to be within a poem…

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Good poems bring the grant of malleability. They make the world, and the self, workable, when it might seem to have stiffened past change. They hold the omnipresence of interconnection without dismantling solitude and the inner. They undercut adamance, oversimplification, stubbornness, and our current culture’s dependence on the practical as the only way forward. But without the enlargements and suppling of imagination, practical action would quickly lose not only heart, but reason. Hope matters as much. Tenderness matters as much. When we bring that spirit of openness, permeability, exploration, and courage into our lives and our hands, everything else follows: a deeper saturation and compassion, a recalibrating sense of proportion, an increase of the possible. Good poems make clarity without making simple. They do not erase darkness; if anything, they open into it. But wouldn’t the page of a day be dull and undistinguished almost as if unsigned by existence, without its charcoal?……Jane Hirshfield

invisible layers well up like magic as we sing to the imagination-moon….reaching the depths of sublimity gains sophistication through our own unique distortions…..the stunning flowers and mystical rain heed our call to become so…..and this self-discovery leads us up and away to the unexpected….

Imagination can provide us with rich, lifelike experiences and give us a powerful opportunity to develop empathy and compassion. The transformative power of focused imagination is central to Buddhist practice, but the Buddha himself was not content to rest there. Late in life, he confounded many of his followers with a stronger, stranger, notion. The teacher of my first Buddhist lecture introduced it simply. He held up a book and asked, ‘How many of you think that this exists independently of your mind?’ Like the others, I raised my hand. ‘How do you know it exists?’ he pressed. Answers bounced back. ‘I can see it.’ I can feel it.’ We realized that the only way we knew the book was there was by interpreting what came in through our senses. The teacher pointed out that this is true of everything in our lives. Ultimately, Buddhists argue, there is no such thing as objective reality out there. The point is not a nihilistic one, that nothing exists, but rather that no thing has a detached, fixed identity. Phenomena ‘do not exist in their own right,’ says the Dalai Lama, ‘but only have an existence dependent upon many factors, including a consciousness that conceptualizes them.’ Our whole experience of life is filtered through our minds, and we continually project our own sense of meaning onto people and things. As the Buddha put it, ‘With our thoughts we make the world.’ Our imagination is not an alternative to reality. Our imagination is our reality…..Gabriel Cohen

find the right high tide for the dream to ride…..

Come Thief

The mandarin silence of windows before their view,

like guards who nod to every visitor,

‘Pass.’

‘Come, thief,’

the path to the doorway agrees.

A fire requires its own conflagration.

As birth does. As love does.

Saying to time to the end, ‘Dear one, enter.’

…..Jane Hirshfield

8 thoughts on “to be within a poem…

    • yes, thank you…..and here we are…..blissing out in a poem……nothing else will do…..thank goodness we don’t always have to ‘think’……we can use our other kind of intelligence…..may spring bloom for you g.f.s…..

  1. Interesting excerpts as always, Blue.

    I like the one by Hirshfeld. But Cohen seems to be missing the point in his/her excerpt. My read of Buddhism is that it is a very practical and very non-speculative way of engaging life. Whether no thing has a detached, fixed identity or not, whether or not a book exists independently of our minds, these can be fairly speculative ventures. The point is to realize that we too are in flux, passing, a chase after the wind, and then to learn how to come to terms with it and live (and die) gracefully despite this or because of this.

    The downside of “a book” (any book, or any object) not existing independent of our minds is that it can lead to solipsism, to the absurdity of the monadology of Leibniz, to an exaggerated egocentrism—which is ultimately what Buddhism seemed designed to undermine and root out. And the conclusion “Our imagination is not an alternative to reality. Our imagination is our reality” is also absurd; it does not follow from what Cohen wrote before. With our thoughts we make the world. Yes. With accurate and realistic thoughts about sickness, old age and death, with how fleeting life is, and how impermanent we all are, we can make a world where we make wise choices about how to live, how to act, and what’s important in life. But if we opt for thoughts that are fallacious and contrary to reality, thoughts that are escapist, et cetera, we run the risk of affecting adversely our capacity to deal with life, reality, the brute facts of life. Our imagination is our reality ought to be read as a warning, a point of caution.

    “Imagination can provide us with rich, lifelike experiences and give us a powerful opportunity to develop empathy and compassion.” Agreed. If we have the courage and foresight to imagine those closest to us dying, if we have the courage and foresight to imagine ourselves dying, if we take a birds-eye view of life and see how life plays out on a long enough timeline, then that can be a powerful means for developing compassion and empathy and derailing our myriad of vanity and denial/immortality projects. But imagination can also be used to help us deny even more drastically our own and others’ mortality and fragility, which tends to engender something quite different in us than compassion and empathy. It tends to make us into troubled guests.

    A few of my thoughts in reading and reflecting on these excerpts, Blue.

    Kindest regards,

    John

    • Well thought out……and also highly analyzed, and I think the Buddhist ideal here is not to wrangle over a philosophical split which of course cannot be argued, but to show us how to maneuver around the exact thing you warn us of here….to not deny ‘reality’ but to have a heightened sense of it….using our imaginations for the highest good…..you are so correct of course that we can use imagination (and other positive traits) to excuse ourselves from not dealing with reality. In other words, imagination can be seen in many lights. Maybe a bit paradoxical, as it can easily lead us into an egocentrism yes, but it can also lead us away from strict and unmovable view points. As someone who values creativity as a spiritual practice, I find imagination to be an invaluable tool, not as an escapist-seeking realm, but a soulful, deeper realm….beyond ‘reality.’ Having the ego in check, I think, is the key to heeding your very real warnings. Great discussion to delve into, especially as seen both from the vantage of heightened intuition , and also from an ideal of seeing reality for what it is, a many-layered facade vs. an innate truth.Thanks for bringing the discussion into the poetics of reality. Many blessings…..

    • And as always, I can shift into your words and meet my dreams in the light of day…..ode to the lovely poets…….so sweet Bobbie….

  2. Thanks for liking my poem “Resolve”. I too, try to follow the follow the path of Buddhism, especially as it relates to love and compassion for all beings. ~ Dennis

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