Sunday, August 15, 2021

Little Miss Muffet Late Of Her Tuffet, 'She Gone We Know Not Where' -- Contexts & Conjectures As Points Of Departure For Father Will, His Storms



I don’t try to reconcile anything’ said the poet at eighty, 
‘This is a damned strange world.’ 
-John Berryman, from "Eleven Addresses To The Lord" 


The original fault 
Will not be undone by fire. 

The original fault was whether wickedness 
Was soluble in art. 
History says it is, 
Jacques Maritain says it is, 

Barely. 
--John Berryman, from "Sonnet ix" 


Once again this babble for Father Will,
his Bible the Holy Surd of God 

Context & Conjecture One 

Thou knowest my down-sitting... Try me, O God, and seek the ground of my heart; prove me, and examine my thoughts. --from Psalm 139 

I have often wondered where Little Miss Muffet was forced to go, and did she, and if she did what became of her, who did she become and what adventures of disorientation did she undergo in order to arrive at a more meaningful reorientation of self with Self--what Carl Jung calls the “greater personality” from which the ego dwells and swells into conscious being with growing capacities to live the questions, to sit in the contradictions, to dwell within and between the conflict of the opposites. Like Siddhartha Guatama Buddha, Miss Muffet had to leave the familiar tuffet, the premature down-sitting, for enough hard living had not been done for she had not yet been more completely exposed to the vicissitudes of existence--disillusionment, moral and other failure, longing, lack, illness, decay, death and, of course, the interplay, the coming and going of their opposites. 

Curds and whey, baby food, must be spilled out of the identified-with-Innocence now frightened puerish lap, evidence of the harsh awakening from one form of sitting--unconscious, animal, infantile, collective, dull as a box of hair--into paniced headlong running off the proven riven ways into flight, insecurity, fear, malais. Once more thoroughly exposed to dukkha, meaning suffering, Freud's discontent, the Existentialist's alienation, Miss Muffet can sit down again, having lived and still living the questions, emptied out but for despair, consenting to be there without the collective curd, the theological and cultural whey, with only the weight of existenz pressing her there, now willingly waiting at her Bodhi Tree, now refusing to budge: 

A dark theme keeps me here, Though summer blazes in the vireo's eye. Who would be half possessed By his own nakedness? Waking's my care -- 
I'll make a broken music, or I'll die.--from "In Evening Air", by Theodore Roethke 

[Thanks to Thomas Dybek for pointing out the aptness of Freud's term, discontent, for a contemporary rendering of Buddha's dukkha

Context & Conjecture Two 

Or perhaps like Jesus of Nazareth sweating drops of blood in Gethsemane, resisting the cup of affliction, God's Will, then consenting to drain the bitter Law that requires even Deity's obeisance, Miss Muffet, too, consents, forgetting the longed for infantile curds and whey, the childish stool, to swallow an incomprehensible means of grace which first lays waste the human into more grief upon the opposites' Cross without promise of resurrection. There is a resurrection in surrender, in the swallowing, the vinegar sponge thrust into the finite Savior's mouth punctuating the bitter meal that human will and flesh can become, and that killing Will of God. First awakening is to the clot-itude, the clay pushed and shoved by Fated Hands no matter the just protest of beaten, broken dust. When Jesus calls out from the hanging tree, “Father, Father! Why hast thou forsaken me?”, there was no hope in the For-Everyman hanging there. And hang we all must and will and do with or without awareness or understanding, without consent, without familiar comforts, the curds and whey of everyday mind, the historical nostrums, and consumerist collective cures: 

Bound to my heart as the Ixion to the wheel. 
Nailed to my heart as the Thief upon the Cross 
I hang between our Christ and the gap where the world was lost. 
--Edith Sitwell, from Dirge For The New Sunrise 

Context & Conjecture Three 

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. --Paul of Tarsus, 1 Corinthians 13:11 

In last month's newsletter we read of Father Will's return from a month long retreat from personal and collective comforts and cures at Bone Cabin, a remote desert cabin in the American west, an extreme, austere and overwhelming environment which exaggerated an already present existential opening in Father Will with what Paul Tillich calls ultimate concerns and exigencies (urgencies) insisted within and upon one either lived consciously or, for many people, consciously repressed and studiously avoided or medicated by now even more devices and gadgets of medicine and machinery, the entertainment juggernaut now being one of the largest consumer industries the world over especially in the postmodern Western world. Granted, it is tremendously difficult to endure the questions of ultimate concerns and not rush to “answers” and "solutions". Enduring the questions and the vast spaces they open internally when endured and not medicated or entertained away by doctrinal or other distracting solutions, one may descend into deeper, transpersonal dimensions of Psyche where an authenticating encounter occurs reframing existential dwelling in the world as a regenerative meeting with and relating to Being and Mystery, Existenz consciously discovering its Dynamic Ground in Essence via human awakening. Such relocating meetings at the edge, brief or sustained, require departures from familiar territory, internally and externally, in order to evolve out of these “childish things” St. Paul speaks of, into mature, reality oriented encounter with existence. Often enough, like Miss Muffet, on her secure everyday tuffet one is inexplicably forced out of the comfort and safety of everyday belief and routine. And so with Father Will I must sit in the questions, in the emptying and not rush to filler solutions. I, too, must empty. 

