A paradox

A paradox I’ve noticed is that since I’ve stopped believing in the world, I love it more. It’s like the little shift of last week opened a space and love filled the void.

It’s a slightly different kind of love than I’m used to feeling. There’s nothing forced or effortful at all. It’s not “powerful” or dramatic in any way. It’s not really even felt at all. It’s just there. Maybe this is why the Buddhists use the word compassion more often than love. (I still like the word love better.)

But it’s there, and it’s noticed when I’m quiet.

The Suck

I may be an idiot for posting this. In spite of all my brave words, “The Wild Things of God,” “Jedi Life in the Real World,” the bottom line is I’m a fucking coward as attached to delusion, identification, and self-deception as anyone. Even the damn blog’s a lie. I hold back so much, not wanting to put myself out there. Why? ‘Cause I want to be liked. I want you (whoever you are) to think… Oh, wow! How insightful! Challenging! Hmm, I never thought of that. Great way you have with words, Frimster! Gee, you’re one smart and spiritual guy!

And don’t for a minute think that I’ve left the ego behind and that’s no longer a motive. It sure is. But I’m going to write honestly about something that happened yesterday. I was listening to an except of a talk by Adyashanti, and when it was over, Suddenly, some words from the Bhagavad Gita came to mind:

Krishna said to Arjuna:
Behold, I create all worlds
out of my own magic.

Suddenly I realized that I was Krishna. I was the one creating the appearance of worlds. Close my eyes, stop up my ears, still the mind, and there is nothing. I don’t mean there appears to be nothing. I knew there is nothing at all!

I broke down and cried for what was a least half an hour. Talbot, my cat, climbed onto me to comfort me. _And I knew he wasn’t there!_ There was just “me” whatever that is, trying to comfort me, like there’s just me confusing me, playing with me, fighting with me, and oh God, I felt so alone.

There’s a Zen tradition about marking insights with poems. Here’s mine:

Tears

The world exists
only through my sight, hearing, feelings and thoughts.
Pull back, shut, still,
and all is gone.

I said to Arjuna,
“Behold, I create all worlds
through my own magic.”

I pull back my maya, my senses
there is no God, no world,
no cat, no other, no me.
Only this.
Only tears.

When I’m doing anything, I function totally normally. But when I quiet down alone, I feel “the suck.” I can see why there’s all the warnings and disclaimers about this path. Why Jesus said you have to keep your hand on the plow and not look back. (Look back and everything is gone!). Why this path is not for most people. And why everyone does everything they can to cover up the truth.

My teacher assures me that “this is a beautiful thing,” and I know he’s right, even without him telling me, I sense it underneath. Yet, it also sucks.

Mr. Crab

This is the first poem I wrote when I started taking poetry more seriously, as a way of exploration. It’s eleven years old now, yet it speaks to me more as time goes by. I look at it now, and wonder how I knew to write that when I feel I’m still learning the deeper truths within it. I think it goes that way with a lot of poets. There is this tapping into a well of wisdom that may not be there in everyday life or conscious realization—so the poem guides the spiritual development that is to come (or should come)!

that’s MISTER Crab, to you!

I am not my skin
I am not my name
any answer you expect when you ask

“who are you?”

only removes you from the truth:

rockfirecrab

now rock—
not a rock,

but rock.

the stuffs of the stones by your steps
are the matters of which I am made.
carbon frames and fathers my every cell.

I am one with the coal of the mines
and the diamonds of crowns.

cousin to comets
and brother to pebbles.
child of both Adam and atoms.

and neuronfire
shooting synapses
an electric soul from scalp to toe
a Kirlian orchestra
of magical microsparks.

now hearthlight and heartfire
warmth and passion
a burning faggot
—and wildfire, deathfire in the night.

a worldful of magma underneath
untapped flamefluid
liquidfire

(dare I journey to the center of my earth
and voyage farther than even Verne ever ventured?)

and what creature?
is that ill-hewn rock alive? endowed with fire?
am I crab or hedgehog or maybe anemone?
do I pinch or prick or sting?

jagged and hard outside,
ugly as a brain and frightened as a heart
but alive and alert,
always aware of all around
scurrying sideways…
crazy cancrizan crawls
ever-wandering anywhere, everywhere
but forward.

eyestalks swivel wildly
scanning a panorama of dangerous possibilities
and inviting curiosities.

you mustn’t forget the pincers—pincerquillstings—
pincers waving:
don’t hurt
watch out

(i’ll hurt you back
. . . if i can)

above all
above all
don’t
don’t

carelessly crush me underfoot

I’m praise and slur,
kiss and curse—
a Havdalah in skin.

I’m godling and devil
angel and imp
lover and loner
healer and harmer
friend and fiend
joy and jab
jade and joke
jewel and junk
jester and jouster
Jesus and Judas

(crabby fire
fiery rock
rocky creature)

rose and thorn.

© jon zuck | kent, ohio | 1994

Lava Lamp

Lava Lamp

I feel mySelf.
not my skin,
but my true self,
my life
within me.

Tangible,
like a jet in a jacuzzi,
or the gel in a lava lamp,
life rises, and falls.

Thoughts bubble
and vanish.

And energy rises
and falls.

And night comes,
and goes,

As day comes,
and goes.

and the body peaks,
declines,
and passes.

