Love is Old, Love is New

easternmeditate

For the man of the east, love is young. It is young because it is fleeting. One might ask why the eastern man is not young himself. It is because he has aged thousands of years. There was a time when he was young, when he rejected all circles, simply because they were circular. The history of the world can be seen as a great succession of philosophers searching for knowledge,  trying to establish truth that seems to fit. But, no truth has been found to stand on its own. It is a circle floating in mid air. To live in a circle and deny its circularity is to strive in vain to be young. There came a time, however, when he no longer went from circle to circle but chose to  accept the inevitable. He became old. Love, then, to him is young.  You will find the eastern man today talking of love as if he were a child, making headlong leaps into its depths, leaving reason behind. The eastern man is a man who sits, who does not fight, and love is the one thing that will make him move. And upon moving he regains his youth if only for a moment.  For fleeting love makes him dream. Lost in the dream, he is found. But, he expects it to leave, as the rolling wheel must continue onwards. And when it does, he sits once again.

The western man has found that love is old. Ever after the time of Christ, love has told him it was old. And through love, the western man has stayed young. He has not been satisfied by the circle, but has found his reason to be straightened by a cross. The heavens have reached down to man, set him on a foundation, and caused him to stretch his arms in equal love unto his neighbor. The cross is a  fitting symbol of the west. But, as we have grown, many have found the brightness of heaven too revealing. It pierces their covering and discovers their nakedness. So, they have sought the solace of the circle. But, in this, they are not satisfied. They wander from unsatisfying circle to unsatisfying circle, not content with circularity. But old love has been tainted with the passion to be old: for man to grow more mature than his maker. And diluted love cannot make due on the promises it made when man was young. It has been reduced to only physical gifts. The western man will be heard speaking of love in old terms, but not with reference to its origin. He will speak of his tiredness of it; of the fleeting satisfaction it gives and his having been left bereft of something sure, something lasting, something that should have always been there. Old Love.

Dreaming Awake

The past is a dream, man has only heard of it,
Man dreams of the future, that cocooned hope,
Which reveals itself further each moment.
Thus speaks man: all is but a dream.
We walk conscious after somnium,
Carrying the symbols and stories of old.
We look to the gifted prophets of oraculum,
Oracles, rightly called, giving future guidance.
We cross to to fro by present means of nature’s tradition:
What infinite patience regulates each stride we take,
Each going no faster than the previous!
Who can hasten his stride or quicken his step?
We march to the wild rhythms and harmonies of nature.
But dreams sometimes break the present cadence,
Chiseling away at faith in the visible world.
Evil and virtue wear different masks in the sleepy night,
Clarity is sifted by confusion, distortion is brought to light.
These apparitions can overpower the woken world
And color each moment, authoring new states of mind.
In sleep, I leave that unyielding stride and forsake all men behind.
Yet, if all men only dwelt in my night visions, And I
Were alone in the wakeful world of a lonely sky,
Earth, and sense; waking hours would be dreams,
Dreams without friends; passings of the desolate.
He who hasn’t doubted the world, hasn’t doubted his faith.
Yet, in doubt, we resort to things uncreate,
Things eternal, divine whisperings,  immortal Ideas
Which history and shifting fashion cannot exterminate.
Standing before them, all nature seems but a shadow,
An imitation, and a dream. These resortings
Are foolishness to the faithful– shallowed faithful,
Jailers who doggedly confine their sight to their eyes,
Forbidding their inner light to burst forth and see. 
Yet upon ascension to eternal regions, free men meet
Judgement, Truth, and Justice, and Love.
All good men, in their presence, find they are evil;
Repentant men meet and are redeemed by good.
Humbly, then, we judge the visible by the invisible,
And receive a repaired faith, grounding the world.
But the judgment of the prideful: the good who remain good;
Upon greeting the Idealic Heights, see only a mirror,
And having pondered their reflection, have no idea
What manner of men they are.

 

An Old Irish Story

The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air.

The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,
A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope
And struggled to release it. But in vain.
‘This man can’t bear our life here and will drown,’

The abbot said, ‘unless we help him.’ So
They did, the free ship sailed, and the man climbed back
Out of the marvelous as he had known it.

– Seamus Heaney, Seeing Things, p. 62.

On Death

I stand at the shores of a quick-raging river,
My eye reflects the city lights on the other side,
Which flow deep in the soul drowning my bitter,
While I wait for the boat to carry me past this late tide.

In this great world and wide, I trace the sun’s circuit,
Anticipating the time when it and I intersect,
This declining west I muse upon as the world glows
From the dying embers of this warm communing fire.

Yet as my eye passes through this scene,
My inner eye glimpses a dim-glassed mystery,
I too will be translated into the morning,
Where west touches east.

