November 25, 2007

More Sunday afternoon ramblings

Very lazy day today. I'll backtrack a bit to explain why, then move on: Friday evening, I drove straight from work in DC up to King of Prussia, PA, to spend the night at a friend's house, then we left her place early Saturday morning to head to NY for a day of adventure-- A visit to Alex Grey's Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, then a reading by another friend of ours from her memoire-in-progress at the Bowery Poetry Club, then a bunch of us from the reading headed to Chinatown for a tasty dinner of vegetarian dim sum. And then, seven hours, three trains, and 154 miles driven at 80+mph later, I ended up back home in Maryland at 3:00am Sunday morning. Needless to say, I was a bit tired today. So, I headed out for a late lunch and a brief, easy meander through the woods at Monocacy National Battlefield Park.

I wish I could write about Saturday's experiences, but the day was a bit of a blur so I really don't have many concrete thoughts about it. The Chapel was incredible, but there were too many people there for me to fully absorb it the way I would have liked (which would have been to plop my butt down on the floor in the middle of the room and just sit there quietly for a while). And the memoire reading was funny and moving and stimulating. But, sorry, that's about all I can put together about it. So my thoughts were kind of vague and rambling today as I wandered through the woods along Monocacy River.

On the train(s) home last night, I began reading Brad Warner's latest book, Sit Down and Shut Up. His first book apparently describes his own discovery of Buddhism, specifically the Zen kind, and how he became an ordained monk. SD/SU is an explanation of the teachings of Dogen, an apparently influential 13th century Zen master. So far, Warner's focused on the idea of reality in Zen, and the process of sitting zazen. The guy's incredibly irreverent and even talks about how he pretty much hates being a zen monk and teaching the dharma. It's great stuff, because he explains everything so clearly and meaningfully, yet comes at it with an attitude that I can so easily relate to. I'd really love to know his take on the whole "loving-kindness" aspect of Buddhism, but I'm not sure whether that's a big concept in Zen. Guess I'll find out (or not) as the book progresses. Read this while at lunch and almost cracked up in the middle of the very crowded Golden Corral restaurant:

The truth is always with you at every moment, or as Dogen puts it, "The Buddhist truth exists under the foot of every human being." It's not something far away, abstract, or difficult. It is the uncomplicated and direct truth of what is right here, right now. Truth is not removed from your day-to-day existence. God, way up in heaven on his big gold throne, is just an idea. That itch on your left ass cheek right now is the truth. It's way bigger than God could ever hope to be.

Awesome stuff. Right up my alley.

Found myself at one point while sitting along the river, cursing as I have so many times before that I didn't have my camera with me. I had glanced downstream along the trail and noticed a very pretty interplay of clouds and tree branches, touched with a bit of gold from the late afternoon sun. Had the potential to be a great photo, but the camera was back at home. So I sat and had the debate with myself that I've had all those other times in similar moments: Should I make a point of always bringing the camera with me when I leave the house, or should I only bring it when I'm specifically in the mood to shoot photos? There are pros and cons either way.

With the camera, I can capture and keep a concrete memory of, not to mention share with others, all the gorgeous &/or interesting things that catch my attention. But having the camera with me changes how I move through whatever place I'm in. My vision is narrowed to the perspective of the view finder, and my perceptions become focused on lighting and composition. My other senses may as well just stay at home on those occasions.

Without the camera, though, I can allow the focus of my eyes to soften and my peripheral vision comes into play. I see more. Without the distraction of composing a picturesque shot, I'm able to have a more intimate connection to my surroundings and feel that I'm a part of the place. Which, in it's way, makes scenes such as the rosy-gold clouds behind those bare tree branches just that much more special, because I fully experience, yet can't capture, them. But, as special as those moments are to me, do they become even more meaningful when I'm able to share them with others via my photos?

Nice little circular argument, there.

And (apologies to anyone who's becoming tired of my Incubus obsession, feel free to read the poetry below but skip my babbling), I'm continuing to find inspiration in Brandon Boyd. I recently read a wonderful poem by Jane Hirshfield that made me instantly think of the Incubus song Pantomime (the lyrics of which I posted at the end of
this blog). First, here's Hirshfield's piece:

To Speech

This first, this last:
there's nothing you wouldn't say.

Unshockable inclusion your most pure nature,
and so you are like an iron pot---
whatever's put in, it holds.

We think it's the fire that cooks the stew,
but, speech, it's also you:
of fire-making and stew-making,
orator of all our plans and intentions.

We think we think with a self.
That also, it seems, is mostly you---
sometimes a single spider's thread of you,
sometimes a mountain.

The late sun paints orange
the white belly of a hawk overhead---
that wasn't you
though now and here, it is.

If a hungry child says "orange", her taste buds grow larger.

If a person undamaged says "hungry child",
his despondence grows larger.

