Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Clear Mirror

You who want
seek the Oneness

There you
will find
the clear mirror
already waiting.

-- Hadewijch of Antwerp
13th Century woman, Flemish Beguine and Mystic

     The hard thing is to try to use words to talk about an experience beyond words. Hadewijch did about as well as one can do. But always, when we try to describe the indescribable, the words become fewer, simpler, more mysterious, groping and paradoxical. I call it peeling the Infinite Onion. Each deeper peeling takes me closer to a Silence which is both the source of all speech, and its transcendence. In that Silence dwells the highest wisdom. As Robert Frost wrote: "We dance around in a circle and suppose./The Secret sits in the middle and knows."

      I wish I could say I'm always centered there, in the Secret which simply knows. Far from it. Most of the time I'm dancing around in that circle and supposing--supposing  this  desired  outcome  might  happen, or  fearing   
that undesired result.  But then somehow I manage to find my way Home again--to the Center, the Source, the Oneness within, where I find "the clear mirror/already waiting."

     I've written many, many poems which I consider my lovable failures. Each is a hopeless attempt to square the circle--i.e., to use words to express a deep knowing which is also pure being, the returm to a primal communion of unity, wholeness, Light and Joy which was, is, and will always be--before the first word was ever uttered, and after the last word will ultimately be spoken. Here's one such poem:


I crossed into the hidden sanctuary of Light
only one short step was needed     a turning
a choice with my whole being to break free
but that single step encompassed a lifetime

behind those shimmering   transparent walls
my dread sloughed off like outworn skin
I knelt at the center     in the cyclone's eye
where phantoms could never assail me

these are mere words    they can't explain
my knowing ascended to a higher sphere
beyond all speech    here's our true Home
no horror in the world can destroy it


    I could attempt to explicate this poem, but what's the point? For me, the language of poetry is as close as my words can come to the Silence at the core of my soul. Any additional words after that only wander further and further away.  Here's one more "lovable failure." I wrote it for a close friend who recently went through a painful personal trial:

                     SPIRIT'S SONG

rising above    soaring beyond   whatever horror
crushes you now    eats your lunch    makes you
lose heart     doubt your sanity    almost despair
one pure trumpet note resounds you cannot bear
unless you answer to nothing but its clarion call

I realize this must seem like the sheerest claptrap
especially when all hell breaks loose and you run
screaming    terrified    shuddering to your bones
believe me   I've been there   pursued by demons
caught in my worst nightmare     dreading breath

then something indomitable cuts through all that
what is it    what do I hear or sense or encounter
breaking free   with no fear   unshakable   serene
transcending even my own cringing helplessness
inspiring me to go on     lifting me to struggle on

invisible   yet the radiant source of all our vision
inaudible   yet invincible music flows from there
untouchable   yet its wisdom embraces us forever
immeasurable   yet so intimately loving and near
we are this!   incomparable!   greater than death!



     These are just two examples of how language stammers its witness to a Divine Mystery which dwells in the Singing Silence beyond any speaking. But even though all such attempts are fated to be, at best, lovable failures, we keep trying nevertheless. Therein lies our true nobility and our highest hope.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are a hundred ways to kneel
and kiss the ground.

                                     -- Rumi  



1 comment:

  1. Hi Bob,

    Its exquisite to observe your blog and to see a wonderful surprise you are writing again on this blog! Thank you for your wisdom and Spirit! I thoroughly enjoy your poem and receive it within with the greatest admiration! Blessings,
    Jesse Bretthorst