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

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

After A Month Of Rain, by Linda Paston

Everything I thought I wanted
is right here,
particularly when the sun
is making such a comeback,
and the lilac engorged
with purple has recovered
from its severe pruning,
and you will be back soon
to dispel whatever it is
that overtakes me like leaf blight,
even on a day like this. I can still
hear remnants of the rain
in the swollen stream
behind the house, in the faint
dripping under the eaves,
persistent as memory.
And all the things I didn't think
I wanted, cut like the lilac back
to the root, push up again
from underground.
~ Linda Paston "After a Month of Rain"  


"What matters is how quickly you do
what your soul wants."
~ Rumi

Salutation, by Ezra Pound

O generation of the thoroughly smug
and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing.
~ Ezra Pound, "Salutation"

"The Three Goals" David Budbill

The first goal is to see the thing in itself
in and for itself, to see it simply and clearly
for what it is.
No symbolism, please.
The second goal is to see each individual thing
as unified, as one, with all the other
ten thousand things.
In this regard, a little wine helps a lot.
The third goal is to grasp the first and the second goals,
to see the universal in the particular,
Regarding this one, call me when you get it.
~ David Budbill, "The Three Goals"

Ram Dass, Born 6 April 1931

"We're all just walking each other home."
~ Ram Dass 

Rings Of Passage, by Joanne Monte

There is a wind
breaking with eloquence, rain,
a thousand origami cranes for longevity;
and two women, hibakusha, in a garden
of castle rock, stepping stones,
a pond of blue feathers, hiding their faces
behind the fluttering motifs of bamboo
and pine, their skin peeled like a soft plum
exposing the red pit of a muscle. There is a sense
that here in this city, there is a language
we cannot speak. It's the translation we fear most,
like a stone that first glowed,
thrown into the river, widening the rings
of passage, but still visible, still spreading.
The faces we did not see where the mouth
of the river choked on burnt flesh;
where the willow, clutching the dark,
stood weeping over the corpses of children.
~ Joanne Monte "Rings Of Passage"

"This Present Moment" Peter Matthiesen

“When we are mired in the relative world, never lifting our gaze to the mystery, our life is stunted, incomplete; we are filled with yearning for that paradise that is lost when, as young children, we replace it with words and ideas and abstractions - such as merit, such as past, present, and future - our direct, spontaneous experience of the thing itself, in the beauty and precision of this present moment.”
~ Peter Matthiessen

Spring Follows Winter Once More

Lying here in the tall grass
Where it's so soft
Is this what it is to go home?
Into the earth
Of worms and black smells
With a larch tree gathering sunlight
In the spring afternoon
And the gates of paradise open just enough
To let out
A flock of geese.
~ Tom Hennen, "Spring Follows Winter Once More" (Darkness Sticks To Everything: Collected and New Poems)

A Card Carrying Human Being, Steven Charleston

"I am a card carrying human being. I am not a political party, a denomination, a class, a race, or a demographic. I am just a human being. I am not a nationality, a sexuality, an age, or even a gender since we all start out pretty much the same and we are all going to the same destination. I like to do what human beings like to do: live at peace, enjoy my life, be with the family. I like learning from other human beings, sharing my own thoughts, and finding ways to make this world safer, happier and as natural as we found it. I am a card carrying human being. That means I am proud to be what God made me."
~ The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Choctaw

Such Singing In the Wild Branches, by Mary Oliver

It was spring
and I finally heard him
among the first leaves––
then I saw him clutching the limb
in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still
and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness––
and that’s when it happened,
when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree––
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,
and the sands in the glass
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward
like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing––
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed
not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfect blue sky–––all of them
were singing.
And, of course, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last
For more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,
is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?
Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then––open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.
~ Mary Oliver, "Such Singing In The Wild Branches"

"A Feast of Being" Mary Rose O'Reilly

"The spiritual life--or the writing life--depends above all on fidelity to objects...whatever your eye falls on--for it will fall on what you love--will lead you to the questions of your life, the questions that are incumbent on you to answer, because that is how the muse works in concert with the eye. The things of this world draw us where we need to go...all contemplative acts, silences, poems, house the world in this way. Brought together by the eye of love, a milkweed pod, a twig, allow us to see how things have been all along...A feast of being."
~ Mary Rose O'Reilly from, "The Barn at the Edge of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker Buddhist Shepherd"