Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

30 October 2011

The Dream That Must Be Interpreted, by Jalal al-Din Rumi

This place is a dream.
Only a sleeper considers it real.

Then death comes like dawn,
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought was your grief.

But there's a difference with this dream.
Everything cruel and unconscious
done in the illusion of the present world
all that does not fade away at the death-waking.

It stays,
and it must be interpreted.

All the mean laughing,
all the quick, sexual wanting,
those torn coats of Joseph,
they change into powerful wolves
that you must face.

The retaliation that sometimes comes now,
the swift, payback hit,
is just a boy's game
to what the other will be. . . .

And this groggy time we live,
this is what it's like:
                                              A man goes to sleep in the town
where he has always lived, and he dreams he's living
in another town.
In the dream, he doesn't remember 
the town he's sleeping in his bed in.  He believes 
the reality of the dream town.

The world is that kind of sleep.

The dust of many crumbled cities 
settles over us like a forgetful doze,
but we are older than those cities.
                                        We begin
as a mineral.  We emerged into plant life
and into the animal state, and then into being human,
and always we have forgotten our former states,
except in early spring when we slightly recall
being green again.

That's how a young person turns
toward a teacher.  That's how a baby leans
toward the breast, without knowing the secret
of its desire, yet turning instinctively.

Humankind is being led along an evolving course,
through this migration of intelligences,
and though we seem to be sleeping,
there is an inner wakefulness
that directs the dream,

and that will eventually startle us back
to the truth of who we are.

all photos by Makropoulos

26 October 2011

Can pianists be divas?

. . . as long as you think of divas as being

well, a pianist cannot be a diva.

But, as usual, I challenge you
to alter your perception
of the word diva.

This sad caricature is a distortion
of the true meaning
of divine --

The divine - the diva - in each of us 
is found
when we relax and be the thing we are
when our talents explode
because we let them,
we naturally flower.
When we lose our lesser selves
to our greater selves,
then we are divas. 

here is another diva:

and another:

and another:

Need I go on?

Then why not this:

I dare you:

be a diva

25 October 2011

the love that exceeds, reprise

I think about something I wrote 
a month,
a year
a hundred years
and I think:
somethings just don't change;
that's still what I think
and feel 

The following is an entry I wrote
16 October 2010 --
and it is an important one for me.
I wanted to revisit it today.
Thanks for revisiting it with me.

(Sounio, south of Athens, Greece
photo by Makropoulos)

When we love
      with a love
                 that exceeds
our expectations of love,
we ignite a fire
in our being
that unites with
the infinite, 
the penetrating
                     power of the All
is engendered there.
(also at Sounio,
photo by Makropoulos)

                it is
because it erases
mortal individuality
and implicates us
in a nameless

(The human
and all that it imagines 
and comprehends,
even of love,
has boundaries -----
the temporal frame
of earth 
and life and death

and the portrait of
                  our living
that that frame embraces---

is our lives
is our lives.

(pebbles through water 
off a beach
in Kythnos, Greece
photo by Makropoulos)

That frame,
the only portal
at our disposal
that gives us acccess
to the beyond

is the subtle,             
                             so inextricably wedded
to mind

and the melody
                           plucked on the strings
      that bind

is the song of our love
seducing us to love

beyond our limits.

When we love
      with a love
                 that exceeds
our expectations of love,
we ignite a fire
in our being
that unites with
the infinite,
the penetrating
                     power of the All
is engendered there.

bundle of wires

( pbase )

I've been terribly busy lately, rushing around, trying to 
be with the people I care about but also trying to fulfill
the demands of my job.  Trying to live life, I guess.
I hadn't been home too much, and was beginning to feel
very frazzled.  I felt I'd begun to lose sight of the 
essential stuff that makes me me.

That happens when I'm busy.  I suspect it happens to all of us.

The other day I got home after a short trip away, tossed my 
packed stuff into their respective closets and hiding places, and went on 
with trying to sort out my life and house.  When I went to charge
my phone, I couldn't find the charger.  Looked everywhere
that it could be -- in the bookcase where I sometimes store it,
in my suitcase, in my purse, in my computer bag.  It was gone.

I knew I had taken it with me on my trip.
I remembered winding it around my hand, packing it and thinking how inconvenient
it would be if I lost it.  I decided I'd lost it, somewhere along the way.

I went to sleep, resigned to the fact that I had one more errand
to run the following errand-full day -- to the cellphone store, where I hoped
I would be able to get a charger. 

The next morning, when I woke up, wired 
to get moving, I took a shower, then
went to take out the hair dryer that I had,
only the day before,
put back into its respective cupboard, and there
tangled amid the hairdryer wires,
was my cell-phone charger.

A minor incident, but it caused me to pause
and write a poem,
a simple poem,
but a poem nonetheless.
and as soon as the words bled onto the page,
I knew the day would be alright.

