Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It Is My Nature

It Is My Nature 

It is the nature 
of this world 
to share its burden 
with you.

And it is my nature 
to remove it 
from your back. 

           Two weeks ago I discovered the poet Tyler Knott Gregson, many of his "typewriter series" poems appear on Pinterest and Twitter. He has a unique style of writing poetry on the back of old receipts and taking daring arrangements, all while maintaining the beauty and eloquence inherit in
poetry. Here's an example:

You can hold me like a book,
I won't care of the creases 
you make on my spine.
You can turn my pages,
fingers licked for grip,
the corners rubbed smooth 
in anticipation of the words
waiting on the other side. 
I cannot wait to hold the ink,
blue and bold,
where you underlined 
your favorite parts of me. 

      That's just it, isn't it? We have these nameless moments, deep kisses, strange adventures, rambling conversations...and in the end, we're all just stories. Stories that, if we're lucky, someone has come by and loved the edges of, bolded their favorite portions, and torn pages from to keep in their pocket always. 
       To find a lover to share the burden of this world with is a certain type of magic. 

I Love You Will Still Sound The Same (2014), Oh Honey

Monday, April 28, 2014

The World More Bearable

The World More Bearable 

Knowing how she can benefit us,
beauty sometimes acts like a hooker.

Because she knows if we spend an hour 
with her 
we will be better off. 

And beauty is right, she is clever.

When has looking at the graciousness 
in nature or in art,
or hearing some moving music 

not softened your face,
made your touch more wanted, 
more rich and alive.
and the world more bearable

and the sweet taste of hope
yours to remember 
and yours to impart. 

            That last line is so important, the rememberance of beauty, hope, happiness, etc. allows us to impart it. Once we've experienced something it cannot be taken from us. Or can it? In my ethics class we discussed the idea of deleting memories (actually not that far-fetched, read here). In fact, new research in neuroscience experimental pharmacology exists that can reset memory by erasing the connection between brain cells. Although there has not been a human drug trial yet, results using rodents have proved promising. Currently, the scientific idea behind the first uses of so-called “memory modification drugs” would be to remove the memories associated with substance addiction, followed by use in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
           At first it may seem as though treating substance addiction through subtle removal of all memories associated with 1) the addictive process, 2) the dealers and “drug culture” that came out of it and 3) the secondary associations (i.e. chalk reminding someone of cocaine, and thus serving as a trigger) would be extraordinarily beneficial. However, if I remove the association between chalk and cocaine, might I also remove the person’s preference for his wife’s green eyes, because as a teacher, he writes against a green chalkboard? And what if it is not just any green, but wet-grass-after-a-rainstorm-with-the-sun-now-shining green? Yes, that green; and you can see that his eyes light up as you describe it.
        Can we delete memories (essentially portions of our lives) and still be who we are? Horrible events, perhaps unknowingly, may shape every facet of our identity. They may have led us to meeting our spouse, what career we pursue, they may have led us to be kinder, more sympathetic, more altruistic, and more appreciative of life. To consider a real life example, although intense childhood bullying could lead to suicide, and this would undoubtedly be a tragedy, what if it doesn’t? Instead, what if this memory is the reason that a boy fell in love with a cello and became the world famous Yo-Yo Ma? This is indeed what happened.
        While it may be tempting to rid someone of the unpleasant moments of their life, what exactly does this mean for the spirit, if anything? I would argue that something unique to the human spirit consists in falling, rising after the fall, conquering your own demons, and then living with knowledge of that success. Memory is complex, it is beautiful, and its intricate web can be navigated in so many directions. We must not forget to recognize that people are who they are not in spite of their experiences, but because of them.

History In The Making (2008), Darius Rucker

Sunday, April 27, 2014

All the Hemispheres

All the Hemispheres

Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadow and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.
Make a new watermark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of

                   Not everyone will understand your journey, and that's quite alright, it is your journey to make sense out of, not theirs. You exist in a thousand forms, maybe even a multitude of more, some are meant to lead you to The One, others simply for patience as chocolate chip cookies bake in the oven, others to hunt mermaids along the shoreline, and others still for the courage to craft a lifetime of worthy pursuits. I came across this graphic illustration and found it strikingly beautfiul. I would love to see someone do a photography interpretation using a real person.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Move On To Your Glory

Move On To Your Glory 

What can you see of existence's attempt to honor you 
when you keep turning back to a time 
where some event you seemed to take part in 
may cause you to lower your head 
and whisper again, 'I am sorry'? 

You cannot accept the crown 
with any regrets in your past 

You cannot see every object's homage 
if you are stuck in any kind of confessional 

All happenings needed to be;
accept that, my dear. 

