It seems strange, sometimes, that the word ‘indefinite’ is so beautiful to me, since, to most people, it probably carries a somewhat negative flavor. We usually want our lives to be the opposite of indefinite – like understandable, and clear, and user-friendly – but I see, more and more, the beauty of obscurity and uncertainty. For me, at the ripe young age of 80, life has become more and more beautifully limitless, a reality without confining borderlines and constrictive explanations. In my younger years, I found it fun to apply easy labels in order to define and understand various parts of my life, but now I know that labels always overlook the vastness and nebulousness of reality. All of this life I’m part of is as indefinite as mist and smoke, as unfixed as breezes and sunshine. After my wonderful long years of searching and studying, I’ve come – happily – face to face with the immeasurable mystery of everything, and it makes me want to wave my arms in thankfulness. I’m a free-and-easy 80-year-old ripple in an unsearchable ocean, happy to simply appreciate the indefinite, open-ended grandeur of things instead of hopelessly trying to define and understand them.
ONE DAY OF KNOWING NOTHING
no one knew anything,
and this knowing nothing
made a saintly kind of happiness.
Little lights of unknowing
A silky sea called Ignorance crashed
in spectacular surf on the shore,
and thoughts were so light
they lifted off from people's heads
like light-hearted butterflies.
Broken lives were refurbished
simply by this awareness of ignorance,
and a gentle bewilderment
kept everything sheltered and hushed.
You could see something shining
inside you, because artificial
understanding was no longer there.
Thoughts were shining
with the salutary light of simplicity,
and soft, medicinal
explosions of puzzlement
Each day is a day of revelations. Each moment, some small or large miracle is being revealed, here and everywhere. Even each moment itself is a surprising disclosure, arising as if from nowhere, presenting itself as an announcement of the mystery and marvel of life. Big news breaks moment after moment, but in a gracious and considerate way, the way clouds suddenly separate to disclose a blue and sunny sky. If I listen carefully, I can hear declarations of fresh truths all day long: ‘This exact thought has never been thought before!’ ‘This particular sight of two old pencils sitting beside a tall coffee cup has never been seen before!’ ‘This specific breath you’re now receiving is being born brand new, right now!’ It’s like fresh treasures are uncovered for me moment after moment, like stunning good news is continuously broadcast for me, and for everyone. Trouble is, I am sometimes so wrapped in my wandering worries and concerns that I don’t see or hear the beautiful revelations life provides moment after moment. Hopefully, today will be different. Perhaps I’ll be quietly astounded today by life’s simple but astonishing, nonstop newsflashes.
It was a revelation of truth.
It was an orange opening
so he could see the blaze burning inside.
It was words shattering
like glass containers so the truths
he never knew existed were spread out
before him. It was someone walking
on a sea of sorrows, or someone starting
to write and the sentences skipping
like girls and boys, or someone deciding
to be brave and breaking the past
like a single matchstick, that’s all,
as easy as that, and then he saw
the praise that everything deserves.
I sometimes wonder if I’m missing certain special signals sent to me occasionally from here and there. Yesterday I was watching a tree as it turned and bent and bowed in the wind, its limbs and leaves lifting and falling, and, as silly as it might sound, it seemed like the tree was sending me signals. It was like small messages made just for me: “Are you there, Hamilton? Are you truly alert and listening to the sounds I’m making with this wind?” Then I saw a seagull sailing in circles above the tree, and I wondered if there were signals there also. Perhaps the bird was sending from the sky the news that nothing is better than right now: “Hammy, happiness is inside you, right there where you’re sitting in the shade with a glass of ice water at 3:37 on a sweltering afternoon.” Then, in the next instant, I found myself listening to the sounds of cars on the distant interstate, and they sent – in soft, almost whispery sounds – the message that I’m an amazing mystery. “You’re astounding,” they said, “and so is this afternoon and everyone and everything.” It seems strange, I know, but I’ll be searching for signals tomorrow, as well.
The sky stood up one morning
and made a signal to him,
like people might make
when happiness is molding them
into something thankful and fresh.
It was a September sky
with blueness so bright
it brought him permission
as he sipped his coffee,
and he signaled back
to the sky that he too
was happy and hoped
the sky and he
would stay that way.
WORDS LIKE LIGHT
Tuesday, December 7, 2021, 4:31 a.m.
At the beginning of this brand-new day, I feel like I’m entering, once again, a wonderland of allure and revelation . Literally anything could happen in these next 16 waking hours, and what I know, for sure, is that it will all be – somehow, some way – for the good. Somehow, someway, whatever unfolds for me today will be a gift, and I hope I can be alert enough to perceive the benefits of all of it. Significant truths will be revealed each moment – the truth of sunlight on roads and grass, the truth of thoughts unveiling in their freshness, the truth of feelings smoothly releasing themselves into my life, the truth, even – possibly – of pain and sorrow. The new mystery of each moment will make itself known to me, and I hope I can be alert to its message. Surprises and spectacles will be disclosed for me throughout this day, and all I have to do is listen and watch with care and appreciation – and perhaps some grateful astonishment, too.
(Philip M., 89, Blessings, CT)
One day, as he was writing a poem,
he suddenly understood
that he wasn’t actually creating the poem,
just revealing it.
He saw that the words of the poem
had been sitting next to each other
for centuries and eons,
and he just stumbled upon them that morning
as he sat in front of his computer screen.
It suddenly made him see
that revelations are everywhere,
unfolding and flowing for us
from moment to moment.
Nothing is actually created,
just softly and sometimes obscurely
disclosed, uncovered, made known.
He saw that surprise is constantly occurring,
split second after split second,
as the universe affectionately
lets its miracles be seen.
And here’s my best of all friends, enjoying the comfort and peace of this special season …
WORDS LIKE LIGHT
Saturday, September 4, 2021
One definition of an epiphany is “a moment of sudden revelation or insight”, something that I’m sure happens to all of us more times than we realize. I’ve had thousands of epiphanies over the last 79 years, everything from suddenly realizing, one April day back in 7th grade, that I was in deep trouble with Sister Virginia Marie, to unexpectedly understanding, one morning several years ago, how to securely install a bracket for a flag to an outside wall. I suppose we have these epiphanies almost constantly – these sudden understandings, unforeseen eye-openers, “aha!” moments that make some part of life instantly comprehensible. Strangely, one of my most common epiphanies is the out-the blue understanding that I don’t really understand much of anything – that this life is ultimately a beautiful but unsolvable mystery, of which I am a small but essential part. These are instructional epiphanies that, in a flash, make clear to me my safe and lucky place in this hugely puzzling but relentlessly perfect universe. I’m always grateful when they make what have become their regular daily visits.
A WONDERFUL ACCIDENT
his life reaches a peak.
It's like everything
is food for his heart,
like he can see the heat
of the center of his life,
like a wonderful accident has happened
and cast him into a paradise
where he can sit in peace
and play pitch-and-catch
with both joy and disappointment.
WORDS LIKE LIGHT
Thursday, August 18, 2021
When I was a boy and a member of a Catholic community, certain days were labeled as ‘holy days of obligation’, but now, many decades later, I understand that every day – every hour, every moment – is hallowed and should be devotedly honored. As a young Catholic, on those special days I was ‘obligated’ to attend mass and take communion, but now, at 79, I feel obligated – and happily so – to ardently worship every single moment, since each of them is surrounded by – and filled with – a sacred and boundless light. I sometimes feel like falling to my knees in adoration, as I used to do as a boy in Holy Redeemer Church, but now this feeling can come to me as I’m sitting at my desk doing some writing in the early morning, or walking across the grass in our yard, or washing some bowls and spoons in the sink. I see now that everything is blessed. Every rise of my lungs is somehow sanctified, and even the simplest thought is sacred. I should be worshiping all day long! I’m always in the presence of the sanctified mystery known as ‘life’, so perhaps I should occasionally bow my head in reverence, even after a sip of steaming coffee at 4:53 a.m.
In Worship, West Virginia, USA,
even the smallest word -
even 'like' or 'love' -
is spoken with special reverence.
Citizens of this serene town
see holy mystery everywhere -
in water flowing from faucets,
in hands that shine after washing,
on the shore of each arising moment.
You'll see expressions of consecration in faces
in the cereal section of grocery stores,
and the prayer-like look of mechanics
making their sacred cars run smoothly.
Just a little silence
can make folks fall into prayer,
and the sound of warm air
flowing from a furnace
is like sacred hymns
in reverential Worship, West Virginia.
I sometimes feel like I’m in a befuddling maze, which is why, perhaps, I often feel a-mazed by everything around me. Like many of us, I enjoy pretending that my life is laid out in well-marked roads, and that I know exactly where I’m going and how to get there, but the truth is that I’ve been in an almost daily maze since November of 1941. Honestly, I still have little or no idea who I am or why things happen or where I should be going, and it is in this sense that I feel almost constantly amazed, as though I’ve been endlessly wandering in a maze for 79 years. Perhaps, though, I should say ‘labyrinth’ instead of maze, for in a labyrinth there is no worry of being lost, since all paths in due course lead to the center and back out. A labyrinth is a light-hearted place to be, since all choices are somehow the right ones, and seeming mistakes end up showing you the way. I guess life, for me, has been like a puzzling but relaxing labyrinth. It’s like a mystery made for my pleasure and instruction, a place where patience can turn mistakes into miracles.
(July 16, 2021)
will silently show you
how sharing is always happening -
how troubles play a part in joys,
how happiness has something to do
how 'now' has a role in the future.
This special day knows
that everything participates
with everything else,
that losses and wins
to make a life to be thankful for.
You'll be deeply involved
with this day.
You can't avoid it.
We took our first real bike ride of the season this morning, a quick 8 miles, and here’s a look at Delycia finishing the second 2-mile stage in a very strong fashion …
+ + + + +
“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific – and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent upon a peak in Darien.”
— John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”
I’m always hoping to more often feel what “stout Cortez” and his men felt on that “peak in Darien”. Keats pictures them standing on a hill above the Pacific Ocean, staggered by the scene, and I would like to foster more of that kind of bewilderment and wonder in my life. Cortez and his men saw a startling sight, and every day – every moment – I am witness to scenes which, in their own special ways, are just as amazing. Hard as it is to remember during the sometimes wearisome routines of the day, the various circumstances that arise around me are as unique and mystifying as the Pacific Ocean, and really, the only suitable response to them is honest amazement. The life I share with Delycia is my “Darien”, and wherever I happen to be is the “peak” where I can look “with a wild surmise” at the inscrutable magnificence of life. A “surmise” is a guess, a supposition, a hunch, and that’s honestly all I have when it comes to understanding the things I see and experience. In the end, they’re all complete conundrums to me. If you ask me to make clear the mystery of even the simplest circumstance – the look of lamplight on a table, the sound of a car coming past the house, the whole sky shining at 7:00 a.m. — all I could do is make a hit-or-miss guess, a “wild surmise”. A better response might be to stay respectfully silent, like the astonished explorer and his men.