Here it is:

Look for the wires within the wires,
they nestle there
that they are hiding from you.  Look
for the bears
among the bears;
                  they, too, have no clue
that you
find them threatening 
                  or stealthy.

Look for yourself
               inside yourself--
             not in a book
          or in a car
            or in a bank
                                or a glamour magazine--

you are hiding there,
your good and your bad,
in the den of your soul,
your lost part
'round other parts like it,
stored inside, hastily

Unravel it all.
Look closely:
every night before you sleep
take stock
of what you put away that day --

no sense in losing every
vital clue
of you

16 October 2011

Are We Just Left Overs?

One of the many things I admire about Tom Perrotta's new book,
The Leftovers, is its optimism.  Its initial premise is far from optimistic:
it begins with the idea that a large part of the human population
just disappeared one day -- and an even larger part is left behind.
"Left-over."  The plot begins after the sudden disappearance.
Very few in the book dare call this event The Rapture,
because to do so would be to acknowledge that the Leftovers were
not blessed, were individuals who had done something fundamentally
wrong in their lives.  As Perrotta's book says at the introduction:
"'Something tragic occurred,' the experts repeated over and over.
'It was a Rapture-like phenomenon, but it doesn't appear to have been
the Rapture.'"  It goes on to say: "Interestingly, some of the loudest
voices making this argument belonged to Christians themselves, who
couldn't help noticing that many of the people who'd disappeared
on October 14th--Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims and Jews and
atheists and animists and homosexuals and Eskimos and Mormons
and Zoroastrians, whatever the heck they were--hadn't accepted
Jesus Christ as their personal savior."

The book proceeds to create a world pretty much like the one
we all live in right now, save for the fact that humanity must proceed
under the cloud of feeling that they have missed the bus, so to speak,
and have been left to proceed in a world without something to look forward to.
Good friends, family members, mates and enemies had dematerialized,
and in the wake of that, the remaining characters seek ways to deal with their
feelings of inadequacy and loss.  So some strikingly familiar groups emerge:
The Barefoot People, for one, a bunch of Neo-Hippies who go around barefoot
of course, avoiding baths and smoking marijuana, living communally or
having huge parties with lots of sex, drugs and rock n' roll.

Notably,  something sort of like this has already happened:

from: the website for the Society for Barefoot Living.

Similarly, a large group of people begin following a character called
The Holy Wayne,  a creepy Harold Campingish figure who gains
followers because of his charismatic Healing Hug, but his popularity
ultimately turns him into a perverted power monger.  By the
end of the book, he is put in jail for his transgressions, and
his followers are left more adrift then they were at the beginning
of the novel.


And the beginning of the novel is full of characters adrift.
The one who sets the tone of the book is Laurie Garvey,
a character raised with no beliefs to speak of.  Pre-Disappearance,
she finds meaning in her family and comfortable suburban existence,
but after the daughter of one of her friends disappears, she begins to lose
her grasp of whatever meaning her life had.  Feeling her life
has been a scam, she joins a very very creepy group called The Watchers,
people who disavow every aspect of their previous life, who spook around town wearing white,
smoke cigarettes, and stalk those citizens of the novel who dare to try to
live a normal life in the Post-Rapture world.  Including Laurie's husband
Kevin, who is left alone with their daughter Jill and Jill's friend Aimee --

What I find most disturbingly authentic about the novel is portrayed through
Jill, who is a late teen.  She ends up engaged in drinking and meaningless
sex, the very pursuits that I, as a college professor, have come to understand
are already central to many of our college-aged youth today.  Jill's loss of her
mom to the Watchers is not all that different from the large number of young
people I have met recently whose parents deserted their families for their own
personal, often selfish pursuits, leaving their children to struggle with the
superficiality and fragility of the illusion of a functioning family.

wikipedia - blackdeath

As I read this book and saw the parallels between the world we live in
today, I even began to wonder if we might be able to say that we are all, already,
Left-Overs.  Perhaps the Rapture has already happened, or perhaps
it is happening as we speak.  I think of earthquakes and hurricanes
and floods and illnesses that have occurred in recent years,
taking away vast numbers of people in one fell swoop,
or the plague of cancer that robs us regularly of our beloved,
at younger ages and in more senseless ways, and I think:
perhaps this is how The Rapture may work -- in very
natural, biological ways, taking large numbers of people
over a relatively short period of time, leaving the rest of us to deal
with the responsibility attached with their loss.

Perhaps, too, in the cycle of life, even End Times come in cycles.
If the end is, ultimately, loss and the adjustment that comes along with it,
we have had countless Raptures over time -- countless
potential End Times -- plagues and wars and other forms of loss --
that have left LeftOvers, real-life human individuals
challenged to deal with the potential meaninglessness
that accompanies great and excessive loss.

