Salvation

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The word God has become empty of meaning through thousands of years of misuse. I use it sometimes, but I do so sparingly. By misuse, I mean that people who have never even glimpsed the realm of the sacred, the infinite vastness beyond that word, use it with great conviction, as if they knew what they were talking about. Or they argue against it, as if they knew what it is they are denying. This misuse gives rise to the absurd beliefs, assertions, and egoic delusions, such as “My or our God is the only true God, and your God is false,” or Nietzsche’s famous statement “God is dead.” 

The word God has become a closed concept. The moment the word is uttered, a mental image is created, no longer, perhaps, of an old man in a white beard, but still a mental representation of someone or something outside you, and yes, almost inevitably a male someone or something. 

Neither God nor Being nor any other word can define or explain the ineffable reality behind the word, so the only important question is whether the word is a help or a hindrance in enabling you to experience That toward which it points. Does it point beyond itself toward some transcendental reality, or does it lend itself too easily to becoming no more than an idea in your head that you believe in, a mental idol?

 - Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

I thought it apt to share here this extract from The Power of Now, because I use the word God in my poem below and it is possible that my usage of the word will be misconstrued. My aim in bringing this to light is to show transparency and to avoid seeming hypocrisy. I wrote this poem some years ago – at a different stage of my development – when I was not as careful with the word. Today, I do not believe in God in any traditional or religious sense. How liberating it is for me to write that here.

There are other words which bother me now in the poem, because I know of their traditional or religious meaning – sin, miracles, angels, heaven – and my usage of them does not reflect these interpretations. I am aware however, that sharing my words relinquishes any assumed control over them, and while I offer them here with Tolle’s above quote, I know that each individual will only see them as they are.

Salvation

I need for God to come and hold me
To shelter me from rain
I need for God to take me in his arms
Allow me to lie there once again
To follow on from whence I came to earth
To separate the twin of fear
I need for God to come and save me
From this echelon of clear forbidden waters
In which I find myself submerged
I need for God to take me from my sin
And wrongful actions purge
I need for miracles and angels
To deliver me from harm
I need for purity and innocence
My useless weapons to disarm
I need exquisiteness and splendour
I need magnificence defined
I need an opening of heart
And a cleansing of my mind
I need for love to wrap me under
Its wings of consequence
I need to take into my arms
My single troubled aberrance
I need to find myself a castaway
On an island filled with calm
I need to listen to the silence
And hold its lessons in my palm
I need to sit and look at nothing
But a sky and sea of blue
I need to lie upon a shore
My salvation to imbue
I need to rest and be immersed
In the remedies I find
I need for God to fill me deeply
To experience mankind
I need belovedness and honour
I need an incident of truth
I need for God to hold me close
Until my bleeding I salute
I need for God to come and hold me
I need for God to take me near
I need his hand upon this journey
As I face his heavenly sphere.
 

Chandelier

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I am a huge fan of contemporary & interpretive dance, and when I first saw this video for Sia’s Chandelier, I was blown away, not just by little Maddie Ziegler’s amazing talent & ability, but by the beautiful and turbulent emotion expressed here throughout. I’ve watched this video too many times to count, and continue to visit it when the mood takes me. Much like the drug Sia speaks about in this song, it leaves me wanting more. It moves me, every time. I love art that can trigger such profound emotions within.
 
I first discovered Sia during a marathon of “Six Feet Under” many years ago, when her song Breathe Me was used in the series finale. From that moment, I fell in love with her voice and her artistry. Her videos are really unique, as she is unashamedly herself. In a day when so many acts in the popular music scene appear as variations on a theme, I find her very refreshing. It also gives me hope when the mainstream music industry is receptive to something of this nature. Perhaps the boxes are breaking open…
 
A lot of people have commented on this video saying they don’t understand it, it freaks them out, and the dance is inappropriate for such a young child. I was really amazed, and somewhat shocked to read these comments, because to me it is such a beautiful work of art, and it perfectly expresses the Universal human struggle. I know the video is about Sia’s personal struggles with alcohol, but I think it can be applied to any human struggle, and the tumultuous commotion inherent in it. I certainly don’t enjoy suffering – in fact I put up serious resistance when in any form of pain – but I don’t believe in running from difficult or excruciating emotions, as they are an essential & valid part of the human experience. I see this song and video as facing and expressing them head-on, which is always incredibly liberating.
 
I also think Maddie Ziegler’s thoughts on her experience of undertaking this dance were great: “it was really out of the box and it expanded me a lot… you just need to let go and feel it.”
 
I know it all comes down to personal perception, yet I can’t help but think that some of these nay-Sayers are simply people who are not willing to feel it (as Maddie put it). At any rate, I love this song and the video, and so had to share it with you here.

