Seeing the Waterfall

Image: 'New York Movie,' by Edward Hopper

[Image: “New York Movie,” by Edward Hopper (1939, oil on canvas; in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. (Found this image at WikiArt.)]

From whiskey river’s commonplace book:

What’s Not Here

I start out on this road, call it
love or emptiness. I only know what’s

not here: resentment seeds, back-
scratching greed, worrying about out-

come, fear of people. When a bird gets
free, it doesn’t go back for remnants

left on the bottom of the cage! Close
by, I’m rain. Far off, a cloud of fire.

I seem restless, but I am deeply at ease.
Branches tremble; the roots are still.

I am a universe in a handful of dirt,
whole when totally demolished. Talk

about choices does not apply to me.
While intelligence considers options,

I am somewhere lost in the wind.

(Jalaloddin Rumi [source])

…and:

While we usually think of it as our mind, when we look honestly, we see that the mind follows its own nature, conditions, and laws. Your mind is like a puppy. You put the puppy down and say “Stay.” Does the puppy listen? It gets up and it runs away. You sit the puppy back down again. “Stay.” And the puppy runs away over and over again. Sometimes the puppy runs over and pees in the corner or makes some other mess. This is how our minds behave, only they create even bigger messes. In training the mind, like training a puppy, we have to start over and over again. Frustration comes with the territory. Nothing in our culture or our schooling has taught us how to transcend ordinary consciousness and reach for the dizzying heights of cosmic truths. You simply pick up the puppy again and return to reconnect with the here and now.

(Helen Palmer [source])

…and:

What do we see when we look at the mind? Constant change. In the traditional scriptures the untrained and unconcentrated mind is referred to as a mad monkey. As we look for ourselves, we see that it is like a circus or a zoo in there. The parrot, the sloth, the mouse, the tiger, the bear, and the silent owl are all represented. It is like a flywheel of spinning thoughts, emotions, images, stories, likes, dislikes, and so forth. There is ceaseless movement, filled with plans, ideas, and memories. Seeing this previously unconscious stream of inner dialogue is for many people the first insight in practice. It is called seeing the waterfall. Already we begin to learn about the nature of mind. Its constant changes are like the weather; today it rains, tonight it may snow, earlier the sun was out. Sometimes it’s muddy in the spring, and then the summer comes and the winds come. In the fall the leaves go; in winter the ice forms.

(Jack Kornfield [source])

…and:

riddle:
What is the last thing that a fish would ever discover?

answer:
water

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Water and Sustenance

Image: 'Living Close to the Water,' by Andrew Smith on Flickr

[Image: “Living Close to the Water,” by Andrew Smith. (Original on Flickr; used here under a Creative Commons license — thank you!)]

From whiskey river:

Despite everything, we are good people, who can hardly live in this world that continues almost entirely at our expense.

The best thing is to keep on moving arms and legs, and watch the waves, almost as though moving forward.

In this way, despair turns quickly over to happiness, and back to despair again.

And, if you reach the beach, walk back across it like everything is fine, toward your family who would not like to see the abyss you have just swum over.

(Joanna Walsh [source])

and:

The next morning I shall get up at dawn. I shall let myself out by the kitchen door. I shall walk on the moor. I shall see the swallow skim the grass. I shall throw myself on a bank by the river and watch the fish slip in and out among the reeds. The palms of my hands will be printed with pine-needles. I shall there unfold and take out whatever it is I have made here; something hard. For something has grown in me here, through the winters and summers, on staircases, in bedrooms… Then my freedom will unfurl, and all these restrictions that wrinkle and shrivel — hours and order and discipline, and being here and there exactly at the right moment — will crack asunder.

(Virginia Woolf [source])

and:

At Least

I want to get up early one more morning,
before sunrise. Before the birds, even.
I want to throw cold water on my face
and be at my work table
when the sky lightens and smoke
begins to rise from the chimneys
of the other houses.
I want to see the waves break
on this rocky beach, not just hear them
break as I did all night in my sleep.
I want to see again the ships
that pass through the Strait from every
seafaring country in the world—
old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,
and the swift new cargo vessels
painted every colour under the sun
that cut the water as they pass
I want to keep an eye out for them.
And for the little boat that plies
the water between the ships
and the pilot station near the lighthouse.
I want to see them take a man off the ship
and put another up on board.
I want to spend the day watching this happen
and reach my own conclusions.
I hate to seem greedy—I have so much
to be thankful for already.
But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.
And go to my place with some coffee and wait.
Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.

(Raymond Carver [source])

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One (of Everything) at a Time

'Nowhere Man,' by user 'cayusa' on Flickr

[Image: “Nowhere Man,” by user cayusa on Flickr.com. Used here under a Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river:

One Way In

This is how I hold my place in the world:
one line at a time, counting beats until
they come out right, chasing the sound of words
the way a dog chases cars to get her fill.

And this is how I fill my days: I slip
the ink across the page — a second skin —
and leave behind the color that my lips
print on the glass, a way of coming in.

This is how I stay in view: I take down
everything exactly how I see it,
I say it one way then turn it around
to see if there’s another way it fits.

I hollow out a page to make a nest,
I stretch the pen out like a branch and rest.

