Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sit Lightly in the World

I am listening to a CD of readings of poetry of William Blake. Last night, this was among the series of those poems known as the "Gnomic Verses":

He who bends to himself a Joy
Doth the wing├Ęd life destroy;
But he who kisses the Joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity's sunrise.

Four simple lines that sum up an entire range of human behavior - grasping for pleasure, trying to hold on, and in the end killing that which we most value with our clinging and possessiveness - or, counter-intuitively, releasing that which we treasure the most, letting it fly off into the world, gracing it instead with just a kiss of blessing, and being blessed in turn by "eternity's sunrise," or the world of the ten thousand things, our presence in that one moment of universal awareness.

Beata Chapman, visiting on Tuesday night at the Healdsburg sangha, spoke about sukha dukkha, the suffering of pleasure, brought about by our knowledge that good things will end.

From that talk, I gathered that we tend to focus on the transient nature of the pleasure, and so lose our ability to truly enjoy the moment. It seems that this "bending to himself a Joy" is similar, destroying the "winged life" by trying to trap it, capture it, hold it fast and forever. When the answer is, really, to embrace fully the flying nature of the good thing, the short life of the cherry blossom, and kiss that life as it flits past, giving it full and complete attention, in the moment. The return gift will be an eternity of pleasure in an instant, ten thousand years in a moment.

I bought tulips today, yellow and purple. They are gorgeous. I found myself thinking at the moment of the purchase, "I hope they last until next week." Already, I was anticipating the drooping stems, the wilting flowers. I shook my head, and took a deep breath. I looked at the flowers again. They are beautiful today. They are stunning and colorful and full of the promise of spring. I will enjoy them, without thought of the length of time we have together. There will be time enough then to plan for next steps. For now - tulips in vases and spring in the air.

1 comment:

  1. Michele,
    Good to read your blog again. As you know I went home tonight and didn't go to Sangha. Instead I laid down and went to sleep for a while. Although I miss everyone, including Barbara, I feel like it was the right thing to do. I'm a little "freaked" about going to the eye Doctor. I will let you know how it all comes out. Thanks for listening to me in the parking lot this evening. I could see that you were listening.