As mentioned in my previous posting, Musings- Creativity and Cold! here is the poem that I wrote in September 1980. Perhaps I should set the stage a little. I had returned to live in England in October 1978 having lived the previous ten years of my life on the beautiful island of Sardinia. Sardinia is located about forty minutes flying time due west of Rome in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It is an Italian island.
The weather there is fantastic. Hot and sunny from mid-May through to mid-September. Delightfully warm and sunny from mid-March through to mid-May and again from mid-September through to the end of November. There are a few exceptions to these time lines but they are just that, exceptions. Winter lasts from December till mid March but is not so cold as to be brutal, nor is it so rainy as to be continuously miserable. I remember sunbathing many times in January and February.
So to adjust to England’s climate when I returned to the UK in late 1978 was difficult to say the least. The culture and way of life was also problematic and frequently I found myself spiraling downwards on the emotional level as I tried to stay positive and live up to my nick-name – Sunny!! One day as I sat on the underground train going to work I was struck by my sense of isolation and felt myself being swallowed up by and absorbed into a daily “grayness”.
Each person in my carriage was totally closed in on themselves. Nobody looked at anybody else. It was as though each one of them was enclosed in one of those glass domes that are used to protect special dolls or statues. I found myself reacting to this by going in on myself – under my own glass dome. But suddenly there was a moment of “aliveness” which brought me back into my real self. The following poem describes that incident.
GREEK GOD ON A TUBE TRAIN
Somber blue, black and gray pinstripes
Seated in uniform regularity
The full length of the carriage,
Like regimental toy soldiers on an assembly line
Waiting to be dispatched, briefcase in hand,
To equally somber banks.
Dead-pan, pallid faces devoid of emotion,
Set above their city suits.
Bored, I stare ahead, merging into the nothingness
That surrounds me.
The train stops, doors open and close,
And suddenly my eyes are shocked wide open
By a non-conformity in this sea of gray monotony.
There he sits, or rather lounges,
A healthy sun-tanned lean Greek god,
In indolent disarray.
Tight jeans mould to his masculinity,
And he wears an open neck shirt from which spills
A heavy gold chain nestling in luxurious hair.
His dark and heavy-lidded eyes smolder
As they roam lazily over my femininity,
And I welcome his bold male gaze in the midst of such insipidness.
London, 24 September 1980
Just a couple of days ago in my posting Musings- Living Life (Lost Treasures), I shared and made comments on several quotations that had come to light as I was going through some old files. Another piece of writing that has surfaced is a poem by Pablo Neruda, a Chilean writer and politician.
He was born in 1904 and died in 1973. Pablo Neruda was actually his pen name, which he eventually made his legal name. He travelled extensively during his life as a consul or in other diplomatic roles for his native country. But he is more famously known for his prolific poetry.
Neruda’s works have been translated into many languages. In the literary world he is considered to be one of the greatest and most influential poets of the 20th century. I discovered this particular poem in an Italian book about ten years ago. It is one of those pieces of writing that at very first reading resonated deep within me. I’m sure there are better English translations of the poem, but here I offer you my own attempt.
To Slowly Die
He who chooses to become a slave to habit
Each day going in the same direction
Never changing gear,
He who does not dare to change the color of his clothes
Or speak to some perfect stranger……slowly dies.
He who chooses to avoid passion,
Prefers black and white and dots every “i”,
Rather than experiencing a whirlwind of emotions,
The ones that bring a sparkle to the eye and turn a yawn into a smile,
The same ones that make the heart beat wildly when a mistake is committed
Or feelings unexpectedly erupt ……..slowly dies
He who chooses not to overturn the table,
Or who is unhappy in his work,
Who does not risk security for insecurity to chase a dream,
Nor allows himself at least once in his lifetime
To ignore sensible advice ……..slowly dies.
He who does not travel,
Does not read, nor listens to music,
He who does not see his own gracefulness ……..slowly dies.
He who destroys his own sense of self,
Who refuses to be helped,
He who spends each day complaining about his own misfortune
Or the incessant rain …….. slowly dies.
He who abandons a project before it is begun,
He who never asks questions about things of which he is ignorant,
Or who refuses to reply to those
Who question him on things he does know …….. slowly dies.
We avoid death a little at a time,
Always remembering that to be alive requires an effort
Much greater than the simple fact of drawing a breathe.
Only intense patience will help us to achieve splendid happiness.
What an invitation to life and living! It makes me think of phrases like, “mix things up a little”. It reminds me of Erma Bombeck’s urging to “don’t save the best china for a special occasion, use it today”. It reminds me to get out there in the middle of things, to get out of myself (that old me-me-me-ism!!!) and help others less fortunate. It reminds me to be oh so grateful to God for the incredible life that I have and for the joy that fills my heart as I awake to yet another day.
In the last week or so I have been presented with some beautiful words of wisdom that span that sands of time and that I would like to share with you. The first piece is the oldest of all of them and was written by Lao-tzu 2,500 years ago. It comes from a translation of part of one of the eighty-one verses that form his book, titled Tao Te Ching.
Work without doing.
Taste the tasteless.
Magnify the small, increase the few.
Reward bitterness with care.
See simplicity in the complicated.
Achieve greatness in little things.”
Sometimes I need to remember that not taking action can be as important as, if not better than, taking action. Because I tend to be impulsive a lot of the time this is a lesson that I need to practice.
The opening words in this quotation also reminded me of another great person who lived in great simplicity but had an enormous impact on modern day history. Here is a memorable one-liner from Ghandi that I found tucked in my purse.
“No matter how insignificant what you do may seem, it is important that you do it.”
Another ancient philosopher, Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273) wrote some of the most beautiful poetry that I have ever read. Most of it is quite mystical and, I think, very spiritual. Just a week ago a good friend passed me this piece of writing by Rumi.
“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?
Absorbed in this world, you’ve made it your burden. Rise above this world. There is another vision. All your life you’ve paid attention to your experiences, but never to your Self. Are you searching for your Soul?
Then come out of your prison. Leave the stream and join the river that flows into the Ocean. Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. It will not lead you to stray. Let the beauty you seek be what you do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Question the scholars and philosophers, but God is beyond their understanding. Then look in your Heart and it was there where God dwells that you will see; God is nowhere else to be found.
Everything in the Universe is within you. There is a link between matter and Spirit. And your heart is looking for that path.
Consciousness is clear and pure like water.
And pure water is a perfect mirror for moonlight.”
Coming closer to today, a gentleman was at a meeting that I attended a short while ago. During a break he handed out small slips of paper to other attendees. Mine contained the following quotation from Mark Twain. I have been carrying it in my wallet so that I can take it out and read it frequently.
“Three daily reminders: Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Have the courage to do the right thing because it is right.”
I have to constantly remind myself to practice the first reminder!
The last words of wisdom for today were written by a modern day writer/philosopher, Paul Ferrini. I came across this quotation recently “by mistake” (in other words, by God-incidence). There is so much packed into this one sentence that I remain in awe every time I read it.
“The door to the Divine Presence opens when you no longer need to make reality fit your pictures of how it should be, when you can surrender everything you think you know and come to each moment empty of expectations.”
Wow!! Methinks I shall have to get some of Mr. Ferrini’s books. He has written over forty of them. I have never heard of him before but Larry Dossey says of him: “Paul Ferrini is a modern-day Kahlil Gibran – poet, mystic, visionary, teller of truth”. I am always ready to read new (to me!) authors who may open up new doors, new visions on my spiritual path.