Saturday, June 14, 2008

Of Singers and the Soul - The Guru Cohen Amongst Us

What does one say about Leonard Cohen?  Last evening I was among the privileged few (about 10,000 souls I should imagine?) to be present at one of his three concerts here in Dublin in the grounds of The Royal Hospital on what must surely be the last world tour of the great Canadian singer song-writer, poet and novelist Leonard Cohen.  It is hard to believe that he is 73 years young - he will be 74 September next.  All in all, it was a wonderful occasion.  The "old" man is still in good strong voice and well able to hit both those low notes and some reasonably high ones.  He sounds as good today as he does on his many recordings, I am glad to say. 

[There is nothing to substitute for being present at a live performance.  The whole thing is purer and more natural, and consequently more moving.  I brought my camera along with me to record some moments from the event, but unfortunately I had my camera set at a stupidly low quality - 299 frames instead of 95 - the results are too small to be magnified as you can see from the uploaded picture.  How that happened I don't know.]

Cohen sang all those songs that we are familiar with from the very early numbers to the latest, only one or two with which neither I nor my two brothers were acquainted.  He opened the show with his wonderful "Dance Me To The End of Love."  I have, of course, been at some few, too few, concerts from Christy Dignam to Christy Moore to Robbie Williams to name some, all of which were celebratory and vibrant and to a greater extent convivial sing-alongs.  Cohen's concert was more akin to a contemplative, philosophical and spiritual love-fest for the initiated.  It had all the hallmarks of a quasi-religious get-together or perhaps a poetry meeting.  This is not surprising as our man Cohen is essentially a literate being or literatus or poet who turned to putting his poems to music early in his career.  As I looked around I could see people, for the most part my own age or older, with a sprinkling of youngsters in their twenties or thirties here and there, with their eyes closed in contemplation of the master's lyrics.  Indeed, Cohen is recognised widely within the field of music as the greatest lyricist of all time.  One can hardly disagree with this assessment of our man.

His Buddhist demeanour was evident at all times with the spiritual guru and lyricist extraordinaire bowing to his audience on many occasions and doffing his hat and holding it to his breast in a natural and sincere way.  It was as if after 15 years break from touring, the mystic had come down from his hill to be among his loyal followers.  This is all quite understandable because  in 1994, following a tour to promote his Album The Future, Cohen retreated to the Mount Baldy Zen Centre near Los Angeles, beginning what would become five years of seclusion there.  In 1996, Cohen was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk and took the Dharma name Jikhan, meaning 'silence'. He left Mount Baldy in 1999.  I have also read somewhere that many Buddhist monks around the world love to listen to the master's music.

Needless to say most of the old numbers from the sixties and seventies had new arrangements from Suzanne and the famous Bird on The Wire which I didn't recognise until he had started the second verse.  He recited "A Thousand Kisses Deep" as a poem.  It seemed to have some stanzas or verses I didn't recognise from the sung version.  I could be wrong here in this contention.  He thanked his audience or rather disciples for listening to his poem in this city of poets and writers.  Needless to say we all loved this.  Those of us into the world of therapy and mental health were at a therapist's concert or convention, and it was as if his words, lyrics and music were healing chords washing over us.  His wonderful rendition of Hallelujah had all his disciples singing.  He introduced "If it be Your Will" as a poem or more properly a prayer.  The woman beside me bowed her head and held her hands together as in supplication.  I could not tell if she had her eyes closed as she was wearing dark sunglasses.  Then he sang the beautiful song "Anthem" a short piece of which words I will quote here:


The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be...

