Bad news- Coleman Barks can't make the Tagorefest at Dartington Hall this May - we were doing an evening of Rumi and stories together. Doctors have told him the man needs more rest time for a gent of his age and stature, so he, with great regret, is having to stay home. I will keep you posted on the new schedule for that evening.
Todays Lightning Tree excerpt is on the business of vision- and how to articulate it on return from any deep opening of the soul, in this case the wilderness fast on the mountain.
...What emerges is not thinned out by the language of the masses, it is a torrent, containing angular, magical trains of energy. Like a collapsing iceberg or a fox in the hen house, it is volume, action, tearing, biting, smashing; how does such an experience fall into the neat little confines of everyday language?
When approaching the Horse of Vision, we could say it has four great Hooves:
1. The Strong Bite of Antlered Language The language of wilderness is an experiential teaching from a non-human realm, and therefore its impact is not primarily to the rational, easily digested intellect.
2. Opening to the Fierce Empty To receive its message, an emptying out is required. Full up as we are with domestic concerns, job, and relationships, fasting assists us to slow down, open up, to be aware of our own emotional currents. We need to lose the distractions.
3. A Scattering of Darkness To go without food, company, books, watch, or phone for four days can be hard, even terrifying.
4. Holding Gentle Cunning Don’t be naïve. You are returning to a world that hasn’t been where you’ve just been. Don’t risk potential loss by trying to share the experience too early. Don’t spill the soul-gold over coffee, even with a friend.
Community and Reclaiming Time
Finding community is a tricky thing. Community could live at least partially in the imagination, rather than continually forced into the literal. Our community should involve long dead poets, sharks teeth, the heavy frost on a Scottish glen, the erotic trim of a Bedouin tent. We could reach a wider perspective on the word rather than attempting to wrestle it always into concrete solutions, petitions, finger wagging, committees, living in a tiny house of comrades arguing over who last bought the toiletries and who stole the tofu from the back of the fridge.
Communities could also be to do with reclaiming time: it seems to have a harsh, worried pulse to many people. It is useful to reach back through it to a community of ancestors. I don't mean some vague concept but in the work of vitalising folks down the centuries. It is naïve for us to claim personal impoverishment when we are connected to the legacy of Emily Dickinson, Taliesin, Patti Smith, Delius, Mirabai, Black Elk, Wolfram Von Eschenbach, and John Coltrane. We could find a specific soul-teacher from history and follow that lead. This will also broaden and deepen time around us, and in the same moment make us more genuinely present.
It’s quite possible to completely re-experience time. Start by regarding the coming of night as a regular move into the eternal, the end of clock time till the sun rises the next day. Take questions to the night, questions that could never accomplish themselves in the agitation of daylight. Become a night walker, invite it to become an ally. What are the scents and impression that night brings? What Goddesses glide through the open window? Night as a disorderly community of dreams, sudden fears, and sideways epiphanies. Allow the art you make of your life to beguile the Moon to wander to your bedside and start to talk. This allows us to flood into the wisdom of shadows and the indistinct blessings that midnight offers. It’s a grave mistake for us to only associate wisdom with the daylight hours or “light of knowledge”; we isolate ourselves from half the insights that twenty-four hours carries. Night as an ally is to understand that it follows different deities to well-mannered day: Lillith, Nyx, lusty Pan, and his disgraceful fantasies. The ‘”Luna” -tics have taken over the asylum. At the same time, that very hoard of impulses can cut to the marrow of all sorts of worries and amplify all sorts of truths that we can’t get near in the daylight hours. Night is the entering of a temple.
James Hillman claims that reaching back through history becomes a kind of osmosis, that you can merge into the leafy mulch of mystical texts and hard ideas, that you can become thousands of years old. This is another invitation to shape/leap. So we extend community by actually retreating backwards.
Become an apprentice to the way Caravaggio handled color and don’t worry about having an original thought for at least five years. Allow yourself to feel strange and slightly magical. Compose poetry that is irritable and fiery, that runs to hundreds of lines, then learn by heart and recite to nearby jackdaws. Write letters again, and find the oldest mail box you can to post them from. Decide that your hips are an altar to old Romanian Goddesses and take up belly dancing. Give out library cards as birthday presents. Run a three-week course from your porch on the relationship between the Aztec temples and Gypsy gambling games from medieval Wales. Don’t go easy on yourself.
One genius of story is that it refers to an inner community. Study of myth on the Return is a practice that assists in a kind of internal literacy. The intelligence of the image is placed within the violent range of emotions a participant will surely encounter, and a rich language emerges to articulate these often-warring factions within the psyche. Myth reveals that these inner impulses are not easily “managed” (Even Arthur struggles to hold the Round Table together). So the Return is a dedication to an inside as well as outside community.