Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

still learning from the student ~

 And no one exists alone….We must love one another or die.   ~ Auden

A dear former student just posted a line of Auden to my FaceBook: We must love one another or die. It’s from the poem “September 1, 1939,” one of my favourites. Sitting in a cafe, surrounded by friends  who are quietly writing, I was overcome for a moment.

I miss teaching. Not the grading, not even standing up in front of a rapt class. I miss the learning, the many ways human being teach other what is important. As my former student reminded me just now: we are never alone.

Poetry is such a huge part of my life. Other people go off on riffs about their bikes, or gardens, or their hobbies. I go off on dead poets and metre and metaphor and the neo-sonnet. I just did that at lunch… Sigh… My poor, long-suffering friends.

Because poetry is the heart’s language — that way of laying out the finite griefs that seem forever, the fragile and joys that craze and shatter even as we contemplate them. What I have learned these many years of teaching is that I’m not a particularly amazing teacher; I’m just lucky enough to teach an amazing art: writing. Often poetry.

To teach poetry — to teach writing — is to learn with students this mysterious way of speaking and knowing. It’s to understand how (& why) Auden would say so bluntly: We must love each other or die. 

 

the changing face(s) of America ~

A note after the election (long, so be warned):

Eight years ago, when Bush was re-elected, I couldn’t believe it. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe the American people would voluntarily re-elect a man I saw as so divisive, so driven to war, so corporately owned.  I was heart-sick. In other words, I really do understand the deep depression and disbelief on the part of the right following this election.

That said, I didn’t share my disappointment on FB. I didn’t like the election results, but I didn’t make accusations regarding his family, or his religion, or his lack thereof. I didn’t pray he would die (and yes, I’ve seen all of these – on the FB pages of ostensible FRIENDS). I didn’t publish horrible threats, nor did I give in to publicly sharing the many fears I had.

Instead, I worked hard to reach out to people I knew as good people, even though we didn’t share political perspectives. If I had problems with policies — and certainly I did, as Romney’s supporters do with Obama’s — I vented to sympathetic  friends.

Later, as we neared another election, I tried to listen, to understand, and to do my homework. My background in research is strong, and I thought it was something I could offer. But I quickly found that many people WANT to believe what they believe. Facts, as the campaign manager said, are not them. And that’s their business.

But I want to assure you: Obama is a Christian. His children attend Quaker school. He was raised — as I was — overseas. This doesn’t make either of us aliens. He isn’t going to implant chips in us for ObamaCare. :) No matter what Fox News or Rush Limbaugh have said — and they are in their jobs for $$, folks; they are NOT unbiased :) — Obama is not evil. Nor are those of us who voted for him. We also aren’t immoral socialists, or baby killers. When I hear the Republicans say that their party is not conservative enough, I’m shocked. EVERY man who made horrible statements about women & rape was voted out. The most strident of the Tea Partiers were, for the most part, voted out as well.

Perhaps a few statistics about the 2012 election will help.

Continue Reading This Post »

comic relief ~

It’s been a looooong election season. Perhaps now we can move beyond our (ostensible) differences to our similarities. And almost everyone I know finds dogs verrry easy to love. So I offer you this: my two dogs — Pascal (foreground) and Hugo (ears & butt in background) welcoming their dad home.

We took off this past weekend to visit family in Texas. The dogs were sure, as we dropped them off to board at the vet’s, that we had abandoned them. I fully expected to hear Pascal’s aaar aaar aaarrooooo yodeling behind us.

When we returned, there was much prancing and leaping and dancing and tail-less butt wiggling (Frenchies are born w/out tails, and w/ those huge bat ears; no surgery required!). And MUCH following of Mom & Dad through the house. But especially their favourite, DAD! Giver of treats, insister on walks (even when I have absolutely nooo interest), and general wonderful dog-dad. Hence the lapful of dogs, with poor Glen totally overwhelmed by his admirers.

So this is just lagniappe: a gift of a smile after the summer (and for many Americans, the election) of our discontent. I offer you a picture of unconditional love — canine, and given primarily to the dog-dad of the universe, but still worth sharing.  Enjoy ~

spiritual beings…

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience;

we are spiritual beings having a human experience.   

~ Pierre Tielhard de Chardin

Sometimes I wonder if all of the religious differences in the world are not summed up in this quote. Certainly most of the schisms in Western religion are. And perhaps the reason I don’t include Eastern religions is that they already seem to believe this. In the West, however, many (if not most) religions believe the first part of the quote, not the 2nd.

Most Christians & Muslims believe that life as we know it stops at death, to be continued — if you merit — in an afterlife, complete with Divine & attendants. Angels, houris, etc. That human beings are deeply flawed beings in need of this spiritual experience to redeem them from evil.

Transcendental religions, on the other hand, believe that the human is a spiritual being within a human life. A far different proposition. The ‘human being’ position recognises only externally applied redemption: salvation must come from an external source (Jesus, Mohammed, etc.). Believers in transcendence would argue that human beings are always spiritual beings, as is all of life. All we have to do is recognise it.

It’s one reason I’m a universalist: no one goes to hell, much as I may wish it on folks who argue for partisan politics over relief for Hurricane Sandy victims. (I know: I shouldn’t even think that, but sometimes I do! :() Hell is what we create here, now, from our own flawed perceptions and desires. The kleshas, as Buddhists call them: those  overwhelmingly negative emotions that derive from strong attachments.

Today is Election Day. And that’s freed me of a heavy klesha burden: I needn’t write any more about what’s happening elsewhere. I can concentrate on the amazing life available to us. Here in Oklahoma, the late roses are blooming outside the back door, and the sky is that impossible autumn blue that makes you glad to be alive.

Today, I am well aware that I am a human being. Breakfast was amazing — waffles!  – and coffee gratefully appreciated. Creature delights I excel at. But the spiritual? Sometimes, anger (usually for others, in my defense…) overwhelms and I forget that the web connects us all. That each of us is within the messy, sticky spiritual web of interbeing, as many Buddhists call it. It’s always seemed to me so scientific, the Buddhist concept of interconnectedness. If we don’t know when atoms jump around, then who knows where you leave off & I begin? And if no energy is ever lost, only transformed — all the water in the world has always been here… — then each of us is part of everything. And everything is part of us…

I find that comforting. Especially on Election Day…

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