Category Archives: Poems

A Curious Light

if you look for it,
it doesn’t come.
it hides itself,
knowing that you look for it.
if you try to call it forth,
you get no reply
except a nothing or a blankness
that causes a hitch or stammering
in your thinking
that feels like trying to breathe through a straw
after running hard up a hill.
yet halfway thru the doing of some task
which you have planned to do
and wish you could finish
like the reading of a book

or the doing of a chore
or in the midst of driving on four lanes of interstate
where you go nervously but smoothly
until tail lights flash ahead
and make you go as slow as a snail
inching across the edges of the universe
or while sitting on the porch
watching the birds chirping in the trees
jumping from one branch to another
for reasons unknown
and keeping an eye out for the red one
that sometimes show up
or in eating an egg
that you have scrambled in the microwave
and sprinkled some salt on,
with a dab of ketchup
or while taking a shower

and closing your eyes
as the warm water massages your oily morning skin
and getting some  of that water in your mouth
and spitting it out –
sometimes in these unlikely places
inspiration strikes
(and by my now calling and naming them
i have robbed them of their fertility
for i have openly acknowledged
that these such places are bushes hiding secrets
behind their leaves
and now the secrets will move)
i say inspiration strikes because
i know not how else to say it.
it hits like a slap in the brain
that instead of causing pain
or even shock
causes an injection of curious light
like a momentary flooding
of a color never seen
or a smell never smelt
from outside mysteriously.
thus sometimes it is sudden.
but other times it is a rising up,
a slow coming-into-focus
of something somehow not more well defined
even though it is more well known and felt
right then than before.
how odd that
just like its coming
Inspiration’s staying
depends largely on the minds
periphery.

The Relation

The most accurate description

of the relation between God and man

is not that of cause to effect

but that

of creator to created.

If we think of God merely as a cause

and ourselves as merely an effect

we bring in the idea

of a physical pre-motion

working like a line of domino’s

where one falls just because the one before

hits it.

This leads to two errors –

The first

is of God acting in time, and doing things

one after another

(first he thinks of what to do

and then he does it).

This splits up his being

since he is limited in doing and feeling

only one thing at once

(and what would limit him?

a limit must come from some place

above or outside.)

Further,

what reason would there be

that God changed this way

rather than that?

If this reason itself is changing,

then the same question can again be put,

and so on

infinitely.

But if not,

then we at last arrive

at an unchanging principle

which just eternally is

what it is

and acts itself to establish and ground

all changing things.

Second of all,

thinking of God as cause

and us as his effect

makes us think that things

are “pre” determined

and that what we do “now”

is “already” decided.

And so we call his plans irresistible

and conclude that what we do

doesn’t matter

or is no different than a play

already written by a Cosmic director.

The truth is that God does all he does

at once:

between him and us

there is no “pre” or before.

What he does

is not cause some effect

like some billiard ball

that strikes another

and moves it to its destination.

Rather, all at once,

without any intermediary or middle tool

(he does not use a billiard ball,

or even a cue stick)

God acts as creator

and timelessly brings about,

spontaneously

and with full energy

something created.

The very content of God’s creative act

just is our free selves

doing what we do.

Simply put

God creates us

acting.

And since he operates on a higher plane

he does not compete with what he makes.

There is no sense in which

his causative powers

take anything away from our own.

For his causative powers

create our own

like how the artist

in painting the image

creates the reality of the image

in the very painting.

Milton talked of wanting

to justify the ways of God to man.

But justification is the wrong word

once we realize

that the relation between us and God

is not that between physical cause and effect

but rather between a creator

to a thing created.

Does it make sense

to speak of a work of art

being “justified”

or of asking

of a work of free

and creative genius

why such and such a thing was made

rather than another?

It just is

what it is.

There is no deciding

or deliberating

or weighing options

in an act of spontaneous creation.

Does this mean that

since God creates all

he also creates the bad?

Well no one can deny

that whatever bad exists

must have first existed in the creator’s mind

at least as a potential happening.

Everything that happens

is ultimately rooted in

the metaphysical playground of his mind

from which springs every

particular possibility.

Could a good God create

suffering?

Well there is suffering

of that there is no denying.

But why would he create the universe

his cherished piece of art

his love

which such a stain

with such moans and groans

and shrieks and tortures?

Perhaps because

in so creating

he pours himself into his work

such that he takes up all suffering

all bad

vicariously

and lives through it and in it.

Perhaps

of his own choice

he deigns to experience it all,

the whole creation,

just such a thing,

like how an artist or a writer

or a Father

becomes one with the emotions

of his painting or his novel

or his child

and is most fully united and alive

and himself

in so doing.

Perhaps God so takes up a project

of creating a universe with suffering

to partake of the experience

and

along with his creatures

triumph over it all

and so relish his being

and expand theirs

with a far greater multiplicity of notes

of meaning and existence.

A Taste of Existence

The loudest and most convincing voice

that rises up above the others

when different thoughts challenge the existence of God

is the one that asks, honestly:

why the evil?

A brother chokes on a chicken bone

at a holiday dinner

to enjoy family

when he took off for work to be there.

A new mother dies in a car accident

when a rock flies through the windshield

and goes through her brain

while her baby sleeps quietly in the backseat.

A father outlives his son

who had the potential to conquer the world

but instead for some reason

has a heart attack on the basketball court.

And yet we are told that God intervenes

in the world of Nature.

