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“We cannot live in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a hope. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening. To use our own voice. To see our own light.” — Hildegard of Bingen

“You are not too old and it is not too late to dive into your increasing depths where life calmly gives out its own secret.” — Rilke

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” — Edgar Allen Poe

If You Knew — by Ellen Bass

What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line’s crease.
When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.
A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.
How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?

Most of what we think and feel is borrowed, second hand. Getting to our real mind requires letting go of anything collected from our conditioning. All those little artifacts of identity we’ve assembled that cover over our own ability to see and comprehend will have to be abandoned if we’re going to be original humans.

Finding our own mind is always a work in process because releasing the imprints of our experiences, judgments and desires leave traces moment by moment. We have to stay awake, watching and listening. Meditation itself is a state of agile alertness. A cluttered mind devoid of listening and alertness is asleep. That’s a second hand mind.

If you are in fact fully awake, you will see connections between things you didn’t realize were there. Strangely enough, right below the surface of things is delight, play, affection, love. Once you see that you realize you’re seeing the fundamental building blocks of existence, that everything is made out of delight and love. That energy is the glue that holds the Universe together.

The world is made, not out of atoms and protons, but a kind of fierce love that revels in creation. The Universe seems to be a barrel of monkeys having a hell of a good time. Human systems of sin and moral judgments look pretty stupid once you’ve glimpsed the rollicking good time the creative forces are having. The eyes to see beneath the surface are not the eyes of culture or conditioning. The innate ability to see deeply exists in all of us, but we’ve covered it over with a lot of shopworn constructs.

“Horrible sanity” is a reality for lots of us.Our original selves live at deeper levels of our minds. Most of us never touch anything at that depth. We prefer to live on the surface where it feels safe. Living on the surface, though, we are prevented from knowing how dangerous it is.

Not seeing how everything is connected and how alive everything is has suddenly confronted us with death and destruction. Will that wake us up?

I certainly hope so.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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