Author Archives: garylindorff

Do you see what I see?

Do you see what I see?

Often dreams work a sleight of hand. Something will show up as “this”, but then it transforms into “that”. And the reason it was “this” is because I was relating to it in a certain way, to which it was responding, manifesting itself accordingly. (To be able to initiate and control this process is called lucid dreaming.) Here the dream is demonstrating an often stated catechism about the power of a positive (or negative) outlook in the waking world. One’s outlook or attitude toward a given situation can actually alter the situation and therefore one’s reality. (In quantum physics, they have been stating for some time, that the mere presence of a subject performing an experiment involving sub-atomic particles, alters the results, and this in a strictly controlled setting.)

Just how important is one’s sense of reality in the larger picture? Very.

For example, just last month it seemed like we were very close to confronting North Korea militarily. At the height of this crisis I wrote to a friend: “As I write, there is a battle group heading for, as far as I can tell, a confrontation with North Korea, which could result in war and the death of tens of thousands of South Koreans and North Koreans and Americans, both soldiers and civilians stationed in South Korea. How mad is that? And even if it doesn’t happen, it is so close to happening I cannot avoid thinking about it. It colors my day and bleeds into my life.” Continue reading

Listening to the cricket

I had a dream last night that I was drawing a map. It was a heart map. It was where my heart was going. The path was indicated by a dotted line that traveled through valleys and over mountains. It depicted quite a journey. And it came around again. There was even a little sketch of my heart in the key off on the side. The trail was colored with bright blue ink. I was showing my mother this map. She seemed pleased.

My mother has been gone for about 5 years. She was all heart. She raised me to pay attention to my heart and to listen to my conscience.

In the Disney classic, “Pinocchio”, Jiminy Cricket sings to Pinocchio, right after the star-faery leaves with the advice to “always let your conscience be your guide”.   Jiminy sits down on a matchbox and starts in . . .”even though the right thing may seem wrong, sometimes the wrong things may be right at the wrong time, or visa versa. . .” I think that is how life feels for the young. But after living a bunch of decades you tend to sort it out because most likely you have done plenty of wrong things at the right and the wrong times and plenty of right things at the wrong time, and like the wise cricket said, sometimes doing the “wrong” thing was the right thing at the wrong time.

Suffice it to say, finding our way through life is not easy. I think the key is following our hearts, but not our hearts alone. We also need to pay attention to our conscience. My dream about the heart’s journey reminds me of how we need a compass. If the heart is the magnetized needle, the conscience is magnetic north.

Why did that dream of my heart-path come up now? And why was my mother there, smiling approval? Because, even though I’m 66, like Pinocchio, I long to be “real”, not just a puppet of my times, of my government, of my fears, of chronic Lyme, of what people think. I want to be a real human being, and it appears that my heart has the map and knows the way. (I always knew my mother did.)

Poet’s notebook: “How the future looks” and reflection


How the future looks
 
I am visiting a large university.
The library is a red brick tower
15 stories tall.
The open green spaces
Are dotted with students sunbathing,
Launching frisbees over heads
Of pink and blue and orange hair.
 
Professors from other eras
Pass to and fro
Dragging long purple shadows.
 
The sun is setting.
 
The same sun is rising.
 
Ten years pass.
Maybe twenty.
 
A young Chinese man in his pajamas
Charges down from his dorm
Right into a huge flock of geese by the pond
Who honk and flap and flee every which-way
But eventually they gather in the middle of the pond
Where they consider their options and fix their feathers.
The young man laughs and laughs
Resoundingly.
His name is Tin Sen.
He will change the world.
…………………………
Reflection: This happened about 20 years ago. My son and I were checking out New England colleges. We were at UMass in Amherst. It was early, about 9. We were walking around a pond on campus, below the library, and what happened was exactly how I described it. I liked everything about this young man: how he burst from his dorm in his pajamas, created chaos with the geese and exploded with laughter. I felt like he was showing me a better way to live. Now, so many years later, he returns in this poem to help renew the planet. And his world is not a recycled planet or a wounded, over-crowded, war-ravaged, struggling planet. His is a world inhabited by people like him who wake up just in time to make change. Nothing can stop him because he has the will to stir things up and he knows how to give himself over to joy.

Poet’s notebook: My poem “Onion” followed by reflection

 

Onion

Onion was deep in thought
looking out over the field
where Woo was sitting
reading a book under a tree.
Beyond where Woo was sitting
was an old pile of stones
left by the farmer who cleared the field
many years ago.
Onion was thinking about his life
as Onion. What had he accomplished?
It seemed
that he had done almost nothing.
He thought of the birds, building nests
and the bees that make honey
and the frogs that do nothing
but somehow
everything seemed to have a job.
“What am I here to do?” thought Onion.
Just then Woo looked up from his book.
“Onion”, he shouted, “Come here,
and bring yourself.”
Onion heaved a big sigh and squinted.
Woo seemed to fade for a second.
“Oh, I know what my job is”, thought Onion.
“I’m coming”, shouted Onion.
And he hurried down
to join his friend.

Reflection: I have been thinking, more like obsessing, about Mali, “the loneliest elephant” that I wrote about in my poem “What am I shouting?”. Her plight has become a watermark on my heart. Even when I am happy about something, her image repeats like a mantra, works on me like a Zen koan, around the clock. Mali really is the elephant in the room of my consciousness, except in Mali’s case, I see her vividly. Her plight seems to stand for the failure of the human race to love.

Loving the planet means loving life, and that means loving all the creatures with whom we share this place. And loving life means remembering that our hearts are capable of expanding almost infinitely. There is hate and evil in the world and all forms of cruelty, but if we uncage our hearts, evil will stop terrorizing us. Only by loving can we alter the endless cycle of cruelty and abuse and war. We are victims of our fear, and because of our fear, we have allowed our hearts to condense into a distraught muscle that beats in our chests until the day it stops beating and we die. Our hearts are so much more than a muscular stressed-out pump!

This morning it was my turn to share a poem with a circle of poets who take turns sending poems to each other. I was anxious to lighten up, remembering the words of a fellow writer, in his response to my poem about Mali: “Imagery needs no explanation, so explaining as you write is like writing before you are ready to send the message.”

I love writing poems about Onion and Woo because there is no explaining to do. I just stand back and let them interact, and usually, as with a dream, in what happens there is more than meets the eye. Woo is very mysterious to me. He (or she) is a shape-shifter. Woo’s father is the wind. Onion is just Onion (His father was an onion!) but I’m not sure who or what Woo is, but, like Onion, I hold great affection for Woo, or at least what Woo represents. Like Onion, with everything that is going on in the world, I am questioning what I should be doing with myself, how best to spend my time at this moment, in my life and in the life of the planet. In this poem Onion realizes that he could do a lot worse than hang out with Woo. Woo is not all in any one reality. He is, for lack of a better word, magical. Onion is lucky to have a friend like Woo. We should all be so lucky.

The heart is open to magic.

 

 

Poet’s Notebook: My poem “What am I shouting? (A curse or a prayer?)” followed by a reflection, and now including a discussion with a reader. . .

What am I shouting?

I saw a photo of an elephant in a concrete cell
alone,
so alone.
She was holding her own tail with her trunk
to close the circle of
herself,
a loop of loneliness,
standing, eyes closed
to the long sentence of her life.
I just would like to know. . . 
What?
I just would like to know! 
How can the intelligence that created such a creature
stand by and watch it suffer so.
And then I realized,
that’s me.
That’s all of us,
holding our tails in our trunks.
But were we not created to thunder
and trumpet
and love each other
as only elephants can,
crossing the great grasslands together
as a family?
And, as we slumber,
to be painted silver by the moon?
So, is that it?
Because,
because . . . so many years of standing back
and watching things unravel
have taken a toll on me,
on my elephant nature.
And so I shout out
into the tornado,
but what I shout
even I don’t
know.

Reflection: When I saw this photo for the first time, of Mali, the “loneliest elephant in the world”, it made me heartsick. I mean something in me literally recoiled and it wasn’t a thought, or even an emotion that I could identify, like anger or sadness. It was more like a Continue reading

Poet’s Notebook: My poem “Death” followed by comments

Death

No matter how it comes up,
it comes up,
in, through. . .
It isn’t like anything else
but, as it takes more
and more of the people of my life
and the edges of my memories
it begins to feel more like life
than when life was everything.
It used to be like a ghost or a far off war
or a feeling I couldn’t trace
or own
like the memory of a song
about a place in a country in a book
about a movie in a dream.
No more.

Comments:

More and more people have crossed in my life. Many more are crossing. In the meantime, I find that being 66 is a good time to contemplate the in-between. Not that I am halfway through life. Quite the contrary, if I imagine life as a hill or small mountain, I have summited and am looking out across the landscape that includes all the directions in the round. This is the “still moment” that T. S. Eliot talked about, that is neither movement away nor toward, the moment of neither coming nor going, but of gathering and letting go at the same time. It’s like in yoga when you realize you aren’t breathing on your own anymore, but you are being breathed. Death is not the enemy, and death is certainly not no-life. As death gathers more and more life to itself the difference between life and death grows thinner and thinner, and what they say in the East becomes more real, about how life is illusion, a big Dream. Life is not “life” and death is not “death”. Not a bad place to arrive. By not clinging to life or siding with life, I feel more alive than ever!

 

Poet’s Notebook: The new Big Story (The short story: a super-intelligent species behaved badly)

I have been teaching a class where we have been discussing the Big Story, the new Big Story of the creation of the universe and the ongoing creation. The old story told about the Big Bang, and an expanding universe of lifeless star systems careening away from each other for the rest of time, a very depressing prospect indeed!  Yes, for almost the last seventy years it has been assumed that the old expanding universe was most likely a dead issue, Star Trek notwithstanding. The old story dictated that Earth was unique. That vision of the universe was pretty much based on what our own solar system seemed to be saying — that everything about Earth, that made it so ripe for life, was a miraculous coincidence, sort of like winning the lottery where the odds are one in infinity. The Christian narrative of Genesis dovetailed with the old scientific narrative: The origin of life, which accounts for our winning the cosmic lottery, was copyrighted by an Earth-centric God. We can look all we want, but there are no other Earths in the universe to be found. In other words, if you’re looking for company out there, don’t get your hopes up, said the old story. All we will find is super-hot places (like Venus), arid rocks (like Mercury and Mars), gaseous giants (like Saturn and Jupiter), or icy outliers (like Pluto). The universe was just a vast proof that God is not a creator of worlds, but the benevolent father of one world, our Earth. Continue reading