Both Carl Jung and W.R. Bion have prescribed this in similar expressions, that when the fellow pilgrim--the patient/client-- enters the room and the door is shut one empties oneself of memory, thought, desire. Existential and phenomenological psychology calls this intentional creating of vacated space Epoché helpfully defined by wikipedia as "the theoretical moment where all judgments about the existence of the external world, and consequently all action in the world, is suspended...One's own consciousness is subject to immanent critique so that when such belief is recovered, it will have a firmer grounding in consciousness...one is thought to be able to suspend judgment regarding the general or naive philosophical belief in the existence of the external world, and thus examine phenomena as they are originally given to consciousness. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epoch%C3%A9) (copy and paste this and all links in this text) 

In this context of epoché, vacated space, and surrender (etymologically meaning "to render out" much like the slow cooking of meat renders out, separates the fat), one departs the security of belief, even of history, personal and collective, and lives on what Martin Buber calls the narrow ridge, "a narrow rocky ridge between the gulfs where there is no sureness of expressible knowledge but the certainty of meeting what remains undisclosed." - https://www.religion-online.org/book-chapter/chapter-1-the-narrow-ridge/

The narrow ridge can be stormy and since last month Father Will came in from the violent storm an understanding of storms archetypally may deepen the context of not only his but our collective departure out of the Piscean aeon into the Aquarian. 

Context & Conjecture Four 

Of storms and absolution at the outset, a context for Father Will, for us all as we fall with our Falling Star: We know from world mythology that violent storms have served the offended Higher Powers to destroy old and no longer viable divine and human cultural orders. These storms arrive, post-destruction, to restore, renew, relink Creative Power(s) with creation and from that tempestuous interaction, with culture. It can be said, then, that culture is a crime of passion between the sacred and the profane. Even the gods fight amongst themselves as they should for it is from this divine conflict that the "10,00 things" of creation are manifest and are subject to an Order/Disorder which we humans continually try to divine from which neither the gods nor we can escape being "hurled down against the flat stones of our lives", as American poet, Mark Strand, accurately announces. Gods, too, are hurled down upon stone tablets, unyielding codes, calcified cosmologies representing the flat world of old orders no longer viable because they cannot accommodate the horrific fact of their own shadow (projected upon creatures/creations), the shadow of the institutions formed around them, and of what humans with their brilliant but deadly shadows have been able to technologically create and in the creating awaken globally destructive powers. 

As our gods are so are our determined destructions. Our annihilating bombs along with our balms are images of our contrary and contradictory gods. It is we and creation who suffer them. Thus we are startled awake, overwhelmed in this age of authentic anxiety, of pandemic sleep disorders, of pathological gods (Jung says our gods now show up as pathologies, as symptoms), their religions and our consequent spiritual bypasses. We remain warily, scarily aware of this cosmic set up in this crushing, cranking cosmological turn of the Wheel since the old and current centers and the meaning they once provided do not, apparently will not, hold because they carry internally their own apocalyptic seeds of destruction in order to be renewed, a process en perpetua, called renaissance, which is a hope but not a guarantee or given. We are in this condition where "the center cannot hold...things fall apart," to quote William Butler Yeats. 

Carl Jung indicates that we are moving through this threshold of chaos and kairos

"A mood of universal destruction and renewal has set its mark on our age. This mood makes itself felt everywhere, politically, socially and philosophically. We are living in what the Greeks called the KAIROS - The Right Moment - for a “metamorphosis of the gods”, of the fundamental principles and symbols... So much is at stake and so much depends on the psychological constitution of the modern human.” -C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self 

"Kairos is the passing moment in which something happens as the time unfolds...it is a small window of becoming and opportunity. One of the origins of the word comes from shepherds watching the stars. As the night progresses and the stars turn in the sky, they appear to rise and then fall against the horizon. The moment when a star has reached its apogee and appears to change direction from ascending to descending is its kairos." --Corrigall, J, Payne, H, Wilkinson, H (eds), About A Body, 2006: pg. 201 

Like it or not, Father Will expresses/compresses/distresses within this context of chaos and kairos, the falling star of our Aeon (symbolically, stars partially represent particular meaning points, archetypally specific constellations/apparitions of consciousness). In so doing he speaks for us all though we may hide our heads in bestseller, consumerist New Age and similar sands, vacuous, temporary spiritualish confections, or alternately/alternatively, calcified and calcifying Fundamentalist invectives and insurrections, denial or bile by any other name, sympathetic magic flailing or doctrinaire dogma flagellating against the tragic condition of gods and man, self-righteous fingers or hand folded namastes pointing actively or passively at the scapegoated causes. This understandable but narcotic narcissism in the end will not lead us through this nekyia ("night sea journey") like Odysseus to that newly discovered inland terra firma where we must plant our hand hewn oar carried far from familiar seas and shores. 

The fullness of this time, Kairos of the falling star (which is a violent storm, indeed), of cultural/cosmological dis-aster (meaning, ill-starred), is reliant upon human capacities such as they are but effective enough, to proclaim, reclaim and proceed to ongoingly integrate shadow, human and divine, for this is the work not only of egos but of eras. It is also a time to grow equally enduring capacities for disorder, for chaos, so as not to blame or punish gods, Nature nor humans for what appears to be a primary given of existence, entropy, which is inevitable social, physical and energetic decline and degeneration. In tandem with entropy there are or can be evolving human capacities for what I call syntropy where we may more consciously witness and participate in the inexorable falling apart while keeping meaning-threads in mindful hands while winding and finding our way within and potentially out of one labyrinthine Wheel Turn into newer ones of potentially creative/destructive formations. Ensuing personal, collective and cosmological gains may be derived from willful Time's twining whorl and wheal* for this Fateful ordeal of inevitable wandering is imposed by appointed rising and falling stars, ours and our cultures' scars the signatures of their greater impositions. 

