One night a man was crying,
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
“So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage.
“Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”
you express is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.
Give your life
to be one of them.”
― Jalal Al-Din Rumi
Monet Refuses the Operation
By Lisel Mueller
Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.”
— Fragments of a poem by Lisel Mueller
Art re-enchants the world. Artists court Reality through wonder and enchantment. While most people are caught up in the clockworks of getting and spending, artists and poets are making love to the mysteries of existence, both manifest and invisible. They hope to nurture a vision that penetrates the veil of appearance.
Accepting the manifest world as real is the common way. Most humans are tethered to a small, unquestioning vision of life. Artists are on another path, a more questioning and soulful path. Yes, I know that even poets can worry about money, marketing and social position. They can fret about whether or not they have sufficient talent to forge a career. They are certainly not strangers to doubt and uncertainty. If you want security and freedom from uncertainty, the world of artistic creativity will look crazy to you.
There is a certain kind of person who suffers from not being able to romance the world, who grieves the lost connection to the Source of all things. There is a species of human who needs to dance with joy at just being alive. If they have a talent, it’s a talent for loving deeply and expressing it so that others can know it exists.
The question of talent is a beginner’s question. The real question is “do you love, are you capable of loving the world?” If you’re an artist, your sensibilities are your talent. How you deal with the quotidian realities is another paradigm entirely. You learn to carve out a separate protected space where you can court and glimpse something eternal. Without that practice you will find yourself grieving a life lost to inconsequentials. Not answering the call is the worst kind of suffering.
The practical world demands its pound of flesh. Beyond that the life of a poet is focused on the unquantifiable mysteries and beauties. Art is an effort to see and love more clearly, sidestepping the inevitable detritus of our blinkered world of half conscious humans.
Our artists, poets and philosophers are our unsung heroes.