Less Fussing, More Living

American poet Mary Oliver. Less fussing, more livingI have started what I hope will become an annual custom for me. It is a custom of reading a book on Christmas Day. On Christmas Day, 2012, I read the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah. I have shared four stories from that jewel-box of wonder since then.

Less fussing, more living

On Christmas Day, 2013, I read the book A Thousand Mornings by American poet Mary Oliver. I have shared two Mary Oliver poems so far, one of them coming from A Thousand Mornings. I will most likely share a few more before all is said and done, like this one.

Good-bye Fox

He was lying under a tree, licking up the shade,

Hello again, Fox, I said.

And hello to you too, said Fox, looking up and not bounding away.

You’re not running away? I said.

Well, I’ve heard of your conversation about us. News travels even among foxes, as you might know or not know.

What conversation do you mean?

Some lady said to you, “The hunt is good for the fox.” And you said, “Which fox?”

Yes, I remember. She was huffed.

So you’re okay in my book.

Your book! That was in my book, that’s the difference between us.

Yes, I agree. You fuss over life with your clever words, mulling and chewing on its meaning, while we just live it.

Oh!

Could anyone figure it out, to a finality? So why spend so much time trying. You fuss, we live. And he stood, slowly, for he was old now, and ambled away.

What’s the New Message from God angle? Step 124 (of 365) of Steps to Knowledge “Today I will not pretend I am happy,” teaches “Knowledge is not a form of behavior. It is an intense experience of life.” Less fussing, more living.

Mary Oliver has spent a lifetime being astonished at nature, and eloquently expressing that astonishment. As we say here in Minnesota, you could do worse. Less fussing, more living.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Only The True Favorites Receive This Longing

alone-with-god Only the true favorites receive this longing.Rainer Maria Rilke is by no means the only poet who writes of the longing for one’s true life. The 13th-century Persian poet Rumi (1207-1273) wrote of this as well. Rumi’s great work, the Masnavi-I Ma’navi (Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning), has taken a while to arrive in the Western world, but I consider it worth the wait. Masnavi was originally a poetic form, but after Rumi, the word became more associated with Rumi’s writings than the poetic form. It is also spelled Mathnavi or Mathnawi. A portion of Book 3 of the Mathnawi (lines 189-197) has been rendered by American poet Coleman Barks as the poem “Love Dogs”

Only the true favorites receive this longing

One night a man was crying,
Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
“So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”

The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.

He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage.

“Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”
“This longing
you express is the return message.

The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.

Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.

There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.

Give your life
to be one of them.”

This poem appears in many places, including the book “The Essential Rumi.”

Only the true favorites receive this longing.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Of Such I Dream, My World!

Young Langston Hughes. Of such I dream, my world!This is the second poem by the 20th-century American poet Langston Hughes to appear here. Freedom’s Plow is the first. I’m not sure how this poem escaped my notice until now. It was written in 1926, the year the collection “The Weary Blues” was published. I dream a unified humanity. Little did I know that Langston Hughes was dreaming it too!

Of such I dream, my world!

This poem sings with such hope for a poem written just a few short years after the end of World War I. It was written one year after the death of Rainer Maria Rilke. Rilke wrote a letter in 1917 saying “I’m not living my own life…I feel refuted, abandoned, and above all threatened by a world ready to dissolve entire in such senseless disorder.” Though hope was crushed in World War I, hope springs forth once more in the poem of Langston Hughes.

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!

The New Message from God teaches that in our time, all wars reduce to conflicts over resources. Access to resources and control over resources. Langston Hughes envisioned a world where mankind shares the bounties of the earth. Of such I dream, my world!

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Don’t Let Me Forget

Rabindranath Tagore. Don't let me forgetI recalled this poem by Rabindranath Tagore as I contemplated Step 95 “How can I possibly fulfill myself?” of Steps to Knowledge. Here is the portion of Step 95 which sparked a memory:

“Only in fantasy and imagination can you possibly even entertain the idea of fulfilling yourself. There is no fulfillment here, only increasing confusion. As the years progress, you will feel a growing darkness within you, as if a great opportunity has been lost. Do not lose this opportunity to realize life as it truly exists and to receive fulfillment as it is truly offered to you.”

