Monday, October 4, 2021

The Last Word

 


There will come a time

When the last spoken words

Will be heard by the gods

And their hearts will break

And descend in a green rain.


The accumulated anguish of the creatures

Will become a stubborn poetry

Rushing in like the swift wind

That replaces the lost songs of the dead.

These broken shards of sacred language

And persistence, these fragments

That defended what was threatened

What was going extinct, will become

Like the scatter of stars,

A delicate light sufficient

To illuminate the dark we have imposed.


Those who had no words

Will be given words like amaryllis

And sunflower, porcupine and flamingo,

Endangered words for their salvation

Like manatee and rhinoceros,

Or river and corn.

In other words, they will be given

Their own bodies to declare to each other

So it will be impossible to distinguish

Meaning from their particular lives.


Each will contribute only the single word

Of one’s body and soul,

So when one speaks a sentence

One will always have to speak

Of more than oneself.


To speak at any length

Whether in the eloquence of wolf howl

Or arpeggios of bird song, or

The chastened whispers of a new

Human speech will be to invoke

All that is living in one’s cogitations,

And so it will be

After the last words are finally spoken

That the first words will,

Once again,

Conjure Creation.


*

Deena Metzger - The Last Word part 3
from published Essay's & Poetry
Rattle 2004


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

A Time for Everything

 



   
There is a time for everything
 and a season for every activity under the heavens.

Ecclesiastes 3
*
We are familiar with the expression ‘quality time’, meaning time meaningfully spent, perhaps in the company of a loved one, or doing something which we value. But in our vocabulary there is only one sort of time, whether that is spent in quality time or doing some routine chore. That time is the familiar past, present and future of our everyday experience. To us in the 21st-century, it is all just ‘time’. The paradox here is that so many nowadays complain about having no time at all.

But the Ancient Greeks saw things differently, and their vocabulary expressed more, for they had two words for time: kairos and chronos. Kairos means the right or supreme moment. While kairos signifies a time in between ordinary time, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens, chronos refers to chronological or sequential time – the past-present-future time familiar to us. While Kairos is qualitative, chronos has a quantitative nature.

Kairos is about time that lies outside of ordinary time.  It is the space we experience when we turn inwards, the kind of time in which everything is absorbed. In kairos all pasts and futures are contained in every moment: an eternal ‘now’ of infinite possibilities. There is no judgement, only immense space and gentle awareness - and the realisation that everything is connected with everything else, and assimilated into the loving unnamable Mystery. We can turn ourselves towards this state of being, and make space for our soul, our wisdom and our compassion. Put simply: if chronos is secular time, the time of clocks, busy schedules, deadlines, and feeling like we never have time enough to get things done, then kairos is sacred time, in which we have infinite time to restore our soul and connect with the eternal. 

As Ecclesiastes the Preacher says: there is a time for everything. Kairos is the beautiful kind of time where the divine mystery steps in and changes everything. Experiencing kairos can prompt pivotal moments, crucial moments of great consequence for our life, moments which prove to be turning points in our life which can change the direction of our journey forever.

The Preacher also says: There is a time for sowing and a time for harvesting. And so we need the time to ripen certain aspects within us before they can flower and be harvested. Here every moment is important in connection with the great Mystery which surrounds us. This is the true ‘quality time’: the time known as kairos. And it could even be true that every moment is the right moment once we accept and welcome what is - and the touch of love will be all that is needed.





Photograph: Planetarium of Eise Eisinga in Franeker, Friesland, The Netherlands.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Ramakrishna's Devotion


I learned about Kali from a written document about the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, a document called: The gospel of Sri Ramakrishna; published by the Vivekananda Center in New York, first edition 1942. 

Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita, a Realised Master - born in 1836 - devoted his entire life to Kali - his Divine Mother, at first as a young priest in her service in the Kali temple in Dakshineswar, but shortly after his inauguration, things changed. He himself changed, for as soon as he sat before Kali's statue, something inside him changed. As if he were surrounded by a wall of fire which protected him from un-spiritual influences, and he felt the mystical Kundalini rise up through the different chakras along his spine. The glow on his face and the intense atmosphere in the temple impressed everyone who saw him worship the Goddess. He was her child. He cried for her...he cried so long for her...to manifest Herself to him.....and gradually he found himself captured in a web of her all penetrating presence. 

