This week on the Influence: some words from world renown American spiritual teacher Ram Dass!
But first, a confession: there isn’t much that I read – be it novels, essays, cereal boxes, texts, etc. – that doesn’t get filtered through my how-does-can-this-relate-to-poetry filter. I read everything with eyes looking for a symbol, a metaphor, or simply a set of words that captivates. I end up thinking (and saying) some goofy things but ultimately I am kept engaged and interested.
I say this as preface to today’s post in order to make it clear that I am no expert on the works of Ram Dass or meditation – I have simply read through his book on mediation, Journey of Awakening, and found in it many things that relate to poetry. Or at least my sense of it.
In his book, Ram Dass exhibits a great gift for sampling works from various cultures and beliefs. W.H. Auden once said that a sign of a writer’s strength as an essayist isn’t what he says but what he quotes. In this spirit, Ram Dass rocks. Case in point:
There is a story that as God and Satan were walking down the street one day, the Lord bent down and picked something up. He gazed at it glowing radiantly in His hand. Satan, curious, asked: “What’s that?” “This,” answered the Lord, “is Truth.” “Here,” replied Satan as he reached for it, “let me have that – I’ll organize it for you.”
I read the above as a parable on poetry workshops as I have experienced them at times. There are at times two kinds of readers in a group: one willing to be astonished in their consideration of the words before them, and another who feels compelled to say something, to fix, to organize.
Ultimately, both kinds of readers, like the ideas of good and evil, help make the world go ’round.
Here are two more:
If you do not get it from yourself
Where will you go for it?
(Zenrin, The Gospel According to Zen)
I see the last two quotes as having to do with generating work: the first, an idea Philip Levine shared once: It won’t get written if you don’t write it. The second, how inspiration is seemingly endless while at the same time being impossible at times to get at – but once you tap into it, that thrill, like learning a secret if only for a moment, a few lines.