Monday, February 27, 2006

spiritual poetry, again

I wrote a blog awhile back about spiritual poetry; sometimes I find the word "spiritual" about as meaningful as a mud puddle. I mean a clear puddle reflects a mud puddle is brown. I read a really great definition of the word "spiritual" recently but I lent the book out.

I was with my divorced parents this past weekend and they were both ridiculing spiritual and
mystical poetry. I like mysticism a lot but I don't much like mystical poetry. I don't write much poetry about mystical experiences. I do aspire to writing spiritual poetry if I can ever just figure out what that is. Or some version of it that is meaningful to me and that can communicate something of value to some readership.

Both mystical and spiritual poetry can be full of abstractions, and lots of people prefer poetry that has concrete imagery. But I find that good spiritual poetry has abstractions in it that speak to me. For instance this one by that old warhorse, RUMI:


Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an ax to the prison wall.
Escape. Walk out
like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You're covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest
sign that you've died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.

The speechless full moon comes out now.

OK so do I have to interpret this??? One thing spirituality has to offer is a steamer trunk full of figurative meanings. No, this little Rumi poem is not very concrete, and not very literal. On the other hand, is it not apt for our times, the accusation that we run from silence. I'm especially guilty of this. If we didn't have to put words to everything we'd understand ourselves and our Earth and our origins far better, I do believe. Think about an infant's nonverbal universe!!!
Are babies BORED because they can't understand language??? Sure, they get upset at the drop of a pin and you don't always know why, though often the discomfort proves to have been physical.

I think mystical poetry is a subset of spiritual poetry. My own spiritual poetry is more intellectual than mystical. I have other ways of expressing the mystical, often non-verbal ways.
It's a good test for my to try to have non-verbal experiences, as the lion's share of my time is given over to words almost every day.

I'm interested in what you other bloggers and blog-readers think of as spiritual poetry.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tea and Sympathy

I'm thinking things have gone from bad to worse with my blog.

I'm listening to my Walkman (to be traded in for an iPod soon? Or do I have enough gadgets?)
and the song that's playing is one I want to quote from. The group is Jars of Clay, the song's title is a phrase I've never understood, also the title of today's blog.

Tea and Sympathy
by Jars of Clay

fare thee well
trading all our words for tea and sympathy
I wonder why we try for things can never be
play our heart's lament
like an unrehearsed symphony

not intent
to leave this castle full of empty rooms
left the captive in the tower never rescued
and all the victory songs
seem to playing out of tune

Cause it's not the way it has to be
don't trade our love for tea and sympathy
it's not the way it has to be

you begin
all your words fall to the floor and break like china cups
and the waitress graps the broom and tries to sweep them up
I reach for my tea..

This is not the whole song, but listening to my headphones is giving me a headache right now. What I wanted to ask the reader, if there exists such an animal, is: what the heck does this song mean??? I mean, is it full of abstractions or what? Then the part about the china cups seems concrete, but that's just a metaphor. There's not really a waitress, she's just got a cameo role in this extended simile. Or, does the action of this song take place in a diner? So the people are literally drinking tea?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

On Eccentricity

You all have already met Kiwi. Now you see that she is really a very large cat, a breed indigenous to Kentucky. Well, actually, this breed is very rare, indigenous to our neighborhood, where it was developed by adding various big cat embryos to little cat embryos and stirring them all up together and then we added herbs and spices so the new breed would have a spicy personality. Kiwi hunts in the neighborhood, this is one problematic aspect of her being, because she can eat a dog as large as a labrador, and in fact she ate Rae's son's dog, we think.

On Eccentricity

Far from normal in a land called Nod
I often like the fact that I’m called odd.
But there are times I’d like to be Madonna
and you’ll have to label me a wanna be—
a million of us grow on palma trees.
sexy lingerie is how it’s gonna be.
But on the other hand I think I’ll just be me
and you can see just what you wanna see.
Don’t want a husband and a ranch house, no.
No kids two cats is how it’s gonna go.
I’ll pop Zyprexa till the cows come home
and make my underwear from Styrofoam,
drink black coffee like a lumberjack
and gobble tofu for my midnight snack.

I read a student's essay in the writing center today that was about "self-concept." The idea was that when we're children, we depend on others for our self-concept, but when we become adults we can figure it out for ourselves. We no longer need affirmation or definition and we don't compare ourselves to others. The student ended her paper by saying: when I was a child I depended on others, but now that I'm an adult I no longer do. It reminded me of the thing in the Bible about putting away childish things. But it didn't remind me of me. I mean, my self-concept is so weak that sometimes I think I have a shot at some kind of greatness. Sometimes I forget that I have learned--the hard way--that delusions of grandeur are to be distinguised from actual grandeur. So I almost have to learn the hard lesson all over again.

You think I'm joking but I'm actually not. I'm like Kiwi when it comes to delusions of grandeur. Let me burst everybody's bubble and say that Kiwi is actually quite a small cat. Maybe you guessed this. Maybe you realized that the young woman on the left is not actually a woman but only a photo of a woman. But Kiwi has all sorts of delusions of grandeur. She thinks she's big and bad enough to catch birds, and sometimes she believes it so hard that she catches birds. Last night she brought home a female cardinal, to our consternation. She brought home a male cardinal the first day of the National League playoffs last fall and I told my dad, the biggest St. Louis fan I know, and he thought it was a bad omen for the Cardinals. They did in fact lose badly.

Does Kiwi think she influences world events by catching certain birds??? Like Oskar the tin drummer in Gunter Grass's famous novel--Grass has Oskar essentially believe he's responsible for WWII, or something. And of course we meet Oskar in a psychiatric ward. Are we going to send Kiwi to a kitty psych ward, or the person who attributes human characteristics to Kiwi???

Now, you may wonder why the blogger is writing such weird stuff tonight. As if it's the first time this blogger has blogged like this. There may be an explanation. For lack of better, I will hazard a guess that this blogger has come to think it doesn't matter much what she blogs about.


Sunday, February 19, 2006


Honestly, it's time to do something about all the honesty that goes on around here.
Now that I've posted my cats, which I didn't make, I decided
to post something I did make. And I want to make up the right question to ask about honesty, which is under scrutiny.
I tend to believe that no one abstract noun should be placed on a pedestal because there are always times when something/anything is inappropriate, now matter how appropriate it may be at other times. Now, I call myself honest in an ironic way, because I believe most readers believe I'm painfully honest, but I'm not as honest as most probably think. I mean, the truth is, most people tell the stories about themselves that they want to believe, and I am no exception.
There are times when honesty is not only inappropriate, but deadly. I mean, what would the world be like if everyone were honest??? How many marriages would fall apart, how many friendships would dissolve, how much respect would go down the drain, how many people would be locked up on psychiatric wards???
What would happen if politicians were honest??? I shudder, it's unimaginable. I mean EVERYTHING would fall apart.
Of course I'm too darn honest. Why me, and not someone else? If I had been less honest. I would be a conventional person, would be married to the nice guy I met in college because I wouldn't have told him the ghastly truth about the Other Fish in the local pond (whom I had no chance of hooking, landing, de-scaling, fileting and having for dinner). If I had been less honest,
I'd have 2.5 kids who would be just about grown now, waist-deep in the river after their own
If I had been less honest, I'd have friends that were all the same, interested in prestige and money and I'd dress for success, and get manicures. If I'd been less honest, you would like me.
On the other hand...
Here's the scoop: if I were less honest, I'd really be up a creek, because I wouldn't understand myself, and I wouldn't understand you. Because ultimately, the kind of honesty that really counts is honesty with yourself; it's the hardest honesty, the honesty of a St. Paul or a St. Augustine.
Don't be fooled into thinking I don't wear masks as much as anyone. The thing is, many choose dishonesty when they're feeling like their little world is caving in. And this is not evil but brave. By the same token, many reach desperately for help under those circumstances. And this is not terrible, this is brave.
Each of us has to judge what level of honesty we're comfortable with. I have written blog entries I've later deleted, not merely because I was too honest, but because I was too honest about negativity that was going through my mind. I don't like myself when I'm negative, and like many, I try to find a mask to wear while the storm rages inside my psyche.
I don't like bluntness. To me, people who are blunt are not expressing what they truly deeply feel, but what they impulsively feel or think in the moment. This may not always be true, but I prefer expressing considered truths, even if these wind up being euphemistic ways of saying the same thing---at least resorting to euphemism is a way of considering another person's feelings.
Do we have freedom of speech in this country so that the people may be excruciatingly honest? Honesty is often punished.
No, honesty does not belong on a pedestal. Honesty is not art. Honesty is not seductive.
Honesty is not appealing. I feel I have some kind of crazy mission to be honest; it's not for everyone. No, it's been my decision not to polish my nails or color my hair, but it's not for everyone. And I could change. I could do five things tonight that I've never done before in my whole life. I reserve that right.
And I reserve the right to be legally honest. Not as cute as legally blonde, or as legal as supporting the current administration. But I'm a person who needs to justify her existence every day. I'm a person who looks to others to confirm that she should be allowed to live.
Every goddamn day. That's how it is and godwilling it will change.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Lessons from the Ruggieros

The following seem quite relevant to some of what I've been saying in my blog lately. I should remark that though I'm a nut, there are things in life I take seriously. Or course, people often take me way too seriously. I guess I have to say this little prayer with Carlos Santana: Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

--BILL RUGGIERO (dad of women's hockey star)

Our team has put so much into this tournament and have postponed our lives to reach a goal: a gold medal. I never imagined that we would not be in that final game, so in a way, this is a new challenge for me and for the rest of the team. We spend the night silent, watching tv and getting some food in our systems. But, like in many situations in life, you must move forward and appreciate what you have. I am thankful to my family, frineds, and all the wonderful support that we have received through this site. I am planning on printing all of the well wishes and pass them onto the rest of the team. It is at times like these, when we have to use the support that we have around us, rally as teammates, and hold our heads up high. We still have a chance to win a medal and make our country proud

---Angela Ruggiero (of USA women's Olympic hockey team)

The only reason I've been blogging every day is I've been so excited about posting my kitty photos. You can more or less forget about the text part.

I have now posted photos of all four of our in-the-house kitties. The first was Kiwi, next was Tasso, yesterday was Slick and this beauty is Roger, who is a female.

I will now observe the following about myself: as a certified Nut (who nevertheless possesses the KEYS to the Actual Nuthouse, an advantage), I have a tendency to say nutty things. If you have read my blog before you know this.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Oops! A Black Cat Crosses Team USA's Path

Our friendly black cat is feeling contrite; she really didn't mean to. I'm only blogging about this because I kind of put myself in a position where I have to comment on our hockey team's 3-1 loss to Sweden. Probably the women were overconfident after their come-from-behind 5-goals-in-the-third-period win over Finland. I must confess I didn't watch today's event, I turned the TV on in time to see the bright yellow Swedish team celebrating.
See, actually I'm baffled by the fact that Olympic athletes and an undetermined number of TV spectators still think the Olympics is a huge big deal even in this century when nothing is a big
Nothing is a big deal? How many readers feel this is the case? I read an article about "today's youth" that described a disturbingly large number of young people as "generic." Well, thank goodness, I don't qualify for the category "youth" anymore, because if I did, I'd be so apathetic
I'd maybe think our current President was legit.
However the truth is, sometimes I have to make a concerted effort to avoid caring about this or that world event, so as not to go nuts.
Or is it more human and appealing to go nuts over the things that happen? What does nuts mean anyway? Depressed? Yeah, it's real easy to get depressed about world events, AND many of those who've been most effective in fighting for justice and correction of wrongs in the world have been chronically depressed, so I've read--people like MLK and Ghandi and Lincoln. But then you have someone like the Dalai Lama who, it seems to me, has a rather cheerful disposition. Assuming that it could be possible to CHOOSE between a depressive and a cheerful frame of mind, which would be considered more appropriate, and in which frame of mind would a person be more effective in dealing with the big (potentially depressing) issues?
I mean clearly, to me anyway, the goal of happiness is the lesser goal--survival of the species, the planet, being a zillion times more important. Would anyone disagree? Yeah, I'm really hard core, that's why I'm sitting at a computer in my dining room playing with kitty photos instead of picketing or serving time in jail for activism or helping people in Senegal with their agriculture.
Clearly I'm all about self-deprivation for the sake of the common good.
I'm not going to stick up for myself, so you can think the worst. I'm not going to list my unselfish deeds or even my unselfish thoughts. I'm sorry the women's hockey team lost and I know they're probably feeling bad but the thing is, the kind of women who play ice hockey are not the kind to hang their heads for very long. When I played hockey I was the the team tombstone. I mean I didn't get excited if we won or sad if we lost. It reminds me of a song by the Smiths: And if the day comes when I feel a natural emotion / I'll get such a shock I'll probably jump in the ocean. Female hockey players are not candidates for the Actual Nuthouse. They are paragons of mental health. I can guarantee that if there is an exception, she is probably a third-string player.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Why Women's Hockey is Good for Your Teeth

I'm dealing with a toothache at the moment. I have one wisdom tooth left, and it's going to have to come out. I heard Winston Churchill quoted today as saying if you're going through hell, keep going. Now, honestly, my boy Tasso (pictured here) was not trying to be mean, he was only yawning. Looks like his teeth are in much better shape than mine, and he's geriatric.

How many of you are following women's ice hockey at Torino? My big event of the day was sending an e-mail to Angela Ruggiero, "the best female hockey player ever" to many. I played hockey in high school and college; I was not exactly a stand-out, though I scored a winning goal against our big rival in high school. The next year, when we played the rival gain, the coach--a new coach--wouldn't put me in to play AT ALL and I sat there on the bench and cried and cried and cried.
I had too much of a lust for glory and not enough ability to put the interests of the whole team ahead of my own interests. Tennis was really a better sport for me, but hockey was always more exciting, even when things weren't going my way. Now, many of you may feel cynical about the Olympics, but let me tell you, women's ice hockey is where it's at, is a big deal. If you don't turn on anything else, turn on the next two games Team USA is going to play, the semi-finals against Sweden on Friday and the final on Monday night. In women's hockey, you will see much more finesse and pure athleticism than in men's hockey. Body checking is not allowed, and there are very few fights. Yeah, rules are made to be broken and you will see some penalty box action, power plays. But I've known plenty of people who think they don't like hockey at all, but they've only seen men's hockey, and then when they see women's hockey, they're into it. So, this is the voice of your conscience:
Watch Team USA win the gold. Yeah, I know, we hear a little too much of this Team USA stuff--it's hard to like hearing it in the middle of the Iraq mess, etc.
But if you can put all your negative s--- on the back burner, and recover some of that innocent patriotic fervor (I don't know for sure if you had it as a kid, but I sure did--when I was in junior high I had a stars and stripes t-shirt and I loved going to hear fife and drum musters. The year was 1976, and to me the Bicentennial was the hottest game in town). You don't have to cheer on every skier, every snowboarder, even every figure skater, but treat yourself to the best new Olympic sport (it's only been around since 1998, I think).
OK, I'm not a pro at selling stuff. Thanks for putting up with me.


Nuthouse Taking New Patients

Hi. I've promised a few friends some kind of super-duper blog entry, but guess what, the topic that would be therapeutic for me to write about at this point would be The Ambiguous Art of Second-Guessing. In other words I have retracted my Pulitzer-winning blog entry due to a friend saying that could be taken wrong. I'm sure I'm taken wrong 85% of the time ( like some people think I'm saying something very heavy when I'm intending to be funny--is it my facial expression? The poker face my grandpa taught me?) Anyway, I'm leaving it to your imagination, readers, what on earth I could have deleted, but I had to put Kiwi the cat on my page just because I could. Now I have three and a half minutes to shower and get out the door to work. Have a great day.