Ah, but now I hear Father Will growling, "But who or what is it appoints the stars?" 

[* "wheal -- mark made on the skin by a whip," 1808, probably an alteration of wale, possibly by confusion with weal "welt," and obsolete wheal "pimple, pustule" (1440), from O.E. verb hwelian"to form pus, bring to a head." 



[Portrait of Arthur Schopenhauer, the 1800's German philosopher and inspiration for our Father Will who reappears in this month's essay to quarrel, and in quarreling make confession, with Existenz, his own, mine, the Church's, the New Age and more because of and amidst the persistent agonies. Father Will returns to us here first introduced in my March and October 2009 Learning For Life Group Newsletter essays also found here on the blogspot (click 'March (2)' and 'October (2) under 'Blog Archive'). The retired and retiring, troubled and troubling, goodly Father is a composite character, a convenient and necessary fiction drawn from my practice comprised of many, composed by one. I've chosen his name, Father Will, to signify Human Volition, Will to Power/Will to Cower in homage to Schopenhauer who wrote The World As Will And Representation (To get a sense of his philosophy go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Schopenhauer). However, any resemblance to an actual person is completely accidental unless it is an oblique locution referring to me. Credit for the painting here of Herr Schopenhaeur is from wikipedia online: "This portrait of Schopenhauer was painted in April 1859 by J. Lunteschutz...This image... is in the public domain because its copyright has expired."]

Further Pretexts for Absence

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd. -- Flannery O'Connor 

"Artaud warns his readers and listeners that each person who knows conflict and seeks to grow, must expect a shearing of flesh and a letting go of blood in the act of life which is a cruelty

To be you can let yourself go until you just exist, but to live, you must be someone, to be someone, you must have a Bone, not be afraid to show the bone and to lose the meat by the wayside. And what is infinity? We do not know exactly. It is a word which we use to indicate WIDENING of our consciousness toward the inordinate, inexhaustible and inordinate feasibility. 

...but there is one thing which is something, only one thing which is something, that I feel wants to COME OUT: the presence of my bodily pain, the menacing never increasing presence of my body. 

To live meant to Artaud--to act, to hurt and be hurt, to experience fully joy and pain, and in so doing, to mold, create--and recreate oneself in the process..."I hate and renounce as a coward every being who consents to live without first having created himself." 
--from Artaud, Man of Vision, Bettina L. Knapp, First Swallow Press / Ohio University Press edition 1980, from the Preface, pg. 217-218, pg. 214 

And if the babe is born a boy 
He’s given to a woman old, 
Who nails him down upon a rock, 
Catches his shrieks in cups of gold. -- William Blake*** 

Obit anus, abit onus ("The old woman dies, the burden is lifted") --Arthur Schopenhauer**** 

According to Julia Kristeva in the Powers of Horror, the abject refers to the human reaction (horror, vomit) to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object or between self and other. The primary example for what causes such a reaction is the corpse (which traumatically reminds us of our own materiality); however, other items can elicit the same reaction: the open wound, shit, sewage, even the skin that forms on the surface of warm milk.--from a Purdue University web article: The abject for Kristeva is, therefore, closely tied both to religion and to art, which she sees as two ways of purifying the abject: "The various means of purifying the abject—the various catharses—make up the history of religions, and end up with that catharsis par excellence called art, both on the far and near side of religion". --http://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/theory/psychoanalysis/kristevaabject.html 

At times one might say: "In the beginning there was nourishment." 

At times one might say: "In the beginning there was catastrophe." 

Bion's writings give voice to the traumatized self. If Walt Whitman sings the body electric and catalogues joys of self, Bion details what it is like for self to be electrocuted and to continue as the remains...Destruction turns up and screaming substitutes for satisfaction. Bion is most keenly Bion in depicting destructive transformations of the scream as link. He is particularly master of the fading scream, the scream that dies forever, background radiation of spaceless space, the dispersed scream...Silence explodes...From nourishment to explosive wipe-out." 
--from Damaged Bonds, Michael Eigen, H. Karnac (Books) Ltd, 2001, pgs. 29-30 

In a field I am the absence of field. --Mark Strand 

Becoming and transformation are tasks imposed on man by Fate, working both from within and without him, and this is something which man becomes aware of at the turning points, the crises of his existence. In so far as man experiences such crises with anxiety and under the image of inescapable death he also experiences himself as one disposed by nature to transcend his existence as it is at any moment and to experience and express previously unknown possibilities. 
-- The Dream and the Underworld, James Hillman, New York: Harper & Row, 1979, pg. 113 

This essay is dedicated to dearly departed Karen Eberle, Tien Ho, Walter Schell, and last but not at all least, the astonishing Marianne Annur: "It means so much that we can be broken..." 
--Raul Voz, from Las Poemas Cornadas (The Cornada Poems)


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Roof, Rexroth, Blossoms, Bridges, Zen-itude - Views Above Windows

[I took this photo about 12 years ago (2010), my first spring in the studio apt, a new digital camera gifted to me so my arm plunged out the window often to snap mostly wasted images…but a few as usual were keepers or, rather, keepers enough. Click on the image to get a larger view.] 

