Monday, March 31, 2014

From Another Planet

Do you ever speak some language from another planet?

       This Hafiz quote makes me think about one of my favorites books, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
        It is a complex story about many lessons we must learn in life, but the greatest of these is the lesson the one revealed through the prince’s love for his rose.  The prince leaves his planet because of the rose; the rose permeates the prince’s discussions with the narrator on Earth when he crash landed in the desert; and eventually, the rose becomes the reason the prince wants to return to his planet. At first, the narrator exclaims that fixing his engine is more serious than listening to the prince’s stories about whether the sheep the narrator has drawn for him will eat his beloved rose. The Little Prince begs the narrator to consider the "seriousness" of one loving a flower "of which just one example exists among all the millions and millions of stars". For if the sheep ate the flower, "then for him it’s as if, suddenly, all the stars went out. And that isn’t important?" The Little Prince truly loves the rose, and as the story progresses, the narrator begins to understand this.
      The Little Prince's own understanding is magnified when he met the fox (the character that provides the iconic quote of this novella) on Earth, "Here is my secret. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. . . It’s the time that you spent with your rose that makes your rose so important. . . People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said, “But you mustn’t forget it." 
     At the end, the narrator finally does understand that the greatest privilege of this world is investing time in loving another. He concludes "Look up at the sky. Ask yourself, “Has the sheep eaten the flower or not?” And you’ll see how everything changes. . ."

The Little Prince Drawing Number One 
(Those who have read the book will understand 
the significance of this first drawing). 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Like A Sunrise

What would happen if all the splendor of the world took over your body and rose from it like a sunrise? 

     It would be quite amazing if everyone had to bask in your radiance (of spirit, not look), and like the sun, you were the force that sustained existence. We all harbor our own sunrises inside, which can be likened to the fire in our hearts that eventually is brought forth on the day we embrace our true brilliance. What brings that fire out will be different for everyone; the important thing, as Vincent van Gogh says, is not to miss it: "There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.”
    Surround yourself with people who want to kindle that fire, preferably before dawn.
"We each have a special something, our small inner flame. Find someone who cherishes that flame, nurtures it, and one day, holds it as a torch to light their own way." - Haruki Murakami

The Starry Night (1889), Vincent van Gogh 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Child In Dance

A father's toes lifting a child's in dance caused God to pull out a drum.

     Today my family went to see the Broadway production of Les Mis for my dad's birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad! <3
      Les Misérables is now the world’s longest-running musical, seen by over 65 million people in 42 countries. It is an epic tale of broken dreams, passionate love, heartfelt redemption, powerful revolution, and above all, a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.
      Victor Hugo, author of this enthralling novel, said: “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” Maybe that's why humans have always liked music, it seems to be our personal soundtrack to envision the inconceivable. Maybe that's why we gravitate towards shows like Les Mis with such fervent appreciation of the art before us. Quoting Dumbledore in Harry Potter, “Ah, music," he said, wiping his eyes. "A magic beyond all we do here.” Les Mis was magical, a huge shout-out to the cast, crew, and musicians in NYC today!
       My dad wanted me to include the following story, and I'm glad he suggested it, because it is both related and interesting! About three years ago I applied for a customized license plate, listing my first choice as 24601 (Jean Valjean's prison identification number). I received a letter from New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission stating: "The license plate you requested has been denied. Reason: The license plate is capable of serving as incitation to violence."
      Les Mis has provided me with many laughs, tears, and memories; I will undoubtedly see it again!

Les Misérables Finale 
(10th Anniversary Royal Albert Hall)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Your Breath Near Mine

At times, when we need to know something about perfection, know this, the movement of your breath near mine might do, or the beating of our hearts. 