Ask for any forgiveness one more time
if you must 
then move on to your glory. 

          "Ask for forgiveness one more time", repeat that line to yourself and let it resonate. Then dismiss all thoughts of your wrongdoings, not so that you never reflect on them (because reflect you should), but so that they do not consume you. Forgiving yourself is important. Forgiving yourself allows the strength to persevere on the days others find faults in you, and there will be many of those days. But, "if you only walk on sunny days you'll never reach your destination” (Paulo Coelho), so let it go, a new event may cause you the need to bow your head again. Yes, "all happenings needed to be" if only to give you new perspective and awareness.

When I Go, Dave Carter

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Woman He Held

A Woman He Held

Something beautiful, that old green boat
moving slowly in the water. 

Something exquisite, that man rowing 
while a woman he has held intimately 
hundreds of times 
sits near and rests. 

Rests from the wars in the days 
rests from the wars in the hours
and more than just rests; she smiles 
deeply brightens and comes alive

as the wing of a butterfly, landing 
on the other side of the pond, 
gently touches her cheek. Yes. 

All of God, which is everything,
is really so close, 
and caresses us now and then,
if your senses are alert. 

On my better days, a falcon's wing 
crafts these words,
as I watch. 

         Thinking of this poem gave me the mental imagery of a 1930s woman in a bonnet and sundress passing the time on a Sunday with her husband near a lake. Soon after, I realized maybe I had borrowed this imagery from one of the first edition covers of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night. Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda, served as the inspiration for this novel when she had her first nervous breakdown in early 1930 and was institutionalized in Switzerland. It soon became apparent that she would never fully recover and Fitzgerald ultimately poured every feeling into Tender Is The Night - his feelings, however offensive, of "wasting" his love and life on someone mentally ill, his viewpoint on psychiatry, about which he had learned a great deal during Zelda's treatment, and about his own loses in life, including the loss of his father a short time after Zelda fell ill.
       And as readers, it begs us to ask the same questions...can we love someone through mental illness? Through psychosis? Through memory loss? Through infidelity? Can we love someone when they quite frankly are no longer the person we set out loving?
         There is a hauntingly beautiful thought when Fitzgerald wrote, "I don't ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember, somewhere inside of me, there will always be the person I am tonight."                                                           

                                                     One More Day (2001), Diamond Rio

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Best I Can Do For Moral Advice

The Best I Can Do For Moral Advice

Anyone you have made love with,
it is because you were really looking for God. 

If you have known hundreds of partners,
God may not say this publicly,
but I think He is proud of your efforts. 

Don't let the freedom in this truth get you in trouble,
men will be judged for other things.

I think about the best I can do for moral advice,
in such a universe as we live, is to say,

try not to hurt any living creature 
because your odds for happiness 
will increase. 

           This is certainly not the poem I was expecting to use to discuss the merits of education, but I happened upon a line in a letter written by John Keats that influenced me, "Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”
            There is something inherit in the human condition that necessitates that we endeavor to find good on our journey through our own subjective experiences. To the big questions, "What is good?", "What vision of good do we have?", and "Is it a good worth having?" there are no objective answers. There are no schoolhouses or classrooms that hand out maps to travel the road to happiness. There are, however, men with opinions of their own, derived from their own interpretation of their form and moral values. There are societies with cultural practices. There are teachers with wise instructions. There are worldly goals with enticing titles and sizable checks. But you will have to learn a lot, with the door shut, with the lights off, when you're alone with your thoughts; and that is precisely why the best moral advice is acquired, absorbed through your skins, sewn into your soul.
           The "freedom" in Hafiz's "truth" is more than just going to bed with many men and women, it is deeper than that - it is a calling to take whatever we can from any soul that touches ours. And in this way, we have made (or will make) love with many people.

“I've been making a list of the things they don't teach you at school. They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous. They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer. They don't teach you how to know what's going on in someone else's mind. They don't teach you what to say to someone who's dying. They don't teach you anything worth knowing.” ― Neil Gaiman

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin
Philadelphia 2014 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

An Artist's Blessing

An Artist's Blessing

Why would a rich man sweep 
the streets from morning to night,

with a broom that causes his back to bend
over and ache all the time? 

There are people like that around, 
who could live in a garden paradise 
and never know
the common man's suffering,

but instead stay among us,
rolling up their sleeves, 
drawing from the well 
until their hands are blistered
and calloused. 

