I hear I am one of the most successful living poets in the world these days. And if someone asked me, "How in the hell did that ever happen?" I could respond, "Well, I worked my butt off, and I have been lucky at poker, and the heart is more powerful than I knew." The Unseen, I think, is willing to back our efforts if one's tears have fermented. What might be called God, I have learned, is somewhat helpless before any real love and courage a person can have. That is, to my ken, a Higher Power -- our Beloved -- would rather be a servant to us, than be served ... would rather worship us, than be worshiped. Probably, there is no movement or sound or scent or thought -- or awaiting experience --that did not come from something She cooked up in a wild mood one night, rang the dinner bell for, and started the myriad souls vast migration to chow down on the Infinite, on the Divine, that someday we will swallow whole.
But for now, maybe the best lay in town is a poem, or any art that merits an ovation from you -- be that applause just a lingering twinkle in your eye that someone else can get a hit off of, or the corners of your mouth turned up in a grateful silence. I believe art can be a lover, as wonderful as any. But all forms, and especially names, become a prison at some point that can cause mental illness if one cannot consciously escape them at interludes.
I like these words, I have published, from one of the poets-seers I have studied. They both honor the heroes -- in marriages, families, work places. And then the words point, hint at our fundamental destiny to unite with that beyond our common understanding of self, gender, and all the crazy dividing flags.
Great lions can find peace in a cage
but we should only do that as a last resort
so those bars I see that restrain your wings
I guess you won't mind if I pry them open.
With the Christmas month upon us, and talking about art, here is a Rumi poem I have worked on, this is a rendering by me, aimed for a book called The Purity of Desire, 100 Poems of Rumi, which is under contract with Penguin.
The Body Is Like Mary
The body is like Mary and each of us has a Jesus inside.
Who is not in labor, holy labor? Every creature is.
See the value of true art when the earth or a soul is in
the mood to create beauty,
for the witness might then for a moment know beyond
any doubt, God is really there within,
so innocently drawing life from us with Her umbilical
though also needing to be born, yes God also needs to be
birth from a hand's loving touch, birth from a song breathing
life into this world.
The body is like Mary, and each of us, each of us, has a
I had a sweet conversation with HuffPost Living Editor, Alana B. Elias Kornfeld, before she turned me loose here, on this blog I was invited to write. And while we were talking, and I was telling her about my life and how I am so drawn to nature and was planning to spend more and more time at a wilderness farm I have in the Ozarks, it occurred to me that nature and art were royal twins. And that people who lived in cities can so need to associate with art simply because it helps to keep one sane at the least, and can deeply nourish and inspire at its best. Nature and art are sacred breasts we can feed on to grow. They are vital to our evolution. They offer a jailbreak or leave from the madness and demands we can get caught in. Of course love does that, too. Love dissolves boundaries and ultimately removes any contour that is not luminous.
I have worked with some of the greatest freedom fighters in history and from studying their lives and writings came up with an anthology, an avant-garde portrait of their work, called Love Poems from God, Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West. As one might take a class called religion 101, I think that anthology gets into God 10,000; it is engaging and beautiful with no-holds-barred -- as creation is. And the poet who I have worked most with is the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz. Ralph Waldo Emerson translated Hafiz and remarked, Hafiz is a poet for poets. And Goethe said, Hafiz has no peer. And I think Goethe knew what he was talking about.
The heart suffers when it cannot see and touch beauty,
but beauty is not shy it is synonymous with existence.
Those words are in one of my Hafiz books, and I think they are true. And is not suffering (the avoidance of it) a full time occupation we are all deeply engaged in. Intelligence as we know it, if it has any real usefulness is only in part valued because of its ability to avoid or lessen pain. For most, an honest gauge of intelligence might be how often one has a sense of peace, comfort, well-being, excitement, happiness, generosity ... or that contagious twinkle. I think in some ways real cerebral dexterity and power is all about liberation, surely not control. And I think a rational mind comes to value discipline or restraint only because of a faith or hope ... one might then reach an inner realm where there are less and less rules and laws, and gravity.
All acts and thoughts are inherently selfish -- of course they are, we are in a constant-natural state of negotiation to better our circumstances (inwardly and or outwardly), except in our moments of ecstasy, or our deepest sleep. But at some point one selfishness becomes more intelligent, less confining, and helps unfurl the spirit. And the height of intelligent selfishness is what one can call enlightenment or realization -- simply just seeing what a miraculous, fucking knockout everything really is.
Santa usually looks like he has some clue to this Alice In Wonderland where we are camping, as does any half-baked Zen master, or any rabbi or priest worth respect. If I had a son or daughter who was shopping about for some kind of spiritual teacher to help with the knowing -- to help catch the Buddha's fantastic grin, and they happened to ask if I had any advice, I would say, "Yep." And then if they said, "Well, spill the beans old man." I would respond, "It is right there on page 217, just open the book." Then if they said, "I am too lazy." "Alright then," I would pipe back, "I will read it." Here goes:
The words guru, swami, super swami, master,
teacher, yogi, murshid, priest -- most of those
sporting such a title are just peacocks.
The litmus test is to hold them upside down
over a cliff for a few hours. If they don't wet
their pants ... maybe you found a real one.
Now there is a practical Love Poem from God if I ever heard one, for why would the Princess want us to get fleeced!
I don't think we will feel complete until our consummation with the Sun. Maybe smooching with a poem will help bring the Beautiful One closer.