       “Please send me your last pair of shoes, worn out with dancing as you mentioned in your letter, so that I might have something to press against my heart.”- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    This quote always makes me tear up, because I believe it captures the end of a love story. I'm not sure what it actually references, and today I attempted a vigorous google search (on behalf of this blog) to no avail. For this, I am somewhat grateful, as the quote is preserved in my mind. 
     At the end of a love story, if it is good, true, real, and nurturing, that is exactly what will have happened - you will have given each other so many moments to celebrate, surely your shoes will be worn out by dancing. And is there a better memory of someone than to be able to think, "We did it all. We lived it all. We experienced everything this earth had to offer, with each other." Yes, the worn soles of your shoes can reflect a celebrated soul, and that's why I cherish this quote, it has given me profound imagery that only great writers can bring forth. 
      Goethe is rumored to have fallen deeply in love with the Polish composer Maria Agata Szymanowska, though their relationship never came to much formally. It reminded me of a similar patron/artist situation that amounted to much more. 
      The famous Russian composer, Tchaikovsky, was supported for thirteen years by Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck. Their relationship is documented through the exchange of over a thousand letters. Von Meck was a professed misogamist and Tchaikovsky a closeted homosexual, so the love they spoke of was entirely spiritual. Yet, there was passionate love exchanged in the letters, evolving into one of the most documented epistolary friendships of all time. 
     Their friendship ended with a letter, and there are various viewpoints as to the magnitude of that friendship in both of their lives. Her final letter said she could no longer support him financially (she claimed her eleven living children used up much of the estate money). She ends the letter with the words "remember me sometimes."
       His final letter back ends as follows: "Without exaggeration I can say that I did not forget you and will never forget for a single minute, because when I think about myself, my thoughts always and inevitably run to you." 
       And that's exactly how it is with love, your thoughts effortlessly included the person you love. As Hafiz says, it becomes the "beating of our hearts" that make for a love story in which you can write: “Please send me your last pair of shoes, worn out with that I might have something to press against my heart" (Goethe). 

                                                           Symphony No. 4 in F minor 
"Dedicated to my best friend"
Tchaikovsky's dedication to von Meck 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

When I Am Close

Your heart cannot be alone when I am close. 

       "If you were to hear me imitating Pavarotti in the shower every morning, you would know how much you have changed my life." - Robert Phillips, from The Changed Man

      While to girls there may only be one way to say "I love you" (the direct three-word way), poetry knows it in many ways and that's one one of the many reasons why I love poetry. What does it mean to wake up singing? To wake up singing one of the best opera vocalists of all time? And all because of you?
        In an interview by the Poetry Foundation, they asked poet, Ben Kopel, what a poem was and he said "A love song. Aren't they all in some way?"

What Is True 
by Ben Kopel

one must be one
to ever be two

and if you
were a day

I'd find a way

to live
through you

I Will Follow You Into The Dark (2010), Death Cab For Cutie

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Anoint With Dance and Flowers

Let's anoint this earth with dance and flowers! 

          There is a story about the ancient peoples looking forward to the day that a tree grew from the ashes of a volcano. I read this on StumbleUpon and didn't bother to read the meaning of the story, as I had already thought of my own. I think this can be a very comforting thought, out of destruction (the volcano...or a life that's taken a hectic turn) can come beauty (the tree...or a reason to celebrate). This feeling reminded me of something Paulo Coelho said in Brida. At first, I was only going to include the first line, but now I've opted for the quote in its entirety: “Do not try to explain all of your emotions, it will destroy the bridge between the visible and invisible. Live everything as intensely as you can and keep whatever you felt as a gift from God."

        Enjoy this poem by e.e. cummings, "in time of daffodils". You can picture the daffodils dancing in the morning breeze.

in time of daffodils (who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why, remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so (forgetting seem)

in time of roses (who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if, remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek (forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me
2009 Flickr Upload 
Daffodils being commercially grown in Wales, 
to produce galantamine, a drug used to treat Alzheimer's disease 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Your Destiny

Your destiny is winding toward the Perfect. 

        To Hafiz, perfect meant complete. If you do not give up walking with the crowds, you will not find your true path. If you never walk upon this path, which is the true home of your soul, you will neglect to fulfill all aspects of your destiny. This reminds me of something Gibran said on working, a "requirement" that takes away time from "passion". Unless of course, you are one of the fortunate ones, living, as Gibran put it, via the idea that "Work is love made visible."
         Gibran On Work (full version here):

And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit.

Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, 
it is better that you should leave your work 
and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.

         No one can hand you your destiny, but it is true that joy may lead you in the right direction. Gibran knew that a teacher cannot give you his wisdom, but rather implore you to find your own: "The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it." 
         The rhythm you beat to is inside.

God Bless The Broken Road (2005), Rascal Flatts 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Self-Made Traps

Few can escape self-made traps.

       This is true, sometimes we are our own worst enemy. If we bring negativity and the feeling of despair to a situation, we are unlikely to find a way out. It is the triumph of optimism that allows escape from hardship.
       The Scream is one of the most iconic pieces in art. Edvard Munch said he was trying to capture: "the breaking point of the soul". That's powerful, as I assume we all have stood on that bridge at our human (or psychological) breaking point. But to experience the "breaking point of a soul"...that's one of many concepts that art and music capture well before the human psyche ever could.