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

The wise old songster had begun this number by reciting the chorus first before he started singing the song.  I have highlighted the chorus in the above quotation.  There is much depth and much wisdom in that chorus.  There is no such thing as perfection in this world.  None of us has made or will make a "perfect offering" in this life.  Likewise, even the more perfect work of art decays; even the youngest life grows old; even the healthiest get sick; even the greatest symphony has notes that jar; even our doctors die, and even the experts of today are tomorrow's historians.  Such and more are the implications of the words, and the old master from Mount Baldy knew it.  He finished his concert proper with the smashing and lively number "Closing Time."  The words of this number are raunchy and wonderfully true and full of good humour - take note those of you who think Cohen morose and sad for he was and is never so.  Reflection, meditation, contemplation or prayer-like incantation are only superficially "depressing."  Listen and you will hear the humour and the depth and the joy!  Here's a few lines from Closing Time:

"Closing Time"
Ah we're drinking and we're dancing
and the band is really happening
and the Johnny Walker wisdom running high
And my very sweet companion
she's the Angel of Compassion
she's rubbing half the world against her thigh
And every drinker every dancer
lifts a happy face to thank her
the fiddler fiddles something so sublime
all the women tear their blouses off
and the men they dance on the polka-dots
and it's partner found, it's partner lost
and it's hell to pay when the fiddler stops:
Yeah the women tear their blouses off
and the men they dance on the polka-dots
and it's partner found, it's partner lost
and it's hell to pay when the fiddler stops:

Then there were two encores and Leonard sang some more songs, all the while thanking profusely both audience and musicians.  He kept repeating to his listeners, "thanks for coming to hear us play!"  It was a community effort.  Not once did the master say, "Thanks for coming to hear me sing!"  I had better bring this entry to an end as I am liable never to stop writing.  See this link for a previous post on Leonard Cohen. LC

Above I have uploaded possibly one of the worst pictures I have ever taken. As I said above I took it at too small a size unbeknownst to myself.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Of Margins, Borders and Other Interrelated Matters

The beauty of fixed beliefs is the possibility of definition and precise definition at that.  If you are a conservative Catholic, well you have very quickly defined where you are. Rome and the Pope will be your centre of gravity and you will take your lead from there.  If you are a committed Presbyterian, Calvinist or one of the many other Christian Evangelical Churches you will take your lead from the value of "being saved in and through Christ."  If you are a Jew or a Muslim you will likewise look to the founders and prophets of your faith as well as the Godhead of your religion to be your guiding light.  Then again, you may be a member of the Anglican Communion where you may be more High Church (a little more "Catholic" in practice and liturgy) or Low Church (more Evangelical).  Indeed you might be any where in-between, because one of the beauties of the Anglican Communion has been its proud boast of being a broad church which encompasses many viewpoints between High and Low.  You may even be a dyed-in-the-wool atheist or materialist or atheistic humanist.  You, too, will know where you stand.  Then you may be a skeptic or indifferentist and really do not give a damn.  Then again, you may just be unsure of where you stand at all.  You may simply be lost, confused and confounded. Perhaps you are agnostic and are open to wherever the truth lies or to wherever you are led by not only the lights of your own reason but the lights of your own heart and soul, by the lights of your own conscience.

Sometimes I'm not very sure at all where I stand myself with regard to the ultimate questions, with regards even to where my own inner lights are leading me.  I am too full of questions.  My mind is always buzzing with some new idea or insight.  It is so hard to rule things in or things out.  "Open" is a word I really love and it best describes my take on the world. 

It is my considered belief that too many people are way too sure of where they stand.  Fine and dandy if you have worked out your viewpoint and considered all the alternatives.  Admittedly, very few people have the luxury of either the time or even the commitment to pursuing such investigations because simply they have too much to do, too many other commitments like family and job.  They do need some star to steer their often much-buffeted craft by and so they take refuge on some little island of belief.  Otherwise, their seemingly fragile craft is very much in danger not alone of capsizing but also of sinking. Hence, we must respect all viewpoints and all religions and all "takes" on life if they provide support and necessary psychological sustenance for their adherents.

I suppose from my intense and deliberate reading and reflections on life and its problems, concerns and questions I have become more interested in psychotherapy as the real healer and sustainer of the soul rather than religion.  That, of course, is neither to deny nor criticize the latter for its important role in human life.