For those who get their dying done early,
The loud clamor of death is transformed
Into the gentle language of a quiet invitation,
At which the heart soars, beset from behind,
On the illumined path to the eternal.

For now, I act upon this material stage,
But the curtain will have its final say,
For some shall step beyond the curtain,
To begin his soliloquious apology,
Only for rough grief to be met with tender mercies.

 

(Soliloquy – A speech in which the actor talks to himself but the audience listens in.)

A Revival of the Deepest Things

Verses on a Barrier Island of Georgia, from Lanier Ivester at Laniersbooks.com

Brownsguides.com

Love Song for an Unlost Land:

“Living God! Was there ever a world of such grace?
The beauty of a thousand summers lives on here,
with the souls of all their flowers,
and the heady young glory of my own greening spring.”

As of late, humanity has rushed head long into a disconnectedness that separates us from almost everything. John Stuart Mill proclaimed the individual was paramount, and expounded a doctrine that de-emphasizes community, family, and fraternity. The Enlightenment separated reason and imagination. The founding fathers separated church and state. Everywhere we see distinctions between organic and inorganic; conscious and unconscious; design and random variation; mind and body; reality and fantasy. Yet, being able to discern distinctions, doesn’t necessitate a separation.

In these verses above, the separation between man and nature is starting to blur. The memories and experiences of years gone by are wrapped up in the beauty of one particular island so much that the author has a kind of parallel journey with the island itself. As it becomes “green”, so does her own maturing mind. The flowers possess more than just matter. The author imagines that they have souls that echo across time and express a foreshadowing, as if their coming into being and passing away was just a preparation for her arrival. Already appreciating the history of the island, she begins her own history with greater significance from this point forward.

But, in the very first line, the author reveals a truth about the world; namely, that the world could have been different, less beautiful. Indeed, anything less would not have inspired these lines. This inspiration comes from a revival of the deep wonder mankind once held for the world; something that fairy tales remind us of now. A fairy tale land in which water flows up to the skies reminds us for one astonishing second that water flows downhill. We imagine bears talk because we have lost amazement for that fact that humans do. A frog who turns into a prince highlights the wonderful fact that eggs incomprehensibly turn into chickens. We have grown too old to appreciate the unfathomable repititions that take place in the world, forgetting that the real joy is the repitition. A child of three thrown into the air and caught again asks his father to “do it again” to the point of exhaustion because he is thrilled at the astonishing fact that he actually can be thrown into the air. We are, in a sense, older than our Maker: every second, He is delighted in keeping the world in existence and producing the same effects.

Let’s not think, however, that fairyland is illogical. On the contrary, a wizard in Mordor may be more logical than a scientist in America. Mythical characters may believe that beanstalks grow to the skies, but they are not confused about how many beans make five. And if the wolf jumps down the chimney into the fire, the pigs do not doubt that the fire is burning the wolf. The wizard may thrust his staff in the air to move an object across the room, but he does not say the that effect was necessary from the cause. It is the scientists who look at two associated events and imagine that there is some necessary connection between them. They talk of trees bearing fruit as if this they could do no other thing, but there’s nothing illogical about trees producing faeries from leaf buds or tigers hanging by their tails from branches. The world could have ended up that way, as the wizard knows. After all, it happens in his country sometimes. The mere fact of an apple falling and hitting the ground does not make a necessary connection, just a strange repetition. The scientists muddle their heads, and imagine some forced necessary connection between the cause and effect, as if it could be no other way. They call it a law, but it’s just a fantasy. We all know real laws can be broken.

However, something much deeper is going on here in Lanier’s verses than just cause and effect. The whole verse is a response to the life-filled communication flowing from the earth itself. The author receives it and responds in turn. But, if this experience is real, we have to acknowledge that the world is more than just dead matter; that it’s more than the sum of its parts; that there is something going on behind the scenes.

Every person knows through experience that we are more than the sum of our behaviors, and we extend that acknowledgment to others. We are more than just an organic machine. What if we extend this ability to see ouselves as more than the sum of our parts — to animals, plants, or even to what we regard as dead matter? Suppose everything spoke to us in a silent language, and we, upon hearing, decided to return the conversation. Lanier explains to us that she takes in more than the air in her next verses as she recounts her voyage to her beloved island and her anxious feelings:

“My past waits on through all the long winter of exile,
brooding under moss-hung trees and haunting the cloistered shades
with a memory of joy too tender to be told.
I find it once more—and my own self with it—not in the slow gathering
of unforgotten days, no quaint posey of remembrance, delicate and intentional,
but all in a rush, in one greedy draught of golden air,
sailing over the causeway like a homing bird.
It assails me with an embrace that takes my breath
and never fails to summon a spring of tears.