They might go to sleep for a few hours,
then get up early, 
and pick up their pens, chisels or brushes 

           Are artists spiritually rich? Hafiz seems to believe so, with the high praise this poem encompasses; artists are rich men sweeping the streets who should make us feel blessed because they walk among us. But what does that line mean? Hafiz asserts that the artist does not have to walk among us. The artist can rise above this life just by the very nature of his work. “The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”- Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” ― Émile Zola
Everybody Knows (1988), Leonard Cohen

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Perfect Equanimity

Perfect Equanimity 

Look how any mirror will reflect with perfect 
equanimity all actions before it.

There is no act in this world that will 
ever make the mirror say "no". 

The mirror, like perfect love,
will just keep giving of itself
to all before it. 

To each passerby, 
so polite, so grand,
so compassionate. 

How did the mirror ever get like that? 

It watched God. 

          This is an interesting positive spin on mirrors. For a while, I had come to associate the mirror with the body image crisis that is going on in America - the bane of trying to live the phrase, "there is more to life than being really ridiculously good-looking" (Zoolander). Conversely, poetry often reminds us that there is more to the prosaic meaning of things. Poetry uses the quality of language to evoke meanings the reader has not considered, and in that way it challenges us and comforts us. Now I think that while the mirror can reflect insecurities, blemishes, problem parts, etc. it can also reflect the sparkle in your eye, it can be used in photography to capture the moment before the bride and groom see each other, and it can reflect various truths - what it means to look in the mirror with another or alone in the bathroom or in the dark of night.

This Ones For The Girls (2003), Martina McBride

Monday, April 21, 2014

Until They Become A Sky Again

Until They Become A Sky Again

The peace, it is there; it grows from her soil.
A few feet beneath her surface, 
all is always perfectly calm. 

What does she know of any storms then? 
What does she hear of any cries of this world, 
or is in any way startled by fear? 

Once in a while something stirs a thirst 
she had forgotten about;

a divine rain falls on her hills 
and settles in a beautiful valley;

there, life's companion, water, gently reaches down
and touches, awakens her heart.

She begins to reach up with all her strength, 
feeling a glorious destiny awaits,

and she keeps stretching her arms until 
they become a sky again 
and all that is luminous in it. 

Her love shelters then from all angles, 
above, below, and to our sides. 

Yes, it shelters us, like any heart,
that knows God. 

The peace is always there, 
just beneath a particle of our surface. 

              After blogging about religion for three days, I feel like this poem is a perfect wrap-up, peace comes to any heart that knows God.

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” 

“I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit. ” 

“If there's only one nation in the sky, shouldn't all passports be valid for it?” 
Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Rosa Celeste (19th Century)
Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean

Sunday, April 20, 2014

An Old Musician

An Old Musician

How do those who know of God 
meet and part? 

Like the way an old musician
will greet his beloved instrument 
and take special care 
to enhance the final note 
of each performance. 

       In church, the passing of the peace is a feeling of connection with others who know God. Sometimes we let society, work, school, family, partying, interrupt our lives. Interrupt us from our heart constancy finding a place where God is celebrated. Interrupt our obligation to reach out to people who haven't found God in their lives yet, because it is such a powerful force that we can give to any we meet. Today, let God interrupt your life. He is alive in us. What does that mean? It means that the spirit of God - his love, his loyalty, his compassion, his constancy, etc. is alive in our hearts. That is what we can give to others. There is no need to say only believe in my God and my definition of him, but rather say believe in God, and welcome him into the gaps within your own soul. The same power that performed miracles resides in the heart of every believer. Happy Easter!

      Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT): "I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms."

     Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV): "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

I Can Only Imagine (2008), MercyMe

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Allah Knows His Place

Allah Knows His Place

Every day they fall, the leaves, 
a body dies and sings 
in a voice few hear. 

And every hour life again moves new,
a unique composite of everything, 
an infant. 

All there is placed you in our care. 
Each of us should be paradede through 
the streets,
honored like a visiting prince. 

The air, clearer today than I can remember.
There was something about the wind
that was different. 

It seemed excited about some grand event 
it knew for certain, beforehand, 
would happen. 

I said to a man, "God is great and everywhere 

And the old man responded, "I am thankful
Allah knows His place, His throne 

which is every atom, we too, are made
to sit upon and reign." 

        As my second post in the religion series, I am looking at Islam.ʻAbd Allāh ibn ʻAlawī ʻAṭṭās was born in 1634 CE. He was blinded by smallbox just before the age of five. He wrote many bboks about Islamic belief, practice, and spirituality, such as The Book of Assistance, The Lives of Man, and Knowledge and Wisdom. In Islamic history, he was considered one of the sages. Here is one of his teachings: “Reflection is the lamp of the heart. If it departs, the heart will have no light.” People of any faith should agree that the reflection upon the mind's actions with the eye of the heart shed light.

Tiled exterior of the Friday Mosque of Herat, Afghanistan

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Buddha Stood By and Watched

The Buddha Stood By and Watched 

It just love and I now,
doing whatever happens. 

All comes your way for a reason. 

It snowed once, more than it had in years,
above a village in Tibet, and come spring,
the temperature climbed higher than normal. 

A tidal wave of slush roared down the mountain
and wiped out many families. 
The Buddha stood by and watched, 
then walked slowly off. 

What the average person did not see was 
that all those souls dove headfirst into him. 
He mixed them with his being. 
They ran through his veins
shouting with joy. 

What could you know of anything 
if you don't believe? 

             When I read this poem I was shocked by it, and I still don't like it. Conversely, I think it brings to mind an important point: what do we know of other religions unless we practice them? If death is brought to a village in the form of a natural disaster, it probably is comforting to believe that the lost souls are joyfully with the Buddha now. As it approaches Easter, I am doing a three day series on Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. Taken from BuddhaNet Education:
  • Buddhism is a religion to about 300 million people around the world. 
  • To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or 'way of life'. The Buddhist path can be summed up as:
    • (1) to lead a moral life
    • (2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions
    • (3) to develop wisdom and understanding
  • Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now located in Nepal, in 563 BC. At 29, he realised that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to human happiness. 
  • Buddha was not, nor did he claim to be a God. He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.
  • Buddhists sometimes pay respect to images of the Buddha, not in worship, nor to ask for favours. A statue of the Buddha with hands rested gently in its lap and a compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves.
  • Real Buddhism is very tolerant and not concerned with labels like 'Christian', 'Muslim', 'Hindu' or 'Buddhist'; that is why there have never been any wars fought in the name of Buddhism. That is why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, only explain if an explanation is sought.
  • The Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves. ln this way, each person decides for themselves and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding. This makes Buddhism less of a fixed package of beliefs which is to be accepted in its entirety, and more of a teaching which each person learns and uses in their own way.

Footprint of the Buddha
(1st century, Gandhara)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Think We Need a Password

I Think We Need a Password

I think we need a password

that way, in case you ever come to my door
and God and I are busy inside

we could just say, tell us the password 
if you really want to snuggle

and part of the password will be you 
knowing it is really a pass-sentence.

And here it is 
in all its glory and truth: 

Love is all of time and space. 

Now don't forget,
beam and delight 
like one who knows 
that golden key. 

        Love is our something special from this world, it is unique, lasting, never forgotten, and our only souvenir from this world. You can take love (any part, grand or small, of any lover, fleeting or lifelong) with you. This is akin to Rumi’s advice: “Apart from Love, everything passes away.” It is the gold of this world.
        Listen to the DVD intro to one of my favorite Jackson Browne's song, "keep a record [of love]"...

In The Shape of a Heart (1976), Jackson Browne

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How Eternity Could Be Endured

How Eternity Could Be Endured 

You must have seen yourself by now - 
I mean your real Self.

It must have at least passed close by one day 
maybe even stepped on your toes
or dragged you somewhere. 

That Self, upon your seeing it,
would give you the idea of how eternity 
could be endured, 

because of a tremendous enchantment you felt
for a grace emanating from all things,
and your soul now the epicenter. 

        When do we meet our true self? That authentic manifestation of our soul? Our real soul, not the one burdened with society's expectations of us? Not the one controlled by the popular kids? Not the one trampled by hardship, conventional ideals, worldly responsibilites? Can we be dragged somewhere by that Self in this lifetime?
      My dad introduced me to the Wallace Stevens poem "The Man With the Blue Guitar" a few years ago when he sent me an email about the value in being different.

"The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon my blue guitar."

And they said then, "Play, you must,
A tune beyond us"

      "You do not play things as they are...a tune beyond us", I think that is how you meet the real Self in this lifetime.

Overwhelmed (2011), Rachel Platten

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Candle Burns Down

The Candle Burns Down

We melt a little each day.
The candle burns down.

And it may wonder at times,
it may wonder: 

What will become of me? 
What will happen 
to my precious flame? 

O', you will become so much brighter,
my dear, so much brighter. 

        Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote, "I thought the fire was out, and stirred the ashes...and burnt my fingers." Have you ever though the candle in your soul has perished? Perhaps your ideas and pursuits in life have been shot down, perhaps the internal road has become too long and the moonlight too far away. Perhaps things are more physical, your body is bearing more chores than it can, your soul feels heavy and out-of-wear. But no, Machado reminds us that just when we think the fire has gone out, we can stir the ashes, and find our candle still aflame. Go to those who rekindle you, who recognize the remaining sparks before the lack of oxygen snuffs them out.
         One of my favorite verses from Machado is from his poem, "Traveller There Is No Path".

