Prayer for the Inmost Light

Beloved Creator, God of the Universe, open my inward vision to the beauty of your hidden presence. This morning, each day, in all places, may my mind be seeking you in love and delight, most Beautiful Presence. May I be able to see you and know you when you appear in the grace of the world. Fill my mind with good thoughts and deep joy. You are the One who looks out through the eyes of all creatures. Inspire my words and actions to reflect your delgiht, great Light who never expires. You make the darkness shimmer in the night with the stars of your inmost light.

 

 

Originally Written April 2nd, 2016

Photo by Mark Kamalov on Unsplash

I, Humanity, Memory of All Nations

 

 

I, humanity,
memory of all nations,
remember the savannah
within me.
Do not forget us,
but accompany us,
Ancestors,
friends of the heart,
on our trails into the future.
Remember us who come after you,
Remember us who go on before you,
Remember us who live in the heart-world around you.

 

… … …

 

I am one among millions who has known the loss of family. Maybe it is so that every living creature, when it becomes aware of its inevitable separateness from the beings most near it, feels this loss of unity, this severing of oneness. The genesis story of Eden is full of this metaphor. We were blind to our own abyssal awareness: then, we saw, and we became like gods, who who knew death, and the foresight of death, and the meaning of the anguish of self-awareness that accompanies the hominid brain.

I am a face in the sea of time: who will remember this one face? Genetics, maybe, or written words or painted images, better yet. Text is incarnated. You, God, would know most of all; You, who are always present and listening, it is your remembering us that I want for sure. You, who fill the whole earth with your breathing, must know and feel all that we feel in our creaturely lives. Being as that you are in us, and we are in you, then not one of us would be lost to the depths of time. And If you are truly omnipresent, then you would know how sacred the World is. I want to become an ancestor when it is my time. I never want to leave it.

 

 

 

 

Poetry by Gentle J. Pine

This Time, We Have Come

Slowly enough to be steady, rowing sturdy canoes,
old-speak appearing in the fog on the water
first language, hand-spoken, fur-hackles
predating the migration of babble.

The land that we love should not be carved into prizes.
Nobody owns a place until their dead are laid down in it.
Are you a wild god of fury?
Are you untamed, as suspected?
There is no safety with you, then,
Unpredictable Storm.
You are the end of safety,
but somehow you are comforting.

You would know, if you are here.
You must know, if what they say of you is true.
You too must have also suffered
a severance from family and tribe.
You must know the sadness
of all songs.

This time, O Lord of Burnt Offerings,
We have come bearing a trial of lanterns
to hunt you, whispering your darkened name

and your old shadow reclaims you,
curls in relief
down in toward wooded night comfort
slinking back into thickets
evading intrusive light.

This time, God,
we have come ready to find you,
wherever you are.

This time, Mother,
whoever you are now.

A Book About Evil and God

 

 

Laying down, reading a book about evil and God,

two insects wrestle on the ground below my eyes

while another carries her dead comrade away.

I, monumental–

and the ants– what devotion they show me.

Obscure, so near to them,

an incomprehensible cloud.

 

 

 

poetry and photography by Gentle J. Pine

Greatly Loved In Its Wildness

I’m an ex-cradle-born-Unitarian Universalist for good reasons. I’m politically moderate. I converted to sparkly Roman Catholicism at age 21. I am Jewish-curious, and am deeply attracted by their cohesive peoplehood and long, honorable struggle with a crazy God. When I was 22, I did something like animism and nature-based rites of passage in a community, but that community didn’t stick, even though the spirituality sure did. I don’t believe in fairies, I believe in birds. I don’t believe in unicorns, I believe in equines. I don’t believe in dragons, I believe in reptiles. The World is what’s real. Prayers and spells don’t save you; human research and evidence-based practices do, but a really grounded spirituality makes it all worth living through. Now I’m a scientific panentheist (is it really necessary to differentiate between pantheist and panentheist? Really?) who believes in a Creator that lives, breathes and moves in all created beings. I don’t claim that this Creator is always or ever going to do as we wish, or can even be trusted the conventional sense, though it can be greatly loved in its wildness. Nature is violent, insane and unjust, and we have every reason to think that any Creator who wrought it might be the same way. But Nature is also, simultaneously, beautiful, life-giving and deeply good. And so the same must be for this mysterious Creator. Such is life on earth. Sometimes I wish I were born in an Animist hunter-gatherer tribe of 30,000 years ago. Then again, I’m grateful for the gift of reason, evidence, vaccines, the internet and refrigerators. What I want most of all is a real tribe I can belong to. I wander, but I am not lost.

