Category Archives: Sacred and profane love

A long engagement

In a continuous outpouring, continuous transformation, open mouth, open belly and sex, we take and live and give and then fetishize life with our perceptions of spring and winter and birth, marriage and death. But we do not live until we learn its ragas, its music, its laws, sounds and spaces. It is the final mastery, this true submission, to the laws of life, the only one we need consent to with joy.

Sometimes, when the laws are invisible or too unsettling, we create religions out of other structures — discourses of science, faith, society, freedom — and worship and submit to those laws instead. Familiar, loving gods are more soothing than inexorable laws of life, for we may adorn our gods and god-spaces. To know these laws, and the many sutras of how we may unite with, love and couple with life, is the task.

There is nothing else to love, no one else to want, unless they personify Life for us. Of course, that’s when we fall in love and still live.

And before the submission, long before and long after, there is the combat, the dance, the drama that must be played out. One contending with the other, to win, to lose, with skill, without honor, with a delicate violence.


Change

You, Man, go on, tear up the script. I want to see the edges of that paper tear the light when you do it. Sharp edges. Make splinters when you scour wood. And raw, inflamed, cold skin. Scrape it out.

 
And you, Woman, cold as fury, you shall be ice shards in the wood fence. The bits that will pierce him when he reaches for the gate. Unable to burn, you will disappear and leave naught but the thought that if this is winter there must have been another season, too.


The caves at Ellora and Ajanta

 

Then I had confronted the stony-faced gods. These are my memories.

Feet, lamps, and monuments of stone rubbed little by little by relentless adoration. This is any temple.

A partial vision of vertiginous weight of rock and time. What went into the building of these? Who decided what statues, what figures, were there intrigues over preference and representation, what philosophies were poured into the ears of rulers, what persuasive arguments—

The ribs of god and man, rungs of our aspirations, vessels to contain our fragile thought-arguments. Flesh passes, this remains as memory.

Calculated architecture. This place was meant to impress upon the willing mind a realization, a philosophy, a structure of the cosmos. In flickering firelight, these figures must have moved to life, the chanting and the breathing of pilgrims resuscitating the relations of things time and time again, until the eye and the ear would take in as one this central structure of figuration, and the world outside the cave would take on meaning as formlessness to form and would become less frightening, a little blessed.

Cave 11, then, gathers unto itself our gaze, the world, all perspective, and draws us in. The truth sits there, yet is not embodied, so the Ego is an illusion and stone is a metaphor.

A sudden spyhole in the wall along a very steep staircase. Why was it made? Who approached thus seen?

Stone suddenly leaping to miniature virility—the belly of a horse, the thighs of a woman, powerful, steady.

The anonymity of a part of one cave. This could be any temple, any fort. This is indifference, is it not, when every place of worship begins to look the same, (and, some would say, thus argues for the compelling and universal value of all)?

An odd little creature, intent in its expression, assenting, inviting, accepting, yet capable of amusement.

Remote and inaccessible. The lighting merely draws life out of them, so that their soul retreats, they become merely the work of man, crafted things of symmetry and thought. Fire is essential to man’s psyche.

Too, the impenetrable mystery of stone. Something so large in so small a cave, placed where too many cannot crowd in, not like the temples we know. This was done deliberately. (see #22) Why? To force the seeker to enter alone, silent, to seek and receive with responsibility? Because this wisdom was not to be received, because Buddhism was rebelling against the heel of the priests of Hinduism in that time? But when you enter, the lit stone is flat. You must know in advance, prepare for this meeting, or else what you receive is nothing in its disappointing particularity.

Suddenly, atop pillars hidden in the gloom, thrones of emotions, boats of dreams. Who told the workers what to carve? The frozen emotions above me, unabashed.

If you wait, the pictures begin to complete themselves. They go a little way, and then we are at a loss to imagine their endings. This is art, it has a palpable effect beyond its teaching, yet one must know, to see both art and the sublime.

Humanity, and the mirror of the gods.

The ribs suddenly populated by the human story, just like a Maori meeting house. House of the people, mind of a collective One.

A place where people were meant to complete the paintings. This was meant to hold several, this was meant for speech, not contemplation. It was a place of the commerce of ideas, it held movement, now silent.

You see it thus, the earth’s rocks suddenly giving way to the refuge-worship of man, geometry and order and a peace emerging out of an indifference.