What remains?
What was before Time itself.

Not nothing,
not something.

This.

I am This,
I am.

I am That
I am.

© jon zuck | norfolk, virginia | august 4, 2005

Last Day

Today was my last day working at the Verizon Online center I’ve been in for nearly nine years. (I’m taking a few days’ vacation before I officially leave the company.) I wrote this poem as a parting gift to all my co-workers:

when gods walked the earth

Why do they say “when gods walked the earth,”
As though it were so faraway, and long ago?

I do not understand.
For I live in a confusion of gods and goddesses,
Living out the confusion of gods and goddesses,
who cannot remember
in the crazy clapping waves
the urgent hours,
the dizzy days,
who they are,
who they are.

Say I’m crazy, or you’ll go crazy
When I say what I’ve seen that’s made me sane.

You don’t say, “Let there be light,”
But I saw you stop and smile,
And there was light.

You don’t command the winds, “Peace now, be still,”
but that frantic one on your phone
now is calm, now is still.

You don’t set the planets in their orbits,
But twirl a basketball on your fingertip,
and shoot a world out into space.

You say you are not love, you say you can’t give life,
And then gently tuck into bed the one
To whom you give your love, your life.

If we truly saw who we are and what we do
Tell me who would we be, what would we do?
Would we be washed in overwhelm
If our lives turned into light?

Or would cataracts fall from our eyes like scales
That we would see
Blinding whitewater cataracts
Of rushing Godgrace roaring down?

Don’t let the tumult toss you.
Don’t let frustration make you forget.

I cry in your crucifixions,
And dance in your resurrections.
And I bow to you.

©jon zuck | july 14, 2005 | norfolk, virginia

The Blind Men and the Elephant

by John G. Saxe

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he:
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Moral

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

To see a little farther

To see a little farther,
Just want to.
Only give the vision room.
Make space in your mind.

That’s how to see.
But what to do?
How do you hold on to the wind?
I don’t even try.

Still, you want an answer.
I open my mouth to speak,
But nothing’s there.
No words for this.

But, you still must know,
And I must share what I have seen.
Only one way to show you.
Come closer, and feel my lips against yours.

© jon zuck, september 22, 2004, norfolk

This This-ing

pen scratching paper, making pretty marks
marks stand for sounds,
sounds stand for thoughts,
thoughts stand for the jokes,
the jokes we call our selves.

pen scratching pager, making pretty marks
why?
the question shows corruption;
the innocent can’t ask why,
there is only wow.

don’t ask why i write.
don’t ask what it means.
i needed meaning when i was lost.

now that i know that i don’t know
what meaning can i need?
no one writes–there is only writing.
no one questions–there is only asking.

there are no nouns, only verbs
no i, no we, no you, no other.
only this,
doing this, now, thusly.

be god, be this, be natural.
god, you, i
appearing and fading
here and there
as needed, as needed.

when a universe is needed
let there be light
and light there is.

nothing is done,
no one does.
there is only this thising.

© jon zuck, april 12, 2005, norfolk

St. Patrick of Ireland

pic of a Celtic crossToday is the feast of Patrick of Ireland, the father of Celtic Christianity. I’ve long drawn inspiration from Patrick, whose strength and courage have inspired me, and whose panentheistic faith helped shape my own. Besides being an apostle, Patrick has the distinction of being the first person in Church history to argue for the abolition of slavery.

Below are two versions of the stunning poem known variously as “The Breastplate” or “Lorica” or “The Deer’s Cry,” which is ascribed to him:

This is the traditional text:

The Breastplate of St. Patrick

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness,
through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose
my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.

Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning, against drowning,
against wounding, so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness,
through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.

It has been beautifully shaped into this hymn by Cecil F. Alexander:

I Bind Unto Myself Today

I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever, by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River; His death on the cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb; His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom: I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power of the great love of the Cherubim;
The sweet “Well done” in judgement; the service of the Seraphim;
Confessors’ faith, apostles’ word, the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
All good deed done unto the Lord, And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today the virtues of the starlit heav’n,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray; the whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free; the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks;
The stable earth; the deep salt sea, around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead.
His eye to watch, his might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need;
The wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name, the strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation; Eternal father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Amen.

Also see Patrick’s autobiography, The Confession of St. Patrick, and the Wikipedia article on Patrick.

Poems without words

My teacher told me to enter meditation as though writing a poem without words. That delighted me, because I’ve often sensed that what I write is not the actual poem, the words are just markers for the indescribable feeling or thought.

Nevertheless, if you want to share, words become unavoidable!

The Singing Sings the Singer
>I sing songs of God
or so it seems to me.
Words and tunes and names have changed,
or so it seems to you.
Sunday-school rhymes, speaking in tongues,
Gregorian chants, Buddhist mantras,
and the words I string because I must.

>I take what words I find
and use them though they’re useless.
It’s building rafts of pebbles,
and somehow sailing anyway.

>Don’t listen to the words,
Don’t listen to the notes.
Before the words–
This!
Before the notes–each note–
This!
Do you see it?
Can you feel it?
It’s all I am, and all you are.

>When my bones have turned to dust,
and the oceans sink in sand,
still This!

>Just listen to the Singing
from which we are sung.