May 20th, 2007

Book Cover

Good Morning!

Steve and I took an early morning walk for coffee and a goodie, and then, walked home to leisurely create and savor our Sunday morning breakfast.

I am peaceful and full, feeling fatigue in a way that says yes, this is a hammock day, though I don't have a hammock, but it is a day to gather myself in a blanket of words and rest.  My books are piled,  offering an array of choice.  I'll pick books like bon bons today.

I am with Emily Dickinson this morning.

A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Occasionally rides -
You may have met Him - did you not
His notice sudden is -

The Grass divides as with a Comb -
A spotted shaft is seen -
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on -
He likes a Boggy Acre
A Floor too cool for Corn -
Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot -
I more than once at Noon

Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stopping to secure it
It wrinkled, and was gone -

Several of Nature's People
I know, and they know me -
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality -

But never met this Fellow
Attended, or alone
Without a tighter breathing
And Zero at the Bone -

       - Emily Dickinson

Book Cover

Marcus Aurelius!

Jacob Needleman in his book Why Can't We Be Good? quotes Marcus Aurelius, for whom "power means more than dominion over nations and peoples.  It means, first and foremost, dominion over oneself - specifically, an intentional relationship to one's own mind, one's own thoughts, one's own impulses and emotions.  In striving for such a sustained and ever-deepening attention to one's own mind, a man opens himself to the mind and power of God within himself.  Such was the essence of the way of life called philosophy."

Words of Marcus Aurelius, written while he was emperor of Rome.

    "The duration of a person's life is only a point; our substance is flowing away this very moment; the senses are dim; the composition of the body is decaying, the psyche is chaos, our fate is unknowable ... What then can guide and protect you in this life?  Only one thing: philosophy, and this consists in keeping the divine spirit within you free from pollution and damage ...."

    "Stop letting the guiding principle within you be tugged around like a marionette by the strings of selfish impulses."

    "If you do the task before you always rigourously adhering to the true dictates of the mind with zeal and energy and yet with compassion and humanity, disregarding all lesser ends and keeping the divinity within you pure and upright, as though at this very moment you were called to give it back to its Creator - if you hold steadily to this, expecting nothing and avoiding nothing, only seeking in each passing action a conformity with Nature and in each word and utterance a fearless truthfulness, then you will live a good life. And from this course no man has the power to hold you back. 

    Turn your attention within, for the fountain of all that is good lies within, and it is always ready to pour forth, if you continuously delve in.

    Each and every hour make up your mind ... to accomplish the matter presently at hand with genuine seriousness, loving care, independence and justice. Allow your mind freedom from all other considerations.  This you can do if you perform every action of your life as if it were your last, putting aside all wayward impulses and emotional resistance to the choices of reason, and all pretense, selfishness and discontent with what has been allowed to you.  See how few are the things which a person needs to master in order to live a tranquil and godly existence.  The gods ask nothing more of us."

             - Marcus Aurelius -

Book Cover

In praise of silence -

Jacob Needleman in Why Can't We be Good? speaks of a way of being he inhabited right after his mother died.  I have often noted how beautiful people look at funerals.  My sense of it is that we are pulled out of our own personal worries into something bigger that supports us as we grieve.

Needleman writes of his experience this way:

    "In the days that followed there was nothing that anyone could say or do that could offend me, or hurt me, or irritate me. I had not a single angry impulse or jealous or vengeful thought. As the same time, my attitude toward others - family, friends, or strangers - was indescribably clear and direct. I "required" nothing of anyone and this attitude, far from cutting me off from people, actually opened my heart to everyone in ways and degrees extraordinarily appropriate to each person I came in touch with.  There was nothing "philosophical" or "mental" about this attitude.  It was not that I was feeling or thinking about the mortality of all human beings and therefore remembering to treat them with kindness or compassion.  It was nothing that I was "doing." I simply saw and felt them; some I loved, some I disliked, some I let into myself, some I kept away from myself. At different times I treated the same person differently without rationalizing the contradiction, and when I wanted something from someone I simply asked for it or took it under the guidance of some sort of moral clairvoyance that allowed me to act without hurting or offending or seducing anyone. If someone asked me for something I said yes or no with an even, equal voice. I had not a single concern about what others would think of me, nor a single worry about whether I should be giving more attention to others or doing more for them.

    At times I laughed and even joked. And I remember how full and deep my laughter sounded. Nor was I afraid sometimes to allow my tears to come, either alone or with others.

    And now, long after this period, as I think about what was then happening in me and what state of being had been given to me, I can say that every cell of my body, brain and heart was inhabited by silence in the form of a very fine, evenly distributed attention like the magical perfume of some ancient legend, bringing not joy, but something related to it that has no name, in the midst of profound sorrow and grief, and bringing, so to say, the holy grail of the power to love, without desire or craving, within one's vision and hope of attainment."
Book Cover

Poem by Czeslaw Milosz


My most honorable eyes, you are not in the best of shape.
I receive from you an image less than sharp,
And if a color, then it's dimmed.
And you were a pack of royal greyhounds once,
With whom I would set out in the early mornings.
My wondrously quick eyes, you saw many things,
Lands and cities, islands and oceans.
Together we greeted immense sunrises
When the fresh air set us running on the trails
Where the dew had just begun to dry.
Now what you have seen is hidden inside me
And changed into memories or dreams.
I am slowly moving away from the fairgrounds of the world
And I notice in myself a distaste
For the monkeyish dress, the screams and drumbeats.
What a relief. To be alone with my meditation
On the basic similarity in humans
And their tiny grain of dissimilarity.
Without eyes, my gaze is fixed on one bright point,
That grows large and takes me in.

Czeslaw Milosz