Kenneth Rexroth is good reading now while I'm on the roof, first roof sit of the too too brief warm-enough/cool-enough season for sitting on the layered tar rolled flat reflecting gray from a clear sky (the roof will be unbearable to sit on by April's end). Fragmental view of bridges Manhattan and an edge of Brooklyn Bridge framed by buildings East and riverward…so, reading Rexroth, an early teacher for me in Blue Ridge tree tops 1970's then, and then with his translations of Chinese poems too which are now with me on the roof NYC 2016, the cover's wrecked, stained, torn, the edges brown and where the scorch came from I have no recall at all but clearly some flame or other got to the spine of it and burned the gray to dark brown and black. But the book still works and my hands are gentle with the pages, the spine weak and cracked, my thumb's a gentle press to hold it all together, tenuous though. The poems strong though. 

I lean over the brick ledge to peer east and down East 10 Street to quaff the view of bright off-white buds of trees just a few arms length below me, I would so gather them to me if I could but my reach is not long enough so the eyes must do, the stubborn ginkgoes refusing to open; they contrast against red brick and buds bright left and right of each twining limb dark, thin, black studs/nipples where leaves want to be but not yet, not yet. The aroma of the blossoming trees is strikingly sexual, male, though the eye sees the graceful flower an entire tree becomes before green has its long free run over the eyes and street--Not yet "green, how I want you green…" Not yet - "not my hands but green across you now" but these Rexroth essays and translations, and some Shinkichi Takahashi zen surrealist incantations for linear assonance and sumi-e mental negative space…Some Rexroth here accounts for such clear trances, the utility of them in an age bereft of substantial visions (though the essay's not about Takahashi but could be): 

"Poetry such as this attempts not just a new syntax of the word. Its revolution is aimed at the syntax of the mind itself. Its structuring of experience is purposive, not dreamlike. We are dealing with a self-induced, or naturally or mysteriously come by, creative state from which two of the most fundamental human activities diverge, the aesthetic and the mystic act. The creative matrix is the same in both, and it is that state of being that is most peculiarly and characteristically human, as the resulting aesthetic and mystic experience is the purist form of human act. There is a great deal of overlapping, today especially, when art is all the religion most people have and when they demand of it experiences that few people of the past demanded of religion....A visionary poem is not a vision. The religious experience is necessitated and ultimate." -- Kenneth Rexroth, World Outside the Window, the Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth, pg. 255-256

Thursday, February 18, 2021

from 'Inherited Brood Of Brothers, Wherever You May Sway, Remember To Be Gay - Imagined Letters Whitman May Have Penned To The New Millenium by Norman Nightingale

"I confess to myself a perhaps capricious fondness for it."
-- Walt Whitman on this photograph


But I shall use that 'net' and my still goodly paper and goodly pen to dim whatever ill tides there are and to come, as they surely will in spite of low wattage, jangle keys on the night watches, read my mystic books, make my prayers with roamers of wards and wharves glancing up considering bridges, edges, silty bottoms. The tides are here even now. But right now I wish to sing a lullaby in protest to those hurting departed, even to those coming ills, that I may sing innocence dumbly back to those who may come ashore again more gently having forgotten enforcing depths insisting them toward resistant yet resolved embraces...

...So breech then, waves. Feet first. Heads in the brine. I shall keep time on your wrinkled toes sticking up from the sand, play peek-a-boo. Then while you sleep I shall harvest gently, place them firmly in that old woman's shoe with 'so many children she didn't know what to do.'
She may yet have learned what to by now. I haven't.
I remain bitter. Abject, too, from the senseless loss of cast off young men who could not endure the flame, the rust, no fault of their own, who leap blasted from bridges, forced by killing human edges, who are broken open within and by hateful, fearful others forgetting, if ever had, those restorative burning constancies of a Mother's loving hand upon them.
I have placed their names and images upon my altar beside García Lorca's portrait, and Hart Crane's young face, an image of a sweet Christ holding a lamb in perpetua, and the yellowed newspaper clipping from Spain of the Matador's death, all who have joined or will join Hart becoming ghostly visionary company. They now remain forever chaste not having lived long enough to be wasted, to be emptied loving deeply out into Love for more, endlessly bleeding out as Lorca, a corrida of laurel encircling his head no longer remembering but only one sound, guns exploding outward, extending, bullets, petals, one by one beyond the wall where he stood before the obedient squad stunned, 'how young and handsome are the assassins' faces.' Obedient to projectiles and projections he flew backward into the restraining wall, his brave shadow and blood, then fell, a last poem frozen upon lips but for circling birds, spirits, carrion or both, arriving after blood.
Reduced to foolish whispers, restoring moments, patient hidden gods, human hearts and bodies remove themselves from the potter's wheel too early broken, too tired, too alone to try to shape love from Love from the tiny shard, the remnant bone of the ancient mastodon, the last one, dreaming within each heart of that Love which all Nature yearns for.
Inherited brood of brothers wherever you may sway remember to be gay for all the gray afternoons in this sad but forgiving confessional while not forgetting mine and the cock's quarrel with life in the booth by the cracked window near the corner of 7th and Second.
Trembling,
Nightingale
from Inherited Brood Of Brothers Wherever You May Sway, Remember To Be Gay, Letters Whitman May Have Penned To The New Millenium by Norman NIghtingale

Sunday, January 24, 2021

...the ubiquity of normality given the intolerable conditions of existence...



Building in downtown London, August 2016. Sunday stroll surprise for eyes.
Photo by Warren Falcon. All rights reserved.