"Traveler, your footprints
are the only path, nothing else.
Traveler, there is no path;
the path is made by walking.
By walking one makes the path,
and upon glancing back
one sees a path
that will never be trod again.
Traveler, there is no path; only trails across the sea."

Hello World (2010), Lady Antebellum

Monday, April 14, 2014

Parallel The Care The Dancer Takes

Parallel The Care The Dancer Takes

Parallel the care the dancer takes 
on her finest step,

you need to feel the craving for that unison
when you touch,

touch as if it were sacred 
bring your mind to a standstill 

let the space between you open
into a sea of radiance 

where you can drown 
for a second. 

            The world slips away with your beloved. You drown for a second from the burdens, responsibilities, and hardships of this world. You drown for a second in shared happiness, in understood connections, and loving gratitude. You drown for a second amongst your own celebrations and problems, things that only make sense in the space between you. Some of the most powerful lines on love from Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning are below:

"But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life l saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth - that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.

My mind still clung to the image of my wife. A thought crossed my mind: I didn't even know if she were still alive. I knew only one thing - which I have learned well by now: Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance."

           Do you believe in that final line? That whether or not he is still alive matters not? It does not have to be a depressing thought, on the contrary, it should be re-read and welcomed. People do not have to be dead to be far away, yet do they not dwell in our hearts? Can't we call upon them at any moment? Just thinking of someone you love, whether they're lying at your side, 2,000 miles away, or departed from this world, is enough to drown for a second.

I'm Already There (2004), Lonestar

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Copper Coin Understands

The Copper Coin Understands

The copper coin understands its place
amongst the gold

any words that can tarnish another 
know they are meant to one day be discarded

from your speech, and they will 
as you mature 
grow ripe and nourish others 

the sounds of pure gold are different. 

            Post coming soon. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Where I Once Sang

Where I Once Sang

It gently faded, 
all I once believed in. 

But I am glad there is a world 
that seems to go on
where I once sang.

All I ever knew is still a part of me
and will be, forever. 

And sometimes, I even talk 
to that wondrous world 
where I once lived. 

            A prevalent theme in both literature and life is that children are inherently different than adults. A divide exists between childhood and adulthood, with innocence marking the former and a loss of something defining the latter. In one of the most well-known children's books of all time, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, there is a line: “I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”
           This line could obviously illustrate the bridge that knowledge brings to a child, in that certain things, once learned, do change who you are. Conversely, I happen to like that the line could nearly mean anything. Philosophically, we aren't the same, as the famous statement by Heraclitus goes: "You cannot step twice into the same river." Has the river changed or have we? Emotionally, we aren't the same, as any conversation had within a parent/child relationship, friendship, romantic relationship, student/teacher relationship, etc. changes you - for better or worse. Moments change people, though the metamorphosis may be minute.
          The comforting element is that Hafiz has reminded us that we are more than the last conversation we had with someone. We are the persons who have left echoes where we once sang. Particular events in life may trigger a "return" to this "world", remembering a song or coming across a familiar title. Then there are the stories and characters that stay with us, Narnia's Aslan, Harry Potter's Dumbledore, Charlie's Willy Wonka, Dr. Seuss's The Lorax. And if we are lucky, there are people within our own lives who remind us of "that wondrous world" where we once lived.

The Cheshire Cat 

“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” 
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Friday, April 11, 2014

Like A Winter Coat

Like A Winter Coat 

Names have started to admit their inabilities 
I am glad they are being honest 

Labels shield one from the truth;
they are like a winter coat in a way - 

who wants to wear one in this summer 
we can spend with Honesty and the sun
playing with you? 

              Labels do shield people from the truth and unfortunately contribute to some of our nation's intolerance. Today is GLSEN's National Day of Silence  to increase acceptance of gay, lesbian, and transgender youth. In honor of that I have included a funny joke below (the joke lasts until 1:30 in the video). 

Comedian Ahmed Bharoocha

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Sandalwood Tree

The Sandalwood Tree

The sandalwood tree shares its lovely scent
with any who come near. 
God is like that. 

Does the tree ever think to itself,
I am not going to offer my fragrance to that man 
because of what he did last night,

or to that woman who neglected her child,
or because of what we might have ever done? 

It is not the way of God to hoard.
He is simply there,
emanating freely,
if we wish to grab a handful
or fill the basket of the eye. 

           This reminded me of a passage in Viktor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning in which he explains that as the conditions of life worsened, he experienced the beauty of art and nature as never before.
           "In camp, a man might draw the attention of a comrade working next to him to a nice view of the setting sun shining through the tall trees of the Bavarian woods (as in the famous water color by Dürer), the same woods in which we had built an enormous, hidden munitions plant. One evening, when we were already resting on the floor of our hut, dead tired, soup bowls in hand, a fellow prisoner rushed in and asked us to run out to the assembly grounds and see the wonderful sunset. Standing outside we saw sinister clouds glowing in the west and the whole sky alive with clouds of ever-changing shapes and colors, from steel blue to blood red. The desolate grey mud huts provided a sharp contrast, while the puddles on the muddy ground reflected the glowing sky. Then, after minutes of moving silence, one prisoner said to another, 'How beautiful the world could be!'" 
       I decided to look up the referenced watercolor, Pond in the Woods, by Albrecht Dürer. Dürer lived in the 15th century and painted many things, but his watercolors mark him as one of the first European landscape artists. He also was a mathematician, engraver, printmaker, and theorist. For Viktor Frankl to recall this painting at the depths of human despair says a lot about his own character, but also gives such an ethereal glow to the work of Dürer. It would be a lovely reminder of the triumph of the human spirit to hang this print in your home. 

Pond in the Woods (1500s), Albrecht Dürer

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Radiant In Its Sheath

Radiant In Its Sheath 

Outside everyone's house is a great force
that will someday attack

Many have been carried off
mortally wounded
made crazed

So who would raise a child
and not prepare him for this battle?

Who would write a book
and not in some way make
you aware of the opponent you will meet?

Who would fall in love
and not learn that the most
effective sword is the one never raised?

The anger in others will meet you
so reflect a light onto your face
that can still 

           This brings to mind a powerful adage "the best things in life can't be bought". The important things in life can seldom be "taught" either. In fact, despite everyone having an interest in "education", the true education of life does not take place in schools. It happens in the day-to-day moments, in the intervals between seconds, etc. And one of those moments will be that someone angers you, disappoints you, confronts you, frustrates you, saddens you, etc. How you respond to this first (and without a doubt, subsequent) disenchantment in/from/to life is not, and probably never will be, taught by an educator, a parent, a book, a movie, but only by experience and your own decision to recognize that swords are quite radiant in their sheaths.

          “I've been making a list of the things they don't teach you at school. They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous. They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer. They don't teach you how to know what's going on in someone else's mind. They don't teach you what to say to someone who's dying. They don't teach you anything worth knowing.” ― Neil Gaiman

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?
TED 2007

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

When You're Near Me

When You're Near Me

Whenever you want to be near me, you are. 
You can even be more me than I am,
and this, this you always choose. 

It seems maybe even illegal 
your beauty 

and the way you make me alive 
feel so alive 
and at home. 


            This is a theme explored time and again in romantic literature, that the object of your affection may know you more intimately than you know yourself. And while this may or may not be true, the arms of your beloved should feel like home. They should be a refuge from the toil of this world, the frustration, the pain, the purposelessness of some things. Remember that show Winnie-the-Pooh and the wonderful quote: “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” Below is a poem by author, Alan Alexander Milne.

Us Two  

Wherever I am, there's always Pooh, 
There's always Pooh and Me. 
Whatever I do, he wants to do, 
"Where are you going today?" says Pooh: 
"Well, that's very odd 'cos I was too. 
Let's go together," says Pooh, says he. 
"Let's go together," says Pooh. 

"What's twice eleven?" I said to Pooh. 
("Twice what?" said Pooh to Me.) 
"I think it ought to be twenty-two." 
"Just what I think myself," said Pooh. 
"It wasn't an easy sum to do, 
But that's what it is," said Pooh, said he. 
"That's what it is," said Pooh. 

"Let's look for dragons," I said to Pooh. 
"Yes, let's," said Pooh to Me. 
We crossed the river and found a few- 
"Yes, those are dragons all right," said Pooh. 
"As soon as I saw their beaks I knew. 
That's what they are," said Pooh, said he. 
"That's what they are," said Pooh. 

"Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh. 
"That's right," said Pooh to Me. 
"I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh, 
And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo! 
Silly old dragons!"- and off they flew. 

"I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he, 
"I'm never afraid with you." 

Arms (2011). Christina Perri 

Monday, April 7, 2014

I Wish I Could Speak Like Music

I Wish I Could Speak Like Music

I wish I could speak like music.
I wish I could put the swaying splendor of fields
into words 
so that you could hold Truth 
against your body and dance. 