For most people she no doubt is the Goddess of Destruction, for him she was the compassionate, loving-all Divine Mother. In her he saw the seed of immortality. She was Shakti, the Power, undivided from the Absolute. But in all her divinity she seemed to reel under the influence of wine. To Ramakrishna that made sense: who else, he said, would create this mysterious, crazy world unless under the influence of divine drunkeness but the Goddess of destruction? To Ramakrishna she was the ultimate, highest symbol of all powers in nature, and the final divine form of Woman. 

Swami Vivekanda was one of  his disciples, and was sent to America to become a missionary, spreading the teachings of his Guru: the Ramakrishna Vedanta. Vedanta - a universal philosophy - teaches the presence of the divine in all mankind; the nature of man and of the whole universe simply is Divine. And the purpose of human life is to manifest this Divine nature.






Painting of Ramakrishna by © David Bergen 


Friday, May 7, 2021

Tree of Dreams

 

I am the tree of dreams

crows in my hair

children in my branches

lovers' names scratched in my bark.


In timeless times

and endless winds

my rustling leaves

are weary of singing

songs of times when I

was young myself.


Only the dreamers can

change the dream

so I am here till the end of times

to keep the dream alive.




Thursday, April 29, 2021

Black Madonna

 


This is one of the strangest Black Madonnas. She wears a kind of turban, except that it is open on the top, revealing the Virgin's black hair. Brigitte Romankiewicz makes an association to the Buddhist world, where the top of the head is referred to as 'the gate of divine realization' - a gate you would want to leave open if you were the mystical bride of God. 

Indeed, this Madonna, who is obviously meant to look oriental, seems Buddhist in some ways. As opposed to most Romanesque Madonnas who look sternly ahead, both she and her son wear the peaceful little smile of a Buddha. 

Contemplate the hands! The Mother's hands are focused on Jesus without grasping him. They are open and empty, except full of love. The Son's left hand mirrors the same unusual posture, as if he were touching empty space. 

Perhaps their open, empty, yet aware hands are drawing awareness to the completely transcendent face of God, which Buddhists call 'emptiness'. Even the wall behind them is completely empty, just the bare, gray stone. Not a single piece of decoration, neither on the wall nor on the statue itself, none of the usual robes or jewelry, no legends or miracle stories either. To the modern eye this Mother and child are truly Zen!

We don't know what each peasant, monk, or alchemist might have seen in this Lady. What we do know is that she called her devotees to honor the 'other', the ones that look, dress, and behave differently. And she did this in the middle of eight centuries of conflict as well as cultural exchange between European Christians and North-African and Near-Eastern Muslims. 

Even today she seems to say: "Don't label your dark neighbors as strangers and enemies, for I am their mother as well as yours! Don't close your heart to people who look like me!"

- Ella Rozett


The Black Virgin of Meymac - The Egyptian; 

In the old Benedictine abbey called Saint-André Saint-Léger de Meymac (now the parish church), Corrèze department, Limousin region, 12th century, 48 cm, painted wood.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Lily of Life



⚜⚜⚜

In the middle of the black water, growing in stately solitude, was a lily – a lily from which an intensely brilliant light seemed to pour. A lily so dazzling, so perfect, so supernaturally pure, that the only sensation that possessed the soul at the sight was the desire to sink on one's knees and adore it. It was larger than any lily Corona had ever seen, but of the same shape and kind as those she had in her own garden at home. Yet before this one her heart seemed to feel an extraordinary peace, an extraordinary longing for better things, a wonderful happiness that spread through body and soul, giving her the sensation that she was a spirit from a better world, with no desire but to let her heart melt in infinite gladness in a song of praise. She knelt down at the water's edge, hid her face in her hands, and cried, cried tears that seemed to wash away all the evil in human nature, all the suffering and pain, all the struggles, all the partings and disappointments. And all her own grief seemed to melt away, relieving her overburdened heart of its suffering. And as her tears touched the marble floor, they turned into pure pearls – pearls like those the wise woman wore round her neck; they rolled one by one into the black water, each forming little circles of light on the dark surface; and the circles spread, widened, rippling away in silver, little waves.