"...the ubiquity of "normality" given the intolerable conditions of existence..."
Thus the corrective reorientation/enantiodromia of the Absurd and Beckett's version in the West aka Godot aka humor and/or of or with or from or by despair - the laughter born from the in-between them state and perchance AWAKE but for moment in time.
A zen master asks, "Of time, who is counting?"
There's resolution in't (the question orients)
the run-on
trousers limp
the cobbled
street where
a spring
silvers
beneath
the
avenue smells
too of singed
hair
a humming
boy hums
pokes bits
of scalp on
the walk
his small
white thumbs
alone touch
the white
lattice kiosk
sells the
Stranger's
face again
**
"Have I ever mentioned that Michelangelo practically never took a bath in his life, by the way?
And even wore his boots to bed?
On my honor, it is a well known item in the history of art that Michelangelo was not somebody one would particularly wish to sit too close to. Which on second thought could very well change one's view as to why all of those Medici kept telling him don't bother to get up, as a matter of fact.
Although come to think of it even William Shakespeare himself was terribly tiny, which is something I did once mention.
I mean so long as one would appear to be getting into this sort of thing.
Well, and for that matter Galileo would never even ever shake another person's hand, once he had discovered germs.
....
I have just wrapped my head into a towel.
Having gone out for some greens, for a wet salad, this would be because of.
And in the meantime the more I have thought about it, the more sorry I have gotten about what I said.
I mean about Michelangelo, not about Herodotus.
Certainly I would have found it more than agreeable to shake Michelangelo’s hand, no matter how the pope or Louis Pasteur might have felt about this.
In fact I would have been excited just to see the hand that had taken away superfluous material in the way that Michelangelo had taken it away.
Actually, I would have been pleased to tell Michelangelo how fond I am of his sentence that I once underlined, too.
Perhaps I have not mentioned having once underlined a sentence by Michelangelo.
I once underlined a sentence by Michelangelo.
This was a sentence that Michelangelo once wrote in a letter, when he had lived almost seventy-five years.
You will say that I am old and mad, was what Michelangelo wrote, but I answer that there is no better way of being sane and free from anxiety than by being mad.
On my honor, Michelangelo once wrote that.
As a matter of fact I am next to positive I would have liked Michelangelo."
- David Markson, Wittgenstein's Mistress
I conclude re: the above so far -
Germs induce (eventually) other terms of engagement.
***
After a long afternoon at the Tate Modern Gallery pondering Agnes Martin retrospective I took this photo of the spacious ground floor at least 3 floors high of an higher even office building in the heart of London. In trance all eyes and legs only I had managed to stagger/spin/spend time in the museum's Surrealist Art gallery before needed air and exit/walk/gawk my kingdom for a New York sidewalk pretzel or what my old methodist grandmother called, down south, a 'pertzul'. Whatever. I happened upon it, the building, its glass, the hanging shards' color, the immensities thereof or in. Agnes-ed I was a pointillist blur wobbling about a London Sunday, all the city mostly closed advantage of which was city was mostly to myself but not much in the way of eats, no pertzuls to be found, not even bangers and mash and the horrid mashed peas splattering most served up meals as if a pigeon had flown over and shat splat on the platter before the mutter could be served. Most offal.
Me, accidentally, there are none, accidents, or so it is proposed, or was even so everly long ago pre-Socratical, I happened upon Cathedral of Saint Paul (not my favorite saint but), ethereal (interesting 'ether real' which it ether is after all though the word conveys the opposite) music, live choral large, wafting lures me waffling still the quiet avenue then into a packed house, Gothical standing room only, incense and holy water abundantly around for sniffs and dips forefingers (Michelangelo) only allowed in (note says it is so)...an hungred I stood so sprinkled shoulder to shoulder wondering why there were guards all about uniformed alert which dampened my mystical bent much but the Palestrina then the Thomas Tallis then a far distant priest and altar boy (man, really) Cathedral's other end, raises Chalice to commit the wine into Blood, glad I stood though tired for the Rite, the hand chimes demark the transformation of wine into Host then elbowed politely my way out into too too much brightness though late afternoon and more meander remembering Dostoevsky's "Alyosha, I shall set off from here...loving with one's inside, with one's stomach..."
and mine, stomach, successfully found fish n chips in a most deserted square near an open market (a farmer's but it was shuttered) near famed Brit poet's upstairs flat but ground floor door to upstairs John Betjeman, he decades dead, whom I had ne're read but knew the name and again chanced upon the night sky blue door because the pub with the fish and chips was below the dead man's flat. And no mustard in the place. The pub. Not the flat. Bet your man here, appropriate post-recall Saint Paul ethers and forefingers crucifixions and later apparitions ascents:
Aldershot Crematorium
Between the swimming-pool and cricket-ground
How straight the crematorium driveway lies!
And little puffs of smoke without a sound
Show what we loved dissolving in the skies,
Dear hands and feet and laughter-lighted face
And silk that hinted at the body's grace.
But no-one seems to know quite what to say
(Friends are so altered by the passing years):
"Well, anyhow, it's not so cold today"—
And thus we try to dissipate our fears.
'I am the Resurrection and the Life':
Strong, deep and painful, doubt inserts the knife.

