Tuesday, September 30, 2014

To Overcome An

To overcome an obstacle or an enemy
To dominate the impossible in your life

- P. Simon, The Rhythm of the Saints

* * *

It is one of those statements that is both tedious and imbued with a depth of mystery so as to blow your head apart: where you stumble, there lies your treasure. Said another way: the obstacle is the way. It is tedious because it smacks of new age bullshit magical thinking. It has the odor of smug superiority on it, like it brushed up against a dead skunk. It is mysterious because if you can get past how ill-used this idea is, if you can overcome the odious nature of others who can name their obstacle, their god, their fall and move out beyond their reckoning of your circumstances and enter this idea as a pilgrim, man, what you'll find is something all the gurus and naysayers and doubters and believers and every fucking tomdickandharry dream of: a place past fear.

* * *

Fear is the reason for religion. Fear is the reason for economics. Fear is the reason for marriage and divorce and children and work and weekends off and new cars and foreclosures and politics, fucking politics, and the drive to keep up with and then bury the Joneses. We are fear born creatures. The world will kill you and our fight or flight response has allowed the species to survive to the point where we are so clever we are about to collapse our environment and thus bring to an end our cleverness. If you are a climate change denier, you are filled with fear. It is the opposite of my fear (that we'll never change), but it is fear nonetheless.

We are so puny, so incredibly puny in the vastness of space. Our first attempts at understanding our place, the order of nature, placed fear in the center of things: the cave bear altars are unknowable mysteries of trying to know the vicissitudes of life as they lived it: violent, hard, yet awash in the mystery of the unknown. As we aged we took on greater knowledge and our knowledge made us afraid. The motion of the stars only isolated us. Gods arose and fell to explain how we really are central to the heavens. In time new gods of money and acquisition took hold and all do the same thing: they paper over our fear that we are useless mites on a pebble in the infinitude of the cosmos.

Now think about you. Think about your circumstance, the thing that has fucked you. Is it not a fear you cannot face, or having faced it have no answer to it? Isn't the thing you have tried to avoid the very thing that has stayed with you throughout?

This is either tedious or revelatory.

* * *

When you live in fear there is a wall between you and life. What you experience is an approximation of life, a filtered thing, a dimmed thing because to remove that wall would be to experience your life directly. And that would mean dealing with the fear that has driven you. It would mean having to find something other than fear to propel your days. Make no mistake, we love our fear. It justifies us, makes excuses and there are scores and scores of stories we have invented to massage the fear into compliance (religion, politics, economics, etc.). But to overcome the obstacle, the enemy that has you on the run you have to let go of those stories, of all expectations, and sit with the impossible, sit with the fear, sit with the enemy until all such categories dissolve.

It isn't a ten step process. It can't be read in a book, or here, or told to you at all. It happens when you're ready to be done with being a fear born creature and instead choose to live out your days beyond others' categories. This is how the impossible is dominated.

* * *

A while ago I wrote about beyuls, sacred hidden places where the physical and the spiritual overlap. The story goes that they can only be found by adepts, pilgrims of great merit who have suffered long. When they find such a place, well...

What I am trying to tell you is this: the world itself is a beyul. The revelation is not outside of you, but solely in your eyes. The obstacle to be overcome isn't exterior to you, but is in how you see the world your life, all life. If gains are to be extracted like so such crude oil, then your life will live out as the oil is lived out: a slow process of depletion. If life is engaged, open-ended and without the certain comfort of others' religions, then your life will be lived out in a such a way that will blow apart all doctrines and instead become an unsayble, but fully knowable mystery.

You are the beyul, baby and your fears are your pilgrimage.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Sunday, September 21, 2014

And The Sky

And the sky was a woman's arms.

- The Handsome Family, Giant of Illinois

* * *

The beauty we can name is of the fine, delicate sort - easily recognized as such - that brings a measure of order and solace out of the surrounding din of chaos. The chaos that seemingly has a stronger hand to play than we ever will. We hang pictures and listen to music and plant flowers and write poems and stories and take photographs of the monuments we happen upon in our travels. We hold onto trinkets made by our children's willing, unskilled hands and imbue those clay figures and painted boxes with an innocence we ache for once we recognize it is gone. We do this because it grounds us, tells us our name, describes the place we live and is a bulwark against the uneasy slippage of time.