Don’t let me forget

I recall Step 95 having a significant impact on me when I did it in October of 2011. I consider this another step to be addressed in a series of posts, like Step 26, “My errors give birth to my Knowledge,” and Step 51, “Let me recognize my fears so that I may see beyond them.” I am letting Rabindranath Tagore open the discussion. This is a slightly modernized version provided by Robert Bly. The original version is here.

If I am not to meet you again in this life then I want to feel that I have missed the meeting, don’t let me forget, let me feel the pain of it in my dreams and while awake.

As the time passes in the black dust of the body, and I get fat with money, I want to feel that I have gotten nothing out of it all — don’t let me forget, I want to feel the slivers of pain in my dreams and while awake.

When I walk up the steps, exhausted and tense after a long trip, or when I climb into some lonely bed, I want to feel that the long trip is still ahead of me — don’t let me forget, I want to feel the pain in my legs both while asleep and while awake.

When my house is all cleaned, and drinks are set here and there, and I hear people laughing, I want to feel that I haven’t invited you to my house — don’t let me forget, I want to feel the pain of that grief both while asleep and while awake.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

What Is Your Freedom Good For?

Juneteenth. What is your freedom good for?Today, the descendants of American slaves, and friends of freedom commemorate the landing of Major General Gordon Granger at Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War was over, and that the enslaved were now free. American poet Langston Hughes wrote:

With John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, Negroes died.
John Brown was hung.
Before the Civil War, days were dark,
And nobody knew for sure
When freedom would triumph
“Or if it would,” thought some.
But others knew it had to triumph.
In those dark days of slavery,
Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom,
The slaves made up a song:
Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!
That song meant just what it said: Hold On!
Freedom will come!
Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!
Out of war it came, bloody and terrible!
But it came! Some there were, as always,
Who doubted that the war would end right,
That the slaves would be free,
Or that the union would stand,
But now we know how it all came out.
Out of the darkest days for people and a nation,
We know now how it came out.
There was light when the battle clouds rolled away.
There was a great wooded land,
And men united as a nation.

What is your freedom good for?

But what is freedom for? Jesus taught his disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 25:25-28, New International Version)

The 16th-century German Christian Martin Luther seems to me to echo that vibration in his treatise “On the Freedom of the Christian,” when he writes

“A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.”

I consider Steps to Knowledge to confirm, in its own way, the truth of the words of Jesus, and the truth expressed by Martin Luther. The word “freedom” is first mentioned in Step 52, “I am free to find the source of my Knowledge.” The word “freedom” appears 16 times in three different steps between Step 52 and Step 93. It appears 13 times in Step 94, “My freedom is to find my purpose.” The word “purpose” is one of the major themes of Steps to Knowledge. The word “purpose” appears 29 times in 16 different steps between Step 12 and Step 93. It first appears in a step in Step 71, “I am here to serve a greater purpose.”

I consider Step 94 to be watering the seed sown in Step 52:

“What value can freedom possibly have except to enable you to find your purpose and to fulfill it? Without purpose, freedom is merely the right to be chaotic, the right to live without external restraint. But without external restraint, you will merely act out the harshness of your internal restraint. Is this an improvement? Overall it is not an improvement, though it can lead to opportunities for self-discovery.”

In studying Steps to Knowledge, we are getting free to be our true selves, true selves which are not apart from life. We are getting free to find our purpose. Will we succeed? All I know is that we’re working on it.

What is your freedom good for?

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

How Long Will You Be Frightened Of The Future?

whirling2Why wait any longer for the world to begin?

Coleman Barks. How long will you be frightened of the future?I am recalling this poem by Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks as I ponder the rejection by the New Message from God, of the idea of strengthening preferred outcomes when praying for people.

How long will you be frightened of the future?

Why do we seek to strengthen preferred outcomes? If the chain is followed back far enough, is it because we believe that we will not survive if we don’t?

In the context of this poem, the word “sheikh” refers to a more spiritually advanced individual, and the disciple is a disciple of the sheikh.