The Scream (1893), Edvard Munch

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Great Injustice

It is a great injustice for any religion to make someone fear God. 

          I wholeheartedly agree with Hafiz. God should be a source of great comfort. My own version of God does not include fear, but does include respect. Still, the adjective I'd subscribe to him is comforting. Take the words of Kahlil Gibran from The Prophet, as he spoke On Religion:

"Is not religion all deeds and all reflection...

Who can separate his faith from his actions, 
or his belief from his occupations?

Who can spread his hours before him, saying, 
"This for God and this for myself; 
This for my soul, and this other for my body?"
All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self...

And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, 
has not yet visited the house of his soul, whose windows are from dawn to dawn.

Your daily life is your temple and your religion.
Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.

And if you would know God be not therefore a solver of riddles.
Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.
And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud,
And look outward, you shall see Him smiling in flowers, 
then rising and waving His hands in trees." 

East to West (2007), Casting Crowns

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Happy Virus

I caught the happy virus again last night when I was out signing beneath the stars; it is remarkably contagious. 

          The happy virus is remarkably contagious indeed. It can spread in known or arcane ways. Think of the depth of this advice from Yoko Ono in her new book, Acorn: "“Tape the sound of the moon fading at dawn. Give it to your mother to listen to when she's in sorrow.” She found another way to say record and save the sunrise, to save the happiness, and when the times comes, to spread it.

Here Comes The Sun (1969), The Beatles

Friday, March 21, 2014

Religions of Poets

The great religions are the ships, poets the lifeboats. Every sane person I know has jumped overboard!
       To clarify, this statement does not mean atheism, not in the slightest. Religion is one thing and your relationship with God is another. The latter is the thing to pursue, and it can be gloriously pursued by every movement of your body - how you act, what you read, who you turn to, the foods you eat, the songs you sing, the activities you engage in, the hobbies you pursue, the people who you love, etc. Your relationship with God is conveyed by how you approach each day and life itself.
       Mahatma Gandhi said: "It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. God has no religion.”

The Man With The Nail Scars (1989), David Meece

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Joyful Work

If your heart cannot find a joyful work, then the jaws of this world will probably grab hold of you. 

       If you find something to call "work" that you're passionate about, you'll never need a "job". If you arrive at work with people who welcome your spirit and enrich it, this will be your second home. Your work should be fulfilling, uplifting, satisfying. This is not the case for everyone, but it is a lofty pursuit worth chasing after. Rilke once said (though the exact quote I cannot re-find because I was working off of the original German edition using google translator) something to the effect of: "Find something you would live and die for. Make that your work. If it is not, ask yourself why?"
       Many "free spirits" deal with negative connotations that accompany someone who will frolic around in life, instead of settling with one person, in one place, putting down roots, and making their way into the workforce. Conversely, I wonder how many "free spirits" are truly happy? The kind of happiness that Emily Bronte describes can only come from a "chainless soul".
        Maybe chainless soul is not necessarily a descriptive quality of a person, but a comforting commonality that we can all know and enjoy. Maybe it just means that your soul always has the potential to transcend your physical body weaknesses, your earthly circumstances, various verbal attacks, goals set for you by society, etc. such that the jaws of this world will never grab hold of you.

True North (2013), Jillette Johnson 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Love Is A Tree

Love is a tree, when it moves us like this, how can our souls' limbs not touch? 

        “Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don't blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being "in love", which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.” ― Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli's Mandolin

    That's the thing about pretty things - like trees with colorful flowers or trees with strong branches - they captivate us and enchant us. We're excited, on fire, energized, infatuated, and don't get me wrong, these are all worthy emotions that have their place in a love story. But those things will probably fade (though the idealist in me thinks otherwise)...maybe because you don't hang out with the cool crowd anymore (hello 8th grade) or because you need time to discover yourself (high school) or because life took you in a different direction (college). Or maybe you'll survive all of that and then the toilet will break and you just swear to yourself not only could you not fix a toilet with this person, but also you know you could never fix life's problems with them. Or know.
     Conversely, there is another alternative to this love story. It could last forever, when all the pretty things, all the news things, all the putting-forth-your-best self things fade away, you really do find out that you like their roots, you like them stripped bare, you like them when they have nothing to offer but the awakenings of their own soul and the desire to share those with you. You find that you still feel magical just sitting by their side. Your souls' limbs are touching, and that's enough. In fact, that's more than enough.