I am trying to cover you with light. 
I want to give you the sublime rhythms of this earth
and the sky's limbs 
as they joyously spin. 

          Ayn Rand was a novelist and philosopher, known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. I cannot say that I agree with all of her viewpoints, and in fact, find some offensive, but I admire her spirit in some respects, especially this line: “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it's yours.”
          In addition, I welcome her belief: "my philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being" and "love is our response to our highest values". Heroism is more true for some than others. Someone who makes this particularly true is Zach Sobiech, who, before his death from osteosarcoma, realsed the song "Clouds" that became the first song by an independent artist to reach the top of the iTunes music charts. This kind of legacy is resonate with Hafiz knowing we orchestrate symphonies within. 

5,000 people singing Clouds at Mall of America

Sunday, April 6, 2014

But What Can Die?

But What Can Die?

The earth is a host 
that murders its guests.

But what can die?

All dying just removes the husk 
over the soul.

All dying unveils
the wonder within. 

           I am halfway through Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, and one of the things that stood out to me is how in the constant threat of death, people were not just staying alive, but actually living. He recounted people handing out their serving of bread, despite being starving, people using their free time to hold religious services and pray, rather than get the much needed rest, people leaning on each other, literally and figuratively. He noted that those who survived possessed a spiritual freedom, which was a unique essence that could not be taken away from them. These men believed that despite horrendous suffering, he "could not be replaced, nor his life be repeated". In this, men lived like their lives mattered and lived for a future when "mattering" meant what it used to.  For Frankl, this meant envisioning himself in a lecture hall, discussing his time in the concentration camp in light of his profession, and for this, being known as a famous psychiatrist. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
         For Frankl, that meant that even in the face of immense suffering, no one could suffer for him or in his place. In this realization he found that his existence in the world was definite, he was alive, and his uniqueness would come in the form of how he beared his burden. He acknowledged that while this achievement "will not inspire envy" it was the "accomplishment of my life for which I am most proud".
           Frankl's writing is brilliant, and below I have included one of his passages on Fate (which he believed in and mentioned numerous times in the book):

"When the transport of sick patients for the "rest camp" was organized, my name (that is, my number) was put on the list, since a few doctors were needed. But no one was convinced that the destination was really a rest camp. 

The chief doctor, who had taken a liking to me, told me furtively one evening at quarter to ten, "I have made it known in the orderly room that you can still have your name crossed off the list; you may do so up until ten o'clock." 

I told him that this was not my way; that I had learned to let fate take its course: "I might as well stay with my friends." 

There was a look of pity in his eyes, as if he knew. He shook my hand silently, as though it were a farewell, not for life, but from life. 


We were not heading for the gas chambers, and we actually did go to a rest camp. Those who had pitied me remained in a camp where famine was to rage even more fiercely than in our new camp. 


Many weeks later we found out that even in those last hours fate had toyed with us few remaining prisoners. We found out just how uncertain human decisions are, especially in matters of life and death. I was confronted with photographs which had been taken...our friends who thought they were traveling to freedom...had burned to death. 


Does this not bring to mind the story of Death in Teheran? A rich and mighty Persian once walked in his garden with one of his servants. The servant cried that he had just encountered Death, who had threatened him. He begged his master to give him his fastest horse so that he could make haste and flee to Teheran, which he could reach that same evening. The master consented and the servant galloped off on the horse. On returning to his house the master himself met Death, and questioned him, "Why did you terrify and threaten my servant?" "I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here, when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran," said Death." 

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Behold Yourself

Behold Yourself

Like a great film or play everyone should see,
behold yourself. 

Hints of your beauty the mountains have,
and the enchanting complexions of coral reefs
are pale to a golden candle in your heart. 

What moves in any ocean moves through you. 
A thousand kinds of music play every hour
that you orchestrate. 

              I just came across the poem Postcards by E. Ethelbert Miller. It is below: 


When was the last time you mailed a postcard? 
 My mother kept the ones I sent her. 
My sister mailed them back to me after she died. 
I had forgotten I had written so many small notes to my mother. 
The price of stamps kept changing. 
I was always mentioning on the back of cards I was having a good time. 
I can remember the first time I lied to my mother. 
It was something small, maybe the size of a postcard. 
Her small hand inside my hand. 
I was beginning to feel something I knew I would never write home about. 

          At first, I presumed this writer, who identifies as "E." for a first name, was gay, as why else would you not write home about love? Then I read, E. is actually a straight black male, and the girl he writes about is Chinese. Judy's race or color is not mentioned in the poem, but he knew his mother would not approve of the relationship. In doing so, I wonder if maybe he feels as though he never wrote home about his greatest accomplishment, loving another. I wonder if she felt offended. I wonder if it lasted. If you truly "behold yourself", then the confidence is there to embrace whatever identity is yours. Then again, the author reflects on in his commentary, asking the reader: "In the past, don't all secrets seem small?" 

