Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not Magnificent Indeed...

"And at once I knew, I was not magnificent." It is the chorus to a Bon Iver song that plays in my head again and again. It is the anthem of my miniature mid-life crisis. How I knew, suddenly at 40, that my life, my accomplishments, amount to nothing special, except if you count the lives I have begotten, the little lights that are my two sons but for whom I can hardly take credit.

But at 40 and a half, I find that it is also a promise. Not being magnificent, that is. It is a promise that is sustaining and which creates peace in the heart, in the mind. It means that though my life represents an individual wave that swells in the sea, drags itself along the ocean floor to take its unique shape against an offshore wind, though I arc and curl around the barrel of my own hollowness, crush it with the weight of my watery mass, I am ultimately, undeniably, a part of the sea, indistinguishable from the vast expanse of saltwater that encompasses all else under the sun. Undeniably not separate and alone, as I might at times believe (or even desire to assert).

I find now that it is a comfort that I have the expanse of the entire sea to fall back into when the peak of my life folds into whitewater, then foam, then the receding calm that it was always becoming. Indeed, has always been.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Word on Words...

"Words are inert," she says, and inadequate to convey human experience. I ponder this and think, yes, to the extent that they are symbols, perhaps this is true. But in their representation as such, they stand for things that are alive, myriad, complex. Words therefore have value, not because they are perfect in their symbolization, but because they are the basis for our linguistic expression of these valuable things.

Beyond that, they are the building blocks, the raw medium, of literary art, as clay or bronze might be to a sculptor. What grows from them is completely dependent and contingent on the artist and her intention. Does the question of the reception of that art, how one sees or experiences it as perhaps different from that seminal intent, diminish its value? Only if we think that the only value of language, and therefore of literary art forms, is in the communication of something very specific.

When we broaden our sense of the value of words and thus the story, for example, to encompass a communion of sorts, then we see that their value is infinite. It is, as the woman in the film says, "what we live for."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Landlocked Blues

January sun dresses trees in light.
I am the thing I have always been
though tethered now to snow and ice
and an image of myself
neither aquatic nor buoyant.
Heavy. Ice is heavy after all,
though translucent,
and I move my body
over it cautiously and
with care. There is a kind
of captivity here, a kind of
restraint that I must observe:
the world through leafless branches.
Trying to remember a time
when I felt strong and water
received me in its freest form,
salty ablution as counterpoint
to my life on land.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2012...Bring it.

"Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world." --German philosopher Arthur Shopenhauer.

Perhaps this is our charge for the new year: first, not to project and therefore impose our own limitations on others (our lovers, our children, the institutions of which we are a part) and second, to be ever pushing, striving to expand the field of our vision.

We must break down barriers, namely the misguided beliefs about things and people, that limit us. Though they be constructed in earnest, beliefs that are circumscribed by lack of experience or knowledge, indeed by ignorance, are infinitely limiting and must be dismantled. Only in doing so can we re-emerge with clarity and understanding of the 'other,' rather than fear and limitation, and begin to achieve the peace that is ultimately dependent upon such conditions.

But how do we begin this dismantling? I struggle with this daily, but this I know: we can start by identifying those beliefs that put up artificial boundaries, that create mental barriers against achieving our highest potential. Only by identifying those beliefs can we begin to chip away at them. Maybe we have to start again every morning, from the beginning. So we must. Eventually, we can succeed in this, and what we are left with is a vast, open plain, an expanded "field of vision" in which anything is possible and into which our wildest dreams may amble and spill.

With every individual manifesting his or her most pure, essential and transcendent self, how can we fail to achieve peace on this earth? First in our relationships and in our families, then in our communities, then in our countries and ultimately the world.

Yes, I have a good feeling about 2012. Let the transformation begin!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Vermont Education

There is nothing, I learn when I move to Vermont, like the beauty of a leafless tree on snow, blue sky spreading itself as backdrop. Ancient calligraphic expression of life and the industry of growing. Absence of sound and sensation--just the visible substance of what lifts itself into the air of its own fortitude. It ravels itself out as the arboreal architecture of a sugar maple or a tamarack and teaches us how to be still. How to be lovely in our nakedness. Even in this wild and whispering cold.