I am not religious, yet I wear around my neck a cross that was garbage picked for me by an old family friend and on the same chain I wear a St. Joseph's medal I acquired for myself to remind myself (as if I needed reminding) that being a father saved my life. Each is a symbol, a metaphor, that is both beautiful and recognizable. But what of the more difficult beauty, the beauty that cannot be defined, the beauty that cannot be fully described or understood? What of the beauty of open ends, broken pieces, scattered light?

And the sky was a woman's arms.

* * *

We stamp meaning into our lives because without it the weight of our puniness would drive us insane. Religion, philosophy, art, music, literature, our children, our beloved, our work - all can serve as the well-spring of meaning for our days.  Again, this is how we have survived since the cave paintings in Chauvet, and with man's first attempts to order his world through symbol and effort the idea of the individual is born. The ego we drag around can be traced back to those first artists. But for a while now that ego has been sick, twisted into a knot of anxiety, helplessness, broken-ness, fuckedness. We know more that any generation of humans, yet we are less at home in our skins, prone to retrograde violence and violence of thought. We narrow. We conform. We hide and pretend that all this suits us just fine. If you are fucked, it is clear it does not suit you at all.

We need metaphors that are not neat, clean and knowable. We have walked those paths for thousands of years. They are tired, played out. They lock us into patterns of thought and action that have the weight of history behind them, making them inert, dead, concretized.

To find a path out you have to think in metaphors that are not knowable, perfectly, recognizably knowable, but have in them the ineffable, the unsayable: the mystery of your consciousness spun with the larger mystery of all life.

And the sky was a woman's arms.

Those who would proscribe, who would say, "Thus is thus and no other," are lying sacks of shit. All fundamentalism (religious, political, cultural) is retrograde, backward, fearful. It cannot bear the thought of either our isolation, or our interconnectedness. But you know who can bear it? You and all us fucked fuckers. In our broken-ness we have seen the falsity of the inert, lifeless patterns laid out before us as the way and the truth. We have been broken against those patterns because we don't fit them. Either temperament or circumstance forced upon us the sense that there was something other than this to life, to our lives. The metaphors and symbols handed to us don't belong to us and we suffer for great swaths of time because we feel the fault is in us.

But that is not so. That suffering is a call to re-imagine the stories we tell, the art we make, the science we describe. The neat, tidy mythologies of the past were once feral, unkempt, wild attempts to understand our puny place in the cosmos. They don't work nearly so well anymore. We need to rebuild, recombine, re-purpose those ideas to create new possibilities for ourselves. And letting things be unknowable, letting a bit of uncertainty in, letting things be beautiful in their broken-ness, their incompleteness seems like a place to start.

* * *

And the sky was a woman's arms.

__________


Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Hands Shall

My hands shall not tremble
My feet shall not falter
The voyage shall not weary
The fear shall not alter

- Robert Plant, Rainbow

* * *

What can I say to you, my best beloved, that you need to hear? What story can I tell that will help you to set down your burden and find some ease, some peace, some measure of the happiness each of us craves? I can point you in any direction and find a story that echoes the hope you and I still believe in: the riddle answered, the path made clear. But it will be echo only, the reverberating voices of the ones who have come this way before us. They call out their trials and triumphs in song and poetry and legend and story and art and the work they put themselves to while there was time for them to do so.

They make us less alone, help us to be brave enough to carry on.

You know this is true. Stories are talismans, touchstones we rely on to find in the doings and deeds of others the line that connects us to them and so emboldens us to bear what must be borne and be able to dance as if it were no burden.

I litter this place with stories hoping you will find one that rhymes with something inside you. Sometimes these stories are deeply personal to me, other times I see in them a beauty I have not known before, still other stories arrive without volition and insist upon being heard. If there is one story that moves through them all, that has a part to play in each is the story of the road, of the hard road, the journey and the voyage out, away from what is known into realms unknown and unimagined before being set out on the road.

