Thursday, May 29, 2014

A True Human Being

Though he lived in mid-thirteenth century Turkey I met the Sufi poet Jelalludin Rumi in prison in America some eight centuries later when I came upon a scrap of his poetry. Or maybe I should say I met him in a field, considering the piece of poetry that introduced us. It was this little sparkle of light:
Out beyond ideas
Of wrong doing and right doing
There is a field.

I'll meet you there.
These words struck me as a call to go beyond the goodness of accomplishment and punched tickets to heaven to explore a deeper kind of goodness. I've since come to see this deeper goodness as a state of unconditional love and goodwill. A place where we love simply because this is our truest nature and is the only way to become what the Sufis call a "true human being." I immediately felt a connection to Rumi. It wasn't, however, until a friend heard of this and bought me a book of his work that I got to know him a little better.

I found him to be a giant in human spiritual history. He has the power to reach across hundreds of years, as well as the sometimes insurmountable chasms of religious and secular culture, to speak to me as if sitting across the room from me saying something that I've never heard before.

His words are like the tap of a silver spoon on a wineglass in the noisy room of my soul. When I hear them the clamor of small talk dies away and the silence fills up with expectation; a craning of necks and a slight leaning forward to be sure I don't miss what's being said.

I can hardly talk about poetry or being a true human being without giving a deep bow to this great master. Check him out and in the meantime I'll close with this gem:

Gamble everything for love
If you're a true human being
If not, leave this gathering
Half-heartedness doesn't reach into majesty.
You set out to find God but then you keep stopping for long periods
at mean spirited roadhouses.
Don't wait any longer
How does he know me so well?

Monday, May 19, 2014

My New Book

Well, The Knitting Birds have finally flown in the form of a little book of poems written by yours truly and put out by the tiny but lovable Whole Way Press.

The title poem is a sort of daydream about two of my favorite things: Maryann and birds — in this case, mythical knitting birds with long, thin beaks who knit the world from dreams. They live between moments and we catch glimpses of them whenever we get distracted from ourselves.

Of course, it's rare that we get distracted from ourselves, so sightings of knitting birds are rare as well, but they do occur.

Maryann, on the other hand, is not mythical. She's the editor of The Knitting Birds and sightings of her are slightly more common, though no less enjoyable.

I hope you'll check this little volume out and tell a friend or two.

An Introduction

I’m thinking about two things as I write this: 1) What will you show up to read? and 2) What do I love enough to keep writing about for any extended time?

Another question might help me answer the first. Who are you?

Let me see if I can imagine:

You’re someone trying to stay awake. There is plenty of better “entertainment” (i.e., sleep aids) in our culture than I can provide, so I assume, unless you just have very poor shopping skills, that you’re not coming here to be entertained. I believe that all human behavior falls into two categories: Stuff that makes us sleep and stuff that wakes us up. I can tell you, I have no magic formula for attracting and attending to the latter but it is what I’m trying to do: stay awake.

Let’s see, besides being someone trying to stay awake, I imagine you also as someone who believes words and ideas have a role to play in that process. You have an affinity for the written word and a memory of an encounter with words that was akin to your first kiss or first love. All the ugly, back-stabbing, money-grubbing, shallow, arrogant and ignorant words you’ve been subjected to since then have not been able to destroy that sublime encounter or put out the fire it lit in you.

In other words, you are a believer in the true and the good; in the power of mindfulness despite all the mindlessness around us.

I don’t write poetry because I love poetry. I write poetry because I love the true and the good. Anyone who writes or reads poetry for any other reason is someone out of communion with me — and with poetry itself for that matter. I say the same of philosophy or any other kind of writing.

I have no desire to be a “writer” or a “poet,” but only a true human being and there’s no reason for a true human being to open his or her mouth or mind except to enter into communion with the true and the good, however imperfect that communion might be. This is the only love big enough to keep me coming back so I will assume, if we are in any form of communion, the same is true of you.