I have been a pilgrim of life.  I have been on a journey to make sense of what life places before me.  I have followed willingly my inner lights to try and make sense of the whole enterprise.   I have spent three years in religious life, and that was a very happy and enriching period of my life.  I met so may kindly and good people.  I learned so much about community, about living in a caring and sharing environment.  I have worked with the sick, the elderly and the young, with alcoholics and drug addicts.  I have studied and studied and I have taught.  The older I get the less sure of things I become.  I remember my spiritual adviser saying to me when I was in religion that I was very sure that that particular way of life was for me.  I can remember him saying that perhaps I was too sure, that probably I would change my views as I got older.  Sure enough, this sagely and wise gentleman was correct.  I was only to stay three years in that order.  Therein I made great friends, I read a lot, had the company of scholars in community and grew up.

I have appealed to Socrates many times in these posts as an instinctive leader in my life.  I always loved the way he questioned everything and sought to get to the heart of the matter at hand.  I loved his appeal to basic ignorance at the start of any enquiry.  I made his quip "The unexamined life is not worth living" my own.  At times that examination drove to distraction.  I have been through a major breakdown at forty years of age - 10 years ago.  That breakdown taught me so much.  In fact for me it was truly a break-through rather than a break-down.  I have discussed the impact of this crisis in my life before in these posts, and so won't repeat too much more on this issue here.  I came out a knew man, a new creation of my own making after this severe taste of hell if I may forge a few metaphors here.

From my reading I see that Richard Kearney, whom I have quoted rather widely in my last post sees himself not as a "pure philosopher", but rather as a philosopher of the borders.  I have used another word in my above title, that of margins.  I, like Kearney, have always felt myself called to the margins, never to the centre of things.  I have been severely criticised by many of my lecturers over the years for going sideways, rather than going straight ahead academically.  I am a jack of all trades and have done some three primary degrees and then a more interdisciplinary masters somewhere on the border lines between philosophy and theology.  I remember my director Rev Dr. Brian McNamara saying that my thesis could equally be argued as a Master's in Philosophy or as a Master's in Theology.  Then afterwards I began to be more interested in spirituality and than in psychotherapy, psychology and psychiatry.  At the moment I am pondering becoming a resource teacher who may begin working with Asperger's Syndrome.

There are so many avenues one might follow.  The thing is discerning the true path.

Above I have uploaded a picture of a Fulung Gong practitioner in Dublin Christmas 2007. These practitioners strive to centre themselves through meditative movement. Through such meditative action one can draw the splintered bits of self from all the various margins and frontiers and borders into some semblance of unity.

The Healing Question

This post today is meant as a counterbalance to the immediately previous post "Beyond Pondering the Flow."  Therein I mused as to how destructive deep and dark questioning can be to our peace of mind; how unsettling to our equanimity.  Now I wish to look at the importance of the questioning spirit, and ponder how healing this very spirit can be.

When we first went to college in 1976 at the tender age of 18 we were all full of questions, and we really did ask them.  I remember the Director of Mater Dei Institute, Rev. Dr. Paddy Wallace, RIP, saying that he preferred his graduates to leave college with more questions than answers.  I often remember him quipping, "You may not end up with a good answer.  You may end up with a better question."  This approach I loved because he certainly did not give hard and fast answers.  In many senses Paddy was ahead of his time.  He had a greater delight in wonder and mysticism than in devotion and doctrine.  Hence I always felt at home with his take on religion, church, spirituality and life.  He was a seeker and searcher, not an oracle of hard and fast answers.  We were taught to think things through for ourselves and arrive at our own synthesis of faith - whatever that might be.  Over the last thirty years my own approach to spirituality has moved on light years from what it was then.  Who knows if I get the time, the energy or even the interest I might right an account of that progress here some day?

