Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dreams, perspective and courage...

Flash guitarist, Jeff Beck, once said about playing music, "Things turn out better by accident sometimes... but you can't organize an accident." If you've never heard him play "Beck's Bolero," Howlin' Wolf's "Ain't Superstitious" or the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" you haven't really heard rock guitar at it's best.

His words came to me while reading Deborah Warren's poem, "Dream with Flowers and Bowl of Fruit." I like the style and energy of this poem - it gets so much right - and is very hip and ironic. And at the same time it feels to me like she's missing the point of growing older - even demeaning the wisdom of those who make the transition from frenetic passion to a more gentle way of being in the world - that makes me sad. Thomas Moore has noted that tender humor and clear but never harsh irony point us towards courageous and compassionate living in the world. (Here's her poem, what do you think?)

Too many of my dreams these days are boring.
I expect to drop into the pillow
and see the kind of action night is for—
a psychic workout, romance, close escapes:
Not much gets accomplished in a still-life;

nobody looks at asters as a way
to get a taste of life. I want to happen,
not to slightly rearrange my day
nightly in a recurring tablescape.
Dreams! However beautiful the apples,

fruit is low on drama, and I miss
passion, flying, falling, being chased,
crashing, panic—trauma—and I miss,
small and quick, a movement in the grapes,
and the shiver of a petal in the vase.

Is this an honest lament for things gone by - or whining? Is it a cry about missed opportunities or just the musings of some privilleged soul being hip? Didn't one of the sages say that much of our emotional distress and drama is born of boredom and a lack of courage to go deeper? I hear some of that in Warren's poem - maybe because I've been there - in the boredom and fear and it nearly ruined me. (To say nothing of what it could have done to those I love most dearly.)

In rereading Tillich, I find his challenge to claim the courage to be alive in each moment persuasive. Like our AA friends say so clearly: "the only problem with the geographic solution is that where ever you go... you have to take yourself!"

I find GREAT joy in seeing the purple crocuses peeking through my Berkshire garden. (I am heading out to it momentarily.) I find tremendous beauty - and depth - in the paintings of Gustave Caillebotte or Claude Monet. And I find a powerful courage in those people who have gone deep enough into real life that they come out kinder and more tender. Constructing the good life has a lot to do with how we embrace and accept the accidents of life, yes?

Over the years I have discerned less and less interest in art, politics, religion or people who are calculatingly ironic. Isn't simply being enough? Isn't life hard enough without wounding another with words or music/art? Isn't there something of God in all of us? Life is too short for hip cruelty. No wonder I keep going back to the poetry of Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Rumi and Robert Bly. I still laugh out loud - at myself - at these words from Rumi:

Who makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right.
It lands left.
I ride after a deer and find myself
chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want
and end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others
and fall in.

I should be suspicious
of what I want.
I think Carrie Newcomer gets it just about right:

3 comments:

Sharon said...

I think that you, dear sir, have nailed it all with this post. Absolutely right you are about "life is too short to be cruelly hip." I vote for the joy of the little moments, and what can be heard in stillness. Thank you for your wonderful insights in this post.

RJ said...

Thank you, Sharon. As the ancients say, "we can't require of others what we won't live ourselves," so let's keep helping one another be tender and loving. Blessings.

Luke said...

Carrie is coming to play a concert at my seminary! i'm excited that you posted this song!!! YAY!

i'm down with you here.. as always! i may not comment on every post, but every post is read!