Monday, December 7, 2020

"Teeth, In This Case, Is The Beginning Of Wisdom"

Sketch by Aris Moore


"Teeth, In This Case, Is The Beginning Of Wisdom"
Several of James Hillman's books, Dreams and the Underworld, and Healing Fiction, especially chapter two, "The Pandaemonium of Images, Jung's Contribution to Know Thyself", deliciously explore the dimmed yet dynamic dimensions of the Nightworld, the mythic unconscious where upon entering there, says Hillman, human Dayworld values must be left behind. In the Nightworld, in Dreamtime, in the Unconscious, the world of daimons and more, one enters often kicking and screaming or, dangerously to self and others, naively (viz. there's no darkness at all). According to Carl Jung dreams are often enough ruthless "impartial facts" from the objective psyche, many people resist them knowing that if taken seriously their whole view of self, other and reality will be profoundly altered and not so readily wrestled into the ever narrowing corrals of (dis)positivity (as in dispose-tivity). Out of site in this case guarantees out-of-their-mind for even apparently "sane" and "cool" dimentias will out, the nightworld, the daimonic will out by any means necessary and cares not a hoot whether one smells of light and sandalwood or is yogically stretched yet still karmically kvetched and shadow-projected, for the psyche, the daimonic, eventually, finally-had-enough, turns like the proverbial whipped dog and bites.
Such biting increases the possibility of wholeness, real wholeness, if one does not turn away from teeth.
Teeth, in this case, is the beginning of wisdom.
In Michael Eigen's immensely wise and helpful book, The Psychoanalytic Mystic, in a section describing the function of faith in psychoanalysis and therapy work, he speaks of "the explosive or catastrophic potential in every therapeutic encounter" (page 124). This is certainly so in any encounter with the daimon. Therapeutic work implies the goal of becoming conscious and making consciousness, thus a conscious explosive/catastrophic encounter with the daimon is an inevitable arrival in good, and extremely patient, therapy.
Eigen describes William Blake's Heaven, a similar description which my daimon depicts of Hell as does Hillman in his book on the underworld, "William Blake describes heaven as all out war between every human capacity in which all have their say without compromise yet incessantly enrich and are enriched by others. Here faith functions as a boundless or infinite container (Eigen, The Psychoanalystic Mystic. Pages 124/125)."
Blake's and Eigen's appreciation of Blake's view of heaven is that of an indestructible container (as that which is required in alchemy, a vessel capable of containing the most volatile and destructive of opposites), ever expanding, allowing for each energy as equally valid/vital to participation in the creation/destruction/reformation essential to Creativity and Creation on all levels (mostly unknown given human mental limitations to ken the subtle yet profound beyond-the-senses-and-rationality process and results). Heaven is not at all about "purity" which is too often confused as one opposite on top valued over the other on the bottom and of lowest value (sin/corruption), and vice versa. The goal of alchemy from the oevre or work (volatile cooking) of alchemy is that from the intensity of energies released in the combination of such conflicting substances, and the distillation of vapors derived from the mixing of both or many, a third thing, a refined substance, a new creation born of the foundational substances which are broken down, degraded, dissolved and adulterated in order to undergo refining fires and subsesquent phases, create a new thing, a unifiying refinement which advances/evolves a new creation/evolution in (at least human) consciousness.
This all sounds "heady" but is actually the exact opposite for, though linear and with consciousness operative, the processes incorporate irrationality as one of the elements cooking with other conficting elements...the resulting alchemical product is new and vital and brings about a profound paradigm shift from the inside out.
And that, my friends, is indeed a process called "heaven."
Heaven is not a place. It is a process ever ongoing, an eternal evolution taking place in space and time yet partaking of something, and within something, a vital allusion, called eternity.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Bone Texts - Father Will, Acedia to Concordia Discors - Confessions of Doubt on a Way of Thorns, - Reprise Essay [Originally published 10/23/2009]



Acedia (ah-che-dia)spiritual or mental sloth; apathy

Concordia Discors inharmonious harmony harmony of discordant elements

Quid velit et possit rerum concordia discors. Empedocles deliret acumen?

What does the discordant harmony of things mean, and what can it do? Is Empedocles crazy? -Horace, Epistles I.12.19

....But to stand in the midst of this rerum concordia discors and of this whole marvelous uncertainty and rich ambiguity of existence… -Nietzsche, Gay Science I.2



Bone Texts--Enter Father Will.

He has an impulse to confess more than is likely.--
Randall Potts

Our path is a path of roses, but it is also a way of thorns.
 --Father Giovanni Melchior Bosco, now canonized, of the Salesian Society

I am walking among the emerald trees
in the night without end.-- Mark Strand



W
hen Father Will arrived for session after yet another extended retreat to the desert hermitage in the American West he was subdued.

"My text was Mark Strand," says he.

"Stranded, huh?" I wink.

An amused groan. A shrug. "Completely in the dark this time. Not the luminous journey beneath the desert stars I had hoped for. Absence. Cold. Absolute. My bones hurt from such emptiness. If they were straws to suck on they would collapse, bend inward upon themselves too weak to crack. Fold they would. I am, as it were...folded."

We remain quiet for awhile.

His silences flay me. Viscera exposed without any drama. Well, not much. Mute. But not numb. Rather, more feelingly alive, as Rilke says, "beneath 'the more deeply untellable stars' (Ninth Duino Elegy).

Old men lose drama, I think. They simply fold. What then from the folding?

"I always expect, expect, expect...but eventually fold into circumspection. I chase my tail in circles like a miserable cur stupidly spinning in one spot without dignity before flopping into a body curl, nose to haunch, canine yoga, dumbly pleased...(bemused)...And dumb. Did I say dumb yet? After all these years?...humiliating, really...Ah, what a pity party I am today." He smiles sadly. "But I'm catching hold of that tail...beneath those cold, blinking stars above...that goddamned, even colder Bone Cabin. Jeez...(musing)...What bones I be?...they caper in dreams alone, and free... where I wish to god-a-mighty... for once, O Solitude, to...to remain dreamless... for a little while...just a little, y'know...Can't an old man...a Catholic priest, for god sakes, go for awhile...without dreams?"