As regards the healing question I wish to return to discuss the approach to philosophy of Professor Richard Kearney - my favourite Irish philosopher.  Richard is both a brilliant writer and a brilliant lecturer.  Few, I have found, could do both so well.  Here is Richard on what philosophy means:

Primarily philosophy to me means a questioning rather than an answering.  It means inviting students to think for themselves and to question, rather than providing them with solutions.  It is not ideology, it is not theology; it is a way of getting students to enquire in a socially committed and personally involved fashion.  It is exposing them to a variety of different currents of thought.  (Richard Kearney in an interview with Stephen J. Costello in The Irish Soul in Dialogue, Liffey Press, 2001, 139-140)

There is much wisdom in this definition here.  Kearney repeats almost verbatim what Paddy Wallace felt even theology should do.  I also love the fact that any approach to philosophy should insist that the students think for themselves.  This has always been my approach even in secondary teaching. I remember one brilliant lecturer, who was director of my master's thesis in philosophical theology, Dr. Brian McNamara, S.J., who, having given me a rather long list of books to peruse for our next appointment, said, "Now I don't want to know what Rahner or Lonergan or Schillebeeckx think.  I want to know what you think when you have read them."   I have always been lucky in my educational mentors and directors.  Another marvellous lecturer I had was Dr. Michael Paul Gallagher, S.J. whose meditation site can be accessed by a link on the right of this blog page.  Michael Paul was and is a gentle, refined, spiritual and most erudite lecturer.  I rate him among the best communicators I every had over periods spent in four colleges.  He was and is equally at home in theology, philosophy and literature.  He has spent many years in dialogue with culture in all its facets, and especially with unbelief under its many guises from practical to theoretic atheism, from rigid skepticism to blander agnosticism and out to materialism and indifferentism .  I remember him saying that if Institutes like Mater Dei did their job well they should produce atheists and agnostics as well as people who were deeper believers than when they first started.  In other words Michael Paul also subscribes to getting people to think out their faith stance or life stance or whatever.  Now back to our man Richard Kearney.

Richard comes from a family tradition of medicine stretching back generations.  Healing of body and soul were always important, he tells us, in his family.  In a way philosophy belongs, he believes, to a healing tradition as well as does medicine:

I would like to think philosophy is another kind of healing, which involves the psyche...I have always thought of philosophy as a therapy for the soul, beginning with the Greeks...My uncles were obstetricians and gynaecologists.  In a way philosophy is another kind of midwifery, but this time of questions and answers - allowing the birth of answers by putting questions to somebody.  It's a kind of psychic obstetrics.  So, maybe medicine and philosophy aren't completely disconnected.  Certainly, my family's approach to medicine always involved the person as much as the anatomy...There was a recognition that medicine involved the mind as well as the body, even though we are focusing on the mind - it's a therapy of the mind, as Wittgenstein put it.  Philosophy is a form of therapy, and asking questions and discovering which questions can be answered appropriately and which can't...So what attracted me to philosophy?  It was the possibility of finding healing and maybe in time helping to give healing through the profession of philosophy by helping people to ask questions about their lives and to try to answer them and if there are no answers, you go the way of faith or acceptance or letting go or endurance or patience or abandonment... (Kearney, op.cit. supra, 140-141)

Again, I am sure the reader will excuse my highlighting certain phrases and sentences in the above passage.  You will see immediately Kearney's emphasis on the healing of philosophy, on its being essentially a therapy of the soul or a therapy of the mind according to Wittgenstein.  He repeats this factor again and again in his interview.  In this sense one could, of course, say that philosophy is quite akin to psychotherapy - hence my bold title above this post - "The Healing Question."  The last sentence in Kearney's response above is very important I feel.  I love that he sees philosophy as practical and human - in no way just a matter for drawing rooms of old or fashionable clubs or universities.  It helps people to ask questions that are important about and in their lives; it even helps when there are no answers because the process of questioning refines the soul as it were (my words).  There are a variety of possible stances to life when rational answers crumble and any real philosopher must allow for all possible stances, for all possible views on life:- some will find answers in religion (faith); others in just accepting life as it is; some in letting go; some in stoicism; some in agnosticism, some in skepticism and some in atheism.  (In this last sentence I have fleshed out the implications of Kearney's words for my own benefit.)