But soon she dried her tears, for she knew that to get to the flower she must descend into those dark depths, and once more the horror of death seemed to cross her soul.

⚜⚜⚜

Excerpt from "The Lily of Life" Marie of Romania (Marie Alexandra Victoria; 29 October 1875 – 18 July 1938), also known as Marie of Edinburgh, was the last Queen of Romania as the wife of King Ferdinand I.

Illustration by Helen Stratton, 1867-1961.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Woman in the Wall


The bishop stands watching as the two workmen cement the stones into position. Row upon row the stones rise from the cold floor of the vast church interior. But the bishop’s gaze is not so much directed towards the activity of the workmen as it is upon the woman who is gradually being lost to view behind the rising wall of stones.

The woman is dressed in a loose garment of coarsely-woven cloth, and is seated on a simple wooden stool with her hands resting calmly in her lap. Her eyes do not meet the bishop’s gaze, but instead are directed towards the flagstones on the floor, as if she already is lost to the world beyond her increasingly limited view. The workmen work on until only the far wall of stones is dimly seen in the darkness beyond, and then… nothing. The bishop affixes his seal to the masonry. At the still-young age of thirty Sister Bertken has begun her life of voluntary confinement, walled-up in a cell less than four meters square. For her it is the beginning of a life of prayer and meditation that she will follow for the rest of her days.

A small aperture in the stones which aligns with the church altar has been left so that Sister Bertken may follow the services, and another opening at the rear of the cell allows for the necessary food to be passed through to her. She is allowed neither meat nor dairy products, and her food is of the simplest fare. Her bed is a palette on the floor. She wears no shoes, and is allowed only the comparative luxury of a pelt of fur in winter to stave off the freezing cold from the flagstones beneath her naked feet.

We are in the Buur Church in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands of the 15th-century, and Sister Bertken, born Berta Jacobsdochter, is not the only recluse to have herself walled up alive in such a way. It seems that such recluses strove to emulate the examples of the recluses of former centuries who chose to live in the solitary vastness of the desert. In northern Europe there are no desert wildernesses, so solitude was sought in the hearts of the cities – and what more profound solitude is there than a small dark cell with no way out?

Sister Bertken began her voluntary seclusion in 1457, and remained within the sealed walls of her small cell until her death in 1514: a near-incomprehensible fifty-seven years of voluntary incarceration until her death at the age of eighty-seven. Apparently the local parishioners would come to her cell to seek advice, and she was always ready with a kindly word.

There is a tradition that Sister Bertken was buried beneath the floor of her cell. Perhaps this seems fitting, for even in death, how after so many decades of confinement could she return to the outside world, even for her own burial? But all traces of her cell in the church have now long disappeared, and its precise location remains unknown. The time-worn flagstones keep their secrets well; as does the mystery that we call faith.

To say that Sister Bertken’s actions were driven by simple faith is to presume that we know what ‘faith’ actually is. We think that we can discern faith by the outward actions of someone, and we call such a thing an ‘act of faith’. The term is so familiar that we tend to take it for granted that we understand it. But we do not. Not really. When it comes to such an extreme example as Sister Bertken we have arrived at the threshold of the heart’s unknown secrets, and are left to wonder.


Ick voelde in mij een vonkelkijn

Het roert so dic dat herte mijn

Daer wil ick wel op waken

Die min vermach des altemael

Een vuur daeraf te maken.

*

I felt a tiny spark within

It reached into this heart of mine

And I will guard its light

The spark that love will kindle

To a fire burning bright.



Friday, October 30, 2020

Golden Joins


How often in life are we left feeling that something has broken us? We might feel this way for any number of reasons, perhaps because of the loss of a loved one, leaving us heartbroken. Or because of some failed business venture, when our dreams collapse and we are left to ‘pick up the pieces’. Or perhaps some relationship comes to a sudden and painful end, leaving us feeling wounded, heartbroken and hesitant about risking some new beginning.

