Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Reflections: Loss and Remembrance


A Melancholy Diptych
(for Amy Winehouse, 9/14/83 - 7/23/11)

I. Clueless

My daughters
are still quite young,
living lives defined by friends,
travel, sex, education.
They know the ephemeral sadness
of a hard occasion,
but they do not yet comprehend
the quintessential sadness
of the world.
They would not understand how
their father could be driving to work
listening to Tori Amos sing
“Famous Blue Raincoat” with tears
washing down the creases in his face,
or why this clueless old man
would be composing a eulogy
for poor lost
Amy Winehouse
in his head as he drives.

II. For Amy

when we accept
the false assurance
of our own advice
with the anxious bravado
of a child, alone,
half asleep,
and afraid of the dark.

Let there be a lesson
in the lamenting of the loss:
when it falls
it falls away in pieces
like the stages of a rocket
following its fast ascent, lost
in the brilliant blossom of flame
burning its beauty
into the flat black
backdrop of the midnight sky
like a defiant tattoo.
Then suddenly
it is out of sight,
a tiny point
of light.

one last tat:
A rising sun
all wrapped in banners:
“Clean Forever”
“Clean at Last”

***    ***    ***

And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
~ L. Cohen


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Readings: Digging the Diggers


Over the past several days, I have been reading the introductory pages of The Works of Gerrard Winstanley, George H. Sabine, Editor. Gerrard Winstanley was a figure in the English Revolution of the 17th century. For Winstanley, religion and politics were inseparable. He was associated with a movement called the Levellers; more specifically with a sect which became known as the Diggers. He advocated a form of faith-based communism. There were some similarities between these groups and the Society of Friends, or Quakers. All of these groups came together in reaction to the formalism and structuralism of the mainstream Calvinism that dominated Reformation religion and politics, in 17th century England.

The essence of Winstanley’s religious belief was subjective realization and complete acceptance of the teaching that “the Kingdom of God is within you.” Everything from the Star of Bethlehem to the Resurrection takes place within the individual through personal recognition of the Light within. Winstanley believed that this recognition would immanently become universal, establishing the rule of Love for all mankind. He saw the English Revolution as a sign that this much longed for transformation had already begun.

Below is a representative paragraph of Sabine’s commentary, followed by some words of Winstanley’s from a publication entitled “The Breaking of the Day of God”.
First, Sabine:

Winstanley’s ethics, like that of the Quakers, had a quality which might be called, for want of better terms, quietism or pacificism. It does not appear that Winstanley was literally a pacifist, in that he thought it wrong to bear arms. He was undoubtedly a pacifist, however, so far as concerned the realization of his communism. God, he says, puts no weapons into the hands of this saints to fight against reproaches, oppression, poverty, and temptation. The Levellers will not conquer by the sword, for Christ, who is the head Leveller, fights only with the sword of love, and this in the end will throw down all government and ministry that is lifted up by the imagination. In the end, Christ, the law of universal love, will reign, and this will be true magistracy, the light of truth, reason, humility, and peace. Like George Fox--and this was the root of Quaker pacificism --Winstanley distrusted the efficacy of force to accomplish any permanent moral results, and this was altogether in accord with the belief that morality begins with a change of heart. Hence the root of moral regeneration is a kind of passivity, submissiveness to the better impulse that will rise if it be given the chance, a silence and a waiting until the wiser thought and action ripens.

Then, Winstanley:

Tell a man that he hath no knowledge and no faith of God, and his heart swells presently and thinks you wrong him; tell him his own human learning and workings is abomination to the Lord and that he must lay aside his beloved actings and wait only upon God for knowledge and faith, and his heart swells and cannot endure to hear of waiting upon God: and truly God is more honored by our waiting than by the multitude of our self-actings.
…For the flesh grudges to give God his liberty to do with own what he will, and the flesh would have something in itself; it hath a secret grudging to acknowledge all wisdom, faith, and life must be given of God, and that his actings can get nothing. [ellipses are Sabine’s]

What Winstanley refers to in this context as “the flesh,” can be understood contemporarily as “the ego.” Sabine goes on at this point to say:

This sense of waiting and receiving, I have no doubt, is an authentic moral experience, quite apart from Winstanley’s antiquated terminology. There is a type of mind, as William James has said, that finds itself able to tap unsuspected sources of energy by dipping below the surface-play of consciousness.

The message is that the professor, the priest, and the politician all speak to the ego, in order to establish therein the fear and false pride which separates the individual from his true self, from his fellow-man, and from all knowledge of, and communication with, his God. I believe that Winstanley was onto something.
Link to "The Diggers Song" reportedly written by Gerrard Winstanley, as recorded by Chumbawamba: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA4FTIz2Zrw

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Readings: Jorie Graham on Tipping the Primal Scales


Adam and Eve in the primal Garden has been a recurring theme of mine, especially in poetry. I was therefore most appropriately smitten with drop-dead appreciation of this passage (number 9 of 33) in Jorie Graham’s poem “Self-Portrait as the Gesture Between Them [Adam and Eve]” from the collection The End of Beauty.

The passage describes Eve in the aftermath of having plucked the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge:


But a secret grows, a secret wants to be given away.
For a long time it swells and stains its bearer with beauty.
It is what we see swelling forth making the shape we know a thing by.
The thing inside, the critique of the given.

It is the final line that got to me: it seems to say that to be is to exist in opposition to. Simple being, then, is the Original Sin. Mea freakin’ culpa!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Quote du Jour - re: William Blake


from Blake and the Bible by Christopher Rowland

Blake espoused what might be termed an inclusive version of the Body of Christ doctrine in which redemption is the recognition of the fact that one was already as a human being part of the divine body and in this space has the awareness to practice forgiveness of sins and the annihilation of selfhood. [p.200]

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rodak's Writings: A Poem


Home Movie

These poems, with all their crudities, doubts, and confusions, are written for the love of Man and in praise of God, and I’d be a damn’ fool if they weren’t.

~ Dylan Thomas, Collected Poems, “Note”

What you perceive without
is what you have built within.
The border between them, too,
is only your-Self, divided.

The thickest wall
of the strongest fortress
on the highest hill
is nothing more solid
than a line scratched
in the dust of time
by the hand of a careless child;
a line that the gentle breath
of inSpiration would effortlessly erase,
simply by Being.

That which you fear is projected
from imaginary reels turning
and turning on spindles of self-styled fate;
is beamed from within the dark,
karmic closet of the self-imprisoned soul;
projected through the lens of the flesh
onto the screen of pure white Light
that is the only Reality.

The beauty of the rose is only a sign,
a step removed from Beauty.
A portrait of the beauty of the rose
is one more step back from Truth.
The sketch, the concept, the yearning,
every distance within the mind’s desire,
is but a rung on Jacob’s ladder.
One must climb existence to the top
and either leap from those heights
into the waiting arms of the Eternal,
or else climb back down into the darkness
beneath the root of that imaginary blossom.

You who are the artist of who you are;
You who feel so all alone;
You who would stand with your brother,
with your sister, naked and unafraid,
unashamed in Beauty’s bright Light;
You who would reach out to your neighbor
with your word of love,
must address that word to God,
in Whom every movie is a Happy Ending.