    The video below is a beautiful dialogue about love - when it arrives, when it ends, when it begins again, suddenly, expectedly, familiarly. It's a video worth watching!

"When Love Arrives" (2012), Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nothing Can Shatter This Love

Nothing can shatter this love, even if you took another into your arms. 

        My dad asked me what I thought of this concept, the idea that the love in a relationship can continue even if the relationship is over. Of course it is easy (and should be encouraged) to believe in this when the relationship "ends" due to the death of one party, but what about this concept when two people break up? This is where my girly side wants to say "No way!" - move on, find your soulmate, and be content knowing that your previous relationship ended so you could find The One. Except...what if you weren't the one who wanted it to end? What if (although I believe true love knows no boundaries) life caused you to have to split up? The truth is I don't have an answer, I presume I will come to believe whatever my life gives me to interpret, and my interpretation of my love - lived, lost, and gained - will shape how I answer this question.
      However, this week I came across a brief poem by Beau Taplin, The Awful Truth, that gives an answer I appreciate:  

One day, whether you 

are 14, 
or 65

you will stumble upon
someone who will start
a fire in you that cannot die.

However, the saddest, 
most awful truth 
you will ever come to find––

is they are not always
with whom we spend our lives.

        Perhaps the answer is in that last line "not always". This is definitely a question to which the answers will not fit one mold.

It Must Have Been Love (1990), Roxette

Monday, March 17, 2014

Alone in Wonder

Sit alone in wonder.

       When someone sits alone in wonder (or happiness) instead of in pain, this loneliness is likely to be solitude - which is the feeling of resting away from our responsibilities, our work, our duty, our friends, etc. Sometimes this is needed for rejuvenation of self. In fact, out of curiosity, is there a difference between these two sentences: "Sit alone in wonder." and "Sit alone and wonder."? I will let the reader decide.  For now, read it's by e.e. cummings.


so damn sweet when Anybody—

matter who;some

of course)

or on the other

your oldest
for instance(or


’s wife)

—does doesn’t unsays says looks smiles

or simply Is
what makes
you feel you

6 or 6
teen or sixty

but for once



       It's is an interesting poem, complete with e.e. cumming's distinctive disjointed syntax. Perhaps It's means that even in reverence of others (generally perceived to be a "good" thing), we succumb to not developing ourselves, because although you can be taught what to value, you cannot be taught what to feel. And to imagine ourselves, we must not merely have an understanding of what we aim to be, but also of who we presently are. "It's" is at once complex and simple, almost embodying the title "it is..." (which could serve as the beginning phrase of many things, including the journey into ourselves). 

Man in the Mirror (1988), Michael Jackson

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Just Kissing

They were happier, all the mouths I saw that woke up one day and mostly forgot what they were for besides just kissing. 
       There is a line our society seems to say a lot, "just kissing". As if because it's not sex and because you aren't (necessarily) naked, it's "just" kissing. Except, any romantic will tell you that holding hands or exchanging glances is the beginning of any love story. Let there be no mistake, there is nothing "just"-so about kissing. 
        It is an act that is socially accepted enough to be done [almost] anywhere at anytime, but intimate enough that in those few seconds a private world is created. It's a way to communicate, a way to feel as though you aren't alone, or a way to feel as though you are, if the moment calls for a more personal need. It's a way to say goodbye and hello. It's a way to show love. There are lingering glances before the eyes close, there are moments of brief hesitation. There are commonplace kisses and the best type of unexpected kisses. 

“It wasn't that long, and it certainly wasn't the kind of kiss you see in movies these days, but it was wonderful in its own way, and all I can remember about the moment is that when our lips touched, I knew the memory would last forever.” 
Nicholas Sparks, A Walk to Remember
        There probably isn't a way to sum up A Walk to Remember, a coming of age novel written by Nicholas Sparks, that will do the book justice, but I have tried. After many discipline infractions, we meet the male lead, a rebellious high schooler, Landon, who is threatened with expulsion unless he participates in the school drama production. It is there that he meets Jamie, a girl who is studious and shy. She is supposed to help him with his lines. Over time, they begin to form a deep friendship despite living two very different social lives during the school day. When Landon denied being friends with Jamie in front of his friends, she said her friendship was over with him – she didn’t need a secret friend who was ashamed of her. A few weeks later, Landon learns Jamie has terminal leukemia. He goes back to her – this time publically – and once again their friendship deepens – this time to love. He helps Jamie complete almost all the things on her bucket list – seeing a comet, getting a tattoo, even marriage, etc. Eventually, Jamie dies. Four years later, Landon visits Jamie's father and says that he is still a better person because of Jamie. Landon tells him that he is sorry Jamie never got to complete the final item on her bucket list: the wish to witness a miracle. Jamie's father tells him that she did, in fact, witness one: love. 

Kiss Me (1997), Sixpence None The Richer 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Dog I Knew

"She kissed the best, a dog I knew..."

      What draws us to dogs (and other animals)? Rudyard Kipling wrote a powerful poem The Power of the Dog in which he tells the reader:

         "There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day; so 
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

      Throughout the poem he mentions various attributes of dogs, their loyalty, their unwavering enthusiasm, their lack of criticism, their excitement at your arrival home, etc. and eventually concludes with:
"When the spirit that answered your every mood 

Is gone--wherever it goes--for good, 
You will discover how much you care, 
And will give your heart to a dog to tear."

       It is the same realization dog lovers arrive at time and again. The same reason why people often have pets throughout their lifetime. I have often thought about how dogs also mark the passage of time. In their roughly decade plus with us, they appear in photographs that see us through birthdays, Christmases, graduations, etc. Maybe they were in the corner of that treasured picture showing the day you brought your son home, and then suddenly around his 12th birthday...gone.

"If you do not offer all you 
have to Love,
you will live this life free of that
pain which makes it worth living."  - Kheir 

      This verse made me think twice, because people generally think of love as painless, one of the veritable pleasures of life. Then I began to realize that with love comes heartbreak (romantic) and loss (platonic, familial, etc.). Loving someone ensures that we care enough to be hurt if that person or animal were to be taken from our lives, but at the same time Kheir, like the many other Sufi poets, knows it is the very truth that makes life worth living. Once you have had a dog (or another animal), a life without one pales in comparison. As Mary Oliver, dog lover and poet, said when interviewed about her latest book, Dog Songs, “Because of dogs' joyfulness, our own is increased. Joy is no small gift.” 

(my current dog)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wed For...

One who weds for a dowry, or fame, or land, will probably not be lucky enough to find an angel sleeping next to them at night. 

     "I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” - Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally

     This reminds me of the lyrics from Stevie Wonder's hit I Just Called To Say I Love You...."No New Year's Day to wedding fact it's just another ordinary day...I just called to say I love you". When you finally choose someone to wed that person should be the one you tell your hopes and dreams to, unload your fears and worries on, and share the joys and sorrows of life with. At the end of the day, you should feel as though you're having a sleepover with your best friend every night of the week. If you marry for the right reasons, your story should be filled with wizards, and magic and talking dragons and rainbows made out of chocolate and magic and miracles. And of course, most of all, the person you've chosen to share your life with.

     “I've felt basically lucky ever since, almost every day of my life. That's something else love should make you feel. It should make you fell fortunate. It will be made clear to you in a stray glance or gesture. There may or may not be any music playing. But there will be a certain velocity of the spirit,...and you think, 'This is the one. I found you.'” ― Suzanne Finnamore, The Zygote Chronicles

     I love the above quote. There may not be a song playing when the right one comes along, but there will be a velocity of spirit, there will be a feeling of being blessed, they will highlight your best parts, and they will make you feel alive. 

    Picture your life together in twenty years. Where are you? What are you doing? Your own visions of the future are not always identical to your Love's, but are always complementary. And as much as love needs words, proclamations and professions, true love also encompasses the words left unsaid. The avoidance of hurtful remarks and the understanding that sometimes nothing needs to be said. Yes, this is love too. Perhaps true love is the one you recognize as a mirror for your self and as a partner on your path. This can be your miracle on Earth, the first taste of the divine. 

This Is The First Day of My Life (2006), Bright Eyes 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Great Worth

Something of great worth in my pocket wants to be in yours. 

       I chose this quote to highlight a very important accomplishment - my sister published a young adult dystopian novel: Extium. Not only is this a testimony to her assiduous diligence but also an achievement of a lifelong dream of many at such a young age (18). She inscribed my personal copy with the words "Inspire on. Love, Emery". And that's just it, when you have something of great worth to share, whether it be a character trait, a successful skill, or a truly phenomenal accomplishment - it spreads, as Rilke would say "in widening circles reaching out across the world". Greatness begets greatness, and I'm glad my sister shared hers with me. I am inspired to write for the joy and imaginative creativity it brings, as Anais Nin said: "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect."