 

 

 

Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash

The Name of All Songs

 

When I write, who will come to visit me in my words?

Rumi, I also wonder who says words with my mouth.

But when you, Friend, come to my door

I will know to open it for you, and your name

will be the name of all songs.

 

And by many names do you come!

And through countless faces

you look out at the world in love.

Let me be your abiding place

where you come to stay without worry.

And by the good words that come

from the core of the happy heart,

may your breathing be the life of all lands.

 

 

 

Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

The Surest of All Loves

 

 

Great World, Great Soul whom I love,

I run into your arms

without perfect words, a mind-full

but never quite perfect words

recited by mortals, save birds.

Where, my love, are your hands?

Your hands that will hold us?

I sit in the rain and the snow,

meditating, finding you there.

Surely you are more clearly seen

by the hoofed ones, and by the creatures

of feather and fur.

They do not spend their lives in worry of grief.

Be at peace, heart of fire.

This human anguish– fall now into the arms

of the dark earth, the surest of all loves.

 

 

 

Photo by Rob Bye on Unsplash

A Harbinger in Autumn

 

Rufous autumn leaves, cold day,

lambent at sunset, grey skies.

Love, welcome. Winter fire logs

from the tarn. The colors of

my youngest cat; golden brush-brown,

streaked black is the good earth below me

and the colors of my eldest cat above:

fluffy white cloud belly, grey-blue, deep silver.

Sweet little purr-bears on my lap, my back;

leaves fall and flutter to the dampened ground.

The wind, the tidings-bearer, harbinger

of the whole wide-overhead come down to visit.

Ye creaking bones of time gone-by, coming up for

another dance, find life anew this second spring

where your progeny more lithely sing; enter, soul,

this body new and here-below

to vivify the heart of our Creator;

living, moving imminent in earth

the wheel, the firmament’s rebirth.

 

poetry by Gentle J. Pine

The Words that Matter

I haven’t wanted to call myself a “writer”. It sounds like another big-deal identity label with all sorts of implications. The sound of it brings to mind people way more disciplined than myself, who are way more at peace than I am with sitting in a chair for long hours on end. They’re more organized than I am, and more determined to advertise themselves, and they use desks (I prefer the floor). Writing is just one thing I do as an act of devotion to remembering God.

I can be meditatively content indoors, like a writer, especially on a stormy or smoggy, hot day. It is delightful to be in a beautiful monastic place, like my house or a church or the library. But sitting in a chair? Feet down on the floor, my butt falling asleep? No. I need to sit criss-cross, then lay on my stomach, then my back, then stretch, then squat, then sit back in the chair with my feet up on the table like I don’t have no manners, all while getting up to walk around every 30 minutes or so. There’s a reason most of my pieces are brief. I agree with the sentiment of Thomas Mann: “I would rather live life than write a hundred stories.”

I’ve felt leery about the pantsuit of “writer” as an identity because I sense an attitudinal trend of self-absorption, cynicism and lack of heart-centered joy among the current writing scene, dating back a solid three-quarters of a century or so. People get stuck in their heads, something I’ve certainly been prone to but which I’m getting further away from, and happily.

Back in college, in one of my writing classes, I was engaged in a discussion about the responsibility writers have to real people on whom fictional characters are based. To what extent must we care to disguise their identity and protect their privacy? What gratitude do we owe this great source material that is reality? We covered the moral and legal implications to this, but a number of my classmates insisted they have no obligation to tread carefully with characters who are nearly synonymous with real, identifiable people.

It’s been said that writers don’t participate fully in the magic of imminent life, because they’re too busy writing about it from a distance. I think there’s some disturbing truth in this. The temptation is there for writers to long for the experiential magic of the beautiful world, then find it but not know what to do with it except take notes from the sidelines, where it is lonely. Then they become embittered that they feel shy and self-conscious and depressed and why aren’t they happy being stuck in their head all day? This has become the case of the modern writer.

