nothing more than tea
farina yogurt berries —
gift apple muffin
Days since surgery
Body rests and mind retires
After deep nothing
Then, see through.
Finally, be what you are going through.
The first step in the interior life, nowadays, is not, as some might imagine, learning not to see and taste and hear and feel things. On the contrary, what we must do is begin by unlearning our wrong ways of seeing, tasting, feeling, and so forth, and acquire a few of the right ones.
For asceticism is not merely a matter of renouncing television, cigarettes, and gin. Before we can begin to be ascetics, we first have to learn to see life as if it were something more than a hypnotizing telecast. And we must be able to taste something besides tobacco and alcohol: we must perhaps even be able to taste these luxuries themselves as if they too were good.
How can our conscience tell us whether or not we are renouncing things unless it first of all tells us that we know how to use them properly? For renunciation is not an end in itself: it helps us to use things better. It helps us to give them away. If reality revolts us, if we merely turn away from it in disgust, to whom shall we sacrifice it? How shall we consecrate it? How shall we make of it a gift to God and to men?
In an aesthetic experience, in the creation or the contemplation of a work of art, the psychological conscience is able to attain some of its highest and most perfect fulfillments. Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. The mind that responds to the intellectual and spiritual values that lie hidden in a poem, a painting, or a piece of music, discovers a spiritual vitality that lifts it above itself, takes it out of itself, and makes it present to itself on a level of being that it did not know it could ever achieve.
(-from, Reality, Art, & Prayer, in Commonweal Magazine, March 25, 1955, excerpt from Father Merton's ,No Man Is an Island by Harcourt, Brace)
Thomas Merton, like Leonard Cohen, showed us ways of going through.
As did that difficult teacher Robert Lowell.
So many delusions to face and flow through.
Poets call up the second great vow of the bodhisattva, Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them.
Our Lady of Sorrows and, at sunset, Yom Kippur.
In mailbox today, Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing (c.2006).
This from Wikipedia:
Cohen was involved with Buddhism beginning in the 1970s and was ordained a Buddhist priest in 1996; he continued to consider himself Jewish: "I'm not looking for a new religion. I'm quite happy with the old one, with Judaism." Beginning in the late 1970s, Cohen was associated with Buddhist monk and rōshi (venerable teacher) Kyozan Joshu Sasaki, regularly visiting him at Mount Baldy Zen Centerand serving him as personal assistant during Cohen's period of reclusion at Mount Baldy monastery in the 1990s. Sasaki appears as a regular motif or addressee in Cohen's poetry, especially in his Book of Longing, and took part in a 1997 documentary about Cohen's monastery years, Leonard Cohen: Spring 1996. Cohen's 2001 album Ten New Songs is dedicated to Joshu Sasaki.
In a 1993 interview entitled "I am the little Jew who wrote the Bible," he says, "at our best, we inhabit a biblical landscape, and this is where we should situate ourselves without apology. ... That biblical landscape is our urgent invitation ... Otherwise, it's really not worth saving or manifesting or redeeming or anything, unless we really take up that invitation to walk into that biblical landscape."
Cohen showed an interest in Jesus as a universal figure, saying, "I'm very fond of Jesus Christ. He may be the most beautiful guy who walked the face of this earth. Any guy who says 'Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the meek' has got to be a figure of unparalleled generosity and insight and madness ... A man who declared himself to stand among the thieves, the prostitutes and the homeless. His position cannot be comprehended. It is an inhuman generosity. A generosity that would overthrow the world if it was embraced because nothing would weather that compassion. I'm not trying to alter the Jewish view of Jesus Christ. But to me, in spite of what I know about the history of legal Christianity, the figure of the man has touched me."
In this recuperating bed reading Cohen’s poems, looking at YouTube interview on Scandinavian television (Al Gore seated next to him), and an interview with David Remnik where he says, “The specific task of the Jew is to repair the face of G-d.”
And this from the book of poems:
ROSHI AT 89
Roshi's very tired
he's lying on his bed
He's been living with the living
and dying with the dead
But now he wants another drink
(will wonders never cease?)
He's making war on war
and he's making war on peace
He's sitting in the throne-room
on his great Original Face
and he's making war on Nothing
that has something in its place
His stomach's very happy
the prunes are working well
There's no one going to Heaven
and there's no one left in Hell
Mt Baldy, California, 1996
Elsewhere he quotes Simone Weil’s question, “What are you going through?”
And we are given to ponder.
The quiet joy and holy celebration of someone worth listening to and having heard.
Twilight: After Haying
Yes, long shadows go out
from the bales; and yes, the soul
must part from the body:
what else could it do?
The men sprawl near the baler,
too tired to leave the field.
They talk and smoke,
and the tips of their cigarettes
blaze like small roses
in the night air. (It arrived
and settled among them
before they were aware.)
The moon comes
to count the bales,
and the dispossessed--
--sings from the dusty stubble.
These things happen. . .the soul’s bliss
and suffering are bound together
like the grasses. . .
The last, sweet exhalations
of timothy and vetch
go out with the song of the bird;
the ravaged field
grows wet with dew.
(Jane Kenyon, 1947 - 1995, From Otherwise: New & Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon)