Ode to the Present

This present moment, smooth as a wooden slab, this immaculate hour, this day pure as a new cup… we caress the present; we cut it according to our magnitude, we guide the unfolding of its blossoms.  It is living, alive — it contains nothing from the unrepairable past, from the lost past, it is our infant, growing at this very moment, adorned with sand, eating from our hands. Grab it. Don’t let it slip away. Don’t lose it in dreams or words. Clutch it. Tie it, and order it to obey you. Make it a road, a bell, a machine, a kiss, a book, a caress.  Take a saw to its delicious wooden perfume. And make a chair; braid its back; test it. Or then, build a staircase!

Yes, a staircase. Climb into the present, step by step, press your feet onto the resinous wood of this moment, going up, going up, not very high, just so you repair the leaky roof. Don’t go all the way to heaven. Reach for apples, not the clouds. Let them fluff through the sky, skimming passage, into the past. You are your present, your own apple. Pick it from your tree. Raise it in your hand. It’s gleaming, rich with stars. Claim it. Take a luxurious bite out of the present, and whistle along the road of your destiny.

~ Pablo Neruda

Eating Poetry

My poems resemble the bread of Egypt—one night
Passes over it, and you can’t eat it any more.

So gobble them down now, while they’re still fresh,
Before the dust of the world settles on them.

Where a poem belongs is here, in the warmth of the chest;
Out in the world it dies of cold.

You’ve seen a fish—put him on dry land,
He quivers for a few minutes, and then is still.

And even if you eat my poems while they’re still fresh,
You still have to bring forward many images yourself.

Actually, friend, what you’re eating is your own imagination.
These poems are not just some old sayings and saws.

~ Rumi

The Boat


The Guest is inside you, and also inside me;
you know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far.
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.

The blue sky opens out farther and farther,
the daily sense of failure goes away,
the damage I have done to myself fades,
a million suns come forward with light,
when I sit firmly in that world.

I hear bells ringing that no one has shaken;
inside”love” there is more joy than we know of;
rain pours down, although the sky is clear of clouds;
there are whole rivers of light.
The universe is shot through in all parts by a single sort of love.

How hard it is to feel that joy in all our four bodies!
Those who hope to be reasonable about it fail.
The arrogance of reason has separated us from that love.
With the word “reason” you already feel miles away.

How lucky Kabir is, that surrounded by all this joy
he sings inside his own little boat.
His poems amount to one soul meeting another.
These songs are about forgetting dying and loss.
They rise above both coming in and going out.

Kabir

noone and a star stand

noone and a star stand,am to am

(life to life;breathing to breathing
flaming dream to dreaming flame)

united by perfect nothing:

millionary wherewhens distant,as
reckoned by the unimmortal mind,
these immeasurable mysteries
(human one;and one celestial)stand

soul to soul:freedom to freedom

till her utmost secrecies and his
(dreaming flame by flaming dream)
merge—at not imaginable which

instant born,a(who is neither each
both and)Self adventures deathlessness

~ e.e. cummings

Fear of the Inexplicable

We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any 
way can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible 
in it. That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded 
of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most 
singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. 
That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done 
life endless harm; the experiences that are called “visions,” 
the whole so-called “spirit-world,” death, all those things 
that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been 
so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could 
have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God.

But fear of the inexplicable has not alone impoverished
 the existence of the individual; the relationship between 
one human being and another has also been cramped by it, 
as though it had been lifted out of the riverbed of
 endless possibilities and set down in a fallow spot on the
 bank, to which nothing happens. For it is not inertia alone 
that is responsible for human relationships repeating 
themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and 
unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable 
experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope.

But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes 
nothing, not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation 
to another as something alive and will himself draw exhaustively
 from his own existence. For if we think of this existence of 
the individual as a larger or smaller room, it appears evident
 that most people learn to know only a corner of their room, a 
place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and
 down. Thus they have a certain security. And yet that dangerous
 insecurity is so much more human which drives the prisoners in
 Poe’s stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons 
and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their abode.

We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about
 us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us.
 We are set down in life as in the element to which we best 
correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of
 years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we
 hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be 
distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to
 mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, 
they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; 
are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we
 arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us 
that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now
 still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust 
and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those
 ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into 
princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses 
who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps 
everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless 
that wants help from us.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke