TiaTalk











{Fri 2 March 2007}   Hmmm…. well that’s one way…

I’ve a bee in my brain this morning, buzzing about “interactive poetry”. I looked and found several interesting and several, er… interesting ideas.

One of them was this site that provides the line and grammatical structures of simple poems, with blank fields to be filled in with appropriate words by the user. Some of the poems created via these “poetry forms” teaching tools are, well, just atrocious. On the other hand, I can see that it could be an enabling step…

Just for the fun (or the hell) of it, check it out at: Educational Technology Training Centre



{Fri 23 February 2007}   Seeking the Muse: Beautiful Melancholy
This poem by John Keats is one of my favourites. I return to its themes again and again as I try to understand that the capacity to enter fully into joy is the same one that enables me to grieve to the end of grief. Conversely, while my grieving is blocked, my bliss cannot flow.

The Ode on Melancholy urges me not to stop on the “obvious” expressions of Melancholy in my search for poetic feeling as this leads to a static non-productive depression, like artificially-induced altered states that purport to intensify experience but in fact deaden it. It urges me to yield to the exquisite apperception of true emotion that occurs when I am truly present to life and enter fully into its pleasures. A wholehearted contemplation of beauty must bring awareness of its transience. Ultimately, my pleasure in it is heightened precisely because of its transience. Human life is a bittersweet paradox of continual reaching for beauties which begin to dissipate almost in the moment of their flowering. The soul alert to this can truly feel.

Today, while researching it on the web, I was surprised to discover a discussion I hadn’t come across before (by marilee at englishhistory.net) of a preceding stanza that was removed before the Ode was published. It seemed at first a little impenetrable, but I realised that this was partly because I am so familiar with the other three stanzas. On rereading it, I was drawn in, especially by the idea that a poet might try to “stitch creeds together for a sail” — see my two previous posts!

Although I do think (as Keats and his publishers evidently did) that the poem as it is widely known can stand on its own, the possible prior stanza does convey the urgency that might drive the seeker to contemplate the extreme (suicidal) options covered in the stanza beginning “No, no…”. He really, really wants “To find the Melancholy”!

So… here it is, with four stanzas instead of the usual three.

Reading this poem slowly, aloud, is an incredibly rewarding experience. Enjoy!

Ode on Melancholy
by John Keats

Though you should build a bark of dead men’s bones,
And rear a phantom gibbet for a mast,
Stitch creeds together for a sail, with groans
To fill it out, bloodstained and aghast;
Although your rudder be a Dragon’s tail,
Long sever’d, yet still hard with agony,
Your cordage large uprootings from the skull
Of bald Medusa; certes you would fail
To find the Melancholy, whether she
Dreameth in any isle of Lethe dull.

No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty – Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.



{Thu 22 February 2007}   What do I believe?
Well, I was going to post another poem today, but I’m having trouble with the scansion so it’s not ready yet. In the mean time, I went to visit the blog of a very dear friend of mine, started to write a brief comment and looked up from a steaming keyboard several paragraphs later, realising that I’d begun for the first time to make a coherent statement of my (current) creed.

The post I responded to is on the subject of Universal Restoration (my friend gives a pretty good overview of this if you want to check it out at soundandsilence.wordpress.com), but that’s not strictly necessary in order to understand what follows. Our conversation there is a part of the much larger 25 years or so of shared and disparate experiences that have created our relationship, which is very precious to me. However, I realised that my response can largely stand on its own as a statement of my belief, given a couple of contextual nudges.

First, I responded to the suggestion that I am a “closet believer”.

“… re the closet – I have no reason to be in one. I’m not hiding anything (other than those things that are hidden from myself, in which case you can hardly expect me to admit to them!) As to a believer, well that depends on the supposed object of belief. I am not a believer in a masculine or a feminine God. I am not a believer in the doctrine of original sin. I am not a believer in a concept of The Elect. I am not a believer in any of the heavens or hells that were described to me during my time in the church. I am not a believer in the infallible authority of any (including Christian) scripture. I am not a believer in salvation through Jesus Christ, unless “salvation” is highly qualified (what exactly are we saved from?, what does the salvation consist of?) and “Jesus Christ” is used metaphorically to designate a general principle of being-action that we can seek to incarnate ourselves and that people may incarnate without knowing the name (ask me about that one another time!).

I am a believer in a universe in which the whole is usually greater than the sum of its parts, in which the beauty of the rose and the spirt of a person remain mysterious beyond any analysing of them, and in which any human statements only approach truth by degrees of approximation. I believe in the power of love and in the necessity of our taking responsibility to make meaning in our lives by loving and creating (which is an outflow of love). I also believe that any tiny expression of heaven-on-earth that we can make happen now is more important than any hope of restoration in the eschatological future.”

Secondly, I responded to this statement by another Commenter: ”…surely there can be no doubt of the psychological, spiritual and/or material “reality” that millions of people sense, of some kind of fall from perfection”.

“There may be no doubt that millions of people sense it, but millions of people also believe that HIV is a white man’s disease and that female genital mutilation is a good thing. Billions of people believe that women are inferior to men and many of them base this on scripture.

The number of adherents of a belief has never been an indicator of its truth. That it might be has been proven repeatedly to be in itself an erroneous belief. People are able to hold to not just iffy but demonstrably incorrect beliefs despite actual evidence to the contrary, when the implications of changing their minds are too much to cope with and particularly when the religious authorities in their lives oppose the change (witness how long it took for Copernicus’ ideas to gain acceptance).

It is hardly surprising that people can continue to hold to a metaphysical belief that lies beyond the realm of proof and is a determinant of the consequent logic of their entire faith and culture. The “fall from” really depends on one’s definition of perfection. If it is wholeness (a very possible option, scripturally), then this could just as well reflect a dialectical universe in which a deliverance from all evil would be a reduction to less than perfection. It also depends on one’s definition of evil. We normally define evil from an autocentric human perspective which proceeds from an extremely arrogant pre-Copernican view of the universe. Are earthquakes evil? That depends on one’s perspective as to what should and shouldn’t (be allowed to) happen in the universe graced with one’s presence.”

I realise that a lot of the above is about what I don’t believe, along with some critique of other beliefs. My questions and posits re definitions of evil and the value of a dialectical model of the universe are open-ended. I’m not sure about these and many other things, but to the extent that I can voice, and in this small way be congruent with, my own beliefs at this current point of understanding, I feel exhilarated. I wonder whether my poetry may begin to reflect some of this now?



{Wed 21 February 2007}   Affirmation: My Best Self
Last night, while reflecting on the creative surge and emergent sense of purpose that I’ve been experiencing recently, I recalled an affirmation that I wrote about twelve years ago. It was during an explosive period of personal growth, when the experience of inner healing through the creative arts was newly exciting to me. My home was filled with my colourful paintings and poems and other objects that were beautiful to me. I was riding a surge of hope that gave me the power to make dramatic changes in my life and risk everything to follow my own passion and choose a life path that no one around me could understand.

That path has since taken me through several homes and jobs in four different countries and turned out to be rockier and more lonely than I could ever have imagined. I have many times berated myself for spending months on end in a state of seeming stasis, despite the continual changes that external realities (which I have chosen) have thrust upon me. For some years, I forgot all about this affirmation, but as I read it last night I realised that it has had a shape in my soul all this time, and has fuelled my continuing conviction through the greyest days that I am in fact journeying toward wholeness.

In preparing the affirmation for this post today, I realised that I no longer agreed with some aspects of what I had written. I smiled to myself as I edited it, realising that in so doing I was expressing one of my convictions about humans’ capacity to know anything—that our grasp of reality is limited, and whatever absolute truth may be, it is not in our power to define it absolutely. The wisest course is a blend of humility and hope. In this spirit, then, I’m sharing with you not an accurate description of the person you might encounter if you met me, but an image of the one I am aiming to become.

Feel free to use any parts of it to create an affirmation for yourself if something resonates with you, but seek to respect and live consistently with your own truth above all.

Affirmation: My Best Self

I love myself. I will not abandon myself. I celebrate my individuality. I appreciate my inner and external beauty. I delight in and am energised by natural and artificial beauty. My creativity makes a real, objective contribution to the world. I contemplate my creations with pleasure. What I do is good. I am patient with myself as I discover the best media to express my gifts. I seek and receive feedback from others and from my universe to help me on my journey.

I respect the otherness of everything and everyone. At the same time, I celebrate the connectedness of all. I am part of a larger whole. I reflect something true about everyone. I acknowledge all of life, the totality of existence. I allow the spiritual to be as real to me as the physical. I value my intuition. I take time to listen to my inner voices. I exercise reason and judgement along with intuitive discernment.

I accept social responsibility as part of the whole. I develop my skills and train my talents in order to keep my promises. I focus seriously, consistently and joyfully on my work in order to add to the world. I look for opportunities to seed or build or contribute to vibrant, nurturing communities.

I listen to others. I affirm their emotional honesty by being there with them. I identify with their struggles even as I celebrate each person’s uniqueness. I express my own feelings to invite connection. I differentiate between my self and my feelings, and between my feelings and those of others. I wait patiently for the resolution of feelings. I act positively toward others. I take responsibility for my actions and responses. I recognise and rejoice in reciprocity.

I understand that the discipline of self is part of my contribution to the whole, because I can only care for others as I care for myself. I evaluate my values in terms of my growing understanding of universal laws. I submit to my evolving conscience in matters of morality and ethics. I incarnate my principles and convictions by acting on them.

At the same time, I am gentle with myself. I laugh at the incongruities in my thoughts and actions, and the paradoxes of my animal-spiritual nature, because I understand that I am always learning. When I teach what I am in the process of learning, I am aware that my truth is only an approximation of reality. With this awareness, I dive wholeheartedly into the mystery of life.



et cetera