Mary Oliver

I found a treasure trove of Mary Oliver’s Poetry online.

(update — I added the link to the treasure trove of poetry I forgot when I first posted)

The world needs to clone en masse the Love Child of Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry. Just an idea.

The spirit likes to dress up like this:
ten fingers, ten toes, shoulders, and all the rest
at night in the black branches, in the morning
in the blue branches of the world.

It could float, of course, but would rather plumb rough matter.

Airy and shapeless thing,
It needs the metaphor of the body,
lime and appetite, the oceanic fluids;
it needs the body’s world, instinct and imagination
and the dark hug of time, sweetness and tangibility,

to be understood,
to be more than pure light that burns where no one is —

so it enters us — in the morning
shines from brute comfort like a stitch of lightning;
and at night lights up the deep and wondrous drownings of the body
like a star.

— Mary Oliver

Zen and Butterfly Effect

I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance way back in college. It was one of the key stepping stones toward my conversion to faith. Not a huge step, but a nudge in the spiritual direction. For the first time my left-brained mind could fathom a timeless principle that supercedes Reason and Logic, my “Gods” at the time. And somehow this was all connected to eastern philosophy.

“Phædrus is fascinated by the description of the motive of “duty toward self ” which is an almost exact translation of the Sanskrit word dharma, sometimes described as the “one” of the Hindus. Can the dharma of the Hindus and the “virtue” of the ancient Greeks be identical?

Then Phædrus feels a tugging to read the passage again, and he does so and then — what’s this?! — “That which we translate `virtue ‘ but is in Greek `excellence.”‘

Lightning hits!

Quality! Virtue! Dharma! That is what the Sophists were teaching! Not ethical relativism. Not pristine “virtue.” But areté. Excellence. Dharma! Before the Church of Reason. Before substance. Before form. Before mind and matter. Before dialectic itself. Quality had been absolute. Those first teachers of the Western world were teaching Quality, and the medium they had chosen was that of rhetoric. He has been doing it right all along.

I read that passage twenty years ago and am living its downstream effects today in many unanticipated ways. Like the butterfly wing that creates the hurricane. This morning I stumbled across an online version. You can download it in PDF too if you want. If you dare. Heh.


I think Kurt’s latest entry may have saved my blog.

Kurt posted a link to a blogger I never read before named Lorianne. Her explanation of Christian Zen and the Bodhisattva-Christ is the clearest and most concise of anything I’ve ever read. Knowing that resource is there is a gift. Knowing Lorraine is out there is a gift.

Never would have known about either if it weren’t for that post. That’s blogging at its purest — pointing beyond one’s self to something better, enabling others to make connections that affect their lives.

I won’t waste your time with the self-absorbed mental hand-wringing I’ve had with my efforts on Overflow — whether to kill it, mothball it, or muddle on in mediocrity — over the past few months. Let’s just say that sometimes it takes a pure, simple example to point you on a clearer path.

Bad Art Night

Wednesday, February 25th is the date for the next Bad Art Night. Same Place.

This time the theme is Duct Tape. We’ll start out with a duct tape wallet workshop and then release everybody to create and innovate with everybody’s favorite tape. Hats, ties, belts, badge holders, abstract art — the sky’s the limit.

Bring a roll of Duct Tape. Don’t be a mooch.

Chocolate Charities

For Mr. Freshpants, his various playrooms are life’s landmarks. He knows the ones he goes to most often — the playroom at church, the playroom which is pre-school, and the playroom at the babysitting service we use — and relates his days to them.

Every once in a while, we take him up to Catholic Charities to do adoption and fostering business and, while the adults are talking adult stuff, Fresh gets to explore another, lesser known playroom. It’s like a special treat. Seems like we always have to practically drag him out of the playroom at Catholic Charities. I understand where he’s coming from — he’s not finished. There are whole toys he has not explored yet. But that very fact is what makes it such a treat to go.

So I find it appropos that Fresh mispronounces Catholic Charities as “Chocolate Charities.” Hey, it’s a treat.

We all get a kick out of each time he says “I wanna go to Chocolate Charities.” We all smile to think of what kind of programs a place called “Chocolate Charities” might sponsor.

Quit Trying

“God is known both in all objects and outside all objects. God is
known both through knowing and through unknowing . . . He is nothing
of what is, and therefore cannot be known through anything that is;
and yet He is all in all. His is nothing in anything; and yet his
known by all in all, at the same time as He is not known by anything
in anything.”
– Dionysius the Areopagite, “The Divine Names,” VII, 3.

“Well, hell,” I say, “then who can ever know you, God?” “Exactly.” You say, “Quit trying.”