A sheikh and a disciple are walking quickly toward a town
where it’s known there is very little to eat. The disciple
says nothing, but he is constantly afraid of going hungry.

The sheikh knows what the disciple thinks. How long
will you be frightened of the future
because you love food? You have closed the eye
of self-denial and forgotten who provides.

Don’t worry. You’ll have your walnuts and raisins and special desserts.
Only the true favorites get hunger for their daily bread.
You’re not one of those. Whoever loves the belly
is brought bowl after bowl from the kitchen.

When such a person dies, bread itself comes to the funeral
and makes a speech: “O corpse, you almost killed yourself
with worrying about food. Now you’re gone and food
is still here, more than enough. Have some free bread.”

Bread is more in love with you than you with it.
It sits and waits for days. It knows you have no will.
If you could fast, bread would jump into your lap
as lovers do with each other.

Be full with trusting,
not with these childish fears of famine.

How long will you be frightened of the future? Until the day when the one who provides, provides new eyes with which to see. In the meantime, please pass the trusting.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

My Inner Life Imitates, Drinking In Silence

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1900 My inner life imitates, drinking in silenceThis is another literary experiment. There are already two perfectly good English translations of the poem “Ich habe viele Brüder in Soutanen” from The Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke. One translation is by Robert Bly, and another translation is by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. Here is the original German:

Ich habe viele Brüder in Soutanen
im Süden, wo in Klöstern Lorbeer steht.
Ich weiß, wie menschlich sie Madonnen planen
und träume oft von jungen Tizianen,
durch die der Gott in Gluten geht.

Doch wie ich mich auch in mich selber neige:
Mein Gott ist dunkel und wie ein Gewebe
von hundert Wurzeln, welche schweigsam trinken.
Nur, dass ich mich aus seiner Wärme hebe,
mehr weiß ich nicht, weil alle meine Zweige
tief unten ruhn und nur im Winde winken.

My inner life imitates, drinking in silence

Barrows and Macy suggest that the Madonnas Rilke is talking about in this poem are the Madonnas of Sandro Botticelli, like this one:

Madonna and Child by Sandro Botticelli. My inner life imitates, drinking in silenceand this one:

Madonna of the Magnificat by Sandro Botticelli. My inner life imitates, drinking in silenceI read the existing translations, and I think to myself “I know that’s what he said, but that’s not what I think he meant.” And since I’ve already railed against complaining, I have to do something about it instead. So I did. It’s definitely not an exact translation, but it says what I think he meant.

I have many brothers, in holy brown robes
In the south, laurels in monastery gardens.
The way they imagine the Madonna – so human
As I often dream of Titians
Through whom God walks as fire.

Though I dig into the rich, dark earth of myself,
My God is still deeper
My inner life imitates, drinking in silence

The life you see springs from his abundance,
More than that is a mystery to me.

I am pleased with myself for following in Robert Bly’s footsteps, stealing a grain of sugar from the castle of sugar which is the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

How Much Poison Are You Willing To Eat?

Wendell Berry asks "How much poison are you willing to eat?"

My friend John Stewart recently introduced me to the American poet Wendell Berry. I had never heard of him before. A collection of his poetry is available in my local bookstore. Berry lives and farms and writes in the small community of Port Royal, Kentucky, a place people pass by on the way from Louisville, Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio. Wallace Berry received a National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2010. Apparently my lack of awareness of Wendell Berry means I wasn’t paying attention.

How much poison are you willing to eat?

This poem has appeared in a number of locations.

Questionnaire

1.      How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2.     For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3.     What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4.     In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5.     State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

While I am a supporter of free markets, the more pertinent question is “How much poison are you willing to eat to sustain yourself in the manner to which you have become accustomed? How lucky do you feel? Would you bet your life on it? Oh wait…

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Sometimes I Forget Completely

Rumi wrote a poem "Sometimes I forget completely"

Coleman Barks translated Rumi's poem "Sometimes I forget completely" into English

It took six hundred years, give or take a few, for Rumi’s poetry to appear in English. R. A. Nicholson (1868-1945) gave us the first complete English translation of the Mathnawi. A. J. Arberry (1905-1969) followed in Nicholson’s footsteps, translating Fihi ma fihi (translated as Discourses of Rumi) and many Rumi poems. I believe these men felt like the man in the gospels who discovered the treasure buried in the field, or the merchant of pearls who discovered the pearl of great price.

