To say that the world is not worth anything ..

“To say that the world is not worth anything, that this life is of no value and to give evil as the proof is absurd, for if these things are worthless what does evil take from us?

Thus the better we are able to conceive of the fullness of joy, the purer and more intense will be our suffering in affliction and our compassion for others. What does suffering take from him who is without joy?

And if we conceive the fullness of joy, suffering is still to joy what hunger is to food.

It is necessary to have had a revelation of reality through joy in order to find reality through suffering. Otherwise life is nothing but a more or less evil dream,” – Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace.

As if the one tree you love

The Preacher
– Gerald Stern

As if the one tree you love so well and hardly
can embrace it is so huge so that with-
out it there might be a hole in the universe
explains how the killing of any one thing can
likewise make a hole except that without
its existence there was neither a hole nor not a hole
I said to my friend Peter and after he left
I walked to the tree again and put my arms
around the trunk or almost did for I was
embracing it preparatory should I say
to its dying for it was one of the many
dying trees along my river mainly
sycamore and locust—

you must tire I
said to Peter always hearing the same
trees sung the same words singing, the same
heart breaking I said and con permissione
I will change trees though I am almost eighty
now, but what the hell, there probably are
others along the river, though there was a point
when social security was kicking in I didn’t
go to the palms nor did I go to Boca
to traffic in herons nor did I go to Miami
where my people walk around in scary
black suits and hats perched over their other hats
just in case and just in case nor did I
go to California nor stay in Iowa nor
buy a farmhouse in the Pioneer Valley
south of Brattleboro, thanks God, thanks God—

and Peter interrupts me remembering a
squirrel in Iowa that bit all the daisies,
a mad squirrel of sorts but certes no madder
than our own hot shots with their squirrel rifles killing
squirrels from two miles up at wedding parties
of all things, of all things—

and that’s what you
mean by a hole in the universe, isn’t it, Peter
asks and he remembers the garden we built
and what we planted, how I went to the K-Mart
and bought the cardboard planters and plastic trays
and how we built a fence—give way to groundhogs
ye black potatoes and brown tomatoes, and ah
the railroad ties there planted in gravel and it
was a hole he dug—I came home one day and
he was into it up to his knees—

and Peter is
tall, and he remembers the cosmos, I the
delphiniums, but both of us hated that squirrel,
eating a daisy on the highest limb of
my apple tree, the one that died, and she just
laughing and giving us the finger, and on my
cell phone he remembers how we drove to
the kingdom of used lawn mowers, I on the way
yelling out the window to every mower
of hill and valley, how much will you take for
that lawn mower, that lawn mower, for
there is progress, n’est-ce pas, isn’t there
Peter, I used to hate green grass but now I
almost adore it, and what about the holes in
Europe and Asia I ask—

what of the holes in
this or that heart, he says—

I say repair it!

He says, and are you going to plant a Berber,
clever of hand, to cut the colored marble
and know how it looks a distance of five miles
as in that notebook you scratch away with your black
and red ballpoint you are so proud of, just like
the Berber chipping away knowing in your knuckles
what it will look like when it’s finished, each scratch
critical though it’s not as if you were writing
by the laws of Plato—perish the thought—it is
what it is—and you will look at it, you and me,
and say “that’s right,” not even, “that’s what I had
in mind,” for it is your knuckles that write, still blessed
by suppleness, if not your hips, if not
your knees, God bless your knees, God bless the cartilage,
God bless the ligaments—you with your hole in the universe,
so weird and extreme.

Peter says this, and he
and I trail off and since he gave me a tape
of Leonard Cohen with a voice so deep it shook
my red Honda, I thought therein did it lie,
something about Vienna, something Brooklyn,
her torn blue raincoat—or his—I can’t get the gender
right, the facts don’t add up, it’s Jane and it rhymes
with Lili Marlene, that famous lamppost, the same
nostalgia, his song or hers, Peter loves the turn
and does his preacherly voice, we have just half
a minute or so to talk and throw sentences
at one another, “no-one knows what it means,”
that is his favorite, “no-one can understand it,”
“we walk around in a fog,” I say that,
“and live in a mist,” “we are in a Russian
sweat house, climbing the bleachers, breathing pure steam.”
“It’s like the smoke,” he says, “in a Chinese painting,
there are the mountains and there is the hut you’ll live in,
you barely can see the trees in the little gorge
left side of the hut, the green intense,
the tops of fir trees almost touching the steep
broken path;” “it’s like living in a cloud,”
I say, “though the sun is shining, whatever that
means, when you’re healthy and money in your pocket,
and walking five miles an hour by your favorite
body of water it’s hard to remember the cloud,
you are so sure of yourself.”

“What made you think
of a hole the way you did?” he asks.

“My figures
always start with the literal and the spreading
is like blood spreading,” I say, “and as for for the wound it
comes from growing up with coal, the murder
of everything green, rivers burning, cities
emptied, humans herded, the vile thinking
of World War I and II, the hole in England,
the hole in Germany, and what we can’t en-
dure, the hole in Japan, Truman, the third
assistant baker’s helper, he should pick at
his harp in Hell, when I read about
Tamurlane, say, and how he piled up the heads,
and David and the Moabites, he made them
lie down to see who was longer or shorter and put
half of them to death, it had to do with
ropes, he may have piled up skulls for all
I know, and Samuel the prophet loved him to pieces,
and Herman Cortez and Genghis Kahn, but also,
I hate to say it, private Sharon, pig
Ariel, and the Lebanese jaunt, a massacre,
as I remember—let’s not forget the names,
Sabra and Shatila”—

“It’s justice you want,
isn’t it?” quoth Peter.


Looking for the key to the room of celebration

Christ came and declared a wedding feast, a celebration, at the very center of life. They crucified him not for being too ascetical, but because he told us that we might enjoy life. He told us that life will give us more goodness and enjoyment than we can stand, if we can learn to receive it without fear. But we are still in exile, without wedding garments, looking for the key to the room of celebration. Perhaps we need to be just a bit more earnest and sincere when we say the words, “your kingdom come!” – Ronald Rolheiser, Prayer: Our Deepest Longing


unity and a prayer

To be alone by being part of the universe – fitting in completely to an environment of woods and silence and peace. Everything you do becomes a unity and a prayer. Unity within and without. Unity with all living things – without effort or contention. My silence is a part of the whole world’s silence and builds the temple of God without the noise of hammers. – Thomas Merton, Journal January 28, 1953

Roma winter

Photo: Rome, January 2005

RIP, Mary Oliver

screen shot 2019-01-18 at 8.23.58 amMy story contains neither a mountain, nor a canyon, nor a blizzard, nor hail, nor spike of wind striking the earth and lifting whatever is in its path. I think the rare and wonderful awareness I felt would not have arrived in any such busy hour. Most stories about weather are swift to describe meeting the face of the storm and the argument of the air, climbing the narrow and icy trail, crossing the half-frozen swamp. I would not make such stories less by obtaining anything special for the other side of the issue. Nor would I suggest that a meeting of individual spirit and universe is impossible within the harrowing blast. Yet I would hazard this guess, that it is more likely to happen to someone attentively entering the quiet moment, when the sun-soaked world is gliding on under the blessings of blue sky, and the wind god is asleep. Then, if ever, we may peek under the veil of all appearances and partialities. We may be touched by the most powerful of suppositions — even to a certainty — as we stand in the rose petals of the sun and hear a murmur from the wind no louder than the sound it makes as it dozes under the bee’s wings. This, too, I suggest, is weather, and worthy of report. – from Long Life, Essays and Other Writings


You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.