        You can buy a copy of Extium here on

Don't Stop Believin' (2005), Journey 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Small Favor

If someone asks you to do a small favor, carry that task out as if some great king had assigned you a royal errand, and might then toss a palace your way for a job well done. 

          When I first read this Hafiz quote it reminded me of something my middle school principal Dr. Frank Rudnesky would have said. My memories of him are numerous, but some that stand out are: if he heard someone say a negative comment about someone else, he would make the offender find five positive things to say and he told us never to walk around with the attitude of "I didn't make that mess/mistake, so I won't be cleaning it up/finding a way to fix the situation" (and urged us to act out this concept by picking up stray pencils in the hallways and bringing them to his office). He told a moving story of his early years as an educator, tutoring a girl with terminal cancer, his Renaissance program brought pop songs, ice cream, and singing teachers to the stage, and he cared, deeply, wholeheartedly, and visibly about anyone in his life - his staff, his coworkers, his students.
Most of all, he lived his words, tried to be a leader every day by setting an example for others, took life's small things as meaningful moments, and he had a smile for everyone.
           "Learn now, soar for a lifetime" was the motto of Belhaven Renaissance. The cool part is, many of the students who once learned in his school are still soaring.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Luck May Shift

Hold out a little longer. Luck may shift your way even more. 

         What causes people to hold out longer? Sometimes it's love for their family, anticipation for an event,  or inward perseverance. Other times, it may just be the concept of hope - that in the darkest of places a light can shine - and the belief in diving deep for dreams, for the things you believe in. Those are the things that matter in the end anyway (enjoy this graduation speech).

"dive for dreams" e.e. cummings 

dive for dreams
or a slogan may topple you
(trees are their roots
and wind is wind)
trust your heart
if the seas catch fire
(and live by love
though the stars walk backward)
honour the past
but welcome the future
(and dance your death
away at this wedding)
never mind a world
with its villains or heroes
(for good likes girls
and tomorrow and the earth)

Peace (2014), O.A.R 

Monday, March 10, 2014

From A Heart

What the rain can do for a well, so can the language from an illuminated heart. 

         Emerson said, "Do you love me?" means "Do you see the same truth?" or at least, "Do you care about the same truth?” I watched The Bachelor (Juan Pablo Galavis) finale tonight where they could not answer any of these questions. It was a disappointment because love happens everywhere, all the time. It is this moment, the next moment, the blips and the eternities between moments. Love is also realizing that instead of being on each other's teams, you now constitute your own team.
        There is an ancient Chinese proverb: "An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break." Nietzsche believed “invisible threads are the strongest ties". I would like to think that any poetically inclined person recognizes the value of the mysterious - or the emotions that cannot be conjured or explained with words. Love perhaps is the greatest of these, it is the feeling of comfort, the enjoyment of a knowing glance in a crowded room. It is the emotion that no explanation can do justice.
       In the words of Rumi:
"I have phrases and whole pages memorized,
but nothing can be told of love.
You must wait until you and I
are together.
There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives."
       Conversely, one thing is for sure, when you experience that kiss, you'll know it's love.

Someone Like You (2011), Adele

Sunday, March 9, 2014


"I am happy even before I have a reason."

       This is worth re-reading. Sometimes we can choose our joy long before we experience it. We can choose to live with a glass half-full mentality, we can choose to wake up feeling blessed, we can choose to give thanks before eating, to pause and look at the sky, to stare out at the moon, to kiss someone we love, etc. We can choose happiness and maybe by this frequent and active choosing we'll find that we passively become happy before we have a reason.
      Mary Oliver once made the observation that the world does not have to be beautiful to function, so she said, "But it is beautiful, and what does that tell us?" Maybe it tells us that we're part of the beauty, to be on the look out for the presence of wonder. Maybe it tells us that all things are deeply spiritual if we consider the alternative - nothing is, the world does not need depth, music, beauty, love to exist. But to merely exist, as Rilke would say, is a tragedy. W
      We can be happy before we have a reason. What will we leave behind in the rooms we once lit? Not just what did we do in our life (though that is a powerful question), but what happens because of our life?

"If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is be in the present gratefully." - Maya Angelou 

The Optimist (2013) 
Arden Gewirtz

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Infinite Possibilites

There are infinite possibilities you can borrow from at any moment. 

