August 22, 2011 by Reader's Connection
Early in the twentieth century, E.E. Cummings was as hot against materialist society as only a poet living on a trust fund can be. — Clive James, from “Product Placement in Modern Poetry” Poetry, May 2011
Religion, on the other hand, elaborates on what feels profoundly true even though it is not demonstratable: it translates into significant words, images, and codes the exceeding darkness which surrounds man’s existence and the light which pervades it beyond all desert or comprehension.
–Erik H. Erikson, from Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History
Then I fell in love. I say it suddenly, and there was certainly an element of radical intrusion and transformation to it, but the sense I have is of color slowly aching into things, the world coming brilliantly, abradingly alive. I remember tiny Albert’s café on Elm Street in Chicago where we first met, a pastry case like a Pollock in the corner of my eye, sunlight suddenly more itself on an empty plate, a piece of silver. I think of walking together along Lake Michigan a couple of months later talking about a particular poem of Dickinson’s (“A loss of something ever felt I”), clouds finding and failing to keep one form after another, the lake booming its blue into everything; of lying in bed in my high-rise apartment downtown watching the little blazes in the distance that were the planes at Midway, so numerous and endless that all those safe departures and homecomings seemed a kind of secular miracle. — Christian Wiman, from “Love Bade Me Welcome” in Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet
A loss of something ever felt I —
The first that I could recollect
Bereft I was — of what I knew not
Too young that any should suspect
A Mourner walked among the children
I notwithstanding went about
As one bemoaning a Dominion
Itself the only Prince cast out —
Elder, Today, a session wiser
And fainter, too, as Wiseness is —
I find myself still softly searching
For my Delinquent Palaces —
And a Suspicion, like a Finger
Touches my Forehead now and then
That I am looking oppositely
For the site of the Kingdom of Heaven —
–Emily Dickinson, from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson and other collections.
The rabbi says, “What’s green, hangs on the wall, and whistles?’
The student says, “I don’t know.”
The rabbi says, “A herring.”
The student says, “Maybe a herring could be green and hang on the wall, but it absolutely doesn’t whistle.”
The rabbi says, “So it doesn’t whistle.”
–An old joke, quoted by Leonard Michaels in ”My Yiddish’” in The Essays of Leonard Michaels
Spiritual awakening is frequently described as a journey to the top of a mountain . . . On the journey of the warrior-bodhisattva, the path goes down, not up, as if the mountain pointed toward the earth instead of the sky. Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward turbulence and doubt however we can. We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away. If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it is. At our own pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down. With us move millions of others, our companions in awakening from fear. — Pema Chödrön, in Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion.
I have reverted to the Red Window, here, rather than using the cover art, because I found the quote on a wall calendar, next to my herring, and never actually saw it in the book, which is checked out at the moment. But I’m sure it’s in there.
The Red Window detail appears by permission of the artist, Adrian Stasiak.
Category Quotations | Tags: A loss of something ever felt I, Adrian Stasiak, Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet, Christian Wiman, Clive James, Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion, Emily Dickinson, Erik H. Erikson, Leonard Michaels, Love Bade Me Welcome, My Yiddish, Pema Chödrön, Poetry, Product Placement in Modern Poetry, The Essays of Leonard Michaels, The Red Window, Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History