Above I have uploaded a picture I took at The Musée Rodin, Paris about a year ago. Needless to say, this is a picture of Rodin's famous "Le Penseur", "The Thinker" struggling with questions perhaps!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Beyond Pondering the Flow

Indeed, we need to question things as we go through life so as not to be gulled or fooled, tricked or trampled upon.  Yet, too much questioning, I believe, does weary the soul.  From personal experience of life I have found that deep dark thoughts can haunt those who are of a more melancholy frame of mind.  Like everything else in life we need balance in any of our habits or pursuits - be they physical, emotional, spiritual or moral.

Some insights I have picked up from reading over the years remain with me.  During my school years  I really enjoyed the poems of Patrick Kavanagh.  Indeed I have never ceased to be a fan because his poems draw me in at a deep personal and spiritual level.  Here is a quote from Paddy which is very ad rem, the last stanza in full in fact, from his beautifully moving poem Advent

O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we'll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won't we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason's payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.

You will excuse me for highlighting a few phrases in the above stanza.  When we think and ponder too much - we set our minds racing, make them confused and disturbed.  Sometimes we have to set the dark deep thinking aside and attempt to re-engage the flow as it were.  Searchers can often be panic-stricken and over-fervent and push themselves too far.  (Only yesterday on the Dart I had to attempt to comfort an elderly lady who was beginning to panic because she thought she had missed her train and who feared for the welfare of her grandchild who was awaiting her - Searchers are similar - they are prone to panic!) Hence when we go with the flow we will have "no need to go searching" for elusive answers to bothersome questions.  Re-engaging the flow of life also means realising that day-to-day life and experiences can and do pour "ordinary plenty."  Likewise, when we tap into the power and the innate celebration of life that is within us and is the heritage of all of us we will not have the temerity  to "ask for reason's payment."  Tapping into the flow of life brings us beyond an intellectual analysis into a state of appreciation for the little things as well as the big things of life - hence, we will have no need to "analyse God's breath in common statement."

In all of this I am conscious also of other lines of poems flying around in the background of my mind barely visible or audible but still there insinuating themselves now and again into consciousness.  Such a line is one from Dry Salvages II of T.S. Eliot's wonderful Four Quartets which goes: 

but the sudden illumination—
We had the experience but missed the meaning...

We all have myriads of experiences, but it is indeed somewhat sad to miss their significance or meaning for us.  Again this is a Socratic piece of advice in the sense that the unexamined life is not worth living.  Moreover, I am well aware that there is a corollary to this that goes: "the un-lived life is not worth examining."  Again, I contend it is all a matter of balance, of getting things into perspective, of not going to extremes, of finding the mean as it were.

Then I have always found much wisdom in cartoons which help us laugh at ourselves.  I remember an old Snoopy cartoon from the Peanuts comic strips by Charles M. Schulz - which had the following caption:  "Sometimes I sits and I thinks.  Other times I just sits!"  I remember the cartoon well as our friendly doggie was sitting on a potty.

Anyway, too much of anything will be wearisome for the soul.  I see from a random search of the Internet that at least one person believes that he/she suffers from a new syndrome called Too Much Thinking Syndrome or TMTS.  What will we think of next?

Above I have uploaded yet another picture I took of the Carrowbeg River, Westport in March 2007.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pondering the Flow