      Steve Jobs said, "I want to put a ding in the universe." He was a man who believed in infinite possibilities. After he died, I read his sister's eulogy, in which she noted: "We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories."
      This is quite similar to Sartre's statement: "We have, in fact, every chance of dying before we have accomplished our task, or, on the other hand, of outliving it. And if it is only chance which decides the character of our death and therefore of our life, then even the death which most resembles the end of a resolved chord cannot be waited for as such; by determining it for me removes from it any character as a harmonious end. But once what I am bent on, what is holy, my poetry, is accomplished, once I have succeed in achieving a project that is truly mine and not something that anybody else might have done as well, if not better, then the picture chances: I have already won against Death.”
       There is no good death, even dying at the end of a task still leaves another unaccomplished or an emotional/spiritual need left on the back burner of more corporate/business/worldly pursuits. But I love how Sartre says "my poetry", what a way to describe your life! It reminds me of Whitman's line "and your very flesh shall become a great poem". I think Steve Jobs wrote that poem and then "won".

Aqua, Ryuichi Sakamoto 

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun." - Picasso 

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Request of My Friends

"May I make a request of my friends? Would you put some of my words into songs?" 

      What do you think this request by Hafiz means? To remember me when I'm gone? To think of me when you feel joyous and want to sing? To know my poetry in a more soulful way?
       It's sometimes difficult to find friends on your wavelength or even friends who would care enough to honor a request, whatever it might be. In Ancient Greek, the same word was used for friend and lover. And yet to find a true friend may be even more rare. The book that really exemplified this correlation for me was The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis in which he said friendship was the most unnatural love and thus the hardest to come across in a true form.
       The four loves were:
  • Storge (affection)  is fondness through familiarity between people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance. (I think of a co-worker.) 
  • Eros (romance) is the sense of 'being in love' or 'loving' someone. (I think of a significant other.) 
  • Agape (unconditional love) is love that brings forth caring regardless of the circumstance. (I think of a parent and a child.) 
  • Philia (friendship) is the love between friends, a deeply appreciative love. 
      There are a few things I wish to share from the book:
    “In friendship we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another...the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting - any of these chances might have kept us apart..."  
     If you meet a true friend, it's definitely serendipity. I've always been a huge fan of Jonathan Larson's musical RENT, in which the dedication simply reads: for my friends. In fact, the people present at the Life Support meeting in the show (they introduce themselves), carry the names of Larson's friends who died of AIDS. Even one of his lyrics speaks to the good fortune of chance that allows you to meet dear friends: "Why did Mimi knock on Roger's door/And Collins choose that phone booth/Back where Angel set up his drums?
       Friendship can be about the music, the second glance, the magic of sharing in something, "but
friendship must be about something, even if it is only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice" (Lewis). And maybe that's both the first and final test, if your friend or lover (of if you're lucky, both) can sit back and talk about white mice knocking down dominoes, and your happiness stems from just being sure of their presence, congrats. 

With a Little Help From My Friends (1967), The Beatles

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Upon Waking

Upon waking each day, my first words to my heart always are, 'Tell me all your news of Love.'" 

         Those lucky enough to lead blessed lives should wake up every day with the thought of gratitude in their heart. Beyond good health, which is a blessing never to be taken for granted, perhaps what we're most thankful for and excited about is our news of Love. As it should be, Germaine De Stael said: “Love is the emblem of eternity; it confounds all notion of time; effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end.” When the right one comes along, you're unsure of when Love began, but you are sure of wanting to wake to their news, and if not their smile, their text. It is another blessing that you can survive forever in the hearts of those who loved you. Love challenges the traditional idea of time. "Everyone once, once only." - Rilke

Blessed (1995), Elton John 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Freed From The Maintenance

Freed from the maintenance of trivial things, your dimension can shift. The wonders you forgot are still there waiting to play. 

         As a continuation of yesterday's post about charting your own current through the vast sea of life, there is an additional sense of direction (or perhaps, more apt, a weight is removed from your shoulders) when the "maintenance of trivial things" (paying the bills, obtaining a normal job, pursuing a profitable passion, etc.) no longer pertains to you.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

       This is a difficult, if not impossible, reality for most to achieve, as we are constantly reminded of our earthly responsibilities and/or human expectations. However, if just for a moment you can welcome wonder into your heart, there is a true joy. If only for a moment, as you close your eyes to sleep, you take comfort in the following words of Victor Hugo, and allow your dimension to shift: "Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. And when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake."

Watching The Wheels (1980), John Lennon 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Beyond Your Horizons

"How long will you remain content just to hear and tell stories of what happens beyond your horizons, where the courageous had no choice but to live their ideals and imbibe effulgence's shape?"

