Saturday, January 14, 2006

Happy Listening

Where’s the rhyme?  Where’s the reason?  What is it in the lyrics of say two of my all time favourite singer-songwriters, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen that strikes a chord?  Both of them are really hard to beat for a good lyric and a good melodic tune.  Both their music and their lyrics are brilliant and moving. They act mantra-like on my psyche.  Take, say one of Bob’s lesser known songs, “Every Grain of Sand” for a moment and let both music and lyrics of this brief excerpt work their magic for a moment on your soul.  Here’s just a brief snatch of the lyrics of this song:   

“I gaze into the doorway of temptation's angry flame And every time I pass that way I always hear my name. Then onward in my journey I come to understand That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand. I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night In the violence of a summer's dream, in the chill of a wintry light, In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space, In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face.”

(Album Shot of Love, 1981)

Or then again take the lyrics of any of Leonard Cohen’s songs and the same thing exactly applies.  Let’s take a brief excerpt this time from “Dance Me to the End of Love”

"Dance Me To The End Of Love" Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove Dance me to the end of love Dance me to the end of love…

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love…

(From the Album “Cohen Live, 1994)

Happy listening!

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Wisdom of The Body

Of his tiredness

Of his tiredness he thought little
Because being at the edge
Forced him down to depths
He liked to explore
Only sometimes,
Because he was no hero
In this strange land of

Of his tiredness he thought little
Because he trusted the words to come,
To form a shape –
To give some shape,
Any shape indeed
To the thoughts
Which tried to trace his feelings.

Of his tiredness he thought little
Because he had tired so much of all
The idle chatter and the false smiles
And the lack of honesty –
And the simple lack of direction,
Save for self-aggrandisement
And simple selfishness
And greed.

Of his tiredness he thought little
Because he had long since ceased
To be weighed down by
The leaden boots of reason.
Rather he was enthralled
By the feelings, pure and simple,
Embedded in his sinews
And the wisdom of his bones.

Of his tiredness he thought little
Because sleep would come
In its own time,
At the right moment,
Because acceptance was always better
Than denial and often better
Than understanding.

Of his tiredness he thought little
Till sleep would come.
How strange it was, he thought,
That the Word was made flesh
In such a bag of bones
As this!

Above I have inserted a photo I took in St Stephen's Green some years back!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Life works its own miracles.  All we have to do is to be open to them.  Of course, this is easier said than done.  And often miracles can be born out of the double hell of disappointment and suffering.  What apparently is a great cross can be transformed into a miracle if only we have the faith and perseverance to really “see” with the heart or the soul and not with the eye which deals only with surface reality!  I’m 48 and am only still learning to be open and accepting.  I find it always rewarding to return to Walt Whitman’s famous poem simply called “Miracles” which we learnt at school.  Whitman argues for a broader and deeper understanding of miracle insofar as all we can experience by our five senses are the real miracles.  How true he is! How much we take for granted!

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with anyone I love,
Or sleep in the bed at night with anyone I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves --the ships with the men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

(Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass)

Today I had an e-mail from a past pupil whose brother died tragically from a brain haemorrhage about two years ago.  He informed me that he had been diagnosed with depression within the last year.  Needless to say, I welcomed him to the club and recommended the marvellous Aware website, q.v., AWARE  Also his brother had suffered from depression and was dealing with it very well when a burst blood vessel tragically struck him down.  The boy who died was called Philip McManus and his poems can be viewed here: (Unfortunately, this site is no longer on-line).   Philip was a brilliant poet who died way before his time aged about 21.  He had written literally hundreds of poems and I had the privilege of reading many, though not all of them.  Now his older brother, Lenny has taken up writing poetry and enclosed one he had written for Pip.  Marvellous I say.  Miraculous I say.  Honour the soul, honour the spirit and she will work wonders, nay miracles.  Take a bow, Lenny.  Take a posthumous bow, Philip and Walt.  You are (or were) all wonderful beings who share in the miracle that life is.  Even if two of you named here are dead, you both live on through the miracle of soul.  It’s a strange thing that the poems by Pip, which can be accessed at the above link, all seem to be about death and deal with it very imaginatively indeed.   In a way, now I dedicate these few words to Pip’s memory and to Lenny’s journey inward and downward and outward and upward.  That’s it, the soul or spirit outstretches all metaphors.

I will finish this post with a lovely story.  Philip was on a life support machine before it was eventually switched off.  I was at home sometime in early June 2004 when Lenny rang me through the school secretary to inform me that his mum wanted me to come to the hospital to bid her son goodbye.  I was deeply touched by this request and duly went and sat with her for about half an hour on the other side of her son’s deathbed.  I placed my hand for some moments on his still warm entwined hands (the life support machine was still on and would be turned off early the following day).  I wept.  His poor mother had wept so much she had no tears left at this stage.  I will never forget this precious memory.  May you rest in peace, Pip.  You are an angelic spirit in our memories!  You were a miracle of life and you still work your miracles in your words and in our memories.

The picture I enclose at the beginning of this post is one I took recently of the sunset at Clontarf, Dublin, 3.



He thought once that he might change the world,
But he grew tired quickly at the extent of the task.
Then he thought he might change his country
But too many people thought he was mad.
Why not begin small, he thought,
With his local neighbourhood,
But they accused him of being a busy-body.
He began to despair, wondering what he could do –
Until one day it dawned on him
To keep his own garden weeded and welcoming,
To keep his own house a home with an open door
And invite change into the very hearth
To warm itself by the flames of his soul.
The photograph I enclose with this post is one I took on Donabate strand and is a metaphor for direction in life to my mind!