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Night Orchard

The Night Orchard 

The night orchard is in bloom, 
the clear sky. 

How many people have looked upon it
and called it by different names? 

Still, the stars respond as if there is something 
so personal between you. 

       This past month I got a Celestron NexStar 90SLT Mak Computerized Telescope to replace my Meade ETX 90PE. I've yet to fully set it up and "slew" it, as observers would say, but I'm excited to add pictures and joys to my blog when I start regularly observing again. I love starring at the stars in the night sky and just feeling without worry, feeling infinite, for mere moments. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, "the lovely stars are the forget-me-nots of the angels".

      The first constellation I knew by heart was Orion, and within it the stars, Rigel and Betelgeuse.

Orion Constellation, Hubble 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Heaven is Jealous

Heaven is Jealous

There are moments in moist love 
when heaven is 
jealous of what we on earth can do.

And there are gods who would trade their lives
to have a heart that can know human pain,

because our sufferings will allow us to become
greater than this world. 

         For school I research many topics, few stick with me as more than facts that must be recalled, both now and at some future point in time. Today, I happened upon Triploid syndrome, an extremely rare chromosomal disorder, with a prognosis worse than Downs Syndrome (Trisomy 21), Edwards Syndrome (Trisomy 18), and Patau Syndrome (Trisomy 13). Individuals with triploid syndrome have 69 chromosomes rather than the normal 46. Fetuses are usually lost early on through miscarriage. Another portion survive, but are stillborn. Very few are born alive, in fact there are only around 60 recorded cases ever in the world. Unfortunately, these children rapidly decline after birth. Of note, most of the medical pictures for children born alive with Triploid syndrome are featured both in articles and on the parents' blogs. Of course it is the parents' blogs that are the reason behind why I bring this up. Almost universally I was met with quotes similar to this one: "Briefly I held an angel, and for that I am grateful, for that, I can know joy." 
         I believe that there are heavenly moments in human relationships and sometimes we come across angels on earth, and I'd wager both of these are most likely to happen in moments of love. Moments of love can be anything, from sitting close to having sex to saying goodbye too soon. If Hafiz is right, then "our sufferings allow us to become greater than this world", and this too, however unsettling, is a component of love. Perhaps the only solace is knowing that love does allow us to rise above, "Of all the things you see, only love is infinite" (Rumi). 
        The words of Kahlil Gibran sum this up perfectly:

"But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness 
and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world 
where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, 
and cry, but not all of your tears." 

The Cathedral (1908), Rodin Museum

“In friendship or in love, the two side by side raise hands together to find what one cannot reach alone.” - Gibran

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Where Is The Door to God?

Where Is The Door to God?

Where is the door to God? 
In the sound of a barking dog,
in the ring of a hammer,
in a drop of rain,
in the face of everyone, 
in all we can behold. 

             In 2009, everyone knew the opening lyrics to The Fray's You Found Me, "I found God
on the corner of First and Amistad...". God is wherever people are when they find him, when they need him, when they talk to him. Poets have long known that God is in the eyes of your beloved, in the first snow of the season, in the miracle of a new day, etc. As humans, we seem to forget this from time to time, but if you prayed to God now, he would be near enough to hear you, holding your hand as you read this. 

You Found Me (2009), The Fray 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Do I Listen?

How Do I Listen? 

How do I listen to others?
As if everyone were my Master 
speaking to me 
his cherished last words.

How do I listen to you?
As if you were the Alpha 
and the Omega 
of all sound. 

         April is poetry month, woohoo! The American Academy of Poets sent me this email today: "Once a day please press pause on the mad rush and read a poem. Linger over its language. Reflect on its lines, as they might reveal new truths about your life. Imagine the experiences and histories portrayed, which are so different from your own. Smile and enjoy!"
        When we are "fully present" it is a great gift. It is how we grow in love with another, by dropping the obligations of life, pressing pause, and lingering in their presence. Listening, just listening. Cherishing every word as if it were a poem, because the words of the people you love are akin to poetry.
        Just as the Academy of Poets recommends this month, truly absorbing the words of your lover "reveal new truths about your life". In the iconic novel by John Green, The Fault In Our Stars, the two main characters face the challenge of their time to listen to each other being limited.
“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. But, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.”           The marks you leave within the hearts of those who loved you, have an infinity all their own. And yes, that's poetry. Happy Poetry Month! :D