Monday, July 11, 2011

Vulnerability


“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.”
—Lao Tzu
Because the deepest truths are paradoxical, they cannot be fully stated in words. Well-chosen words can at best capture just about half of the truth, but, sadly, not much more than half. The unsaid truth provides the silent background for the said truth to appear.
I love “writing” poetry. The reason for the quotation marks around the word writing is that my experience of putting poetry on paper (actually on a computer screen) does NOT feel personal, as if some "Dan Gurney" is writing the poetry. My experience feels—by contrast—much more like channeling some higher voice, and that voice, almost always for me appears to emanate from above, from some heavenly realm. 

My role as poet feels more like a scribe, a note-taker.
Of course I would not be fully truthful if I did not mention that I try to write poetry in the ordinary sense of the word, sans channeling, as if I could write poetry alone, without help from a Muse. 

When I try to write poetry solo, the results are sadly pathetic, flaccid, and without verve.

Thank goodness for Muses!
The other day Ruth over at Synch-ro-ni-zing posted a poem—a Nouvelle 55 poem—about vulnerability titled, appropriately enough, “Vulnerability.” Her poem spoke to me—deeply. In a few minutes a response came through my fingertips and on to her comment page. My response arose from my study of Buddhism and impermanence. 
I wanted to share her poem and my responding poem here on A Mindful Heart. I asked Ruth, and, graciously, she has encouraged me to share both poems here. The illustration of the clouds for my responding poem is from steven of the golden fish, a poet and teacher who consistently produces work that inspires me to jump outside ordinary consciousness. To both of these bloggers, I feel a strong sense of connection and gratitude. If you're a Mindful Heart reader and you've never jumped over to Ruth's or steven's blogs, well, I encourage you to indulge yourselves in some wonderful musings.



Vulnerability
The world is not delicate
on the whole. I feel it here
in my sternum, my ribs,
lying on my back under you,
stars distant, tree immense.
The world is not delicate
and the plum leaf is strong,
even when the beetle nibbles
her into lace, making room
for more stars to be 
strung between her veins.
Here is my responding Nouvelle 55:


photo by steven leak
Invulnerability

Even the most solid things
we think we know
are almost pure space,
not there except in imagination.
Hard headed me—
I am fooled
by my skull bones,
not yet dust.
I will not see how my skull
resembles a fist,
or a penis, only
hard a few moments.
Black holes, even,
are delicate, changeable.
—Dan Gurney


and... a further collaboration. (Thank you, Sabio.)


Involuntary Ability

My eroded soft skull pretends solidity
as the promising sky shines through
the lacey scaffolding made by the busy crowd
pretending to be me.

A refreshing wind caresses my moth-eaten brain.
A tickle of vulnerability but finally all threat disappears.
And as I leave, the playground fills with raucous laughter.
A tree sprouts and leaf buds blossom. 



—Sabio Lantz

20 comments:

Jinksy said...

Stars through a nibbled leaf is one of the nicest images I've come across in a log time! Thank you. ♥

Ruth said...

Dan, this is one of those rare, rare occasions, for me at least, when the flow is evident in an artistic endeavor. The word 'endeavor' does not really fit though, because for both of us, the 'writing' of each poem was more like dictation. I, too, wrote mine in about 5 minutes. I had the opening statement for about a week and was pretty sure it would evolve into a poem. I also was deeply inspired by O'Keeffe's painting of The Lawrence Tree (from DH Lawrence's ranch), and what it represents out of her own art, inspiration and life, connected with New Mexico. When I knew, suddenly, the other morning that I wanted — no — had to write a poem, it was coming forth like a baby that I had to push out, I had about 30 minutes before I had to get ready for work. I sat, I wrote, and there the baby was. Then, on a hunch, I looked at the word count on Word. Hmm. 57 words. Knowing I could turn it into a nouvelle 55 in a flash, I eliminated two 'is'es, and then it was done.

Another person is involved here as well. Robert of The Solitary Walker has been introducing me to DH Lawrence's poems of late, and that is what got me around to The Lawrence Tree and O'Keeffe's connection with it. And steven inspired yours (he inspires me constantly too). See how we inspire one another, and get connected with our own soul's song? I love it! What a remarkable instance of being able to 'deconstruct' creative expression.