Joyce called it the monomyth.
Campbell called it The Hero's Journey.
I just call it the road.

If your life is be unfucked, you have to hit the road - your road. If you find yourself on a path already marked, that is not your road. The stories that come back to us are not maps to follow, but exhortations to get started on our own. The only value a story has is in telling you others have ventured it, not in giving you step by step instructions.

* * *

Here is what I know: you are already on the road. The length of your life is the length of your road. You can dismiss the idea out of hand, but it doesn't alter the fact that from your birth-cry to your death rattle you are on the road to find out what it is like to be you in this time and place. A fucked life is still a life on the road. It is just stuck, run out of gas, stalled. But the road does not retreat under your feet, but waits instead for you to use it. Make no mistake, you can stall and dither and remain stuck your entire life and never find out how much road you could have taken on. This is so. This is so. This is so. But there is also this truth: if you breathe then you can take on more road at any time. This isn't one of those ideas that belongs solely to the young, but belongs to any one who draws breath and wants to see what happens next.

I an 54. I've have been on the road a while. I have seen great chunks of the world, had the world pour gifts out over my head like falling rain, and I have been lost in a dark wood wandering, fucked and stuck and going nowhere. In the monomyth you are called out of your contentment, your known and prescribed community and put into unfamiliar circumstances. The call is often made by dark forces, malevolence, fright. On the road you are aided by guides and spirits you would not have believed existed before encountering them and after a series of trials you achieve the goal, acquire the boon, the chalice, the grail, the knowledge and must return home, out of this otherworldly realm, and bring the gift back to those who need it most: the ones you said good-bye to. A few weeks ago, I realized I could go home. The particular trials and challenges that shoved me out onto the road had offered up their gifts to me after 7 years. A new set awaits me - getting home, but the thing that always knifed me was the sense that old men don't get to go home, that this adventure was better held 30 years ago, that all of this talk about journeys and guides and the seemingly dark nature of the initial call out of the confines of your once ordinary life belonged to others and not me for I had waited too long to get started.

Well, that's bullshit. You hit the road or recognize you are on it when you are ready to see it. There is no timetable to waking up. It is always nigh. I was 47 when the shit was kicked out of me. I'd had the shit kicked out of me previously, but I didn't see it for what it was - a chance to wake up - and I slid by it hoping I could avoid ever dealing with it. That sort of thing never goes away and at some point you have to thrash it out. I waited and part of the trick bag I put myself in was: yeah, I see it now, but it's too late. I'm too old. Again, bullshit. That was one of the last lessons I had to learn. It is always being nigh, my love. Always nigh.

The last shall be first and the first shall be last because we worked harder for it and "it" being whatever it was that called you out and into your life. And even though others may have had the grace to manage all this sooner, even though the pain may have been crazy-making, wisdom doesn't come to those who never struggle, but to those who overcome, who understand the obstacle is the way they must go, who dance in front of their sorrows.

* * *

One last thing: that dark call, the malevolent spirit, the demon that set you out alone - unsteady, uncertain and afraid - was no demon, but metaphorically, an angel come to save your life. Even if, especially if they had no such sense of themselves and harm was all they wished to bring. I can tell  you that all day long and it won't matter until you see it for yourself.

We each have work to do and a road to travel. This is part of that work for me and I am glad for it.

* * *

And I will sing my song for you
And I will carry on.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Thunder On The

Thunder on the mountain rolling to the ground
Gonna get up in the morning walk the hard road down
Some sweet day I'll stand beside my king
I wouldn't betray your love or any other thing 


Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
I'll recruit my army from the orphanages
I been to St. Herman's church and I've said my religious vows
I've sucked the milk out of a thousand cows 


- B. Dylan, Thunder On The Mountain

* * *

There are hidden places in the world, sacred places where the boundaries between the physical and spiritual worlds blur, overlap, erasing distinctions between them. In Tibetan Buddhism these last hidden places are called beyul. If you have heard the story of Shangri-la, of paradise hiding behind a waterfall, this has its birth as the Beyul Pemako. The only ones who are said to be able to discover these hidden lands are pilgrims of merit who have suffered great hardship on the road to find out. Only then is it possible for the inner and outer worlds to become one and the same. But there is no promise made.

