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Tag Archives: Czeslaw Milosz

Gift

I began reading a book called Thomas Merton—Evil and Why We Suffer: From Purified Soul Theodicy to Zen. The author, David Oberson, explores the evolution of Merton’s view of good and evil throughout his adult life, framed, first, through a mystical and monastic Christian view and, then, a growing interest in Zen Buddhism towards the end of his life.

I have always been fascinated with Merton’s wide ranging relationships, nurtured through letter writing. Some I knew about from previous readings e.g., Thich Nhat Hanh, Dororthy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. Today, I found another one of his relationships; this one with the poet Czeslaw Milosz who lived under Nazi and  Soviet oppressors in Poland before moving to the US. Merton and Milosz shared concerns about totaliarianism, scientism, racism, etc., which I can only imagine would be intensified in today’s global climate.

Milosz wrote a beautiful poem called Gift to remind me suffering that emerges from life is impermanent. In this poem, he reminds me their is always something beautiful and good, as he alludes to nature and creation that emerges to replace the suffering.

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

I took this picture in BC about two years ago. As I walked on this morning, I reached a higher spot on the path and saw the lake in the distance fog covered. Like the fog, the suffering lifts with time and a warming sun. I let go of the envy, anger, grasping to be present when I work in the garden that is nature.

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Hope

The line that stands out in the following poem is the one about hopelessness being that when we turn our back on the world it is snatched away. Czeslaw Milosz wrote wonderfully and tied belief and hope together.

The French phenomenologist and philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote about how we perceive the world. What exists between us and the world is our flesh, which forms a sensuous boundary between the internal and external worlds we simultaneously co-inhabit.

It is through all our senses we experience and remember the world. In turn, it experiences and remembers us, but we have to believe it does. There is a fidelity, a trust, that exists for those experiences to be true and believed.

We bind ourselves to the world, the universe, and the divine, not through blindness, but through unproveable faith. Paradoxically, it is through believing we do not have to prove this faith that we accept the world and it, along with others and things exist even when we do not see them, even when they are not immediately within the range of our senses.

Hope is with you when you believe
The earth is not a dream but living flesh,
That sight, touch, and hearing do not lie,
That all things you have ever seen here
Are like a garden looked at from a gate.

You cannot enter. But you’re sure it’s there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
We might discover somewhere in the garden
A strange new flower and an unnamed star.

Some people say we should not trust our eyes,
That there is nothing, just a seeming,
These are the ones who have no hope.
They think that the moment we turn away,
The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist,
As if snatched up by the hands of thieves.

Faith

Today, was the last full weekend of classes for me. I have one more class to go and I need to finish the preliminary document for my dissertation proposal which is this weekend’s job. There is a faith that comes with this latter effort. When I began, it seemed daunting, but with over 100 pages for the first three sections in place it is more manageable looking.

Along with finishing classes, I will go home and the bulk of my work will be done there. There are challenges in that, as at Gonzaga, I had a particular discipline which was not the case at home before I retired from the classroom. Working full-time and all the other things that life brings, did not always provide time to work at the necessary routine in a disciplined way. Having said this, the shadow of newly found discipline casts a shadow which gives life to it.

Czeslaw Milosz suggested a shadow is what gives something strength to live and I am thinking of discipline and routine that way today as I ready myself for my Sabbath.

The word Faith means when someone sees
A dew-drop or a floating leaf, and knows
That they are, because they have to be.
And even if you dreamed, or closed your eyes
And wished, the world would still be what it was,
And the leaf would still be carried down the river.

It means that when someone’s foot is hurt
By a sharp rock, he also knows that rocks
Are here so they can hurt our feet.
Look, see the long shadow cast by the trees;
And flowers and people throw shadows on the earth:
What has no shadow has no strength to live.

A Day so Happy

Czeslaw Milosz wrote this beautiful poem that segues me into my Sunday Sabbath. It was a busy and productive week. Some poetry is finding its way to the surface, but I find the weeks I have classes it is more difficult to move those thoughts from my mind and heart to the paper. When we are able to find what makes us whole, we can find forgiveness in our heart. It is like a fog lifts and we can see the beauty of the world that beckons.

A day so happy.

Fog lifted early, I walked in the garden.

Hummingbirds were stopping over

honeysuckle flowers.

There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.

I knew no one worth envying him.

Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.

To think that I was once the same man

did not embarrass me.

In my body I felt no pain.

When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

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