That he suspends its laws

or sticks his magic finger in

and turns water into wine

or gives sight to the blind

or brings back the ruler’s daughter

who was not dead, but only sleeping.

If God can do this once, he would be able to

a thousand times

or a million,

or every time, logic would imply.

Thus he must hold back flexing his omnipotence

for some wise reason

and permit the evil to occur

rather than intervene.

Yet would this not mean

that each evil that comes to pass

is justified

and that it were better that it happened,

than not?

Yet here, I believe, we slip.

For the Creator creates

the whole

and so what we call

his intervention

is as much as part of his entire work

as what we call

his permission.

It makes no sense to say

from his perspective

“what could have been”

for he works at once, at all times,

creating a single Creation

enveloping every moment of all,

which makes a Singular

absolutely unique

and unable to be compared

with anything else.

Comparisons take place within the universe

not without it.

Each whole – which is what universe means –

stands independently.

Take away suffering, and, true

you introduce a good.

But what finite mind

that cannot see the goods of the whole

could tell what other is being sacrificed

by the omission?

Take away all suffering from love.

I have something good

but is it something I would recognize

as Love?

The goods which spring forth

in the soil of pain

are so connected to the pains themselves

that the two cannot be separated,

like how a marriage

which is composed of two people

ceases to be a marriage

if but one person stands alone.

Who knows what fruit God is seeing

in the soil of a suffering creation?

Who knows what mighty tree springs forth

from  what appears afterward

such a small seed?

I am not saying that

God could not make a world free of pain.

Perhaps he could – I see no contradiction.

But it seems quite a logical necessity to say

that if he were to make this world

one in which the good is asserted

over and against the evil

and which good is born and raised and purified

in the midst of pain and horror

then he could not make it without these things

for they are part and parcel

of the whole of creation.

All we must ask

and all we must decide

is

whether this world

even with all its pain

is still something we would say

Yes to.

Is it still something

when

taken as a whole

and balling up all its good and its bads

we would still want to taste

on the palate of our spirits.

And if so

then it seems strange

to see a contradiction in this process

of God making us into things

that have a certain appreciation

for existence.

The meaning that God is giving us

is what it is

infused with goods and bads

inextricably connected

like a drink of different flavors

that cannot be parsed

but only tasted and enjoyed

and then assimilated into

oneself.

Sifting

Who said what is nothing to me,

but rather it is what is said

that binds the allegiance of the heart.

As a man sifts through the sand for jewels

and gains pleasure at finding

a new one, rare in color, odd in shape,

as of yet unseen

if not to the world, at least to him –

so too ought we to sift through thoughts

to find the good, the beautiful, the true

and the virtuous, the lovely, the strong

and care not that we have to leave

the sand behind.

A Year and A Day

Into my room I went, for a year and a day

books piled high, a mind obsessed.

Poured over them I did, for a year and a day

bent over, pencil in mouth, oblivious to the world.

Back and forth I changed, for a year and a day

one moment holding

the antithesis

of what was held before.

No closer to truth I came, for a year and a day

except it were success

to make a map of dead ends.

 

That which is contradictory

is impossible to conceive,

and so for a year and a day, my studies – for all I can tell –

were no different

than trying to imagine

the impossible.

Yet

the spirit grows, even in this labor,

so it is not wholly vain.

The mind gains a seriousness, a respect for thinking.

It becomes slow to judge

and eager to shine light on dark places

which it has not yet explored.

It cares little for authority

or ties to men

but rather seeks newness and solidity

and finds these more refreshing

than an army of arguments.

It also becomes able to stand

silent before the world

in mystery and awe

without demanding answers to an infinite set

of questions

which may or may not have meanings.

 

What was once a stony pillow of ignorance

has now become soft

and liberating.

Perhaps I should go and rest my head upon it,

and enjoy rather than analyze

the great wonder of creation

for a year and a day.

Birth – Struggle – Victory

It comes to me.

From where I do not know.

A thought

a new feeling.

Or an old one

not felt for years.

Where were you?

If you were within me

how is it I did not try to bring you here?

If you were without me

how did you become so present

now closer to me

than my own flesh?

Birth – newness

a spontaneous mystery.

You, thought, come to me

ex nihilo.

I turn you over in my mind

to get a feel for you

and to see all your angles

like a figure which may on inspection

have a crack, or be perfectly smooth.

I try to encompass you

to assimilate you perfectly into me

so that you are seamlessly undifferentiated

from Truth.

For that would be most satisfying.

Yet a discord arises

a violence

a shriek against the universal harmony.

An incongruity rubs against the laws of metaphysics

like sandpaper

on the skin of an infant.

How can such a thought be?

How can it fit

into the ensemble of my life-mind?

I must digest it.

But how?

What is false cannot be true

and if true

then some overthrow it will have

on other Truths lodged fathoms deep

in me.

Yet to run would be the cowards way.

So I must face it.

Perhaps

if I stare long enough

it will come into focus.

Or maybe

it will lose its power

like the stars

which no longer hold captive the middle aged.

Obsession – mulling

chewing on the thought, like a piece of rubber

without nourishment

and no progress.

Denial – anger

cursing the practice of thinking.

For what good does it do

if you understand how the stomach works

but have no food to put into it.

Rebuttal – arising

laughing at former despair.

The very food I need is Truth

and so I cannot stop the search

even if I would.

Thus I must keep trying to find

a fitting place for the puzzle piece.

Yet

it is not the not-finding

(I may fail, after all)

but the not-trying-to-find

which is unacceptable

and leads to defeat

rather than

Victory.