How kindly this jeweled Isle has kept my times, whole days of deathless joys
and hours so precious this world seems scarcely large enough to hold them.
Surely it was a dream: that age, that innocence, that marsh-skirted island itself—
so my winter-soul speaks amid the cold despoiling of earth and tree.
Surely life was not meant for such sweetness.”

It’s worthy to note, Lanier does not fabricate her memories of the past. She does not manufacture them deliberately through careful recollection. She meets them and herself head on in a clashing embrace with nature. But, she is careful to reveal her doubts about it all. Maybe, before, it was all just a dream. Maybe she will be disappointed because it won’t live up to her romantic expectations. These are the kind of thoughts we entertain when we feel ourselves disconnected from the very world we live in. This is the beginning of suffering; for to doubt is to suffer in uncertainty.  The world sometimes is an unfriendly place, quite dangerous and full of hurtful things. Many run from suffering and blame God, the spinner of this dangerous tale. Yet, the presence of dragons in fairy tales isn’t repulsive to us. Who doesn’t want to live in Tolkein’s Middle Earth or C. S. Lewis’s Narnia in spite of all the dangers? Part of the reason these places are fantastic is precisely because of the enemies and the challenges to be overcome, the dragons to kill, and maidens to rescue. What is a fairy tale without a villain? So, may we too have appreciation for the dangers even in our own world.

Lanier describes her soul as if it was still in winter, when we all stay indoors and dare not venture outside too long or harm will come to us. A physical separation facilitates a mental separation. This is reminiscent of the pursuit of objectivity in science. To gain objectivity, humanity disconnects from nature as much as possible, and then man dissects himself into body and mind. It all leads to meaninglessness. When broken down into parts and treated as if the parts, designed or not, make up who we are – meaning and purpose lose their grip.  If only we could begin to see the world not as dead matter, but as personal and engaged with us; a world which we are intimately related with, and completely dependent upon.  Sir John Davies, in his poem Orchestra, describes this relationship with the world as a dance:

“And now behold your tender nurse the Air
And common neighbor that ay runs around:
How many pictures and impression fair
Within her empty regions are there found,
Which to your senses dancing do propound!
For what are Breath, Speech, Echoes, Music, Winds,
But dancings of the Air in sundry kinds?

For when you breathe, the air in order moves,
Now in, now out, in time and measure true;
And when you speak, so well she dancing loves,
That doubling oft, and oft redoubling new,
With thousand forms she doth herself endue:
For all the words that from our lips repair
Are nought but tricks and turnings or the air. “

We are, indeed, more intimate with the world than we admit to ourselves, and dependent on the air even for our vocal communication. But there is more going on than just vibrating air molecules travelling from vocal chords to ear canals. For all of speech is a product of strong imagination working together with reason. We take an “airy nothing” that exists in our minds and give it a form we can use to communicate. Shakespeare has a good explanation for this activity in A Midsummer Nights Dream:

“And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.”

The skill of strong imagination is needed to turn “airy nothings” into unique ink marks on a page or vibrations in the air. These are the bodies and habitations we give them. By our very essence, we are creators. And it is through understanding our own propensity to create that we can understand how the world was created. Just as we body forth the forms of things unknown, so too does God body forth things into material bodies and creates a habitation for them. The unspoken word in our minds is like the Word before the universe began; the forms and habitations we bring forth mirror the actual forms and habitations the Creator brought forth. But, God isn’t just bringing forth essences and ideas into matter and energy; He is also telling his own “fairy story”, his own “myth”, which turns out to be real. Our stories are only variations on the original.

When we decide to reconnect with nature and know ourselves more fully, we find grounds for belief in God. His very creation tendencies are inside of us. Yet, this realization lies, is us, dormant. We still live in the winter of our disconnectedness. Is there a way for us to be reminded of who we are? Can we remember what we have forgotten? Or was it all just a dream?

Lanier continues:

“But I have only to catch a wandering breath of jasmine on the breeze,
or a lemon-thrill of magnolia, or even (or mostly)
the Maytime gift of lowly privet,
to doubt my own doubts and laugh my unbelief in the face.
Before such sweet convincing flee my land-locked thoughts,
like wind-tossed foam scattering over a silver shore.

But, ah! To come—to feel the sun’s wealth falling warm upon my upturned face,
To drink the cordial of the salt-laced air and see the curtained moss
waving and parting in welcome—
is resurrection; a revival of the deepest things, as real as the awakening fern
that inhabits the boughs of these legend oaks, kissed alive by rain and dew,
furled fronds unwithering in a sudden flowering of green.
This is my gift, my grace of this undying place. My hoarde, my fairy gold,
that makes me rich beyond compare.”