Any stylist in any of the creative arts will readily understand what the phrase "going with the flow" means.  Etymologically it means to act as others are acting without giving it a second thought.  However, the flow I am referring to here in my title is the flow of energy we get when we are doing something intuitive  and spontaneous which is from the heart. I began writing when I was a young student at college.  Of course, I had written many essays in English and Irish, and even some in French during my secondary school years at Scoil Uí Chonaill here in Dublin.  However, when I got to Mater Dei Institute of Education I was very fortunate to have done English Literature and Language.  For essays and creative writing, called by the pretentious title "Rhetorical Composition", I was fortunate to have an old Holy Ghost Priest called Barney Kelly or Brian Ó Ceallaigh who had two doctorates, a D.D. and a D.Litt.  Brian used give us theological books to review and he'd embellish our efforts a little and get them published in theological journals under our very own names.  I loved the thrill of seeing my name in print.  Under Brian's tuition the writing bug began for me, and I have never ceased writing since.  This man taught me how to write clearly and with structure.  One of my favourite comments I ever received on an English exercise I got from Brian: "Stilted, but ease will come with time!"  Brilliant, succinct and so true.  I took his words to heart and kept writing.  The ease - or the flow - did come, or to put it another way I began to swim with the tide or to go with the very flow of my own creative energy in creating my very own style.  When I tapped into this flow of energy the words began to behave for me.  A new music began to sing in my heart, and this music transformed itself into words on the page.

However, there are times we do need to stand back and look at the work done.  We need to stand back and ponder what we have created.  All artists need to do this in order to discover the secrets that have led them thus or thus, this way or that.  Indeed, I would argue that all creative people whether they belong to the arts or not need to do so also.  Under this umbrella I would count business men and scientists and engineers and all who value thought in all its cultural manifestations.  We need to at least be able to  analyse what we have done.  In the words of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives (1956, believe it or not) we need to be able to analyse, synthesise and evaluate all we do at a cognitive level.  These are all higher order activities based on lesser educational objectives like application, comprehension and remembering

I remember once an old colleague of mine called Richard Heneghan telling me that he had liked a piece of I written for the Union journal because he said simply "it flowed."  Recently another colleague complimented me on doing Master of Ceremonies at the graduation of our sixth years with the words "You were on a roll!"  Going with our internal flow of energy and being on a roll are one and the same thing.  As the great French scientist and writer Buffon said of style - and I believe one could say the same of flow - and his definition has never been bettered: "Le style c'est l'homme meme".  In other words style mirrors the character of the writer.  Flow and roll mirror our personality - they reflect the way we really are in ourselves. See the following link for my previous comments on this topic: Buffon and Style.

Anyway, I wish to mention flow with respect to psychology and personal development here.  With this in mind I wish to refer to a book called Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (1996) by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (What a mouthful of a name.  Apologies, Mihaly, we Westerners are stumped by languages outside the Romantic mould.   I am informed that the surname is pronounced Chick-sent-me-hi.)  Anyhow Mihaly is our flow guru or our "on a roll" expert.  Other colloquial terms for this or similar mental states include: to be on the ball, in the zone, or in the groove.

We all intuitively know when we are "on a roll" or "in the groove" or "going with our own internal flow."  This is when we experience being fully immersed in what we are doing, being fully energized by our situation or being totally involved and fully focused.  For me personally I feel as if there is a power working through me or rather an energy into which I tap.  Therefore, it is easy to see why this  overpowering feeling is called by the term "flow" because it's as if a power were flowing through you and you are the instrument or conduit of it.  The WIKI gives a different etymology for "going with the flow" than I understand it here in Ireland.  It renders the meaning of this phrase as literally meaning "to conform."  My understanding of the phrase id different from this etymological understanding.  "To go with the flow" for me means "to go with my own personal internal flow of energy."  That how I will use the phrase here.  For me it means anything but conformity.  It embraces creativity and spontaneity in their essential and pure states.

The WIKI puts it thus:

Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields.  See WIKI Article

Among the components of Flow, Mihaly (I am using his Christian name for handiness) lists the following: concentrating and focusing on the matter at hand, a loss of self-consciousness, a sense of personal control over the occasion or event, and a merging of action and awareness.  I have noted these particular ones I have listed here when I act as M.C. for any official activity at school.  I become so involved in the occasion at hand that I lose all self-consciousness and I do feel a distinct sense of fusing or merging with the occasion as it were - my actions and my awareness in Mihaly's words do merge.  And certainly I also feel a sense of control over the event but not in the sense of an authoritarian or autocratic control - rather the control of a lover over his or her beloved when they make love.  That's the nearest analogy I can come up with here.