You are not, of course, omnipotent.
In fact, you do little unaided by muscle, by matter.
And still, present and absent, speech, you change us.

As Issa changed, writing after the death of his daughter,

This world of dew
is a world of dew.
And yet.

How much of you
was left uninvited in those lines.
That silence your shadow, bringing his grieving to me.

For days
I made phone calls to strangers,
the few words repeated over and over,
between the "please, if you have a moment" and "thank you."

I didn't expect to make a difference, and didn't. And yet.

Your vehicles are air and memory,
teeth, tongue, papyrus, woodblocks, iron,
signing fingers, circuits, transistors, and ink.
A wheel is not your vehicle, nor an engine.

Terence was your vehicle,
saying in Latin:
"Whatever is human cannot be foreign to me."

Your own truth as well---
For all of our parts, you are our closest mirror,
growing thin or fat, muscular, clumsy,
speeding or slowing as we do.

The wolf-child without you called wolf-child, not-fully-human.

You are held, in the forms we can know you,
only by creatures
able to pass you to others
living often in sadness and tiredness, sometimes in hope.

A friend, who is sometimes sad, said this:
"To be able to hope means that we can also regret."

You rest, fierce speech, in both.
As well as in bargaining, persuasion, argument, gossip,
flirtation, jokes.

Fear, hunger, rage stammer beyond you:
what lives in words is what words were needed to learn.

And so it is good we sometimes set you down
and walk---
unthinking and peaceful, planning nothing---
by the cold, salt, unobedient, unlistening sea.

Only then, without you, are we able to see you completely,
like those wandering monks
who, calling nowhere home, are everywhere home.

I was struck by the contrast between Boyd's idea of gaining freedom by giving up speech and Hirshfield's concept of it as something that is so much a part of us. "there's nothing you wouldn't say... Unshockable inclusion your most pure nature" vs. "I've found beyond all doubt, we say more by saying nothing at all". There's a romantic irony to Pantomime, that vision of someone whose creative career depends on word and voice choosing to give up speech and communicate by less "messy" methods. Especially considering Hirshfield's contention that "what lives in words is what words were needed to learn".

I'll throw another final contrast into this rambling mess of a blog. I keep finding myself hitting the "repeat" button of the car's cd player for two specific, yet very divergent, Incubus tunes: One is the wacky Azwethinkweiz that I posted the lyrics to a few days ago, and the other is 11am, which is one of the most beautiful of the many gorgeous tunes on Morning View:

7 a.m.
The garbage truck beeps as it backs up
And I start my day thinking about what I've thrown away
Could I push rewind?
The credits traverse, signifying the end
But I missed the best part
Could we please go back to start?
Forgive my indecision

Then again, you're always first when no one's on your side
But then again, a day will come when I want off that ride

11 a.m.
By now you would think that I would be up
But my bedsheets shade the heat of choices I've made
And what did I find?
I never thought I could want someone so much
Cause now you're not here and I'm knee-deep in that old fear
Forgive my indecision
I am only a man

Then again, you're always first when no one's on your side
But then again, a day will come when I want off that ride

12 p.m. and my dusty telephone rings
Heavy head up from my pillow, who could it be?
I hope it's you...

Then again, you're always first when no one's on your side
But then again, the day has come and I want off that ride

To anyone who's read thus far... I'm not sure whether to thank you for your attention, or to think that you're more obsessively weird than I am.


human being said...

all through my life 'surprises' brought to me exactly what i had on my mind... or were in search of...

the surprise link to this post i found in my mail (you commented on Jon's blog) was not an exception...

we had a little discussion on speech(words) vs. silence in one of the posts of Iteriority...
and also to have nothing to say vs. having something to say...
and this morning some image was upon me regarding words... (will post it soon)..

really loved the way you juxtaposed these two works...

"And still, present and absent, speech, you change us."

this line tells it all... i believe in this...

really enjoyed this post... every WORD of it!
oh this proves i'm more obsessively weird?!!

KaliDurga, come and join in Jon's project on Beckett... just yesterday when we were talking about new voices, i had you on my mind...

you've got a beautiful voice... mind... come and share it with others...
sure everyone can learn a lot through hearing a new unique voice...
are you interested?

lots of love and a big hug

KaliDurga said...

Thank you for the compliments, my friend. Hopper's comment at my blog led me to his blog, which led me to Interiority and Exteriority... It's like we're stones thrown in different sections of the same creek, causing ripples that flow out and run into each other. Synchronicity, one of my favorite things.

I've yet to read anything by Beckett, but apparently he needs to go on my list so that I can get a better feel for what the project's about. In the meantime, I'm happy to comment on what's been contributed so far at Interiority.

Hugs back to you, and I hope all is well with you as your new year continues!

human being said...

such a beautiful image to illustrate synchronicity...

will enjoy reading your comments there...