Sherpaguides.com

Let us no longer regard the world as dead, but as alive and communicating with us. Let there be a revival of the deepest things; a realization of our lost greatness in spite of our present wretchedness. Then may we find ourselves rich beyond compare.

The Questionable Plan

God bent down with pensive face to light the world on fire,

His hands had weaved steadily the temporal fabric,

That was to become every essence,

Giving life to his paradoxical and intricate plot.

 

And as he stooped low a certain wise spirit revealed an apprehensive countenance,

For he had examined the story that was doomed to unfold,

And felt distraught and troubled over one crimson detail,

A detail immersed in sorrow amongst millions of joys.

 

“What does this mean here?” the princely spirit ventured, “And by what…

He persisted, “what majestic reasoning does this torment need to occur?

Are you not responsible? Have you not become the most abhorrent of all beings?

For in all eternity there has not been such misery, affliction, neither injurious action as this!

Give account now, Oh most Powerful, for this is above comprehension!”

 

This dissident spirit was referring to a small part of the story,

Yet the most significant– Its words were the blackest;

Its pain was the greatest; Its actions were the vilest;

Yet its innocence was the purest; and great was the tragedy thereof.

 

The world was to know joy and bliss,

Endless it seems was to be the dancing and gaiety,

With no absence of bread nor luxury,

Except for one blight– a girl, five years old.

 

She was to be the unhappy daughter of a most insidious couple,

Who took great delight in beatings; conscience hindering them not.

Sent to work in the fields was she in heat and in wet;

Night after night she found no favor yet hoped for a kind touch.

 

The bed was not restful either for she was plagued with dreams,

Of strange men in black coats– hot breath betraying sinister intentions.

At times she woke in the light of dawn fearing the dark fantasy,

And reeling from the medicine she was made to drink the night before.

 

The light of day was no better for there was no one

In whom she could confide but when help was requested,

She was beat all the more receiving severe lacerations,

And sent to reside in a box with the lid shut,

While her parents would leave and return to the house,

Some time later smelling quite strong and acting so violently,

That she desired to stay in the box which became a means of safety.

 

In the end, she awoke one morning to find,

She had not reached the outhouse in time the night before,

And her mother, her own mother took her with rage

Into the outhouse stuffing her mouth with feces,

Leaving her to wallow in the putrid smell of the latrine.

 

All day she stayed without sustenance except the taste of fecal matter,

Giving an involuntary spasmodic whimper which entered the ears of her parents;

Yet feeling they could do no more they left her,

And hesitated not to sleep in quiet restful slumber,

While the quiet of the night was penetrated only by the whimpers,

Easily ignored by the evil heedless ears of her own mother.

 

Sometime during the night sweet merciful Death took her.

It was then she received the only rest ever allowed her,

And the bliss only known through escaping the world.

 

All this to give the world the gift of freewill,

This was what she was worth.

 

The now rebellious spirit looked with disdain at the plot,

And once more he addressed the Maker of All,

“Wouldst thou allow me to bend with merciful finger,

And remove this blight– this eyesore from the fabric of time?

Let not the whole of existence bear this burden,

For who shall atone for this transgression?”

 

Admittedly he could not see all of the story,

But this did not matter to him in the slightest,

For his heart had felt the poor girl’s plight,

And could not leave doing nothing.

 

The All-Knowing One gave a permissive nod,

And the restless spirit grabbed the plot,

Gave a twist and pulled the girl out of the story.

 

As he held her life in his hands he heard a curious sound;

The cry of mad legions of violent men bent on corruption,

Death, disease and destruction infected everything,

And the basest of human desires tended their evil business,

For freewill had taken a turn toward the perverse,

The evil heart grew till it was drunk with delirium.

 

The disturbed spirit quickly but reluctantly put the girl back,

And everything returned to its previous blissful state,

“Why even make this world at all,” complained the spirit,

“Is this what you will– have you no other choice?”

 

The Cause of All– the Knower of All with a look in his eye

That revealed a spark of joy and yet a deep hurt,

Stooped down once more to light the world aflame,

And the bitter spirit saw that God himself had become the Great Fire.

 

He looked in the midst of that terrible light,

And gazed at the wonder within.

Joy and Sorrow were dancing hand in hand,

Never breaking their touch,

Filling the whole of creation with the fullness of life,

And moving in all things with such grace and beauty that the sight of it,

Made the rebellious spirit himself shed a tear.

Ode to Being Normal

Ode to being Normal

Ah, thy perfectly adequate face,
Thy conventional clothing,
In the daylight, they strike one in an unexceptional way.
Thy verbification and vernacular,
The way thy lips maneuver as thou dost impart,
In a crowd, they seem commonplace in this faddish day.
The displacement of thy hips as you traverse,
Thine average gait,
All alone, they resemble everyone else.