Enjoyable Writing

As a writer,
I concern myself with whatever absorbs my fancy, 
stirs my heart, 
and unlimbers my iPad. 

I feel no obligation to deal with politics. 
I do feel a responsibility 
to be good, not lousy; 
true, not false; 
lively, not dull; 
accurate, not full of error;
more contentious than agreeable.

I strive to provoke thought,
to lift people up, 
not lower them down. 
I try, not merely to reflect and interpret life, 
but also to inform and help shape life.

I write,
not only in hope of helping others,
but also because,
I simply enJOY it.

Strangely,
writing enables me
to learn 
about me.




Zest

In spite of my age, 
I have not lost my zest for life. 

I do not think the answer lies simply 
in my physical health
 or in something unique about 
living in Northern Michigan in the Summer
and Arizona in the Winter. 

I think it has to do with my attitude toward life
and in no small measure to 
my ministry to the bereaved and their caregivers
and to the fact I can write. 

My ministry and my writing 
prevent me from getting old. 

I cannot dream of retiring. 
Not now or ever. 
Retire? 
The word is alien and the idea inconceivable to me. 

I don’t believe in total retirement for anyone,
not while the spirit is alive within.

My ministry and my writing is my life. 
I cannot think of one without the other.

To retire
means to me to begin to die. 
One who works 
and is never bored 
is never old. 

Work and interest in worthwhile things 
are the best remedy for age. 
Each day I am reborn. 
Each day I begin again,
anew.

I do not think a day passes in my life 
in which I fail to look with fresh amazement 
at the miracle of nature. 

It is here on every side of me. 


It can be simply a shadow on an Arizona mountainside, 
or a spider’s web gleaming with dew 
or sunlight on the leaves of a tree in Northern Michigan

I especially love Torch Lake. 
How mysterious and beautiful it is.
How infinitely variable! 
It is never the same, 
never, 
not from one moment to the next, 
always in the process of change, 
always becoming something different and new.

I see no particular merit in the fact that
 I can help others and can write. 
I was born with an ability, 
that is all.

No special credit is due me. 
The only credit I can claim
 is for the use I make of the talent I have been given. 

I avoid any vanity because I happen to have talent. 
I am not responsible for that;
 it was not of my doing. 
What I do with my gifts is what matters. 

Each and every day I cherish my gifts,
nurture them.

I try not to waste what I have been given. 

Of course the gift to be cherished most of all 
is the gift of life itself. 

I pray my work 
is a salute to life.


Loss

The loss of a loved-one;
It’s not a question of getting over it 
or healing. 

No; 
it’s a question of learning to live with this transformation,
Integrating it into our lives.

For the loss is transformative, 
in good ways and bad, 
a tangle of change 
that cannot be threaded into the usual narrative spools. 

It is too central for that. 

It’s not an emergence from the cocoon, 
but a tree growing around an obstruction.

A Step Forward

A lot of people equate letting go with forgetting. 

We mourn the loss of a person, 
a particular time in our lives, 
or a relationship that has ended,
 and we resist moving away from the grieving process 
because it feels 
(maybe subconsciously)
 like a betrayal to what was lost to let it go.  

This isn’t what letting go means. 
Letting go is about acknowledging and accepting the actual reality
 in the present moment. 
The present moment necessarily includes the past,
all we’ve learned, loved, and lost. 

Our experiences change us, 
for better or for worse, 
letting go means doing the best we can 
with what’s actually happening, 
whether it’s what we wanted 
or not.

Holding on to the past is painful 
because it hurts to wake up every day 
in a reality we didn’t want. 

Wishing we could have something back again 
or be the person we were before the loss 
is painful not only because it’s impossible, 
but because it prevents us from seeing what is real: 
the reality we are in 
and the person we are today, 
for better or for worse. 

Honestly showing up to the truth of the present moment
is a necessary step 
to getting anywhere new.

Grief works on its own schedule. 
Sometimes moving on 
starts with staying sad for a while.

When I lose someone or something that I loved, 
I try acknowledging what I gained 
from what I lost. 

I ask myself:

What did I learn? 

How am I different 
from having had the experience? 
What will I keep with me forever? 
How can I acknowledge the truth of the present moment, 
today’s reality, 
including my grief and my hope?

Up To Me

What a pleasant realization it is 
that I and I alone, 
control what’s on my mind or in my heart.

 No one else can affect me 
without my willingness to let them. 

And what’s even better is that
I can change my mind and my heart 
and my life will follow. 

I am the sole proprietor of my state of mind,
of what's in my heart.
But mine only!

How I use to wish, far too often, 
that I had the kind of control over others’ minds
 that I have over my own. 
I often just wanted others to show up in my life 
the way I had scripted them. 
Perhaps that's human nature. 

But it’s a relief 
to be free of the stress
 of being in charge of others’ minds and hearts.
It’s quite enough to be saddled with my own. 
Period. 

The positive aspect of this truth 
is that I can be as happy, 
as joyful, 
and as peaceful 
as I want to be 
by shifting the perspective I have
 at any one moment. 

And although I can never change 
how anyone else chooses to think and act, 
I am often surprised 
by how accommodating others become 
when I treat them lovingly, 
regardless of the experience we have been sharing. 

Even though I can actually never control others’ actions, 
when I change my own behavior,
those I am traveling among 
often seem to change in positive ways.

When others are not being loving, 
it’s generally because they are afraid. 
And people who are filled with fear 
often behave in ways that seem unkind to others. 

Giving others the benefit of the doubt 
goes a long way in fostering the kind of good relations
 that can eventually change a whole community.

 I certainly have been guilty of snarling at others
 and I should not have expected others 
to behave any differently. 

