Thursday, June 27, 2013

Idée d’jour

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.
— Henry Miller

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Idée d’jour

Earth cannot escape heaven, flee it by going up, or flee it by going down; heaven still invades the earth, energizes it, makes it sacred.
— Meister Eckhart

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Out of the Wilderness, II

There was a new light shining in my eyes
when I woke on the wilderness' edge.
I had been dreaming of a rose in bloom,
fiery petals dancing before my brow.

When I woke near the wilderness' edge,
it was as if a tomb had been opened.
The fiery petals danced before my brow
and my hands were cleansed of blood.

It was as if a tomb had been opened
when I took my first steps into the light.
My hands had been cleansed of the blood
that I'd gotten from a broken wine glass.

When I took my first steps into the light,
there were those who did not recognize me.
Though I'd gotten, from a broken wine glass,
these desert scars, they still didn't know me.

There were those who did not recognize me
until we sat and broke bread together.
These desert scars, they no longer own me,
for a Breath has given me a new life.

When we sat and broke bread together,
I had a vision of a rose in bloom.
A loving Breath gave me a new life
where a new light was shining in my eyes.

19.III.85; published in The Pilgrim, April 1986

Saturday, June 22, 2013

On Sadness

Sadness is cousin to grief
a haunted space
echoing what is lost

This past Thursday, I went on a guided tour of the Washita Battlefield (with friends from my church). We know the place because Magpie lived to tell the tale. A ranger told the tale, she told it well: How Gen. Custer sent four divisions to attack from each of the ancient sacred directions. "No women and children," Custer said, remembering the massacre at Sand Creek. Our guide pointed out Custer's knoll, where he surveyed the scene just before the attack. Where he would have heard reports on missing men. Where he would hear women and children were being killed, contrary to his orders.

The ranger told us she knew of some Native Americans who were sensitive to this space — who felt echoes of the lost lives. According to family lore, I am fifth generation Comanche. Perhaps it was the ranger's suggestion, perhaps it was the heat of the day and the exertion, perhaps it was my prayerful heart, intimately trained for contemplation. I felt it: I felt my heart burn. I was aware of the echoes of loss.

I keenly felt it as we crossed the field where the Cheyenne lived that winter, along the banks of the once mighty Washita. I keenly felt it as we passed the trees where people had left prayer cloths in the sacred colors of red, yellow, black, and blue. I felt it as we placed our own prayer cloth near where the ponies had been killed. I felt it as we climbed out the rise, back to the park center.

Sadness is a haunted space. Sadness is not the absence of happiness; not exactly its dark brother. Sadness is less than depression, but it may lead to depression with time. Sadness & grief are cousins: they often come together, but I don't suppose sadness is only caused by grief. It may have many kin.

There's a moment in the second movement of Henryk Goreck's Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) that, for me, bespeaks “Joyous Sorrow.” How can that be? I think that is the moment when you perceive the hopeful light on the dark's horizon. In the context of the symphony, it is the moment a mother grieves the death of her child — yet there is the suggestion that life goes continues. The mother's song concludes:
“And you, God's little flowers
May you bloom all around
So that my son
May sleep happily.”

Sadness is cousin to grief
a haunted space
echoing what is lost

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Idé d’jour

When I feed the hungry, they call me a saint. When I ask why people are hungry, they call me a communist.
— Helder Camara, archbishop (1909-1999)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Idée d’jour

Congratulation: The civility of envy.
— Ambrose Bierce

Friday, June 14, 2013

Idée d’jour

The big thieves hang the little ones.
— Czech proverb

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Idée d’jour

A hungry man is not a free man.
— Adlai Stevenson

Monday, June 10, 2013

Idée d’jour

Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.
— Carl Jung

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Ill Omen

Mowing my lawn's courses
a bold grackle crosses my path
Begone, ill omen!

Friday, June 07, 2013

Idée d’jour

The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.
— Daniel J. Boorstin

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Disciple

This past Sunday, a friend said I most resembled a disciple of all the people he knew. We were both in our worship-related vestments — I was wearing a floor-length white alb with cincture; he was wearing a verger's chimere. These vestments are intended to obscure our modern individual identities, and help all participants to experience kairos (timeless time, or "God time").

With that white alb and cincture representing the garb of the first and second century (C.E.), and my long face, long body, and thinning hair. I suppose I might have resembled a painting or icon of one of the disciples. Of course, I assume he meant I physically resembled a disciple.

He didn't compare me to any particular figure. After all, we know so few of the disciples' names. I could have been a nameless follower at a distance. I could have been one of the several outsiders (centurion or Samaritan) who sought out the Master.

I am, indeed, a follower at a distance — by about two thousand years. I am a bit more than a student. I strive to take on the discipline of the Master, to the best of my ability.

What is that discipline? The Master said: “You shall love God with your whole being, and love your neighbor as yourself.” I sometimes call this the “Law of Love” - a "Law" which is much more challenging than the hundred some-odd laws of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Having a list of dos and don'ts is pretty clear-cut; an injunction to love is more challenging.

From this, and from the Master's actions, I draw some inferences. I don't think the Master had much patience for unthinking obedience to rules and regulations. Time after time, he valued compassion over social or religious norms and traditions. The Master never shirked from service, but was also intentional about caring for himself, especially by frequent respites for private prayer.

I don't claim to be a good student. Not only do I have bad days, I have frequent bad weeks and months. The point is not to make a list of my daily offenses (though that might be helpful); it's even less to list others' offenses. I strive to become more like the Master with each day.

I might look like a disciple of the first or second century. If so, my goal should be for my actions to be in harmony with that appearance. It's not enough to look like an disciple; I should live like one as well.

Idée d’jour

The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others.
— Vincent van Gogh

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


Crack of lightening
Blast of thunder
The shaving mirror trembles

Sunday, June 02, 2013

‘Create in me a clean heart, O God’

Ps. 51 (BCP)

Lately, my heart has become polluted. Just as our air has been polluted by car exhaust and factory smoke, so has my heart been deceived by the temptation of immediate gratification. It has been hypnotized by the popular song. It has been seduced by advertisements.

And I have been dumping wastes on my heart: resentment; self pity; and a rapacious ego.

We have learned, of late, how difficult it is to clean the pollution caused by the dumping of industrial wastes. And I know how hard it is to clean ego-wastes from my heart. For humans it is impossible, but all things are possible through God.

So I pray that God create a new, clean heart in me. And I consider two thoughts which comfort me in this process. We have heard that faith without works is barren. I now believe there is a corollary: works without faith is death.

And that faith is that it is not I who act, but Our Lord who acts through me. With thanks to God, “Whose power, working is us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.”

Originally published in October 1986 Pilgrim

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Work in Progress

So. After a burst of creative energy, it may appear that I've gone underground again, so to speak. But that's not the case. I've been writing a rhymed quatrain every day for the past week, and posting it on Facebook (my friends know who I am) and Twitter (@jacsongs)

Most quatrains got "liked" by folk on Facebook. And I've toyed with the idea of a “crowd-sourced” poem where only the verses with the most "likes" survive the editing process. This might not be the best poem for that experiment; at the moment, it seems like plot less doggerel.

Well, plot less because I had no idea what the plot might be — or even if there were a plot — when the work began. The quatrains came to me in that estival space between sleep and wakefulness — which is not to claim they illustrate remembered dream imagery. I transcribed them in my little red notebook (a faux Moleskine), then typed them onto those social media sites.

The quatrains appear below, as they originally came to me. I've marked through one verse, because it doesn't seem to belong in this poem at this time.

I'm not sure, but I think this poem is a ghost story

I have to get that
said the kettle to the moon
there's a panther in the cupboard
and it may be mauling a spoon
But the phone wasn't ringing
And no birds were singing

She felt someone near her
with her heart of stone.
Nothing there but echoes
No one else at home.
The alarm wasn't pinging
And no birds were singing.

It's like it's often been said:
three can keep a secret
if two of them are dead.

First there's the lightening
then there's the thunder
soon the silence
is filled with wonder

The deceitful truth
stumbles down the hall
knocks down the portrait
of her father's caul
Perhaps someone somewhere is winning
But no birds are singing.

Oh, this and that
said the toaster
Where'd you go asked the lion
Oh, here & there, here & there

The dim figure in the rain
Wet footprints in the hall
Her famous heart of stone
Now feels so very small.