And so what are the lessons we are to learn from Mihaly's Flow?  In the first place I believe he is indirectly telling us not to waste our time in the pursuit of happiness.  I have already adverted to Ivor Browne on this very point already at this link: Browne on Happiness.  Rather Mihaly is recommending that we should become really aware of what activities make us really happy, that is those activities that set up that power or flow or energy in us or those activities that make us feel powerful and true to and in ourselves and then do more of those things.  Happiness, then, does not become an objective but rather a task of awareness, a tapping into what is naturally and essentially alive in us already.

Above the flow of water on the Carrowbeg River Westport, Mayo, March 2007

Monday, June 09, 2008

Going With the Flow

A Stream of Consciousness Exercise

For Sinéad and Ben, the truest of lovers

Ah I want to go beyond the structured line the structured thought beyond a grammar that controls these lines and all especially for you both for you have found a precious gem a pearl of priceless value that is young love and I wish you pleasant sailing on the seas that will be calm and rough and rough and calm in turn for that is the way things are and I write for you without commas and stops because I do not wish to swim against the tide to refuse to go with the flow of life that must out out unmindful of the stops and starts of little life and I think of Newton he of gravity fame who sought to cut a calculus from the the very stones upon which he walked ah but he too knew that he was just a little boy idling on a watery shore upturning this or that little coloured stone or shell while the boundless ocean of undiscovered truth roared on beyond his little mind and wave after wave rushes to the shores of time unmindful of the mindful creatures who tread its rugged boundaries and all we know yes all we know of life is that it will out out out and out and go on on on beyond these fingers that respond to thought upon these plastic keys and again I think of you of you both young lovers about to begin where all life begins in the desire to be one in the desire to reach beyond the lonely island of the self to put out into the waters of discovery to swim there until you find a partner to swim with and together make a little meaning to cut your own calculus of love out of an indifferent uncaring universe that always and ever remains silent except to those who see except to those who see ah yes I remember my old father's wisdom from a world a whole ocean away back in time ah yes he said to me that there were none so blind as those who failed to see and let us add none so deaf as they who fail to hear and none so lonely as those who fail to touch ah touch the delicate touch of lovers by the seas of undiscovered pleasures and loves and tears yes tears they too are part of life but only a part for there are laughs and laughs galore as we build our boats to sail the seas and yes there is wisdom in the doing yes in the doing of anything that makes for building up that makes for building up the giant anthill on which we live and toil and have our play and these are no depressing thoughts oh no they are a flow of life a flow of intuitions that lap the shores of my mind as I think of you both about to put out into new waters ever new and ever old and ever new again because new for you yet so many billions upon billions of others have come this way have trod that path and have known love's intensity before new life that will out out out out and so my blessings on you both my wishes for great things and even little things and all things wild and wonderful, all things tame and mundane too because all things yes all things must be acknowledged because everything is of a piece one whole piece of which we are a little link in a vast ocean of things wanting to reach out and link up and become as one an yes new love ah yes new life and we can only praise the fact that it exists we can only wonder at the wonder of it all the greatest mystery of mysteries why life exists at all at all why we exist to know it so many things to think about and yet so many to forget about too for we must ever forget many things and ever remember many others but know my sweetest friends my brave new sailors on the seas of life there is no advice no wisdom that I can share with you except to say embrace it all embrace it all yea embrace it all lock stock and barrel the good the bad the beautiful and the ugly because it is all life and to be living means to acknowledge all and let our little egos perish and let our souls take flight the only flight possible the flight into the awareness of things plural and one, one and plural that life is singular in its being plural and this awareness will become your greatest love as you contemplate your little and great and great and little part in the great chain of being

Another picture of the Cliffs of Moher - Rugged beauty