If you are called to adventure, then perhaps a road that passes through Tibet is in order. But in truth, as Proust said, "The real journey of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

Beyul surround you. No lie.

* * *

The purpose of life is to experience it. There is no other purpose. You are to experience what it is like to be you in this time and place. What you make of that experience, what meaning you then bring to that experience is entirely up to you. It is out of our experience that we create meaning. The tasks set before us become an endless stream of possibility for us to hone the edge of our intellect, our desire, our empathy, our compassion. How we respond to the facts of our lives, in fact, becomes our life. These responses, repeated and revised, become our way of moving in the world. At some point along the way, along the hard road down, we begin to discipline ourselves as a way of coping with the risks and challenges before us. We narrow some of the focus to become adept at things: earning money, playing guitar, raising children, performing surgery, dancing, cooking, teaching, etc. If the thing we become adept at is not truly an expression of our Self, then we find frustration, anger, disappointment along the way. Everything seems harder than it should be.

Disciplining ourselves to master a skill, to master a way of being in the world is useless if it is not a direct outgrowth of our innate ability. This is why we fall into ruts of unhappiness in our relationships, our work, and why we feel so unwelcome in the world. However; disciplining ourselves, submitting to the necessary apprenticeship of any skill or action that is a manifestation of our Self brings, in time, its own reward. For when you master your gift, you have mastered yourself and you know who you are and are at peace with the road you traveled.

But the beyuls....

Imagine you are on a pilgrimage. Imagine you are on a pilgrimage to a specific location. Imagine that while on this pilgrimage you have been robbed and beaten and the road is wholly lost. You need to find your way back to the road, to the destination you set out for. You believe you once knew the way. You believe you once knew how to get there, but you are no longer certain. You can't go forward and you can't go back, yet you continue to move. You think of laying in the dirt and simply expiring. But you take a step, and then another. It is always the same step, but you take it. You begin to lose things: your watch, your canteen, your compass. What keeps you moving is the idea of this place you were to go to, this sacred place where you would finally understand your life. It is no longer a place on the map because you cannot remember its name, but it is an idea that holds you together long enough to take another step. Before your pilgrimage you were a cobbler, an embalmer, a cook, a soldier, a shop keeper, a priest, a wife, a son and you remember how good it felt to be that, for others to know you as that and you hate the pilgrimage that has taken you away from that, from the certainty you once knew. You learn to read the sky and know when difficult weather is coming in. You learn which berries are safe to eat. You learn to catch fish with your hands. There is no longer a destination, only the pilgrimage: the camino, the road, the hard road down. Nothing of what you were before remains. One day you enter a small town. It looks like every other town you have passed through. There are signs above doorways that tell you what each shop offers: a pliers and tooth for the dentist, an astrolabe for the fortune-teller, a pig above the butcher's door, and so on. You have seen all of this before, in some form or another, and you make your way through the streets looking for the place you always look for: the temple. In other towns you have sat beneath crosses and crescent moons, stars and trees, and asked the priest or priestess how to get to this sacred place you once heard of, and had they heard of it, too. But you circle the town once, twice, three times, a hundred times and there is no temple. You are tired and enter the doorway with a bathtub over it to soak away the grime from the road. Water is drawn. You are left with some soap and a towel. You ease into the hot water and can see the filth rise off your body and float to the surface of the water. When you towel yourself off there is a mirror in front of you. You hardly recognize yourself. You are leaner, stronger than before. You can trace the scars of your journey from the first beating up until the scratches you took on that very morning coming through dense brush. Your life is traced on your body. All of your desire, all of your love, all of your longing and will is carved into you - with no difference between the scar and the thought that brought you on this journey. It is there, standing naked in a dim bathhouse, as ordinary as any other, you smile and finally understand.

