Category Archives: born again
(Statements in italics taken from Ethics, by Baruch de Spinoza)
Look farther and farther toward thin blue sky, until the green feathery tops of the trees are like the northern pole on some dream planet. Put the anger back in its bottle. These trees are generous. Hatred can never be good.
Your carsickness from the ride up the mountain begins to fade, leaving behind a breathless, weepy echo not unlike your first religious fervor. Hatred is increased through return of hatred, but may be destroyed by love.
When have you not been afraid? The random can be scrutinized for meaning, the puzzle solved, when surveyed long & carefully enough. Anything may be accidentally the cause of either hope or fear.
These trees have plenty of time. As a child, you stared at Jesus’ sad face for hours, wishing you could marry him — wondering what it was that made him love you. Could you sacrifice yourself for the sins of the world, if it was that simple & necessary? Cathedrals turn us small and vulnerable again, for reasons both blessed & cursed. Devotion is love towards an object which astonishes us.
Vague, starry eyes like yours feel at home here; the air is weighty, burdensome & solemn. You’ve loved trees before; this is different. These trees have plenty of time – more time than you. If we love a thing which is like ourselves, we endeavor as much as possible to make it love us in return.
Your nerves are suddenly frozen, by the unaccustomed richness of perfect light. Your guide is tall & slender, hesitant to speak. Her mother has the tattooed forearm of a Polish Jew of a certain age. The knowledge of good and evil is nothing but an idea of joy or sorrow. Sorrow is [a hu]man’s passage from a greater to a less perfection.
These trees have plenty of time. She touches your wrist, and for a moment, you, too, want to grow taller, leaving the surface of the earth behind forever. Shyly, she picks up a tiny pinecone, smaller than a toy. You both laugh when she tells you this is their seed. Joy is [a hu]man’s passage from a less to a greater perfection.
These trees have plenty of time. And all around, their wise, fallen, hollow bodies litter the ground like the bones of saints. Childlike, you understand a wish to die here, never to leave this hush. They’re only trees – your neck bent back as far as it will go; only trees, yet wondering if the giants can hear your thoughts. Love is joy, with the accompanying idea of an external cause. Love and desire may be excessive. When the mind imagines its own weakness, it necessarily sorrows.
Is there anything we have less power over than our own tongues? These trees have plenty of time, growing wise as the Buddha, in their silence.
Tunneling Bivalves (Lithophaga palmerae)
I have eaten stone. I have tunneled through the hardest
hearts. For ten years, I was in the hands of a wizard
who, little by little, made me forget everything I knew
before I met him. He fed me stones. I became a small
soft thing, covered with two hinged shells, digging
farther away from the world outside, the world I thought
would hurt me. I shrank smaller each day, tunneled
deeper. I wanted to disappear. While I was enslaved,
I learned to use silence as a weapon. My shells
closed tight, tried to protect my softness, but the wizard
jammed gravel in and devoured me. We used to swim
together, in dark water, his robes hanging over the pool
like a tent. His robes were warm, and sheltered me.
His robes were stifling, and smothered me. I was not
a good apprentice. I failed all the exams, I was held
back to repeat the same lessons over and over.
He wove elaborate spells to keep me in my place.
He was content for me to be his forever.
I was his slave, though I hated him and made him pay
for my service in other ways. I thought the hardness
of his heart was a sign of God’s presence, of God’s wisdom.
I forgot to look for God’s grace, God’s joy. My tears
fell and anointed the floor. I was like a religious pilgrim
who brought palm fronds home, nailed them
to the wall of her room, slept with one eye open,
to see if dry leaves caught fire. I was a staple
for the wizard, I gave him everything I possessed,
willingly, and when he would not give me the knowledge
I sought, I betrayed him. His anger was mighty,
and destroyed much of my beauty. When I first fled
the wizard’s castle, I felt powerless, I felt alone.
The wizard was happy I was gone — I had learned
the lesson he had been trying so hard to illustrate
all those years. The one about peace, about power.
He was my teacher, for that I am grateful.
Injury comes from inside, I know that now.
I try to remember to feel God inside. Still, sometimes
I forget I am not eating stone anymore. Sometimes
the food I prepare for myself still tastes like stone.
A banana tree is a metaphor for life, really… it dies after it bears fruit. It gives its life to produce the next generation. Banana leaves are so useful. Useful when they’re green, and useful when they’re brown. Generation upon generation. That really is a sacred word, generation. WE generate ideas, too. So can’t WE generate more peace, rather than more war? Can’t OUR fuel be love, not hate? Yes, just like the banana tree, sometimes destruction is necessary to create new life… recycling? Reincarnation?
One way of looking at things is to take a leap of faith – decide that when WE die, nothing will be lost; everything will be gained. WE leave behind US a legacy, all of US, shaping the reality of the UNIVERSE. The UNIVERSE is alive through US! The UNIVERSE writes songs and stories and mathematics and music through US! WE are engines! WE are alive! WE are organic! WE, human beings, are evolving right this second! LIFE doesn’t stand still! LIFE adapts, or ceases! LIFE IS EVOLUTION. Trying to cling too desperately to the past is to entomb the SELF in stone, alone, buried alive, dying. WE’RE alive until WE’RE dead.
Value this opportunity. Don’t throw it away. Take care of OUR home, planet Earth. Take care of OUR fellow travelers. Send not a sword, but an olive branch to OUR enemies as well as OUR friends. OUR bitterest enemy may turn out to be OUR best companion. Only time will tell. WE live within moments, WE exist within history, and WE are passionate within the spirit. Train that energy! Use passion to create, not to destroy! Destructive passion, combined with weapons of all kinds, might kill US all. Respond to life with logic AND emotion. Let US use OUR brains and OUR gut. Instead of the falling abyss of dread, the rising flutter of joy… and at the end of life, may WE all have truly, truly, truly found PEACE.
Cue Judy Garland, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”