Temet Nosce (Know Thyself)

This page exists as what used to be known as a "Commonplace Book" for the purpose of maintaining a log of the poetry and philosophy that inspires and propels much of my own thought and writing, and to share, with fellow sojourners, a collection of the beauty and wisdom of kindred souls throughout time. My hope is that we will collectively work towards the goal of a deep and sustaining self-knowledge that will, then, inspire and guide us to pursue beauty, peace and justice in our world.

“He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, May 11, 2018

At The River Clarion by Mary Oliver

I don’t know who God is exactly.
But I’ll tell you this.
I was sitting in the river named Clarion, on a water splashed stone
and all afternoon I listened to the voices of the river talking….
And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying.
Said the river I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water.
I’d been to the river before, a few times.
Don’t blame the river that nothing happened quickly.
You don’t hear such voices in an hour or a day.
You don’t hear them at all if selfhood has stuffed your ears.
And it’s difficult to hear anything anyway, through
all the traffic, the ambition.
~ Mary Oliver, "At the River Clarion"

I'm heading home to Detroit now--back over the Bridge in the wind, hoping it holds me up as it's always done in so many ways over 58 years. This poem adroitly captures the essence of the time spent here--the last few days, yes, but the lifetime: ..."I'd been to the river before, a few times. Don't blame the river that nothing happened quickly. You don't hear such voices in an hour, or a day..."
Everything takes as long as it takes and what I know is that the present moment, the person in front of you, the love that is, the child's gaze, the wave--that one right there that just landed on the beach is the only one. 
May 2013/May 2018

Monday, August 28, 2017

On the day when
 The weight deadens
 On your shoulders
 And you stumble,
 May the clay dance
 To balance you.

And when your eyes
 Freeze behind
 The grey window
 And the ghost of loss
 Gets into you,
 May a flock of colours,
 Indigo, red, green
 And azure blue,
 Come to awaken in you
 A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
 In the currach of thought
 And a stain of ocean
 Blackens beneath you,
 May there come across the waters
 A path of yellow moonlight
 To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
 May the clarity of light be yours,
 May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
 May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
 Wind work these words
 Of love around you,
 An invisible cloak
 To mind your life. 

~ John O' Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Richard Rohr, "Letting Go/Emotional and Spiritual Freedom

"All great spirituality teaches about letting go of what you don’t need and who you are not. Then, when you can get little enough and naked enough and poor enough, you’ll find that the little place where you really are is ironically more than enough and is all that you need. At that place, you will have nothing to prove to anybody and nothing to protect.
That place is called emotional and spiritual freedom and those who find the courage and strength to embark on that long journey towards healing become people who can connect with everybody--no one is left behind, left out or eliminated because the ego is no longer in play and so, there is no threat, only the promise of love, community and wholeness."
~ Richard Rohr

Lisel Mueller, "What I Am Asked"

When I am asked
how I began writing poems,
I talk about the indifference of nature.
It was soon after my mother died, 
a brilliant June day,
everything blooming.
I sat on a gray stone bench
in a lovingly planted garden,
but the day lilies were as deaf
as the ears of drunken sleepers
and the roses curved inward.
Nothing was black or broken
and not a leaf fell
and the sun blared endless commercials
for summer holidays.
I sat on a gray stone bench
ringed with the ingenue faces
of pink and white impatiens
and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.
~ Lisel Mueller, "When I am Asked" from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Robert Wilbert/ Emma Wilbert

My hero has passed away. I have no words to do him justice, let alone the present constitution to write them, but suffice to say that he was one of the kindest, warmest, funniest and most honest people I've ever known, as well as being one of the very very few that I just plain liked the most.
My heart is so heavy, but he got both a long life and a cookie, and that's all I ever knew him to wish for.
So long, Grandpa. Thanks for everything.
Robert Wilbert, 1929-2016

Robert Wilbert/ Stephen Wilbert

The world lost a great man this week.
My grandfather, Robert Wilbert passed quietly on Monday. I was the first family member at the hospital after it happened and had the great privilege to spend a few minutes alone with him. Throughout his life, my grandfather left the greatest impression on me for two things. One was his endless kindness and warmth. He was always happy to see and talk to nearly anybody he met. The lobby attendant at the Book Building. The homeless bum on the street. A stranger asking questions at an art opening. He approached everyone with a genuine interest in their lives and was always quick with encouragement and affirmation. His other great quality was his wonder and excitement at new knowledge. He was forever remarking on some new tidbit or trivia he had just learned. No matter how mundane. New knowledge and experience always seemed to animate and excite him to no end. These qualities in him stuck with me and I attempt to emulate them.
The greatest single period of time I spent with my grandfather was from 2004-2005 when he did a painting of me in his studio on the 22nd floor of the Book Tower. My love for that building is closely intertwined with my relationship with him. He talked to me about my life and about the city and seemed to care about my opinions. He took me wandering through the lower sections of the building and inadvertently kicked off my obsession with abandoned buildings. He introduced me to coffee (the beginning of a long and happy relationship). When I think of my grandfather, the time spent with him in The Book springs first to mind and the memories are wonderful.
My grandfather was an amazing man and I miss him deeply. He lived a full and good life, though, and is survived by the most loving family one could ask for. He - and his son, my father as well, inspired many of the qualities and ethics which I attempt to emulate in my own life. I hope only to live half as well.
Rest in peace, Grandpa. The greatest love and affection rests with you.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thomas Merton

"Yet it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity." 
~ Thomas Merton