* * *

I don't know your road, love. All I do know is you have to walk it. I don't know what trials you have already passed through, or what lies ahead, but I do know you are the only one who can experience them. I don't know what you'll make of your experience, if anything, but I do know you are the only one who can and what you do or don't do will have an effect on those you know, those you love, those you have yet to forgive.

The hidden place is you. You carry it with you. You don't know this. You still think it is in Tibet. It may be, but only if you make it so. The purpose of your life is to experience it and out of that experience respond to it. Your response may have to take you to the Himalayas. It may take you one town over, or just to the kitchen. It really doesn't matter. Any place will do, for every place is ready for you.

And one more thing: the pilgrimage doesn't end here. You have to get home and tell the stories. Most won't listen, but a few will, and so they begin.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Find A Thing

Find a thing that you love
Find a thing you understand

- Vance Joy, "My Kind of Man"

* * *

Everything changes all the time. We pretend this isn't true. We hide the fact of it from our consciousness so we can hold onto what ever is dear and meaningful to us. The slow slippage of age is hardly noticed until at some point there is a disruption in the slow decay and a parent or grandparent dies and we look through old photographs and marvel that they were ever young. Everything changes all the time in all places and we hold it at bay because we love this one moment so well, or in the obverse believe our pain is somehow permanent, a fixture, immutable. If we are lucky we see through our defenses. We see through the illusion of stasis and find rest in motion, our bodies in motion while they can still move.

How is such a thing possible? How can a body in motion ever find rest? Newton's First Law of Motion suggests otherwise.

You find a thing that you love. You find a thing you understand and live there, letting that love and understanding accompany you wherever you go, through all the changes that will course over you.

* * *

We each believe we are unique, an ultimate expression of life when in fact we are simply the current iteration of life. Our uniqueness is in recognizing that and still finding meaning and purpose in the life in our hands. For some it is too much to bear and they retreat to comfortable stories about the afterlife, about an anthropomorphic God and leave the wonderment of being alive behind for the certitude of death.  Others find in the infinitude of space the same emptiness they drag beside themselves - proof of their fear and anger that it is so. But, there are others still who find a thing they love and carry it with them, inside of them, throughout their travels. It is neither a promise of heavenly delight, nor the blackness of the abyss, but instead is the animating spark of their humanity. It makes them kinder, more patient, more understanding. It allows them to be brave, courageous, willing to sacrifice. What you love is different than what I love, and even if it were the same we would go about it differently. But all that matters is that you find it and live according to the demands it places on you to be kinder and gentler than you might otherwise be.  To find the thing you understand is to find the boat that will carry you across your time. What waits on the further shore is all conjecture. What matters, my love, is how you use your time getting there.

Find a thing that you love.
Find a thing you understand.

It doesn't have to be grand. In fact, I'd argue that grandeur is a sign you've fallen off the rails. No, the thing you love is scaled to your size, your life, your dreams. If you dream of feeding the hungry, then feed one man and your dream is fulfilled. If you want to house the homeless and you raise one roof, you have lived out the fullness of that desire. If the thing you understand is the unspeakable depths of the love you have for your children and you teach them by your example how to be kind, willing to love, then all is well, my friend. All is well. I think we dream outsized dreams so we never have to fulfill them, their distance is so great, the cause so noble and we can be contented that we meant well. But isn't loving your child, your beloved, your partner, your spouse as you two share part of the road together a miracle? It is humanity's one greatness: the ability to love. Find that. Live there. It is sweetness itself - not treacly sentiment - but sweetness as of cut grass and the smell of rain and the taste of your lover's skin.

* * *

Everything changes all the time. Through the love you find along your way you, too, will be changed. Fear becomes meaningless when you understand that we are here to love the best we can, to keep each other company - on a human scale: the scale of one loving another, the scale of one life alive to itself and doing the best you can with what that means to you.

How we express it is different for each of us, but the same truth holds for us all:

Find a thing that you love.
Find a thing you understand.

This is how you become a body at rest while in motion. Newton had this part wrong.

