Friday, February 18, 2011


Before we get started on today's post, I just want to announced that my travelogue, “notes from the Yucat√°n,” is now available for browsing and download (click on the link.)

This travelogue features of some of my poetry (as well as prose & photographs) which is rarely seen in published form online, except at Parabola Magazine.

This morning, while I was sitting, I was initially engaged in an activity that I have been undertaking almost every day for 10 years now, which is to make the effort to consciously recite and understand (as if that were possible–I think you know what I mean) the Lord's prayer from an inward point of view, with sensation, feeling, and thought.

This particular exercise, which anyone can undertake, and which becomes highly personal and raises an endless series of questions about the inner state, constantly yields new insights. I highly recommend it to any reader.

In any event, this morning, there was a glimmer of insight regarding the section of the prayer that says:

“Forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Now, as you may already know, the word “trespass” is an incorrect translation. The proper translation of the word from the original prayer is "debt."

I was pondering this from an active point of view this morning, and it struck me in this sitting that to forgive debts–and to offer forgiveness of debts–is an essentially, if you will allow the term, inhuman thing. Everything that we humans do is calculated: transactional. That is to say, there is an internal quid pro quo in all of human affairs. I see myself measuring my life in this way all day long in a thousand different ways. Most of my ego is wrapped up in measurements that regard transaction: this is fair, that isn't. He deserves this, she doesn't deserve that, I deserve everything.

Or, conversely, I don't deserve any of this! I'm getting screwed!

~Ah, dear reader, perhaps you recognize such thoughts. You may have even had a few yourself!

In any event, to forgive debts in any manner–let alone the comprehensive one that Jesus Christ suggested we undertake when praying–is an unusual, nay, impossible thing. We are, above all, transactional.

This brings me to the question of freedom. To forgive debts, and to have debts forgiven–this is truly to become free of the idea of living within the context of transaction. Instead, it is a prayer directed at the idea of living within the context of experience, which is not so much a transaction as a relationship.

It isn't calculated: it is fresh, it is new, it is unexpected.

Of course, this is a theoretical position, like all of the things that we manufacture with our mind. It can only serve as a guideline, a direction in which to point ourselves, in the fervent and earnest hope that the ship may actually turn, that its sails may catch some wind: that we may actually discover some of the freedom and movement and life that is bogged down every time we slap a value and a demand on it.

Value within the context of experience is endless. Value within the context of transaction is strictly limited to the narrow parameters defined by the mind.

Yesterday, I was walking along the Hudson River with the famous dog Isabel, when I encountered a moment that was far more weighted by experience than any transaction. The below poem flowed directly out of that spirit like water, with little mediation on my part.

The poem itself is part of a series of poems some 20 or more in number now, all of which have been written in the environs of the Hudson River, that is, right here in my own neighborhood, and consisting of the direct impressions conveyed by this one small corner of the planet. None of the other Hudson River poems have ever been published before that I can recall.

From the Hudson River series

Will I ever come back
To sky so sweet as this sky
To geese in the air
And a spring time
That is not here yet
But hovers in the faded afternoon?

There is no heart deeper than the heart that listens
With its eyes
Yes, and with its skin,
Its hands, its feet

Today I am that good heart
But only now–
And only for this moment.

This is the day of the sun on snow
And the gold of Solomon;
Of sycamores
Brides in the pearly blue
And the head of the sparrow
Left by cats
Every feather perfect.

I would that life would call some nobler thing to me
Than what I am
But I do not know that thing.

Hold me then, here where I am
Oh sacred day
By the river, by the river once again
Where reeds rise
Stones tumble down
And branches fall
And none can note the hour of their passing.

May our prayers be heard.

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