When you left your own nouvelle 55, it was as if you had flipped mine over and we were looking at the other side. It was yin-yang. It was life-death, feminine-masculine. It was incredible. My poem took the universe down into smallness, and showed power in the small. Yours takes the universe up into the huge, and shows impermanence.

What can I say? This is a wonderful moment.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I like both of these.

Madhulika Speaks said...

Heyy.. nice writing style :)
i liked it a lot.. nice blog :)
do visit my blog someday.
i would love to hear from you..!!
take care and happy blogging..!!

Dan Gurney said...

Jinksy, yes, isn't that a great image? Credit Ruthie for coming up with that one. I'm glad to hear from you.

Dan Gurney said...

Ruth, yes for me, too. I hope the Muses visit me more. They've been in other neighborhoods of late it seems. Yes, Robert and others are really a part of these conversations/flows. The internet is great. But it is addictive, so I try to limit my time with my lap full of laptop. I used to do all my blogging standing up with my computer perched on a high bureau. I may resume that discipline!

Anyway, thank you for your comment. I'm glad we're bloggy friends.

Dan Gurney said...

Robert, you're part of this interaction, just like Ruth said.

Ruth said...

I meant to say in my super long comment (how did I not say it) that this was a rare moment of flow in collaboration, with two writers coming together this way.

In my writing, I try not to do it without being connected, in flow, in soul.

The Solitary Walker said...

Dear Dan & Ruth, I must just add something to my bald comment and say: oh my, how wonderful are these cyber-synapses, these bloggy interactions, sparking us all off! Truly fantastic. I love it. And Ruth, your deconstruction was absolutely fascinating and truly illuminating.

Oh, don't you just love Blogworld? (Agree with Dan, it can get too addictive. Standing on one leg in bath with laptop on very high shelf might be answer?)

steven said...

dan your writing here is a leap in my knowing of you. i'm so excited to read these words: "my experience feels—by contrast—much more like channeling some higher voice, and that voice, almost always for me appears to emanate from above, from some heavenly realm." I've thought this also and especially recently when i've been overcome by the feeling that now, now i must write something and it is almost as i wish it and then i realize that if i take out what i thought was important it suddenly is revealed as exactly what it was intended to be. a classic instance of getting my self out of the way. steven

Reya Mellicker said...

Fantastic juxtaposition. Oh yeah, these two pieces, and the pics, resonate deeply. Paradox is truth. Solidity is spaciousness.

Thank you!

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Dan (and Ruth),

Note, at the end, I include a poem and a picture. But before that let me offer an analytic poem:

Writers of all sorts, at their best, often describe words wafting to them from outside of themselves. The same with other artists. Athelete and heros in disasters sometimes speak of something guiding their actions other than their selves.

Religious folks explain this as the work of gods or spirits. A New Age tendency is to describe it as the Universe, the Tao, The Universal Mind and many more similar abstracted romantic idealizations.

I think it is simply that we are deluded by our own brains, as to who we are and how we work. The brain has many co-processors operating without our awareness and without effort of will. Any present self we feel we have is transient, fluxing but we are blind to this. Thus when our brain makes us act, it feels like it comes from outside our "selves", but this is an illusion. It may come as thoughts, actions or even voices.

Some may think my description is terse, reductionist, blind analytic thinking and that I am missing the deep mystery generated by the natural beautiful and mysterious paradoxes of the real truth. And for them, to use the model I use, would rob them of the hypnotic empowerment of their "Muse". I understand.

But I, and many others can think like this and still hear the Muses, and can joyfully welcome the spirits of our minds without summoning a supernatural model to explain our experiences.


But New Agers, Mystics, Artists, Materialists or any combination of these and other can all stop their private voices because of fear, worry, hatred and many more twists of mind. The trick is learning how to hear our voices and to let them be. Tis no easy task but well worth pursuing as you both have shown!

May the above prose be one type of poem, but since I have a few moments left at lunch break, I will try to write a "real" 57 word poem below to dance with yours and Ruth's. :-)

First, click here for inspiring image.