In 1976, poet Robert Bly showed Coleman Barks some of Arberry’s Rumi translations. Bly suggested to Barks that he make a more modern poetic translation, saying, “Release these (poems) from their scholarly cages.” Oh, what gratitude I have for the human bucket-brigade of A. J. Arberry, Robert Bly, and Coleman Barks, carriers of the celestial nectar!

Sometimes I forget completely

Sometimes I forget completely
what companionship is.
Unconscious and insane, I spill sad
energy everywhere. My story
gets told in various ways: a romance,
a dirty joke, a war, a vacancy.

Divide up my forgetfulness to any number,
it will go around.
These dark suggestions that I follow,
are they part of some plan?
Friends, be careful. Don’t come near me
out of curiosity, or sympathy.

I was inspired by recent events to share this poem. Sometimes I forget completely that I’m not alone, and it drives me mad, as it is a violent violation of one of the great truths of the universe. Please help me to remember, but from a distance.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For

June Jordan's poem had the exclamation point "We are the ones we have been waiting for"

The sharing of this poem is my belated commemoration of International Women’s Day. Free nations value women with inner strength. The subject of this poem was a group of women with inner strength.

We are the ones we have been waiting for

The apartheid government of South Africa had a system of laws to control the movement and gathering of the black African population. An attempt was made in the 1950’s to expand the scope of these laws to include women. It was not received well. On 9 August 1956, more than 50,000 women of every ethnicity staged a march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria. They left bundles of petitions containing more than 100,000 signatures at the office of Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom. Outside they stood silently for 30 minutes, many with their children on their backs. The women sang a protest song that was composed in honor of the occasion: Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock!)

This poem was written by June Jordan about 25 years after that event, and presented at the United Nations in 1978. The exclamation point of the poem was quoted by then-Senator Obama at a pivotal point of his 2008 Presidential campaign. June Jordan didn’t coin that beautiful exclamation point, but she brought it into the light of day.

In a recent webcast, Marshall Vian Summers said something which built on the spirit of this poem:

“Do not, then, pray to Jesus, the Buddha or the Mohammed to come and restore the world, for this is the work of the human family. For Jesus, the Buddha and the Mohammed have greater tasks in the universe. They will not clear the air or purify the waters or restore the soils. They will not replenish the vital resources that have been plundered and wasted as humanity has destroyed the very foundation on which it stands in this world. They will not undo the ravages of war and destitution. This is the work of people in the world, the vital work, the necessary work, the reason you have come to play your small but necessary part.”

Poem for South African Women

Commemoration of the 40,000 women and children who,
August 9, 1956, presented themselves in bodily protest against
the “dompass” in the capital of apartheid. Presented at The
United Nations, August 9, 1978.

Our own shadows disappear as the feet of thousands
by the tens of thousands pound the fallow land
into new dust that
rising like a marvelous pollen will be
fertile
even as the first woman whispering
imagination to the trees around her made
for righteous fruit
from such deliberate defense of life
as no other still
will claim inferior to any other safety
in the world

The whispers too they
intimate to the inmost ear of every spirit
now aroused they
carousing in ferocious affirmation
of all peaceable and loving amplitude
sound a certainly unbounded heat
from a baptismal smoke where yes
there will be fire

And the babies cease alarm as mothers
raising arms
and heart high as the stars so far unseen
nevertheless hurl into the universe
a moving force
irreversible as light years
traveling to the open
eye

And who will join this standing up
and the ones who stood without sweet company
will sing and sing
back into the mountains and
if necessary
even under the sea

we are the ones we have been waiting for

This poem can be found in the book Passion: Poems 1977-1980. I hope that sharing this poem is a small but necessary part of my small but necessary part. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.