* * *

Boom.

___________


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Come With Me

Come with me to the forgotten lake
Where covered wagons and the wings of missing planes
Float between black fish underneath the velvet waves

Strange lights fly across the rocky beach
Girls in white nightgowns wander barefoot in their sleep
And the vapors of dreams winding circles 'round their feet
 

Down, down
Float them down
Let the waters float them down
To where they'll remember everything


- The Handsome Family, Forgotten Lake

* * *

Roberto Mangabeira Unger tells me we are mummies, bound by ever tightening roles as we age, where no freedom of movement is possible because the pressures brought to bear by institutions and societal expectations freeze us in time, embalm us to our supposed character. Here, character is defined as the habits that remain after a lifetime of fulfilling the expectations of others - both individuals and the society we happen to be in.

He is not wrong.

We do this because the dominant way of thinking and acting over the past 200 years (though born 2000 years ago with Near Eastern monotheisms) is based on a religious premise that we can ascend to a more perfect life after death and that life, the one we have in our hands, points in one direction and has a specific destination. Whether you are a believer or not, this mode of thought dominates the times we live in and is expressed profanely in commerce and baths the wars we wage in religious light.

And what does this have to do with you, bubbe?

Everything.

* * *

The pain we feel, as individuals, is the distance between expectation and reality. We expect to outlive our children; we expect our parents to protect and understand us; we expect the love we feel to be returned to us in kind; we expect our work to be fruitful; we expect fairness, equity, justice, but nowhere is it found. Instead we are taught the horrific lesson that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, or worse, that God does not give us anything we cannot handle. Really? Has anyone asked the thousands dead and dying from Ebola, AIDS, H1N1? The families destroyed in the Great Recession? To imagine that God doles out misery is to believe in a miserable God and is one of the ways your mummy wrappings tighten and tighten and tighten.

Enough.

1 Corinthians 13: 11
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

It is time to be done with childish things. Like the fairy tale that God is a spiteful fuck. We think that because we are spiteful fucks. We seek reasons and order and justification for the suffering our jelly bag bodies are prone to and so we have created God in our image: alone and afraid. This is the heartroot deep of the McWorld we live in. Old Testament wrath colors what we can even imagine about how to live.

But like I said, enough.

There are other ways of being. And this isn't just a New Age bullshit flip to some deeper Eastern mysticism. That's as much crap as anything else. It just another system. We don't need another system, another institution, another doctrine with adherents and followers and believers and executioners. We need freedom. Spiritual freedom: the vapors of dreams winding circles 'round our feet.

Listen, you know who you are. If you're fucked it is because you've been forgetting. Who you are is simple, direct and unfathomable: you are alive. There is no further destination. You are the destination. Your circumstances are the results of hundreds of years of people before you choosing to organize their lives according to this precept that life is to be perfected on a further shore. I will argue that is wrong on its face. What if life, your life, right now, was perfected simply because you breathe? Or, to refine it a bit, your life was perfected because you chose to pay more attention to the dreams that animate you and not the demands of institutions you find yourself living in.

No individual can succeed alone. The institutions and societal impulses are a reflection of the people who participate in them. If you can remember yourself, if you can see the strange lights fly, if you can remember everything about yourself and act from that well of knowledge then you will be the revolution itself. This is a spiritual revolution and if it only reaches as far as your front door, then that will be enough. You and I will not live long enough to see our society changed, but we can see the society of our family, our friends changed by our willingness to act as we are: creatures perfected by the life we live. Doing so we are bound not by forced expectation, but by love, charity, patience and courage.

* * *

Human life is no better than any other form of life. Part of the fairy tale is that we are to have dominion over the world. But that, too, is a toxic premise. All life is equally life. William Blake tells me for everything that lives is holy. He is not wrong. Here is why: we die. We perish. We pass away. The time to live is now. The comfort that can be offered is now, the passion lived is now, the joy, the regret, the suffering, the forgiveness, the birthcry of life at its term is now. 

You know this already.

You've just been forgetting.

It is time to remember everything.

* * *

Boom.

_________

Sunday, August 24, 2014

When The Lights

When the lights they go out
We congregate
The storm will come
And we shall congregate
The ground, ground will shake
And we shall congregate

And I will help you
'Cause you will help me through
This trouble at the the gates of this heart

- Rocco Deluca, Congregate


* * *

The ground, ground will shake, my best beloved and we will need to walk this road together: in good company, at poor peace, doing the best we can with the materials at hand. Lights go out, storms roll in and we are to weather it - not because of some holy doctrine, or a misplaced sense of suffering and martyrdom - but because experiencing our lives as they unfold is all we have. If there is difficulty, darkness, sorrow, regret then each of those things is to be experienced as well. We fuck ourselves when we hold on to them and wall off experiencing other things, emerging things, this one unfolding moment we have to breathe, to be brave enough to breathe and journey on.

And I will help you, 'cause you will help me through this trouble at the gates of this heart.

* * *

I sometimes doubt my ability to tell you what I know and if I could, would it be able to reach you as I hope it will. I stumble over the distance between experience and knowledge, between experiencing something and trying to tell you any of it so that you might understand exactly what it means. James Agee wrote:

The light in this room is of a lamp. Its flame in the glass is of the dry, famished delicateness of the latest lateness of the night, and of such ultimate, such holiness of silence and peace that all on earth and within extremest remembrance seem suspended upon it in perfection as upon reflective water: and I feel that if I can by utter quietness succeed in not disturbing this silence, in not so much as touching this plain of water, I can tell you anything within realm of God, whatsoever it may be, that I wish to tell you, and that what so ever it may be, you will not be able to help but understand it.

This, if I have a prayer, is my prayer.

We never get there, though. Do we? Our lover does not understand what it means when we look in their eyes and see gladness there, see desire and laughter there. We see it. We are boiled in love for it and what is left for us is a touch, a word, a song we can sing, but it never says it completely and here, too, the distance between experience and knowledge is left to be bridged with such inventions as we can muster: language, symbol, story.

Writing invariably leaves me sad because I know I have not said the thing I hoped to say. I circle the airport over and over in ellipses, a spirograph filling in as much as I can, hoping the pattern is recognized, but always knowing I can't ever get there because my experience cannot be transferred, only partially translated.

You know this is true. You know when you have loved someone so completely that the word "love" is puny and irrelevant. You know when your grief swims over you there is no telling of its completeness. You alone experience it and know its contours. In love and in grief, the ground, ground will shake, so all that can be done, all that we can do is congregate, to be present for each other. And that love, that grief falls to silence as we recognize the impossibility of not disturbing that plain of water and offer up instead the sweet bravery of another breath and journey on together for as long as we are together. This is how we get through this trouble at the gates of our hearts.

* * *

Shall I tell you of love? Can it be done? Can I tell you about a woman who boils me in love, such is the gladness I feel when I am near her? Can I tell you about the sorrow of a lonely death? Can I warn you away from the latter, so you might know the former? Is there a word that can be said, a sentence assembled that tells you any of this? I think Agee's tumbling, spilling sentence is the closest thing to human perfection I have ever seen; I think the color of this woman's eyes are the closet thing to human perfection I have ever seen. I think my mother dying alone is the closest thing to perfect sorrow I have ever seen; and the ground, ground will shake regardless.

So, we are left with imperfection, approximations of the experience of being alive when we try to tell, teach, share what we have come to know in our bones. And we do this out of great love, we do this because we have come to believe it is the best way to express our experience and we are not wrong to do so. But there is something else - not more, just another way: we can help each other through by keeping company, by catching each other when we fall, by being a witness to each other's joy and love and grief through the sweetness of silence, the road shared for as long as possible.

* * *

I write because I once thought I could be understood. Like St. Francis I now care very little for being understood. I just want to understand what it is like to experience life while it is mine to use. This morning, all I know is the road is still mine, the road is still yours. For a little while we can share it and that is all, that is all, that is all.

* * *

Boom. Boom. Boom.

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