More Rilke, his epitaph, comes to mind but I keep still and quote to myself silently,

O Rose. O pure contradiction.
Delight to be no one's sleep beneath
so many eyelids.

I see the old Duino poet tenderly working his beloved later roses in Muzot. He winces, brings a finger to his mouth, sucks blood drawn by a fateful thorn, a slight smile for the hazardous love of roses, this small cut a reminder of the greater gash which opened the floodgates of poetry in him. This tiny wound on a late summer day bloomed into an infection, septicemia, which killed him:

O Rose...I address the Rose...
Poets embrace irony between
The petal 
and the thorn, one's infectious
Absence a lover's flag of surrender,

"No one's sleep beneath so many eyelids.
"

Dissent no more,
Yield the insistent argument of
Dirt no longer animal.


I listen. I empty out though Father Will's words fill me richly.

When I can empty I hover between attentions, solar plexus opening. Running. Returning. Hear and feel those desert winds blowing through. I pull a shawl around my shoulders. Reach for the hot tea in the more meaningful cup, its unquestioning solidity.

This harrowing wind carves out the space between and around us. Vast sky and earth open out. One shouts over the silence portended in such immensity, to hear a howling wind a mercy then, a reference point amidst the disorientation with all directions spinning away, sounding:

"Father Will... Father Will...Father Will...forty years serving the most weary and wretched of human souls in the most desolate famine places, in war's most wasted erasures of human face after human face after human face, uncomprehending events of erasure, of becoming absent, once and no more (Rilke again) and yet to be as he, the face that remains after the unfathomable, uncountable erasures? What then, beneath 'the more deeply untellable stars'?"



In his book, Damaged Bonds, psychoanalyst Michael Eigen gives us an image for such erasures, the perpetual presencing of absence depicted in the startling, heartbreaking image of one who is electrocuted yet survives as the ongoing, unending, remnant scream, a horrible locution. Or, Father Will's approximations, a folded bone. Or remaining a living face in the face of human erasures by the unknown, untold thousands, one's very presence, Father Will's, a reminder of faces lost, absent yet present in a most terrible gape. What locution can say any of this? What poetic device? What form of therapy or religion can get near much less stand against or stay with such absenting-as-a-verb, ongoing erasure, unending evacuation?

Heart broken and breaking in it's endless capacity to do so, binding up my own folded bones loosely, o loosely, butterfly netting my own post-sparked scream, breathing into the empty space of ongoing erasure I bear witness. I must. I will. Can I?

I must.

I watch my own gathering defenses against Nothingness hammering at the barricades, my impulsive, natural stiff-arming away, or trying, the scraping defacement, the depersonalizing isolation, the waiting on the narrow ridge, the liminal plank stretched over the sucking drink [the unfathomable depth], the unknowing unutterable which begs to be said, moved, demonstrated, given form, not guarded against--build a fence around it it yet remains the Void. Funny to have that word for such a thing which is no thing at all--enter Groucho Marx, eyes rolling, cigars blazing, "You said the Void, you got the boid."

To be present one must entertain (wrong word! wrong word!) absence, erasure, caesura, fall through and into the stark clarities, the resisted fogs. Once familiar knowns, real then, are now chimerical.
 With haruspicate hiccups, with hallowed hysterics, with magical passes we in the human analgesia trade ease and/or appease such voiding striving to drive away that which encroaches or more horrifyingly wells up from within and around us, kith, kin, klan, kultureeven worse, konjurers. We a-void this voiding with platitudes and cures all too quickly tapping and hypnotizing, reducing-exorcising-excising history, the past, the symptom. And we call it cure, absolution, salvation, enlightenment. Or adjustment. Or even more absurdly, citizenship. 

[Waterfall. Artist - Hiroshi Shinju]

What replaces in disorientation? What displaces one's foot on the straining liminal plank when one is haplessly pushed by Fate, or stumbles, or purposely leaps, falls, drops into dizzying isolated spins to become lost in order to gain, one hopes, another--The--Orientation, True North, a foothold, a toehold even, in the Void? how does one remain present with that one who returns to you a surviving scream, a folded bone? Where is the witness, the with-ness, then? A therapist, a guide, a zen master, a guru, a pastor, a priest, a rebbe, a doctor, a psychoanalyst and other wheezing analgesics like me are loans then against the client's nothingness, the client who banks upon your/my realness/reality until the folded bone, O Ezekiel, O Koan, connects to another bone (me) and another then another all born of desertion or theft or loss or death of historical knowns, nostrums and formulas in order to grow more substantial Bone, little death by little death, to arrive at a more enlivened, embodied Bone-soul retreaded for more grab in the Void until the final summing spin.

Father Will and I hang together, beside--like the two Biblical thieves, two opposing attitudes present at once in the Hanged Man proposing surrender, both blessing and cursing--between the "Why has Thou forsaken me?" of the God-man on the Golgotha Tree and the "Gate Gate Parasamgate"--Gone Gone Gone Beyond--of remotest Siddhartha Gautama riveted to the Bodhi Tree who smiles enigmatically perhaps delighting to be no one's sleep beneath so many eyelids. The joke and yoke upon us, we two thieves, Father Will and me, have both agreed to hang together though he has in the wilderness Bone Cabin endured and broken apart in infernal, internal weather, violent storms which now shake me, fold my bones. Yet somewhere within, a kind of madness it is, there is a soft yet enduring and endearing gratefulness for this shared wound, chronicity, which opens, one hopes, through absence into infinity into Presence. Perchance to find the dream in the remnant scream which is prayer by another name--location arrived from locution.