(Joyce Sutphen [source])

and:

Sending These Messages

Over these writings I bent my head.
Now you are considering them. If you
turn away I will look up: a bridge
that was there will be gone.
For the rest of your life I will stand here,
reaching across.
If these writings can bring a turn
or an echo that touches you — maybe
a face, a slant, a tune — you will stop
too and bend over them. When you
look up, your thought will reach
wherever I am.
I know it is strange. and there is no measure
for this. The only connection we make
is like a twinge when sometimes they change
the beat in music, and we sprawl with it
and hear another world for a minute
that is almost there.

(William Stafford [source])

and:

The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out of all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.

(Frederick Buechner [source])

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Finding What You’re Looking For

'Found Anything Yet?,' by Yau Hoong Tang on Flickr

[Image: “Found Anything Yet?,” by Yau Hoong Tang on Flickr. (Click to enlarge.)
Used under a Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river:

It’s harder to talk about, but what I really, really, really want for Christmas is just this: I want to be 5 years old again for an hour. I want to laugh a lot and cry a lot. I want to be picked up or rocked to sleep in someone’s arms, and carried up to bed just one more time. I know what I really want for Christmas: I want my childhood back.

Nobody is going to give me that. I might give at least the memory of it to myself if I try. I know it doesn’t make sense, but since when is Christmas about sense, anyway? It is about a child, of long ago and far away, and it is about the child of now. In you and me. Waiting behind the door of our hearts for something wonderful to happen. A child who is impractical, unrealistic, simpleminded and terribly vulnerable to joy.

It’s just this: that there are places we all come from — deep-rooty-common places — that makes us who we are. And we disdain them or treat them lightly at our peril. We turn our backs on them at the risk of self-contempt. There is a sense in which we need to go home again — and can go home again. Not to recover home, no. But to sanctify memory.

(Robert Fulghum [source, among others])

and:

You have no idea how hard I’ve looked
for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.
What’s the point of bringing gold
to the gold mine, or water to the ocean.
Everything I came up with was like
taking spices to the Orient.
It’s no good giving my heart and my
soul because you already have these.
So I’ve brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.

(Jalal al-Din Rumi [widely quoted around the Web, in these or other words, e.g., from this source])

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Confused Reality

From whiskey river:

The most interesting thing about the world is its fantastic and unpsychoanalyzed character, its wretched and gallant personality, its horrible idiocy and its magnificent intelligence, its unbelievable cruelty and its equally unbelievable kindness, its gorilla stupor, its canary cheerfulness, its thundering divinity, and its whimpering commonness.

(William Saroyan [source])

and:

The Great Clod belches out breath and its name is wind. So long as it doesn’t come forth, nothing happens. But when it does, then ten thousand hollows begin crying wildly. Can’t you hear them, long and drawn out? In the mountain forests that lash and sway, there are huge trees a hundred spans around with hollows and openings like noses, like mouths, like ears, like jugs, like cups, like mortars, like rifts, like ruts. They roar like waves, whistle like arrows, screech, gasp, cry, wail, moan, and howl, those in the lead calling out yeee!, those behind calling out yuuu! In a gentle breeze they answer faintly, but in a full gale the chorus is gigantic. And when the fierce wind has passed on, then all the hollows are empty again. Have you never seen the tossing and trembling that goes on?

(Chuang Tzu [source])

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What Lies Beneath

Image of the Moon's surface, courtesy of NASA's GRAIL mission

[Image: lunar surface, color-enhanced, per results of the NASA GRAIL mission.
For more information, see the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river (italicized portion):

“My soul knows my meat is doing bad things, and is embarrassed. But my meat just keeps on doing bad, dumb things.”

“Your soul and your what?” he said.

“My soul and my meat,” I said.

“They’re separate?” he said.

“I sure hope they are,” I said. I laughed. “I would hate to be responsible for what my meat does.”

I told him, only half joking, about how I imagined the soul of each person, myself included, as being a sort of flexible neon tube inside. All the tube could do was receive news about what was happening with the meat, over which it had no control.

“So when people I like do something terrible,” I said, “I just flense them and forgive them.”

Flense?” he said. “What’s flense?”

“It’s what whalers used to do to whale carcasses when they got them on board,” I said. “They would strip off the skin and blubber and meat right down to the skeleton. I do that in my head to people — get rid of all the meat so I can see nothing but their souls. Then I forgive them.”

(Kurt Vonnegut [source])

and:

Eyes-Shut Facing Eyes-Rolling-Around

Pay close attention to your mean thoughts.

That sourness may be a blessing,
as an overcast day brings rain for the roses
and relief to dry soil.

Don’t look so sourly on your sourness!
It may be it’s carrying what you most deeply need
and want. What seems to be keeping you from joy
may be what leads you to joy.

Don’t call it a dead branch.
Call it the live, moist root.

Don’t always be waiting to see
what’s behind it. That wait and see
poisons your Spirit.

Reach for it.
Hold your meanness to your chest
as a healing root,
and be through with waiting.

(Jelaluddin Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks) [source])

and:

Each person who ever was or is or will be has a song. It isn’t a song that anybody else wrote. It has its own melody, it has its own words. Very few people get to sing their song. Most of us fear that we cannot do it justice with our voices, or that our words are too foolish or too honest, or too odd. So people live their song instead.

(Neil Gaiman [source])

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