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Song for Nobody

Thomas Merton was a Trappist Monk and prolific spiritual writer of the mid-20th Century with many works published posthumously. He passed away in an accident at a relative young age so it is hard to say how much more writing he had in him. He is best known for his essays, journals, and letters, but wrote poetry and was an artist as well.

He included as one of his key themes the key concept of activism as a form of violence on one’s self. He drew on Eastern philosophies and mindfulness in describing contemplation as a human necessity in the 20th Century with its busyness and distractions. One can only imagine what he would think today.

I thought of the biblical passages about how lilies grow and just do what comes naturally. The flowers sing their songs without words by themselves without spin and toil. We find their  music in their simplicity.

A yellow flower
(Light and spirit)
Sings by itself
For nobody.

A golden spirit
(Light and emptiness)
Sings without a word
By itself.

Let no one touch this gentle sun
In whose dark eye
Someone is awake.

(No light, no gold, no name, no color
And no thought:
O, wide awake!)
A golden heaven
Sings by itself
A song to nobody.

Harmony

My mother is from a family of farmers so digging in the brown earth is symbolic for me today. She had a garden and flower beds until she sold the house and moved into an apartment, but, even there, she kept house plants.

Last night, I chatted with cousins on Facebook. My mother is the last of her generation on both sides of my family. When she gathered with her siblings, there was always tea, chatting (it was never called gossip) and laughter in the house. I think the laughter created the harmony Colleen Lineberry speaks about in her poem.

Thomas Merton wrote that life is about finding our voice through our calling in life, our vocation. My mom raised seven children and babysat many others. Her calling was to be a parent.

Memories and laughter remind us how good the day is.

One morning when I dig
brown earth with bare fingers and
listen to the light wind
shuffle through oak and elm,
I hear the silver of chimes
dangle from a thin wire,
the cadence of children
laugh themselves dizzy
like swirls of bubbles at play.

A choir of robins
trills gossip and questions,
a thicket of poems in the understory.
Each voice
from each perch
sings
through a window of sky.

I remember
to remember
how good this day is:
to slow through creation
along with the breeze
as it gentles and
praises the trees.

Love’s Exquisite Freedom

The Trappist Monk Thomas Merton wrote that we call it falling in love because it does bring painful moments and it is in overcoming the pain we experience that love means so much in our lives. Maya Angelou shared a similar view of love in this wonderful poem. When we look back on life and love, we remember the pain that come with both as strengthening our lives and love. Real love costs us all that we are, but it makes us more whole than who we are.

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient memories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Today, is the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s birthday. He was an activist, mystic, artist, and poet, as well as a priest.

His poetry contains St. Francis of Assisi qualities. He wrote in psalm-like ways thanking God, praising all creation and seeing humans and nature as intertwined in their creation.

It is in our creation that we give praise for the creation. When we live the life we are meant for, we fulfill the essential work we are created for in life.

I was reminded of the biblical passage: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” When we live our lives simply, we find the most fullness.

Today, Father, this blue sky lauds you.

The delicate green and orange flowers of the tulip poplar tree praise you.

The distant blue hills praise you,

together with the sweet-smelling air that is full of brilliant light.

The bickering flycatchers praise you

with the lowing cattle and the quails that whistle over there.

 I too, Father, praise you, with all these my brothers,

and they give voice to my own heart and to my own silence.

We are all one silence, and a diversity of voices.

You have made us together,

you have made us one and many,

you have placed me here in the midst

as witness, as awareness, and as joy.

 Here I am.

In me the world is present,

and you are present.

I am a link in the chain of light and of presence.

You have made me a kind of center,

but a center that is nowhere.

And yet also I am “here.”

Personal Legend: Life Lessons from Dancing

Personal Legend: Life Lessons from Dancing.

The link  begins with a quote from Paulo Coehlo about finding meaning in life. It becomes our personal legend when we find those things that add to our lives. We are remembered for dancing, teaching, singing, etc; whatever brings us and others joy.

The linked article ends with a poem from Joseph Campbell. He began the poem with “follow your bliss.” When we do, we find our voice and speak through our lives.

Parker Palmer and Thomas Merton pointed out voice and vocation are linked in etymology. They come from a place deep within us. We don’t even have to chase it. We only have to sit, be still, be quiet and our voice finds us. When it finds us, we dance as our voice accompanies us finding what brings meaning and joy in our lives and the lives of those we dance with.

affirmations

affirmations.

When we get up to face the day, it is nice to have a few words which help us move into the day. These affirmations provide different ways to speak into the day quietly regardless of what we face.

The post reminded me of writing by Parker Palmer, Thomas Merton, Wendell Berry, and Mary Oliver amongst many. The quieter we are, the more we still our mind and body, the more able we are to hear the soul speak its words of wisdom. Courage grows from the heart. The word courage shares the same roots as the French word for heart, coeur. When we take heart, courage emerges.

In Silence

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk known for essays, letters, and writing books. He was an artist and poet, as well.

Sabbath is a retreat from the busyness encountered in daily life. It is less about separation from the world and more about finding bridges linking us with the world and others in the world. The word treat suggests healing and making whole.

We seek bridges allowing us to let go of baggage we carry and skeletons we dance with. Parker Palmer used Thomas Merton’s writing explaining the need for peace, solitude, and silence in life. This is not a withdrawal, but a different way of encountering the world and hearing the words it speaks more clearly.

Part of Taoism is seeking principled paths and ways forward. Parker Palmer and Thomas Merton drew on this thinking in expressing a need for silence in life otherwise the noise of daily life is deafening.

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
to speak your

name.
Listen
to the living walls.

Who are you?
Who
are you? Whose
silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
are you (as these stones
are quiet). Do not
think of what you are
still less of
what you may one day be.

Rather
be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one
you do not know.

O be still, while
you are still alive,
and all things live around you

speaking (I do not hear)
to your own being,
speaking by the unknown
that is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
to be my own silence:
and this is difficult. The whole
world is secretly on fire. The stones
burn, even the stones they burn me.
How can a man be still or
listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
when all their silence is on fire?”

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