 

A Little Poetry

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Dumbfounded

There is an expression I know
Dumbfounded by truth
I remember that night
In your fountainless youth
The present you gave
Rendered silent of mouth
I saw all of you then
I had figured you out
I remained stupefied
By your action confounded
I knew not what to say
Your gift my speech bounded
As we sat by a candle
And you took both my hands
I knew not what to do
Could not make my demands
There was conflict and longing
And argument placed
There was tension and
Questions my heart could not face
There were moments I cherished
And laughter between
But the truth that dumbfounded
Nowhere to be seen

 

Under Milk Wood

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I am a terrible blogger by normal standards, (but then, I don’t really subscribe to the notion of “normal”). I never blog regularly, and I always feel guilty that my blog suffers such blatant neglect. This morning however, suppression took a back seat, and I actually awoke with a compulsion to write. For this I am very grateful.

Yesterday, I watched a play by Welsh writer Dylan Thomas – Under Milk Wood. This viewing was an exercise for a local acting group I am part of. I have to admit, I was not very enthused about watching it, as it’s a great fault of mine that I tend to be very impatient with, & even dismissive of things I don’t find myself immediately interested in, or enthralled by. This is not something I would have been drawn to personally, but such is the joy of human interaction. We read & enacted a little of the play at class on Wednesday night, and I really enjoyed the cacophony of sound it produced. I also loved being part of the creative energy in that room. On top of that, I trust the artistic integrity of the person who leads our group, so that was enough for me to explore it for myself.

This play raised a lot of questions for me, mainly: “what on earth is it all about?” I’ve read many times that in order to get the right answers, we must first ask the right questions, and I think this is what I have found today. For some time, I have been practicing the art of living without meaning – that is to say – without trying to make sense of everything, without desperately trying to understand seemingly unexplainable phenomena, without trying to make everything fit into a nice neat little box that satiates my fragile human need to comprehend, thus attaching a false sense of security to my existence. I practice being for the sake of it, while allowing everything to pass through me and wash over me, to swim in the ocean of experience without needing to throttle the water, or pull at the waves – examining each one with great analytical ferocity. My intellect is both my greatest friend and my crucifixion.

Upon this first viewing I did not understand Under Milk Wood. I thought it was rather odd, but also rather beautiful. It confused me, but conveyed a familiar feeling. There I was, facing my greatest challenge – wanting to understand – and the old intellectual violence kicked in. My brain registered syntax error, and my knee-jerk reaction took flight. In more intense moments of incomprehension, I can be found obsessively repeating the phrase: “I don’t understand”, while feeling an immense and consummate frustration. Having seen the impact this has on another, and knowing that the conscious mind uses only 5-10% of the mind’s actual capacity, I can only imagine the beating my psyche takes below the surface during these resistant times. A gift I have in my life today however, is someone who reminds me that this is simply a whirlwind I am caught in. This loving reminder helps me to find my peace, as the realization dawns that I am not the manager of the Universe, panic is unnecessary, and the answer lies simply in the experience itself.

Under Milk Wood brought me many questions, but then it brought me so much more, and quickly… I felt relief as progress most definitely ensued. This strange play – a play for voices – quietened mine, and brought acceptance, allowing, and understanding, not through any intellectual faculty – but in that deeper dwelling place that I know very well and I reside in from time to time when I allow it. Under Milk Wood brought me here. The beautiful & tragic human experience unjustified, invalidated, unashamed. This is where artists speak to each other through the vast realm of time and space.

The other day I was reading about the constant rapid expansion of the Universe. There is much debate among certain scientific circles about whether the Universe is in fact expanding or contracting, but I came across this quote which to me transcended the intellectual discourse: “This is a cosmic symphony. You are really seeing sound, and the sound can help you understand how the instrument was made.”

So then, it is all just music.

Watch Under Milk Wood here

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A Tribute To Philip Seymour Hoffman

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PSH
 
Since I heard about the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I wanted to write something in his memory, but I was totally unable to collect my thoughts until today. The shock & sadness was too much, and I say that as someone who didn’t even know him. I cannot imagine what his friends and family are going through right now. I really wish them whatever peace they are able to find at this time.
 
I knew his work, and to me he was a genius – a master of his craft. I loved watching his performances, as I was deeply filled with each & every nuance he created on screen. I wish I had had the opportunity to see him on stage, because I know that would have been an amazing experience. Just to be in the presence of this artistic giant.
 
As is so often the case with famous people, we tend to focus on a processed image we are presented with – which is sometimes larger than life – and forget the fact that these people too are fallible, and prone to the fragility of human existence. For me, his death showed me his vulnerability, his humanity, and mirrored to me my own mortality, as I’m sure it did for many people around the world. But this was not how I viewed him while alive. I thought of him as intelligent, intense, powerful, sensitive, anchored, genius. He was someone who so completely filled the space in which he occupied; a creator, a risk-taker, a beautifully passionate artist.  
  