Again, I say this because I’ve certainly had my own moments like these, but then I figured out it was ridiculous and not good for the human heart. The page is not the world. The vitality of the lifeworld comes first because that is where the sensual life of the world breathes and moves and it is where God is found looking out through the eyes of all creatures. That is the image of God I most love, the Beautiful One who looks out through the eyes of all creatures, feeling as we creatures feel, but larger than our individualism, our stupid notion of segregation from each other. How can life be worth the energy spent on anything else? To be a good writer and a worshipful human is to remember God always and play affectionately with the rambunctious Creator in the off-leash dog park, to look for the mysterious Lord, the Beloved, in all creatures and places, unto the shadows of moments. To worship is to stand in the presence of this deep and powerful Beauty, for you get the privilege to live in the Beloved’s breathing world of natural and ancient enchantment that hasn’t ceased to be in search of us even in modern, cranky cities. (How’s that for a paradigm shift?)

To get into the practice of this state of mind as a writer, it may require not writing for a time, if the result is to come out of self-absorption in your head to live more immediately in the lifeworld. You will finally not think so much about what you are pissed off about, but will revel more in the great Beauty that includes you but is more than you and outlives all our petty problems. Yes, then to write about it, to catch those images with words that strike the heart tenderly –that is to be a good writer. To practice, as devotion, the act of worship in writing. To do anything else with the gift of writing is to waste precious mortal time.

I don’t get the sense that the current “writer” identity has much awareness of any of this. There is not the act of standing in the presence of great Beauty: there is a sour attitude of nihilism. That isn’t to say that the occasional heated bit of written constructive criticism of injustice isn’t good medicine sometimes (the prophets of old knew this well). But now our words are sold for anger, for clicks, for the divisive poisoning of my beloved species.

Back in that classroom discussion, I said we have a responsibility to respect the lives of the real people who inspire fictional characters –and the lands that inspire fictional places–, for this marvelous reality is the world upon which all others are based. We can give praise from our hearts for that gem of inspiration, grateful that we get to live in such an enchanted world as this. We are not to abuse the source of the inspiration itself. This same principle should apply to all who would call themselves “writers” but use words of anger not for healing real and serious injustice, not for shining truth unto evil, but for instigating squalid fights over trivial political pickings that cause not healing for the people. Such poison words you sew are an infestation of resent among your countrypeople, among your own humankind, ye mobbing horseshoe extremists of any and every party.

Words have consequences; writing is a moral act,” writes Philip Zaleski, editor of The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004. “To recognize this pays a triple dividend, for it inoculates us against the three daily literary devices of pandering to popular taste, creative laziness, and didacticism. The last item may surprise those who fear that any talk of moral writing will unleash an army of bluenoses ready to censor at will or of apparatchiks who will demand a political subtext to every sentence. But such worries stem from misunderstanding the obligations placed upon us by the nature of the craft. To write ugly prose, or to cripple one’s language to meet the standards of the day, or to warp one’s creation into a political placard –all this is to write immorally. The task of the spiritual writer is to uphold truth and beauty at whatever cost, in whatever way his art demands.”

To be a good writer is to accept that writing is limited. It is not a living body, it is not the indescribably glimmering image about which a thousand words must be called upon to cumbersomely begin to describe it. It is not eternal, for language changes constantly and may persist in one intelligible form only a few hundred years, then be lost to the winds of change or forgetting. A thousand thousand languages have already gone this way, for as long as our ancestors had the vocal chords and brains to speak. Writing is not sound or light or touch, but a hopeful second-hand account of these. Writing is young in the age of the earth, and it is brash. Writing thinks itself to be authoritative and know a whole lot, like a teenager.