A more majestic phase now (remember #11). Thou shalt gather unto me like little children. This was a place of exaltation, of formal philosophy and a union of minds. The seated and painted figures high up near the window would bear witness as much as keep alive. No sibyls, they are atoms of proof.

Regal concretizations of a final formalized philosophy. Were these caves built later, for visitors and doubters and to establish the high place of a completed formulation of salvation?

The prone figure is supposed to be momentous. It cannot be viewed head-on. One must walk along a curved pathway around the inner perimeter of the cave, between close-set pillars on one’s left and richly mythologized figures on the other. This one is approached exactly as pictured. It is meant to be a finality. I do not think it asked me for worship. Its smile is absorbed in itself, elemental, like the mountains or the sea.


Lost song

Nearly a decade ago it had risen in my imagination, speaking of the future and the absolution of the past. Then, the flood of years had taken the silt with the sand, mist had taken madness, and its voice and face had become hasty levees. Today of all ordinary days it came back to me, almost a beloved before all was lost. The cycle turns in untrammeled ferocity.

There is little justice in such randomness that sutures self and self in neat periodicity.

After the elation at time and death, there is great desire just to lay down these arms and let life slip by again, to ease past the forked roads, to succumb to a serendipitous alchemy of rightness. To inhabit a young idealistic voice that believes in the symmetry of sequences and ratios, that sees their beauty and argues that if we could unlock their meaning we would know the underlying meaning of reality.

We name beauty, such symmetry, according to the functions it appears alongside. That is, such beauty must contain a meaning beyond itself. In its ability to mesmerize the viewer with its own absolute perfection it must have the ability to indicate a principle or truth (a bit) larger than its own existence. The old alchemist’s temptation.

Wherein I see in that bit of deviation a life-force distinct and fulsome as an example of something far beyond its limits–a principle. Wherein I envision a ‘rightness,’ a justness and perfection in the moment and sufficiency in its future dimension. But there it stops, for the hope is always retrospective.

I shall not lose this song again, and yet the wheel will turn. Along its vast rim I cannot see a road.

 

In Greek mythology, Mnemosyne and Lemosyne, remembering and forgetting, are equals requiring each other (Edward Casey 1987; in _Memory_ by Anne Whitehead).


Lines

Experience is a fault between people. You cannot speak of things, you must see them, feel them flapping around your ankles, like mud and refuse on your hem before you are changed by them. The same thing touches one and brushes past another and suddenly the limits of our beings are reached. There will be no breaching, no new entrance into new knowledge together, no paucity of doubt and difference now.

How does one mourn something one never had? ‘Everything’ is beyond reach. More than this pouch of skin can carry. But we are used to coin — that measurement of time and material and life and human things in small holdable bits — so we make ourselves the things we can count everything with.

We say: ‘Everything’ is here, in the maps of the stars, in the seas that pull up in tides, in the astrologies of our hopes, the transit of the cosmos measured in the hourglass of a human life. We pretend it is here, and give each other everything in consolation.

 

_____________

Ref: From Simone de Beauvoir’s The Ethics of Ambiguity:

“let them accord value to one another in love and friendship, and the objects, the events, and the men immediately have this value; they have it absolutely. It is possible that a man may refuse to love anything on earth; he will prove this refusal and he will carry it out by suicide. If he lives, the reason is that, whatever he may say, there still remains in him some attachment to existence; his life will be commensurate with this attachment; it will justify itself to the extent that it genuinely justifies the world.”


That which is Avalon by misdirection

They say I could not be a poet without it. Perhaps I am not. But I have known the edges of its robes, its hem, and I have kissed it as it trailed in the golden dust. For that dream alone I have wandered blind all these mad years.


Epigraph for a medieval woman

Wild with adoration of her lord she cast off her veils.

Cloth, shame, pain, earth, all forms forsaken

but this body, this space,

this knowledge of a self diffracted,

wild with that adoration she cast off

and kept nothing back to give — flowers to stone, Mallikarjuna–,

wild with adoration she cast off her veils, and you hid behind their fall.

_____________

Reference:

“and seeing, I quell today

the famine in my eyes”

 Mahadeviyakka, 12th Century. Trans.  A.K. Ramanujan from medieval Kannada to modern English in his _Speaking of Siva_  (1973). #68, p 120.


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