Monday, March 5, 2012


I'm intuitively undertaking this journey guided by two lodestones: an acknowledgement of, acceptance of and delight in mystery; and a recognition of the power and potential of the present moment. For me these must be givens, for we are all perpetual travellers through the great unknown, and this moment now is all we have.

So my — our — journey begins with the Rachel Naomi Remen's thoughts about mystery. As More Than Meets The I remarks in her comment on my first post, we are reminded here of the Keatsian notion of Negative Capability:  ". . . that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." Remen writes about attunement to the mystery, acceptance of it, respect for it, its inherent potentialities. Going beyond Remen, I suggest that further responses to the mysterious unknown may be curiosity, then wonder, then awe — and finally praise. We can also be more proactive about this eternal mystery of origins and endings, of earth and nature, by interiorising it, by imaginatively recreating it, by preserving its essence within us. Indeed, it might be incumbent on us to do so. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke has written of such a process . . .

"We are continually overflowing toward those who preceded us, toward our origin, and toward those who seemingly come after us . . . It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again, 'invisibly', inside us. We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible.”

Collecting the honey of the finite, mysterious visible, and storing it in the golden hive of the infinite, mysterious invisible, is a way of connecting with and partaking in the mystery — for the artist, and for us all. It's a kind of alchemy, a distillation, a transformation of substance into essence. And out of listening,  acceptance and respect, out of awareness of possibility, out of curiosity, wonder and awe, out of all this — what else can we ultimately do but praise?

It Is All About Praising

It is all about praising.
Created to praise, his heart
is a winepress destined to break,
that makes for us an eternal wine.

His voice never chokes with dust
when words for the sacred come through.
All becomes vineyard. All becomes grape,
ripening in the southland of his being.

Nothing, not even the rot
in royal tombs, or the shadow cast by a god,
gives the lie to his praising.

He is ever the messenger,
venturing far through the doors of the dead,
bearing a bowl of fresh-picked fruit.

RAINER MARIA RILKE Sonnets to Orpheus I, 7

Our journey also begins with the now — right here, this instant, this moment which is constantly replenishing itself. Did not the Spanish poet Antonio Machado once write: "Wanderer, there is no road; the road is made by walking"? Just as the road's illusion is created by putting down small steps, one after the other, so time's illusion is created by living each single moment, one at a time. The one true reality is the visceral reality of each felt step and each lived moment. The road exists only in the here and now, created anew with every footfall. Time too — past, present and future — exists only in the here and now, newly created each second and with every breath, and pregnant with possibility.


  1. Your post was a bit daunting to read Robert, but interesting as I read it to realise that I am just reading 'The Seven Daughters of Eve' by Bryan Sykes - I intend to buy David a DNA tests for his birthday, to see which daughter he is related to. It does give one immense food for thought to realise that our DNA is passed on from generation to generation like that.

  2. "Wanderer, there is no road; the road is made by walking"

    Great quote. Thanks so much for the Thomas Merton quote, too -- "... It is best to have both."

    The Rachel Naomi Remen quote came from a monthly email I get. I need to give credit where credit is due:

  3. What an extraordinary post. So much to ponder. I'll pick three quotations you've noted:

    without any irritable reaching after fact and reason--Keats

    We are the bees of the invisible--Rilke

    Wanderer, there is no road; the road is made by walking--Machado

    These quotations each speak to me so strongly of your two lodestones, and perhaps, for me, most of all the Keats. That word "liminal" comes to mind as well, that place that is no place and every place, that place where we shiver with aliveness, where there is no mapped out course, just where we are and where we might go, which could be anywhere.

    The right kind of music sets me in that liminal space, a space of possibility, no proven course, anything is possible.

    So, too, oddly enough, does John Ashbery, at least in certain poems. I was thinking this earlier today, wondering, what is it about Ashbery? My work days are made up, as I suppose most of our are, with one plodding step taken in front of the other, relentlessly linear, to get from here to there. Ashbery will not allow for that. He subverts any attempt at fact and reason.

  4. Thanks Weaver and am for your valued comments...

    ... and thanks for your visit, Susan. It's interesting what you wrote. I felt a compulsion to explore a different territory from the ones being mapped in my other blogs (though there will be overlaps). Hence this new experimental, tentative, free-form blog. Although it may sometimes seem 'linear' on the surface, really it will be more circular — like a late Miles Davis jazz riff, you might say. I won't be going from A to B to C, but perhaps from Z to 0 via E, and perhaps even abandoning the conventional alphabet altogether. I think we have two narratives going on in our lives: the obvious, linear one of birth, childhood, education, marriage, career and so on, made coherent by memory and our/other people's interpretation of it; and another, more hidden, out-of-time narrative — the one I'm interested in here — which is to do with liminality, possibility, circularity, the sixth sense, poetry, the unconscious, the unspoken, the timeless, the mystical, the Tao and God. (Often this territory is more easily accessed by music and painting?) Consciousness may be streamed and the surreal encountered. Who knows? I'm finding myself quite excited by the project. Not all posts will be successful — some may be too dense, as I struggle at the edge of meaning. If I write too long, readers will lose interest. If I write too short, the condensation may obscure the sense. Basically, I'm making it up as I go along!

    Ashbery is very relevant here, I think.

  5. PS If you take all the quotes in my sidebar together —THAT's what this new blog's about! I couldn't put it any better than that.

  6. This is a wonderful post, Robert, one that overflows with wisdom. After all of the reading, all of the tinkering, all of the wondering, we always return to the two truths that you have identified as your lodestones, divine mystery and the call to live fully in the present moment, the eternal now. The past and the future are little more than mental abstractions.

    I agree so much with your idea of approaching mystery proactively. I suppose one could passively resign oneself to the unknown and unknowable, but I find it much richer to approach mystery with wonder, awe, and delight. In an odd way, mystery is liberating, especially when we come to terms with it. I tend to think of mystery as the workshop of the imagination.

    And, yes, let us praise all of this reality, the known and the unknown. Praise is nothing more than a song of gratitude, and we can't have too many of those.

  7. Thanks, George. I really do appreciate your comment. And thanks for joining me on this mysterious (and I hope worthwhile) journey.