 

 

To be a good writer is to form words with loving joy and reverence, to stand in the presence of great Beauty. The human duty to live with such a heart is more important than getting a book deal or social media followers. Social media shall all someday be ground into dust by the shifting of continents. So, too, may the human heart, but its affect has more serious consequences, and underpins any value our media technologies may lay claim to. This temporality puts our priorities into perspective. Now, when I think about my own self in writing, I worry the most about choosing the right words with the right heart, because life is short, and I have the strange and rare privilege of being born a Homo sapiens with a species-specific power so rare among the eons. That is my identity, Homo sapiens, inheritor of the Phylum Chordata, called to know and love God. The call of the good writer is exuberantly subservient to this.

I don’t want to put anything into the world that I wouldn’t want to eat with my own heart’s hunger in another lifetime to come. I may be a Blue Whale someday, and I may find myself hungry for good krill and the love of my pod and a deep black motherly ocean, so may my words be as good as these. I may be a little worm hungry for comforting good soil to build a little house in the ground; so may my words be as good, as whole and right as these. I may be a cheerful speck of dust or a beam of golden sunlight who rides the space between the sun and sweet Earth; so may my words be as good as these. For God saw fit to make these friends of hers, and to put voices into our hominid throats, but it is we who sculpt our own words. May they remember her, these brief words of humanity. If I am to be remembered myself, I want to be remembered as the one who remembered God amidst my contented, hilarious, peaceful insignificance. Don’t write words that don’t matter, that you wouldn’t want a future intelligent alien civilization to discover five billion years from now and the words you wrote, providing their ability to decrypt your long dead language, are the only account of life on earth they find. There are so many words that don’t matter. Choose the ones that do.

Sources

Zaleski, Philip. “Introduction by Philip Zaleski.” Introduction. The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Print.

 

image sources: here and here

Ruach and Scripturing (Flowers Don’t Get Distracted)

You think you know what you want to say, but get out of the way. Creativity says something bigger than planned, always. It’s hiding to leap, crouching gargoyle crying beautiful night howl, the marvelous night! What love is this! How glimmering the comfort of shadows! Walk into my dark wings! Great black wings to spread over the heart of the dark earth and go chanting your praise, good Wild God, you who live in both shadows and light. You, who drink hidden light, hidden in darkness. From the moon, from the fertile earth rip rolling wet soul under changeling dark castle in the low place love chakra get the words out of from undermind where the real poetry lives. Bring on back to the everyday the true knowledge of what is. Make the dreams live, the ones indescribable –babble– because you want to stay there where the holy is. His arms will hold you. Now, deeper into the soul of the world. Land, boxes and tunnels of animal’s of earth, He needs you. I will not forsake you. Even there the Christ-love sleeps and wakes and takes his pleasure in falling and rising by the season of day, ruach breathe in and out. Christ–love isn’t worried about linear time. He’s down here already. 

…….

I used to write for approval. Now I write for the craft I know I am called to by The Beautiful One who makes the stars and the world. That’s makes in the present tense, I say. Always happening and we’re participating. It’s a big job, being human. Being animal or plant sure is too. It’s a rare gift to be one of these and not nothing at all.

I write for God who is the Beloved. To know the Beloved Creator in great affection and friendship is the most satisfying voyage. I think I feel what the tellers of the old bible stories felt when they wrote for God. They focused on the Beloved, and it was spontaneous, and that was the only that mattered. Divine inspiration is absolutely spontaneous, as is understanding. This is what makes ever disjointed the literalism of our time. Of written history. I call scripturing the putting together of free form thought for the love of the Holy. This is where great writing comes from. It is poverty to say there has been only a small set of absolute scriptures with the answers forever. Poverty! It is a dire poverty of the mind to be so absolute. We must mind the muses, holy spirits, tongues of fire in the poets today not so different from ages ago, from Isaiah. God, who does not fear compost, of tuning the shit we’re afraid of into soil and food to sustain us, you are most worthy of unshackled wonder. By writing the world we access the world larger than us, give it praise, meld with it. When I am in pain I know it is not my pain alone, but the world’s pain, and I do not carry it alone. So be a flower who is loved by the sun and does not worry about its own life, when it blossoms or when it dies. Flowers don’t get distracted by crazy heads like we humans. They’re always being as the Lord of Love made them to be, in their direction. It knows it will be back again. It knows it exists in the great belly of life who is its Beloved.

 

 

 

Images © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.