Sunday, July 5, 2009

Friends Meeting, Part 4: Time Unwinds

Time Unwinds
by Dan Gurney

Note: Sonnets are poems composed of 14 lines. In creating these six connected sonnets, I’ve observed a self-imposed rule of keeping each line to 10 syllables. Getting the lines to rhyme would be nice, but such an accomplishment is beyond my current powers.

Some years ago, I shared with a teacher my skepticism about the existence of heaven. He pointed out that modern skepticism about heaven is, from an historical perspective, exceptional: throughout the ages, most humans have believed in some sort of heavenly realm.

My teacher got me to doubt my skepticism! Now I am agnostic in regard to whether heaven exists or not. How would I know one way or the other?

This set of poems arose out of two states of mind: (1) out of a willingness to play with the idea that a heaven might exist, and (2) out of my deepening sadness in response to the on-going and relentless extinctions resulting from human activity.

Sonnet 1: Prologue

In two thousand twelve, the Dalai Lama
Will journey to a Buddhist Heavenly realm
And save all life on this, our precious Earth.
His early interests in tinkering with
Motorcars and his later interests in
Astrophysics had a purpose no one
Had guessed at the time. He took it all in.

Deeply meditating, he will tinker
With the time/space continuum so time
Runs backwards—or seems to—and we humans
Can undo our ignorance-born karma.

And then the future will undo the past
And we shall move back towards our cherished past
Reclaiming what’s best and leaving the rest.

Sonnet 2: Back to 9/11

First, the Patriot Act will be declared
Unconstitutional. Corporations
Will be abolished and no one will want
To remember anyone going by
The name, W. Democracy will
Begin its return to the USA.

We will learn that the sky wants no scraping,
Beyond what the mountains have always done.
Unionized workers will respectfully
Dismantle every large downtown building
And return iron, copper, marble, tin
Back in the earth where they’ve always belonged.

Members of the Bush White House will enjoy
Retirement years in Guantanamo.

Sonnet 3: Back to 1963

Jetliners no longer trace linear
Contrails across the upper stratosphere.
John F. Kennedy will fulfill his plan
To pull all American troops out of
Vietnam. Two million Southeast Asian
Mothers and children live in ancient peace.

China returns Tibet to the Buddhists
Who pray for atomic disarmament.
FAT MAN and LITTLE BOY’s misbegotten
Progeny are pulled apart piece by piece.

Man splitting atoms? Inconceivable!
We bury deep underground depleted
Uranium and other eternal
Radioactive wastes. No more poisons.

Sonnet 4: Back to 1930s

Japanese Americans don’t hear the
Orwellian phrase, “Relocation camp.”
In each early Decembers, Pearl Harbor
Enjoys only peaceful Buddha birthdays.
Germans give luxury first-class tickets
To Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals
On trains running from concentration camps
Back to cities, towns, and the fertile lands.
Ex-soldiers in Europe will shovel trenches for gardens.
Guns and swords will be beaten into plowshares.

Ford’s ancestors will mass-dismantle his
Model A’s and noisy black Model T’s.
Bicycles and electric streetcars will
Glide slow and smooth down narrow, winding lanes.

Sonnet 5:
Back to a Sustainable Future

Across the New World boundless forests will
Reappear—Redwoods in California,
Hardwoods in the east, rain forests in the
Amazon. Salmon and shad will run thick
In every stream. It seems we could tiptoe
Gingerly on fish backs to the far shore.
Vast herds of buffalo roam the wide plains.
Twice a year clouds of passenger pigeons
Migrate across the skies, darkening them.

Plants long thought extinct will grow everywhere
To absorb green house gasses, clean the air.
Climate changes back; ice caps refreeze, and
Glaciers grow as thick and long as ever.

Sonnet 6:
Bless Us All

Everyone wakes well rested, and a day
Younger each morning. Old injuries heal,
Chronic diseases fade from memory—
Until we feel strong enough to start work.