 
I loved knowing PSH existed in the world. I keep asking myself if that’s strange. Even if it is, I simply did. I loved knowing he was alive – someone with the capacity to bring art to life with such mastery, with huge depth and sincerity. Here was a man who explored his vast potential, with such ferocity and freedom. I would see any film he was in, because I knew he would always deliver, and I wanted to feel how I had felt when seeing him onscreen that very first time. Quite often I found myself smiling in recognition of that certain something he conveyed, which I think transcends language. I can’t find the words to explain it at any rate, and I feel even if I did, they just wouldn’t do.
 
 
I have to admit I don’t understand drug addiction. Anyone who knows me well knows that I abhor drugs. I am so intolerant of them. They simply don’t make sense to me. I cannot say I understand what Philip Seymour Hoffman was going through, what he experienced. But I feel tremendous sadness that he battled with addiction, and that whatever personal difficulties he was dealing with, he was unable to master. I feel sad at the thought that he may not have known how much he meant to so many – those who knew him well, and those like me. I’ve read many peoples’ reaction to his death, and while there are those who seriously lack compassion, there are many more who are feeling such a tremendous loss. I don’t know if he knew how valuable, how important he was – not just as an actor, but as a human being – but the outpouring of love right now from those of us he inspired & touched, is a sure testament.
 
I don’t want him to be dead. I know that is such a inane thing to say, but it’s how I feel. I can’t believe he’s really gone. But he has left a wonderful legacy, and I am very thankful that he existed. I am thankful for all the breaths he took.  
 
I found some lovely quotes of his that I thought to share. A few parting words:
 
“I think Magnolia is one of the best films I’ve ever seen and I can say that straight and out and anybody that disagrees with me I’ll fight you to the death. I just think it is one of the greatest films I’ve ever been in and ever seen.”
 
“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”
 
“I think you should be serious about what you do because this is it. This is the only life you’ve got.”
 
“Well, I think everyone struggles with self-love.”
 
“People actually live with their id exposed. They’re not good at concealing what’s going on inside.”
 
“To have that concentration to act well is like lugging things up staircases in your brain. I think that’s a thing people don’t understand. It is that exhausting. If you’re doing it well, if you’re concentrating the way you need to, if your will and your concentration and emotional and imagination and emotional life are all in tune, concentrated and working together in that role, that is just like lugging weights upstairs with your head…And I don’t think that should get any easier.”
 
“It’s not by going into ‘the business,’. The business can’t be a thought. You get a foothold because you want to get a foothold as an artist. Your desire, your intensity, has to be about being a great actor or a great painter or a great musician. If that’s strong enough, it’ll lead you to good teachers and to places where you’ll learn. For me, the business wasn’t a thought. I was doing a play, and a friend in the play said, ‘My manager is here tonight and she wants to meet you.’ And I said, ‘Oh.’ And that’s how I got a manager.’”
 
“Study, find all the good teachers and study with them, get involved in acting to act, not to be famous or for the money. Do plays. It’s not worth it if you are just in it for the money.You have to love it.”
 
“I had insecurities and fears like everybody does, and I got over it. But I was interested in the parts of me that struggled with those things.”
 
 
 
 
 

Ideas Worth Spreading…

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I came across these TED talks by Brené Brown a while ago, and just loved what she had to say.

This quote resonated with me a lot :

“As much as I would be frustrated about not being able to get my work out to the world, there was a part of me that was working very hard to engineer staying small, staying right under the radar.”

and of course her ultimate statement:

“Vulnerability is not weakness, it is our most accurate measurement of courage”

I hope you take the time to watch these two videos, and join in the conversation in the comments below.

 

National Poetry Day

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Today is National Poetry Day here in the UK.

To celebrate, I’m posting a poem I wrote a few years ago for a friend, whose Mother passed away. I like to think it’s for all of us who have lost someone close.

To My Child

You are my child and all is well
You will not fall under the spell
Of thinking
Now that I am gone
Your life without me can’t go on
You ramble through the bushes bare
And look for meaning everywhere
But I am here to guide your way
And I will hear you when you pray
So dry your tears and know my child
That I am always by your side
And when the grief proves hard to take
Remember love when you awake
Remember laughter, and those years
When I was there to soothe your fears
And always know no matter what
The door to me is never shut
Just close your eyes once in a while
And feel me close and see me smile
And know my heart it overflows
To watch you as your life it grows
In every meaning that you find
You rest with me, our souls entwined
 
 
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