Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

‘Know your name’ ~

There’s a song I like, w/ a refrain that goes: Hold on. Know your name. Go your own way. That seems like such great advice.   I figure it has to apply to most of us, most of the time.

Know your name. It dovetails perfectly with the Buddhist koan speculating on our intrinsic nature: “What did your face look like before your parents were born?” I can’t answer it, at least not in words, but I think I know what it’s asking — what it is about us that is permanent, if indeed anything is permanent…?

It’s a good question — who were you before? Who are you now? What is your true name? Some cultures place a taboo on giving your true name to strangers. It gives them power over you, a kind of entry.

But if you don’t know your name, that too is a ceding of power. So how do you find your name? And what does it mean once you have it…?

scattered brain syndrome ~

Today is a blond/ senior/ scattered day. So far, I’ve sent out my course packet for this semester’s class to last semester’s class (they were highly amused :)). I’ve forgotten why I had to go to the store, and left (really). I’ve stood at the kitchen counter staring at the squash for tonight’s dinner, totally lost in reverie that has nothing to do w/ squash, dinner, or even the colour yellow. And I’m (mostly) okay w/ this.

It used to bother me, this scattered brain syndrome. At least in others — most notably, my mother. As the one who had to count the many pieces of luggage when we made one of our (several) moves overseas, as well as the four kids, it drove me crazy, my mother’s inability to think in a linear manner.

And now, here I am. Complete w/ my mother’s love of pink luggage, which I counted so often I can see it clearly, still. My  mother’s train case — pink & orange Samsonite — was one of the last things she recognised.

So this whole scattered thing runs in the family. Making it hard to be mindful, calm, or even reflective, some days. And apparently today is one of those…:)

When that happens, I’ve learned not to fight it. To just laugh, and let it remind me of happier times with Mother, of traveling with my three sisters, of being the eldest. I try to do the whole Buddhist thing of inhabiting whatever thought turns up. Even if the thought is just a fragment, completely out of place.

I just wish I could remember what was so interesting about the squash…:)

poetry & star-stuff ~

This week’s New Yorker carries an article by scholar Stephen Greenblatt on the Roman poet Lucretius, and his poem On the Nature of Things. Who remembered that it’s Lucretius who brings atomism — the theory that we are all made of the same materials, stars and earth and solar wind and trees and the human heart — to the  West? And that he does this in the Dark Ages? And who but Stephen Greenblatt could make the case that this single poem changes the course of human history…?

As a result of thinking about Lucretius & atomism, I’ve been contemplating that saying by Carl Sagan  ~ ‘We are star stuff.’ While I don’t believe in any origin mythologies, I love the poetry of many. This one perhaps most of all. :) As a Unitarian Buddhist, my thought is more that we begin w/ the stars and are all connected — our superficial differences really the same inside. That we share our destinies w/ the moon and stars, w/solar wind and dark matter. And that we are far more alike than different…our blood fragrant w/ the iron of mountains, the salt of oceans. It’s the best argument I know for environmentalism: we’re all part of this web. And we’re only part of it…

Greenblatt says that although Lucretius’ poem was lost for centuries (five, to be exact :)), ‘poems are hard to silence.’ That may be the perfect poet’s tattoo :). It resonates w/ so many poets I can never meet — dead long before I found them, but critical to who I am: Auden, Bishop, Pound; Chinese poets and Japanese poets and Rumi and Enheduanna and Lorca — so many many poets. Poems live far beyond the scope of a single human life.

So star stuff and poetry are in my head this week. Wondering how those poets do it. Why their star stuff seems to shine so much more brilliantly. And what it was that inspired Lucretius to think about the common stuff of the universe. And finally ~ so glad, these many centuries later, that he wrote his musings down ~

 

music as lingua franca ~

This came from a friend. I’d seen it a while back — it’s been making the rounds. But every time I watch it & listen, I feel happy. It deserves a bigger audience, making a better case than I can for music as the language of our connected human hearts. Enjoy.

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