I’m trying to quit trying. Not much success so far.

Too tired to say anything original, I post a brilliant poem

“After the Revolution for Jesus a Secular Man Prepares
His Final Remarks”

by Miller Williams

What the blind lost when radio
gave way to TV,
what the deaf lost when movies
stopped spelling out words and spoke,
was a way back in. Always, this desire
to be inside again, when the doors are closed.

The thought of being disconnected
from history or place can empty the heart;
we are most afraid,
whatever else we fear,
of feeling the memory go, and of exile.
And death, which is both at once.

Still, as our lives
are the inhalations and exhalations of gods
we ought not fear those things we know will come
and ought not hope for what we know will not.
The dogs that waited for the soldiers to come home
from Philippi, New Guinea, Pennsylvania,
are all dead now whether or not the men
came back to call them.

There is no constancy but a falling away
with only love as a temporary stay
and not much assurance of that.

The desert religions are founded on sandy ways
to set ourselves free from that endless tumbling downward.
Thus we endow ourselves with gods of purpose,
the purposes of gods, and do their battles.

We are sent to war for money, but we go for God.

Prison is no place for living
but for reliving lives.
I remember a quarrel of students
proving, reproving the world;
a woman taking love
she didn’t want, but needed
like a drowning swimmer
thrown a strand of barbed wire
by a kind stranger standing on the shore.

Imperfect love in that imperfect world
seemed elegant and right.
Now the air that shaped itself to our bodies
will take the forms of others.
They will laugh with this air and pass it through their bodies
but days like ours
they will not come again to this poor planet.

I am reinventing our days together.
A man should be careful with words
at a time like this,
but lies have some attraction over the truth;
there is something in deceitful words
that sounds good to the ear.

The first layer of paint conceals the actor;
the second conceals the paint.

By which sly truth we have come to where we are.

I can hear brief choirs of rifles.
Inside my head
naked women wander toward my bed.
How gently they lie there, loving themselves to sleep.

What do we know that matters that Aeschylus did not know?

I do believe in God, the Mother and Father,
Maker of possibility, distance, and dust,
who may never come to judge or quicken the dead
but does abide. We live out our lives
inside the body of God,
a heretic and breathing universe
that feeds on the falling of sparrows
and the crumbling of nations,
the rusting away of metal
and the rotting of wood.
I will be eaten by God.
There is nothing to fear.
To die, the singers believe, is to go home.
Where should I go, going home? Lord, I am here.

(copyright Miller Williams)

The insidious process by which a Want becomes a Need

I’ve decided I want a VCR upstairs at our house. Our one VCR is downstairs, which facilitates kids watching Winnie The Pooh and Veggie Tales, but our digital cable box is upstairs. We can only get channels up to two digits on our downstairs VCR tuner. So right now if I want to record a program on a channel that has three digits, I can’t.

And, you see, Sessions At West 54th this week is very good. Lessee, they’ve got Rollins Band, that the guy from Arrested Development (hey, well at least I liked them) who calls himself Speech, Lyle Lovett, Wilco, and G. Love and Special Sauce. All within four days of each other.

Now, what are the chances I am going to be able to sit down at 7:00 p.m. on four consecutive evenings and watch TV? Slim to none. So I need to record. And so I need a VCR upstairs. How’s that for a rationalization?

While I’m at it, there are a number of other shows on the quirky, inconsistent Trio channel that I want to check out, like Egg and 9Sharp, but those air at even more impossible times than Sessions.

And we haven’t even looked into the other channels, like that Office show on BBC America. Not like I really need to be contriving ways to spend more time in front of the TV set, but I don’t want to miss G. Love and Wilco. Yes, I need another VCR.

'Shaper Shaped'

In days gone by I used to be
A potter who would feel
His fingers mould the yielding clay
To patterns on his wheel;
But now, through wisdom lately won,
That pride has gone away,
I have ceased to be the potter
And have learned to be the clay.

In other days I used to be
A poet through whose pen
Innumerable songs would come
To win the hearts of men;
But now, through new-got knowledge
Which I hadn’t had so long,
I have ceased to be the poet
And have learned to be the song.

I was a fashioner of swords,
In days that now are gone,
Which on a hundred battle-fields
Glittered and gleamed and shone;
But now I am brimming with
The silence of the Lord,
I have ceased to be sword-maker
And have learned to be the sword.

In by-gone days I used to be
A dreamer who would hurl
On every side an insolence
Of emerald and pearl.
But now I am kneeling
At the feet of the Supreme
I have ceased to be the dreamer
And have learned to be the dream.

— Harindranath Chattopadhyaya