Faced with such intense loss,
we could hang our hopes on False Saviors,
be they religious or political,
or we could seek to find,
as I would dare to argue
some of the characters in The Leftovers seek to find
a humane and authentic way to live in the real world,
and by finding a humane and authentic way
to live in the real world, we might even create a new world,
full of happiness for just being alive,
and hope for a peaceful tomorrow.


13 October 2011

The thief that keeps taking

I've been robbed twice in the past eight years.

The first time was while I was living in overseas.
It was a simple, clean robbery.
I knew exactly when it began,
and when it ended.
Someone broke the door of my apartment off of its hinges,
walked in, found where I had stored some cash and some gold jewelry that I had bought
as a gift for my mother. 
They took it and left everything else in my apartment untouched.
It was as if they had read my mind on where this stuff was.
They didn't even take my computer -- they went for what they could sell,
or spend,

Coming home to that was very disturbing, it's true, but once the door was fixed, I could get on with the process of mending from that invasion.  My neighbors and friends helped me recuperate my loss, and my life went on.  

And then I moved (back) to the U.S.A., got myself a tenure-track job.
At the beginning of my second full month of work,
I left my purse in a drawer in my locked office,
went to teach,
and a few hours later when I reached into my drawer to get my wallet to go buy lunch,
it wasn't there.
My wallet wasn't there. 
The purse was still there,  just as I left it, but it had been opened.
That's right: at some point, while I was teaching,
someone unlocked my door, went into my office, and took my wallet.
Unlike my overseas thieves, these thieves were kind enough
to lock the door behind them again.
And also unlike my overseas thieves, I was faced with the stinking
more-than-suspicion that I actually worked with these thieves, 
even passed them in the hall daily.  After all,
they had the keys to my office.

The wallet had been gone for perhaps
two hours, tops, when I got to the police and filed a report,
then hurried home to start canceling credit cards,
only to find that on one card the thieves (or thief) had already charged $5,000.00;
on another, around $3,000.00,
and they tried to clear out my bank account.

Since I had the police report, the credit card companies and my bank did not hold me responsible,
but the bigger concern for me was this:
those thieves had also gotten every scrap of my identity needed to become me, and I 
have had to guard myself ever since.  I actually pay for a service
to keep an eye on my identity.  Now, that industry didn't even exist
fifteen years ago; in fact, I would say that the $15 or so that gets deducted
from my credit card every month to protect me against
identity theft is another modest extension
of the robbery itself.

Yes, you've heard of the gift that keeps giving?
Well, I -- and many like me -- 
have been showered by the blessings of the thief that keeps taking --

In the years since then,
I have encountered more and more forms of out and out robbery on these fair shores,
robbery that, like my wallet robbery, is very neatly handled:
so neat it's hard to tell how and when the thief actually gained access to your wallet,
but the thieves gain access to it, and you suddenly realize
that more and more money
is missing.
And they keep taking, or have the potential to keep taking,
whenever they damned well please.

Quite frankly, I blame it on the credit based economy.
We now live in a world where no one carries cash - in fact, we're told to not carry cash,
to protect ourselves.  But ironically, the replacement for cash now
is the target of thieves, and more and more,  the thieves are the very institutions
we trust with our cash.

Yep, robbery has become a trusted industry, one in which, with a little convincing,
we hand over our money, our gold, even our identity,
 and think it's just the way it's supposed to be.

06 October 2011

The Chorus of the Passing

(play in background while reading:)

When and if my shadow passes
out of this sunlit domain
it will barely be the extinction
                            of a whisper
in the babble of humanity.

Indeed, every single day features
a chorus of the passing,
the extinction of breaths,
and with them voices
speaking the stories
of their lives.

The daily music of loss
is subtle indeed,
but it has its gradations --
it ranking soloists, its greater and lesser
                      (I will be
                         the least
                                              of the chorus, the

The soloists pronounce
an aria across
the universe of sound --
an extinctive summation
of their life,
a constellation in the sky.

( jobslegacy valleynewslive )

We sometimes think it is a tragedy
if one soloist outshines the other;
both are good, oh very good --
but in the end
it's all after all
in the end
it's all a small
matter of statistics --
whatever gets the most hits stays
in business.

Wouldn't you say?

So it's the boldest who rules the day --

but never the boldest
whose brand of bold
went too far into harm's way.

The Chorus of the Passing
resounds everyday; someday
you will sing too, your story --
your aria --
a summation
of your life.

What will it say?

Prokofiev - Houstonpressblog

05 October 2011

Steve Jobs, R.I.P. (today's diva)

Dear Mr. Jobs,
many might try to find
the places where you err'ed
but when it comes to this,
the end of your era,
we can clearly see
You sure could sing!

The Computers I Write On:

03 October 2011

Guest House, by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each as been sent
as a guide from beyond.

(more to come from me, soon. . . .)