A Poet Speaks of Mystery
Every poet and writer, I know, has a story to tell, and tell their stories through the formation of a personal mythology or that of another person. As we travel through life, our life changes. Our sense of who we are as a person, our identity, shifts with the seasons of events and people who enter into that life. This is the impermanence of the self that Buddhist philosophy teaches.
In Buddhism, the concept of Śūnyatā – Nirvana - Emptiness, written of in the Heart Sutra points towards this impermanence, which teaches that our sense of self as being permanent is false. And that the self, we may 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 that leads to suffering, misperceptions, and false 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 who came before us. Even the greatest amongst 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 a stillness, in emptiness, in an empty 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 with 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, well now, you are simply giving back to humankind the voices who have spoken before in a newer voice.
There are perhaps no accidents in life, simply 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 written before. They dwell and rest in a universal divine consciousness and spirit that dwells within you 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 listened deeply to the stillness and silence of creation, and out of this listening comes a word, a verse, a poem. I see each poem written as an act of creation, as a loving act of giving, an act of healing and repairing the world. Tikkun Olam.
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 dwell 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.”
You too are this light.
Saint Julian Press
October 5, 2014
Ron Starbuck is an author, poet, the Publisher-CEO of Saint Julian Press, and an Episcopalian.