Tag Archives: surrender

The Letters of the Living

Burst


There, then, on that Purest Spot,
with the night pregnant with the day,
Shiva the Destroyer lifted up
and threw down on the knee of His love
the entire world and the heavens thereof,
breaking them then, all that lay therein
so that they fell, cast deep into darkness and doubt.

There were left but Twenty still living:
the First, the eighteen and the Second,
witness unto Himself. What Word
in that day did those eighteen say
so that the reunion could finally begin?
“Yea!” they cried, voices flung in abandon,
high unto the heavens.
“Yea!” they cried, necks bared to the blade,
arms lifted taut with joy.
“Yea!” they cried and thus they died
leaving only their echoes to recall them.
But here in my place, God help me,
I think I hear them still.

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This is a poem that is steeped in the history of the Bahá’í Faith and the allusions will be unclear to non-Bahá’ís, so let me explain very briefly:

Much like John the Baptist came first to prepare the world for Jesus Christ, the Báb (“the First” in the poem) came to prepare the world for Bahá’u’lláh (“the Second” in the poem), the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. The first eighteen brave souls—martyrs all, as was the Báb Himself—who declared Their belief in Him are referred to as the Letters of the Living.

This concept of “living”  i.e. spiritual rejuvenation through belief in a new Manifestation of God, is developed also in the first stanza, where Shiva—a Hindu deity—fulfills one of the roles of God and “destroys” the world (everyone is metaphorically dead upon His arrival) and then transforms it, through giving “life”, i.e. spiritual rejuvenation through faith in Him.

Thank you for reading The Letters of the Living. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is entitled Burst and was taken in Washington, DC on Memorial Day, several years ago. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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I just can’t till this land no more

Ghosts - Bodie State Park, CA


I just can’t till this land no more,
I just can’t till this land,
it’s a barren land, this land I hoe,
seeded with the salt of tears,
I stand on this land and it pulls me down
yearning to swallow me whole.

Here the wind whispers to the plow,
the plow to me and I to the yoke back:
You live only to die, to reap what is sown
and to gnaw the bitter root.

Carry on.

swril2

There are times when, out of desperation, fear, hope or love, we try to hold on to things and to control them. But they cannot be held, cannot be controlled and it is futile to try—they only strangle in your grip.

Santayana said, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. If there is humor built into Nature, that is it.

The photograph is entitled Ghosts and was taken in the ghost town of Bodie in Bodie State Park, CA. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

Thank you for reading I just can’t till this land no more. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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In a smithy

With the ore of your deeds
melted in the crucible of His Name—
with the heat of your desire
glowing from the fan of His Breath—
with the hammer blows of your heart
striking the anvil of His Will—
rest you not content, o smith,
for you have just begun your toil.

Quenched in the chill of separation,
annealed by the fire of faith,
tempered with the blows of duty,
forge you then the sword of your love
and there, upon the keen,
whetted edge of surrender,
sacrifice yourself, o smith,
for now you are finally done:
you know the one is only transmuted to the other
because the other is its twin.

Thank you for reading In a smithy. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Hamlet

And then there was Hamlet,
correct when he was wrong,
wrong when he was correct
and pondering slipping beyond his decisions:
I surrender, therefore I am—
that’s the real rub of it.

This is the third—and with a sigh of relief, you say—last of three poems in my “Keep on thinking” series inspired by contemplation of the famous, “I think, therefore I am.” philosophical postulate. The first poem in the series is Philosophy, and the second poem in the series is Overrated.

The poem refers to the most famous of William Shakespeare’s soliloquies, the opening of  Act 3 scene 1 in Hamlet, the lines of which are said by the main character as he enters the stage:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub…

It is, of course, sheer hubris to link to anything written by Shakespeare, let alone perhaps one of his best works, but if one is going to be utterly rude and hitch one’s wagon to a star, make it a bright star, say I!

Thank you so much for reading Hamlet. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Overrated

Descartes said, ‘I think, therefore I am.’
It follows then
that when I am not, I will no longer.
In truth, the idea has long been overrated.

This is the second of three poems in my “Keep on thinking” series of poems inspired by contemplation of the famous, “I think, therefore I am.” philosophical postulate. The first poem in the series is Philosophy, and the third is Hamlet.

The poem hinges on a bit of a double entendre, which, to be honest, I am a little proud of. Both, however are serious suggestions  for reasons already outlined in my first post.

In the last line, “the idea” can refer to the noun, in the sense that “these things we call ‘ideas’ have long been overrated.” And, of course, it can also mean that the idea of ‘I think, therefore I am.’ is overrated. It’s your choice on how to read the poem: the one, the other, or both.

In any case, have fun doing so!

Thank you so much for reading Overrated. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Philosophy

René Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.”
It follows then, “When I can’t, I am no longer.”
This, then, is good, for it is our final act, our last submission.
It is when we—at our end—learn to be what we should most be
but seldom are, that for which we are unique.
For we are the ones who know that we know what we know
and what we do not. (Or at least we think we do.)
And yet, even in thinking this, we persist in the sweetest of our vanities…
thoughts come, thoughts go, patterns build and patterns fall
but fools we, we live on in pure free-fall,
caught in the folly of free thought,
me and mine alone.
Therefore, I.

“The story,” as Tolkien said, “grew in the telling.” This is the first of three poems inspired by contemplation of the famous, “I think, therefore I am.” philosophical postulate, my “Keep on Thinking” series, as it were. (The second is Overrated, and the third is Hamlet.)

The genesis of the poem was the realization that thinking is a biological based process; when the soul/mind linkage is severed, what then does one do in the next world? And what does that say about life beyond this one?

Frankly, I don’t know. It is hard, if not impossible, for a physically bound construct, even one which is spiritual in its most basic reality, to conceive of the conditions of the next world, one that is beyond the physical one. We just don’t have the capacity. And surely anything we can conceive is merely our imagination and again—this is an imagination tainted with only experience in the physical realm. Hardly something to be trusted in its prognostications.

Having decided that one cannot think of what it is like to not think, I started to question the whole concept of thinking at all. If it is something that we cannot take to the next world, can we not then decide that giving up our thoughts, as we approach the meaning and the existence of that final door and what is beyond it, is a good thing?

We are, in the end, sadly ever so attached and proud of our ability to think. But it has become, in the 20th century and beyond, and in our hubris, something that we are too proud of, too much in love with, too assured that it is ours, ours, ours, and ours, ours, ours alone. Little do we think, as wonderful as it is, from whence our ability to think and to reason comes from. We think that in developing it we own it, that it is ours, we can do with it what we want, when the truth is that our capacity to think is an inherent part of us and a gift of our very nature.

But then to counter this this comes the epitome of the self-centered approach: to think away the Source of our ability to think, to decide that in fact it is the random gift of a benevolent universe (or random luck, take your pick) and therefore, to decide, if there be gods in this universe at all, then it is we. No, sorry, that’s not for me.

Thank you so much for reading Philosophy. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Every truth

How much movement in the stillness of a heron?
How much stillness in the water below?
Heron and fish—stillness and movement,
how these lovers lead the other
in their perfect little dance
of need and surrender.

Listen, this is true:
I have sat praying, knowing
anything I desired could be mine
if only I would deign not to wish it;
every truth is a paradox,
but no truth is a lie.

I drive an hour each day to and from work, with much of the journey being through rural Connecticut. There is one small lake that I pass that, for an entire season, an egret was using for its nesting and feeding. Every day I would look to catch a glimpse of it fishing and often reflected on its sense of patience and purpose. And while that scene and my meditations are the obvious source for the first part of the poem, the source for the second part is more difficult to explain.

Prayer is transformative, a creative act by and for the person saying the prayer. It is not that it is wrong to say a prayer asking for a specific outcome; it is wrong to say a prayer that is contingent on a specific outcome. God tests mankind, not the other way around. The more of the sense of control over our lives that we give up, the more we are actually in control of what matters in our lives.

And while that is a paradox, it is, I think, no lie.

Thank you so much for reading Every truth. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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