Saturday, January 21, 2012

Three Prayers...

Maybe prayer is a way to self induce a sense of connectedness (even if just for a split second)  that (somewhat paradoxically) transcends self absorption (if there even is such a thing, really). 

Here are three poems that I like in that vein. In Witness, Denise Levertov's  "mountain"  may be hidden in veils of inattention, apathy and fatigue but despite refusal or forgetting the mountain remains just a few yards away, there for the seeing.

And in The Wild Geese, Wendell Berry, similarly wants to be released from the clutter in his head. To be led by "abandon" the way we are in love or sleep, that, like it does to Geese on migration, would hold us to our way clear to what we need, to "here" (Does he mean what we need is here (geographically) or does he mean "here" as a noun - like we might need a hammer or a bell - in this case what we need is "here-ness")?  (The sheer abandon of the geese as they pass - in a way its own kind of "faith").

Both Levertov and Berry evoke the far away.. the mountain... the Geese high above us as the sky bring us to the not very far away at all; to ... here...or to a few yards up the road. It's like CS Lewis's wardrobe, you open the door to enter a new universe that is actually in your own living room all along. Or like Ram Das's simple suggestion about where and how to find the mountain: Be Here Now. Or what Marie Howe tells us in What The Living Do is "the everyday we speak of "when we feel a "cherishing so deep" it renders us speechless (or as Berry says "quiet in heart, and in eye, clear.") 

I like these poems a lot. They seem like prayers to me.


Sometimes the mountain

is hidden from me in veils

of cloud, sometimes

I am hidden from the mountain

in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,

when I forget or refuse to go

down to the shore or a few yards

up the road, on a clear day,

to reconfirm

that witnessing presence.

~ Denise Levertov ~

The Wild Geese

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

—  Wendell Berry

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living room windows because the heat's on too high in here, and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss -- we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:

I am living, I remember you.

~ Marie Howe ~

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Three "A's"...

Two quotes that I think go together quite well and which, between them, cover what is, as far as I can tell, the marrow --  acceptance, awareness and action: 

“We are all much more simply human than otherwise, be we happy and successful, contented and detached, miserable and mentally disordered, or whatever.”

-- The late American psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan.

"To choose compassion and consolation, requires a measure of obstinacy, a muscular and brutish willfulness that is also an authentic kind of grace."

-- A.O. Scott, New York Times film critic on the movie, War Horse. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Q for Child Psychiatrists: Ritalin and Substance Abuse?

My limited understanding about our knowledge of alcohol, benzodiazepines and certain stimulants is that they  permanently change the brain. I think the reasoning is that the brain seeks to maintain homeostasis, thus, if a depressant like alcohol is used in excess,  the brain produces more stimulant receptors to compensate. Those receptors can go to "sleep" when alcohol use is curtailed but are not eliminated. That is why the term "sleeping tiger" is sometimes used to describe the disease of alcoholism and used as a caution to even the long term sober. It also  explains why the long term sober are often  hyper sensitive to substances upon relapse. A 10 bag a day heroin user who is sober and relapses years later can overdose on only one bag (which formerly would not even produce a high when he/she was active). It would not surprise me at all to know that stimulants prescribed to children with ADHD (such as Ritalin and Stratera) might also permanently effect brain chemistry in a way that would similarly make someone more susceptible to the effects of certain drugs later in life. I think the question of whether that might also make a child more prone to drug abuse or addiction as an adult is,  however, unclear and, I think, complicated and extremely worthy of research.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Classic Song Of The Week - If I Were A Carpenter...

 "Some songs - Dylan's most obviously- have a special quality of loyalty: except on very rare occasions - as when Hendrix covered "All Along The Watchtower" or Keith Jarret "My Back Pages" - they come fully alive only when they are played by their composer. Others drift from performer to performer, happily, promiscuously."

-- Geoff Dyer from his collection of essays: "Otherwise Known As The Human Condition".

I think Tim Hardin's, If I were A Carpenter, is like that. Here he is performing it at Woodstock:


Add to Technorati Favorites