Involuntary Ability

My eroded soft skull pretends solidity
as the promising sky shines through
the lacey scaffolding made by the busy crowd
pretending to be me.

A refreshing wind caresses my moth-eaten brain.
A tickle of vulnerability but finally all threat disappears.
And as I leave, the playground fills with raucous laughter.
A tree sprouts and leaf buds blossom.

Dan Gurney said...

Ruth, yes. It feels good to feel the connection. I try to avoid posting when that feeling of connection isn't there. It's so much easier to feel connected while singing with a group or while paddling my canoe through a stream through a Redwood forest. Both of those can be addictive, too!

Dan Gurney said...

Robert, thanks for stopping by to say that! I'm glad when we can spark each other like this. It feels wonderful.

Dan Gurney said...

steven, that is how it feels, quite plainly. As Sabio suggests below, my feelings might not be much more than illusory; I cannot say one way or the other. But I can usually feel quite plainly when the "flow" is there and love it.

Most certainly, my everyday petty mind doesn't seem to come up with much poetry, music, or art. I try to put myself in places where my petty mind recedes into the background. Paddling, singing, these things help for sure.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Reya, and now a juxtaposition of three poems thanks to Sabio, who, I believe, is pretty new to composing poetry. How great is that?

Dan Gurney said...

Sabio, thanks for the image and the poem and the comment/poem above. I included the drawing and your 55 worder in the main body of the post.

You said something with which I agree:

"Any present self we feel we have is transient, fluxing but we are blind to this. Thus when our brain makes us act, it feels like it comes from outside our "selves", but this is an illusion."

I suspect that any sense we may have of "self" "soul" "personal essence" or what-have-you is an illusion—a very strong illusion, mind you—that skillfully conceals how things are and thus muddies up our world, causing needless dukkha. This illusion includes non-personal supernatural other selves like Muses, heros, gods, ghosts, etc.

I further agree, Sabio with you when you say,

"But I, and many others can think like this and still hear the Muses, and can joyfully welcome the spirits of our minds without summoning a supernatural model to explain our experiences. "

I find that emptying the mind and being skeptical about the reality of any "self" that "I" or any other person seems to have helps "me" open to what is.

So, why, you may wonder, bring Muses into the conversation? I chose to do that as skillful means. For me, the feeling that the voices come from outside is strong. I don't believe that there actually is some Muse out there who wakes up, has a cup of organic, sustainably raised coffee and then looks down on our earthly realm and says to herself, "I'll go whisper something into Dan's ear today." No.

By invoking a Muse, I hope that readers may recognize the feelings I had, remember a similar experience and want to talk about it and think about it, and maybe, who knows? end up thinking much as you do about the subject. Conversational shorthand, similar to the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus both of whom are part of my other life.

That's part of the magic of blogs. They can stimulate thinking about such things, and even inspire some good poetry.

Dan Gurney said...

Oh, BTW, Sabio, I would like to credit whoever was the artists for the tree noggin. Can you help me with that?

Sabio Lantz said...

"... thanks to Sabio, who, I believe, is pretty new to composing poetry."

Ouch! Is it that obvious? :-)

Sorry, no I looked again but could not find it. I even used www.tineye.com

BTW, I understand how you casually and poetically use "Muses". I was just putting up a little warning flag. Common ways of expressing things often come with the baggage of that old tradition. It is easy to drop backinto the self-obsessed Romantic idealism of tapping into the Universe and making my special soul shine brighter.

Oooops, I didn't think that would work. I can't express exactly what I mean.

My "poem", btw, was a play with Ruth and Your terms using contrasting imagery and feeling. Don't know if I pulled it off. I've got a feeling that my "Flash" poetry would be just as good as my careful, many-rewrites poetry. In other words, thinking about it would not help me much.

That is why I play blitz WeiQi ("Go"), it avoids the obvious insight that thinking about my moves does not help much. Ouch.

Dan Gurney said...

Sabio, NO, not that obvious. If I thought your poem was junky, I would have left it to live in the comments. I liked it enough to bring it into the main body of the post. Even more, I am pleased that you're giving poetry a try.