Father Will opens a book 
fetched from a deep cassock pocket, worn, torn like his book, an early work by Mark Strand. He gives me the "listen up, listen close, listen well, listen deep" look to which I nod turning my better ear to hear toward him.



"This was my major text at Bone Cabin," he reports.

He pauses, sips tea, then reads some lines to me from his text, friend to friend, warmly, Autumn darkness coming on, the Harvest moon gathering clouds out the office window. There's going to be rain:



How we wish we were sunning ourselves
In a world of familiar views
And fixed conditions, confined
By what we know, and able to refuse
Entry to the unaccounted for...
We do not feel protected

By the walls, nor can we hide
Before the duplicating presence
Of their mirrors, pretending we are the ones who stare
From the other side, collected
In the glassy air.
A cold we never knew invades our bones.
We shake as though storms were going to hurl us down
Against the flat stones
Of our lives. All other nights
Seem pale compared to this, and the brilliant rise
Of morning after morning seems unthinkable.
Already now the lights
That shared our wakefulness are dimming
And the dark brushes against our eyes.


"Next week?" he asks, slowly standing up.

"Next week."


[Read the entire poem, Violent Storm, below]



****************************************************************


**"Violent Storm" from New Selected Poems by Mark Strand. Copyright © 2007 by Mark Strand. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Violent Storm**

Those who have chosen to pass the night
entertaining friends
And intimate ideas in the bright,
Commodious rooms of dreams
Will not feel the slightest tremor
Or be weakened by what seems
Only a quirk in the dry run
Of conventional weather. For them,
The long night sweeping over these trees
And houses will have been no more than one
In a series whose end
Only the nervous or morbid consider.
But for us, the wide awake, who tend
To believe the worst is always waiting
Around the next corner or hiding in the dry,
Unsteady branch of a sick tree, debating
Whether or not to fell the passerby,
It has a sinister air.
How we wish we were sunning ourselves
In a world of familiar views,
And fixed conditions, confined
By what we know, and able to refuse
Entry to the unaccounted for. For now,
Deeper and darker than ever, the night unveils
Its dubious plans, and the rain
Beats down in gales
Against the roof. We sit behind
Closed windows, bolted doors,
Unsure and ill at ease
While the loose, untidy wind,
Making an almost human sound, pours
Through the open chambers of the trees.
We cannot take ourselves or what belongs
To us for granted. No longer the exclusive,
Last resorts in which we could unwind,
Lounging in easy chairs,
Recalling the various wrongs
We had been done or spared, our rooms
Seem suddenly mixed up in our affairs.
We do not feel protected
By the walls, nor can we hide
Before the duplicating presence
Of their mirrors, pretending we are the ones who stare
From the other side, collected
In the glassy air.
A cold we never knew invades our bones.
We shake as though storms were going to hurl us down
Against the flat stones
Of our lives. All other nights
Seem pale compared to this, and the brilliant rise
Of morning after morning seems unthinkable.
Already now the lights
That shared our wakefulness are dimming
And the dark brushes against our eyes.

For online reading click here or copy and paste:

http://books.google.com/books?id=I9-IBpQfghEC&pg=PT20&lpg=PT20&dq=mark+strand+%2B+reasons+for+moving&source=bl&ots=P6UUyl_bX7&sig=-pTesOGSguae7Z8iHQEIuB6eH6M&hl=en&ei=qODlSrj4GsbUlAepltnoCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=15&ved=0CD4Q6AEwDg#v=onepage&q=&f=false


Reasons For Moving

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is 
always the case. 
Wherever I am 
I am what is missing. 

When I walk 
I part the air 
and always 
the air moves in 
to fill the spaces 
where my body’s been. 

We all have reasons 
for moving. 
I move 
to keep things whole. --Mark Strand

“Keeping Things Whole” from Selected Poems by Mark Strand. Copyright © 1980 by Mark Strand. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

***
from "The Mental Traveler" by William Blake, Complete Poems of William Blake

****The Marquet Affair: While in Berlin, Schopenhauer was named as a defendant in an action at law initiated by a woman named Caroline Marquet. She asked for damages, alleging that Schopenhauer had pushed her. Knowing that he was a man of some means and that he disliked noise, she deliberately annoyed him by raising her voice while standing right outside his door. Marquet alleged that the philosopher had assaulted and battered her after she refused to leave his doorway. Her companion testified that she saw Marquet prostrate outside his apartment. Because Marquet won the lawsuit, he made payments to her for the next twenty years. When she died, he wrote on a copy of her death certificate, Obit anus, abit onus ("The old woman dies, the burden is lifted.-http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Arthur_Schopenhauer#The_Marquet_Affair


"Point of No Return", Collision Center, Randall Potts, O Books (January 1994)

The Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Spender & J.B. Leishman, Norton Press.

Dreams and the Underworld, James Hillman, Harper & Row,

Damaged Bonds, Michael Eigen, Karnac Press

Winter Field.  Keene, NY

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*****

PART TWO OF FATHER WILL'S "CONFESSIONS" - CLICK HERE: