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Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Personal Reflections ... Spirituality ...

I was recently reading one of those modern spirituality articles, which was mostly the usual New-Age-ish, quasi-Eastern Mysticism, imitation Ken Wilber blah-blah-blah. But I did take note of a poem, by some would-be Hindu holyman, that speaks of “the placid sky”. Hmmm, interesting concept — the sky as an inspiration for spiritual centering and calmness. I did a Google search and came up with a couple of “western literature” poems making use of the same idea. They actually were rather nice poems, so I’ll give a few quotes:

The Stars of Yon Blue Placid Sky in vivid thousands burn,
and beaming from their orbs on high, on radiant axles turn.
( Charles Tennyson Turner )

Silence guides the rivers flow
and Silence the light falling snow
descending from the placid sky
so softly and so silently
that even Silence bends her ear
and lists if she should perchance hear.
( Stephen Jenner )

The growing grain and the placid sky have a kind of voice; and though you are alone,
the boundlessness of the universe is with you.
( Max Ehrmann )

Ah, very lovely. And mostly untrue. IMHO, the skies are very dynamic, anything but placid. Aside from the cycle of night and day, clouds usually amble about even on the most calm days. But more and more days are anything but calm. The skies have from time immemorial been hurling lightening bolts and tornadoes and angry black clouds at us, along with wind and rain and fog and snow and hail. If you are looking to Mother Nature for placidity and contemplative stillness, the sky is usually not the best of places to look. Not for long, anyway.

And just yesterday, the US federal government released a big report called the “National Climate Assessment“, an overview of what climate change and global warming has in stock for the homeland. One clear trend that is already being seen (even here in New Jersey, a really boring corner of the meteorological world before Hurricane Sandy) is the increasing frequency of storms and extreme weather.

So, as with all of the Americanized-Buddhism and other touchy-feely modern spirituality stuff, the concept of a “placid sky” is quite beautiful, but is need of a reality check. Not to say that we shouldn’t live “in the moment” on a lovely, sunny summer afternoon in early Summer. But nowadays, you’d best be ready to “batten down the hatches” at any time! I’ll leave you with another poem of sorts, or at least the lyrics from a song:

Beautiful for spacious skies, but now those skies are threatening
(End of the Innocence, Bruce Hornsby and Don Henley)

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:07 am      

  1. Jim, I think the poems you chose were truly lovely, written to do exactly what it is a poem is meant to do, which is capture the *emotion* of a *moment* (not any tangible reality but the intangible reality of emotion and not of any other length of time but a moment).

    So, I’d say if you want Buddhism and poetry to express the global climate change, you are looking in the wrong place. You need to look to science and tangible things to express the reality of those.

    However, if you want to capture a second, a moment, an extremely short period of time, then you want a poem. And as I think about it, I think that’s what Buddhism is all about too, right? Living in the moment and not even in the “next” moment, just the *present* moment.

    While these two are extremely different, each has its own reality. If one prefers the hard, tangible reality of science over the intangible reality of emotion, that’s fine. But why dismiss the creative area of the intangible emotion? Such an approach may be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It seems to me that those who prefer one over the other need to realize exactly what it is they are doing – just *that*: choosing one over the other, which is perfectly legitimate. However, trying to combine both is going to get a mish-mash of something that makes no sense.

    (And I tend to think that, contrary as it may be, science often does not realize how close to the intangible it gets. What could be more intangible than looking for that which can be known only by where it has been but never known in itself. [I think I’ve got that right.] Then too, living in the mind, as most scientists do, is intangible too, right? As I say, I’d be careful of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, as maybe the creative and intangible has more place in reality than one might be aware of.)

    I can also understand that for those who lived thru Hurricane Sandy, it made a truly deep impression on them; one that may supersede the reality of emotion. But I can’t say that even one who may have lived thru serious, serious storms (tornadoes are the bane of my area, and I’ve gotten only too close to such a couple of times in my life), still there may be times to take a “break” from the hard reality of life and go for some of the more soothing, comforting, intangibles of the emotion of poems and/or living in the moment Buddhism prefers. MCS
    P.S. Don’t mean this to be any kind of disagreement with you; simply trying to mention a point or two you may have “dropped” along the way in writing this post.

    Comment by Mary S. — May 7, 2014 @ 1:44 pm

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