                  Rumi said, “Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” Effulgence is a beautiful noun that means "a brilliant radiance". In life, we each create a path by the steps we take towards our goals. Perhaps Hafiz's words are a proper way to describe what courage is...the tenacity to live your ideals, to make your dreams a reality, and to make your path well trodden along your soul's compass.

Traveller, There Is No Path
Antonio Machado 

Traveller, your footprints
Are the path and nothing more;
Traveller, there is no path,
The path is made by walking.
Beat by beat, verse by verse…

Traveller, there is no path,
Only trails across the sea…

     In this excerpt of Machado's poem, he utilizes an image of the sea to represent his view of our path through life. That is, no one leaves a true path for another to follow; each path taken evanesces like a ship's wake in the water. We don't need to follow anyone's path but our own. In fact, no other path exists, but the one of our own active creation.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Forever Young (1988), Rod Stewart 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Hear Who You Are

How many times do you need to hear who you are 
before you begin to cash some of that in and stop 
acting like a beggar...for any kind of attention 
from people who do not really love you? 

        "I celebrate myself, and sing myself", everyone knows that famous opening line from Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself". It's what we should be doing on a daily basis. We should speak only about our highest selves, the vision of ourselves that we love, that we cherish, that we want others to hold in high esteem. For whatever reason, many people have trouble with that - the idea that you can really love yourself and surround yourself with only the people who love you in return. You've figured out who you are long ago (or I suppose you're a work in progress), so stop, as Hafiz says, acting like a beggar from people who do not recognize your essence.
        There is a Japanese word, Kintsukuroi, that describes the art of repairing pottery with gold lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. It is said that the ancient peoples began deliberately breaking their pottery. In life, we have our challenges, our battle wounds, our personal cracks, but the right person (or group of people) will realize this past we experienced and this path we travelled contributes to our beauty.
       “Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn't need others' approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” - Lao Tzu

Strangers Like Me, Phil Collins 
(International Version) 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Some Fine Moments

"I feel I should say something positive about human lips: I had some fine moments with them, we tried, we embraced, we tangoed from different angles...but I like my affections and investments of time to be appreciated enough on an ongoing basis."

      If you move on from someone it is often an even more difficult decision when the realization dawns on you that they no longer have a role in your life. They can't be your close confident or your friend, certainly not your lover or who you go home to. And this can be a fine realization, a welcomed change, if it is what you want. The pain comes when it's the last thing you expected and when you thought your love was everlasting. The pain can even manifest if you feel like it could have or should have had a different ending. If only they had said "I love you" more often, or wanted children, or appreciated classical music, or dreamed of the intangibles as much as they did their physical possesssions.
       Even years into a relationship, with rings on your fingers and children in your arms, when the could haves or should haves no longer have a place to be questioned, only a precious few have more to say than "something positive about human lips". Precious few allow beyond wondrous loving words to leave their own pair, like "You are God's gift to in my life...makes this life magical."
Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough (1992), Patty Smyth

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Power of One Line

"In every line I have left a gold coin, an emerald, or a key to a place you want to enter." 

        In the month of March, I will be making daily posts about Hafiz one-liners instead of poems. Many of Hafiz's one liners read like proverbs, and all are enjoyable. It seems fitting to begin the month with a wonderful passage by Rilke (written in his only novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge) about the magnitude of writing one verse:

        "For the sake of one line of poetry, one must see many cities, people, and things. One must be acquainted with animals and feel how the birds fly, and know the gestures of small flowers first opening in the morning. One must be able to think back on paths taken through unknown places, on unanticipated meetings, and on farewells one had long seen coming, on days of childhood not yet understood; on parents one disappointed when they offered some pleasure one could not grasp (it was a pleasure suited to another); on childhood illnesses that came on so strangely, altering everything; on days in closed and quiet rooms and on mornings by the sea; on the sea itself, on all seas; on night journeys that rose and flew with the stars...and to think of all these things is still not enough. One must remember many nights of love, of which none was like another. One must remember the cries of women in labor and the pale, distracted sleep of those who have just given birth. But one must also have sat at the bedside of the dying, with the window open and the outside full of life. And it is still not enough to have memories: one must be able to forget them when they crowd the mind and one must have the immense patience to wait until they come again. For it is not the memories themselves. Only when they become our blood, our glance, our gesture, nameless and indistinguishable from who we , only then can it a very rare hour the first word of a poem rises from their midst and goes forth." 

Telling Stories (2003), Tracy Chapman