All such experiences are common enough, and it is unlikely that we can manage to get through life without encountering one or more of these various trials, perhaps even multiple times. But what seems to make these experiences unique is not so much that they happen, but our different reactions to them and how we personally deal with them. One way of coping with them is to ‘put a brave face on things’ and to act as if everything is alright really, and carry on behaving as if all is normal and that there is nothing really to worry about. In such a situation we have decided ‘not to make a fuss’, even though the reality might be that below the surface we are feeling emotionally devastated.

Methods used in the West by pottery restorers can be very successful at disguising damage caused by breakage. Some beloved or valuable ceramic, having been accidentally smashed into several pieces, is painstakingly restored by a competent professional. The ceramic is carefully glued back together, the pieces are joined once more, and any gaps between the cracks are filled with an appropriate modelling material before being painted over to closely match the original. In the hands of a skilled restorer the damage can be rendered invisible to all but the closest inspection. But there is another way.

The Japanese know it as the art of kintsugi. It is in every way the opposite, both in materials and in philosophy, of the restoration methods described above. Kintsugi means ‘golden joins’, because rather than making any attempt to disguise any cracks, the cracks instead are not only left plainly visible, but transformed into a feature of the ceramic by filling them with gold lacquer paste, transforming every single item repaired in this way into an individual object, even a unique work of art. The history of a piece, including the event of its breakage, is plainly visible, turning a potential disaster instead into a celebration.

Both of these methods ensure that the piece in question is as functional as it was before the breakage and suitable to be passed on to the next generation, but oh, how different they are in their approaches! Perhaps, rather than always ‘putting a brave face on things’, we ourselves might do better to remember the art of kintsugi and choose to bear our emotional and physical scars as worthy signs of our own personal history. A woman who has undergone a mastectomy and chooses to have her scar tattooed might in her own way be said to be practicing the art of kintsugi. Who among us has not been damaged at one time or another? It is up to us either to disguise that damage and pretend that everything is alright really, or to embrace it and create our own art of healing, our own ‘golden joins’.






Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Saint Michael and the Dragon

 


When the Saint George of legend valiantly sets out to fight the dragon and rescue the fair maiden, the king’s daughter, he not only accomplishes his mission; he also supplies us with a powerful archetype of the bold knight and the damsel in distress. But: ‘as above, so below’ is the dictum at the cornerstone of Western mysticism, and so we might expect to find Saint George’s bravery mirrored by events in the heavens.

Today, September 29, we celebrate the feast of the archangel Saint Michael, whose name means ‘the one who is like God’. The principal task of Michael is to fight against evil, and evil in Western tradition is personified by the dragon. According to John of Patmos, the author of the Book of Revelation, this battle between these two ultimate adversaries took place in the heavens. John gives us a stirring account of the conflict: Michael and the other angels fight against the dragon and its accompanying demons, “and the great dragon, that old snake… was conquered and thrown out of heavens into the deep.”

When we gaze up into the night sky it might seem a peaceful and orderly place. But appearances can be deceptive, for our telescopes reveal to us stars exploding with such violence that the worlds around them must surely be destroyed. The cosmos is itself a battleground, and reflects the epic struggle of the angels taking place on less visible planes. In John’s narrative Michael emerges as the victor of the battle against the powers of darkness. And so the celebration of Saint Michael on this day is a calling to us to acknowledge and recognize those powers which seek to unbalance the cosmic equilibrium, and each in our own way to strive against them, whether they be destructive forces in the world itself, or demons of a more personal nature with which we must do battle inside ourselves.

And so Saint George rides out to join battle with the terrible monster and rescue the fair maiden. The maiden is essential to the story, for she represents all that is pure and good: those qualities that must be guarded and cherished, especially in the face of evil. Saint George battles the dragon on earth as Saint Michael battles the dragon in the heavens. The one reflects the other, and although the outcome of the battle might at times seem uncertain, to fight and to strive for victory is all and everything.







Painting by James Powell

Friday, September 4, 2020

Have Patience My Heart


Heb geduld mijn hart,

ik zoek een nieuwe weg,

een plaats waarheen

ik vol verlangen

mijn voeten  zetten kan.

Heb geduld mijn ziel,

mijn denken is nog

oud en zwaar.

💗

Have patience my heart,

I'm looking for a new way

a place to where I

full of longing

can put my feet.

Have patience my soul

my thinking is still

old and heavy.

💗




Pencil drawing by Kahlil Gibran