how you are saying it. They understand the underlying intent, maybe, more clearly than we do at a conscious level. Definitely, the medium for the message affects us in often unnoticed ways, but it is seldom that we make the immediate connection between our perception of tone and the way the speaker makes us feel.

One of the dangers, of course, with using any language well is that one can appear to be extremely knowledgeable about something by merely putting words together in a “recognized” cohesive pattern that seems educated. How deceptive that can be! We live in a world where the manipulation of language for the purposes of coersion, conversion and consumerism is a phenomenon that barrages us on a constant basis. We place so much trust in a speaker that can complicate an issue beyond our grasp. Simplicity is seen as a flaw, something to be avoided except when necessary to communicate with the “lower” classes, the unwashed masses, so to speak.

Of course, I am guilty of this as well. Perhaps that is why I tend to relate my impressions of the world in the metaphor of Poetry, in the distillation of images – trying to capture the essence of a thing, rather than explicitly describing its characteristics. As you can see from reading this voluminous discourse so far, it is very easy for someone with a command of the language to say very little in a long stream of words. But on an intellectual level, I think this is how we all operate. Not necessarily to convert, or to convince, but simply because the idiom of written and spoken language requires it in our exposition.

At this point in my life, I am floating between two worlds – the world that requires thorough documentation, and the world that operates on the ephemera of innuendo and suggestion. But what is it that I am trying to explain, and to whom? When I look back at the Musical ambitions that I have for the most part abandoned, it seems that lyrically I was trying to make things as dense as possible, while Musically I was seeking more and more simplification. But is that like putting old wine in new wineskins? Or visa versa?
So many questions. Are they all necessary, or are they merely a myriad of manifestations of a few, straightforward, simple queries? Behind the flurry of activity that fills the mind, the basic necessities of life being hidden. The common, ordinary, rudimentary requirements for continued existence. To think of it as a shared bond that unites us as equals is to think of it as a set of fetters, that tie us, so that, in the metaphor of W.E.B. DuBois, when one crawfish tries to escape from the barrel, the rest, being intricately linked by virtue of being so closely crammed together, claws and tails and antenna intertwined, pull that single probing creature back into the mire of their common bond. So often, we think of “common” and the image is of boring, everyday, lowly and plain. But that is our humanity, isn’t it? That which makes the “other” our mirror.
There is a journey that I must make, that we each must make, absolutely and completely alone. But we do not make that journey in a vacuum. Our path is in this world, where countless others have tread and where multitudes of others also walk and will walk in the future. Like Thomas More said:

“Each of us is in this cart, headed for execution. Who then should I hate, or feel angry towards, or despise?”

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Pursuing Happiness

Pursuit is chasing after, without loving to run –
not enjoying the wind whipping through your hair,
almost forgetting the purpose the race has begun –
just looking for something, you know not where.

Seeking is visiting a thing where it lives –
not wandering a hidden, overgrown mew,
almost losing your way as the underbrush gives –
just remembering something you already knew.

There is no joy in pursuing, unless your quarry
truly wants you to catch it, and gives you the chance –
and then, in a meaningless bother and flurry,
you imagine yourself and it, partners in dance.

But with seeking, you approach with an open heart,
bearing gifts for the host of the place;
knowing not what you will leave with when you part,
only sensing the truth with an honest face.

22 JUL 2003

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