A POET SPEAKS OF MYSTERY
Every poet and writer I know has a story to tell, and tells his or her story through the formation of a personal mythology. As we travel through life, our life changes. Our identity shifts, our sense of who we are as a person, turns with the seasons of events and people who enter into that life.
This is the impermanence of the self, which Buddhist philosophy teaches. It is a vital theme and awareness at work throughout and within the whole concept of Pratītyasamutpāda – Dependent Arising. Being – Becoming – Existence: The infinite possibilities of all things held with creation. "If this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist."
Buddhism directs us toward the concept of Śūnyatā–Nirvana–Emptiness–Openness, celebrated in the Heart Sutra. The impermanence of emptiness teaches us that our sense of self as being permanent is false. The self, whom we actively identify with, is empty of such permanence. Buddhism refers to this false self as not–self, or no–self, anattā (uhn-uht-tah). It is an ego clinging self, leading to suffering, misperceptions, and deceitful projections.
In the Christian tradition, there is a similar concept, kenosis, the Greek word for emptiness. Kenosis is ‘self–emptying’ one’s own will in becoming receptive to the divine, to be in unity and union with the divine. Both heaven and nirvana are alike when we understand them as a spiritual path towards non-duality, to this union with the divine ultimate mystery out of which all things arise.
In writing a poem, the poet goes through multiple stages and feelings, crafting their words together, until the poem itself comes to its end. As any poet knows, the poem is never quite finished. It is almost always incomplete in some sense. The poet simply has to let go of it and trust that the creative process goes on within the people who may read their humble efforts.
I offer this thought in a spirit of humility. All our works as poets and writers are a continuation of other works that came before us, the voices of humanity that have been passed down from one generation to another.
We are simple gatherers who have gathered from those poets, writers, and storytellers that came before us. Even the greatest among us have been inspired through learning and reading the literary works of humankind. And we, we humble few, are following in their footsteps. There is something more going on of course.
Each poem, in and of itself, begins in silence, in stillness, in emptiness, in an open place waiting to be filled, on a blank page, or as an even deeper divine memory perhaps. And we, we are full participants in its creation. There is I think a deeper mystery at work here, an inspiration. To be creatively inspired, is to be filled by the spirit of something more, something beyond the mundane and ourselves.
Please let me share with you with this thought. As much as any poem, you write, is your own work, it is also not your work. You have been inspired. You have heard the whispering of the gods, of God or the muses of antiquity. And now you are modestly returning to humankind the voices spoken before in a newer voice.
There are perhaps no accidents in life, merely a continuation of one life into and with another, in a continuation of consciousness grounded in the divine. Grounded in the great mystery of creation, we cannot quite name, written within us. The Holy Spirit perhaps praying in and with and through us, when we know not how to prayer ourselves.
The words, you speak or write, are not your own; they have been fashioned before. They abide and rest in a universal divine consciousness and spirit that dwell within us each. They were written upon your soul, deep within your spirit, on your heart, and in your mind long ago.
And now, now you have been inspired to return them to humankind, in a healing for humankind. The poet within you has heeded deeply the stillness and silence of creation. Out of such a listening comes a word, a verse, a poem. Each poem is composed as an act of creation, a loving act of giving, an act of healing and repairing the world.
Let me leave you please with these opening words from the Gospel of John, with an understanding that they too are a poetic metaphor and a symbol pointing us towards a deeper mystery in which we reside and that dwells within us.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – (NIV)
You too are this light.
Saint Julian Press
Copyright – September 23, 2017
Ron Starbuck is an author, poet, the Publisher-CEO of Saint Julian Press, and an Episcopalian. with certain Buddhist leanings who values comparative literature and literary dialogues in many forms.