Our careers end with four years of college,
So we can prepare for high school, middle
School, and grade school, so we can forget
What we didn’t need to know anyway.

And when we finally get to that first day
Of kindergarten, we will be ready
To be loved far beyond imagining
As we prepare to float more spaciously

Nine months in quiet, warm, and liquid bliss
Awaiting to sparkle our children’s eyes.


Delwyn said...

Hi Dan

What a great creative effort and so many ideas...

From someone who doubted the existence of heaven haven't you painted it here through your process of undoing?

I believe in Heaven but it exists here on earth. The bible says the kingdom of heaven is here within is not out there or up there...
We experience heaven when we access that still quiet space and find our centre of calm.

I'm not waiting for an afterlife - I am looking for heaven in my days, in nature, in family and friends, in love and compassion and through simple kindness.

Heavenly days

Dan Gurney said...

Thank you, Delwyn. Our lovely earth IS a heavenly realm. You obviously have been aware of this fact for a long time and your blog helps others (me) to see the wonders that are now and have always been right under our noses. Heaven is here and now when we're aware of its presence. I'm lucky enough to get a taste of heaven on earth when I'm outdoors with my kindergarten students who, being five, can quite readily step into bliss.

But I'm often aware also of disturbing and decidedly non-heavenly aspects of our human realm such as western civilization's penchant for pollution, armaments, and the like. Then there's old age, sickness, and death. Not to mention greed, anger, fear, boredom, restlessness, etc. I'm certainly not blissed out all the time. That first noble truth, Dukkha, arises in my world, too. A lot.

As for other-worldly heavenly realms, I am reminded that astrophysicists say that there is a lot more matter in the universe than we can directly observe. It's called "dark matter" and as I understand it (my understanding is limited) it's postulated that 90% of the matter in our universe is invisible to our eyes. So even our scientists seem to be telling us that just because we cannot observe "heavens" directly, they still exist.

And, as you say, there is no need to wait around. Heaven can be experienced immediately, if only momentarily, right here and now.

Heavenly Days

Alden Smith (Nick name - Pal) said...

I see these sonnets as a metaphor within another metaphor - the metaphor of the unwinding of time I interpert as the cosmic reconciliation of all things within a context of forgiveness and love - in heaven, time is not unwound, we have learnt, we forgive and in love we move on.

steven said...

hey dan, yes, the human element of this world as it is formed and forming, could do with a lot of change. change you describe in your unpacking of all that you sense is wrong or that has been done to cause wrong by people. much of what we have created contains the lie that we know is there which is that "we know that this damages the whole but we need to do this so let's ignore the damage." i'd like to see a reappearance of the essential truths that were contained inside the actions of people long ago. i sense a future becoming present that reconfigures our relationship with the whole in such a way as to allow for a more truthful and loving interface. have a peaceful day. steven

Dan Gurney said...


I'm agnostic as to how time works. Here in this world it seems pretty monodirectional. But I think Einstein's view added the idea that time is relative (and connected to) space. Perhaps in other realms it can move in more than one direction?

Dan Gurney said...

Hi Steven,

I'm glad to know you see the future reconfiguring that way. I hope for the same, work for the same, with faith that the efforts I make may have some effect. But now it feels pretty faith-based.

Dan Gurney said...

At last nights meeting, Steve commented that an earlier version of this poem ended with different last line: "Awaiting to sparkle our *father's* eye."

He said he liked the first version better. But I changed it to *children's* eyes.


Imagine how different our world would be if we life required this:

We would be reborn as our own grandchildren.

How would you live your life differently if you knew that when your child grew up and conceived a child that you would instantly die and enter that womb?

Alden Smith (Nick name - Pal) said...

Time travelling implies carries the implication that someone might want to play the whole cosmic tape again, I have no problem with that except before its played again I want to go back and edit a few things, perhaps even enter time and change a few things in a radical way - now - there's a thought!