But what I also know is that when others were loving 
in spite of my behavior 
I felt an inner shift. 
And it was a shift that resulted directly 
from the actions of others. 

What is obviously true is that 
even though I cannot directly control 
what anyone else chooses to think or do, 
I  can sometimes influence the behavior of others
 through my own willingness to be kind and generous and loving.

One of the difficult situations 
is when I’m in conversation with a good friend 
and we have a difference of opinion. 
Instead of simply accepting that our opinions differ 
and moving on, 
one of us in the exchange doesn’t move on. 
Sometimes I am the guilty one. 

 Not always being in agreement is perfectly fine; 
in fact, it makes for good discussions 
as long as all our opinions are allowed 
as well as respected.

Anytime the disagreement gets ugly or tense 
is a perfect opportunity to choose love
 over any response that might call to me.

We need not be on the same page in our opinions, 
but we always need to behave with respect. 


And making the decision,
 once and for all, 
to be loving 
regardless of what my ego might be pushing me
 to do or say
 will always be the best decision. 

Being the one 
who influences others to become their better self 
by always being an example of my better self 
simplifies life. 
Mine and everyone else’s too. 

Making the choice to be kind or loving 
might be considered a selfish choice. 
Why? 
Because it benefits the giver as well as the receiver. 
That matters not at all. 

Being kind and loving in every situation
always gives me a sense of well-being. 

Nothing around me stays the same 
when I make the choice to be loving. 
I change and the circumstances change 
along with me.

Love
Is
Contagious.

Attention



In order to grow in Wisdom
I need the right attitude, 
attention, 
and intention. 
I need the right intelligence. 

I need to remember 
that attention does not need something as an object. 
Rather, 
attention is a receptive state of being.

Attention is subtly linked to intention, 
which is an attitude of mind, 
an attitude of being, 
which carries with it 
a whole mystical tradition,
based on the relationship between my soul 
and God.

Over time, 
this fundamental inner relationship 
that includes humility, respect, devotion, and continual watchfulness 
must be part of my daily pattern of behavior,
my way of interacting with life, 
with each other, 
with my path, 
and with the Divine.

Unknowing

Unknowing, 
if I can be open and vulnerable, 
takes me down to the very depths of knowing, 
not informing my mind, 
but coursing through my whole body, 
if I can thrust aside 
what the world calls common sense, 
that popular knowing 
that prevents the emerging of the spiritual.

Unknowing needs 
that I be in a certain state, 
playful, open, aware, inwardly acquitted of opinion, 
not at all as a child,
but rather as a fool.

I cannot wipe mind clean of its knowing, 
as I would wash my face, 
for I need that knowing. 
It is an essential part of living, 
not to be despised. 

Only when my mind attempts to usurp 
the whole realm of consciousness, 
of which it is but a fragment, 
are the possibilities of discovering Unknowing 
overlaid and lost.

The world belongs to silence and stillness. 

Unknowing, 
itself being empty, 
can be approached only in moments of emptiness 
which the ego-mind mistakes for boredom 
and hastens to overcome that condition 
with ever more and more learning. 

To my ego
the phrase I do not know is one of self-reproach.

But for me,
intent on seeking the Unknown, 
 I do not know 
is the Open Sesame 
which costs nothing less than everything. 

So, I can drop from my busyness 
 into the stillness whence life springs, 
into the void within.

Only by such means can I come upon fullness, 
the fullness that my mind, 
with all its acumen, 
cannot even envisage. 

Thus, self offers itself to Self, 
and I know without knowing 
whatever is useful,
that there is manna in the wilderness.

My Being

Awareness of my depth of being is fleeting. 
Yet just because I close my eyes 
doesn’t mean the sun has disappeared. 

And just because I can’t keep in view 
the unquestionable fact 
of being alive 
doesn’t mean that the inherent vitality of life 
has disappeared. 

I am more than what happens to me. 
I am more than what I think or feel or fear. 

The turbulence I encounter is very real, 
but underneath what happens to me 
is the inherent, unwavering fact of life filling me 
from within.

Under all my psychological weather, 
there is a place of stillness 
that is immune to my submitting and resisting. 

When I put down all my reasons and excuses, 
it’s from this inner plateau of being 
that I begin to experience life directly again. 

This sense of utter being doesn’t 
come from willfulness or determination. 
It comes when the bottom of my personality 
nakedly touches the common center of all life. 

When life-force entered me 
and moves through me, 
my authority of being can’t be denied.

I do not trouble my spirit
to vindicate itself
or be understood.

I see that the elementary
laws never apologize.
I exist as I am
and that is enough.



If no other in the world
is aware of me,
 I'm content;
And if many are aware of me,
I'm content.

Beyond all vindication and blame, 
the fundamental truth of my existence
—the bare fact of my being—
will outlast my doings.

Once I remove my masks and opinions, 
my authority of Being
 resides in whatever point of stillness 
one can no longer question.

Securely Insecure

True consciousness,
 which knows reality 
rather than ideas about it, 
does not know the future. 

It lives completely in the present, 
and perceives nothing more than what is at this moment. 

My ingenious brain, however, 
looks at that part of present experience called memory, 
and by studying it is able to make predictions. 
These predictions are, relatively, so accurate and reliable 
(e.g., “everyone will die”) 
that my future assumes a high degree of reality
 so high 
that the present loses value.

But the future is still not here, 
and cannot become a part of experienced reality 
until it is present. 

Since what I know of the future 
is made up of purely abstract and logical elements
 — inferences, guesses, deductions — 
it cannot be eaten, felt, smelled, seen, heard, or otherwise enjoyed.

 To pursue it 
is to pursue a constantly retreating phantom, 
and the faster I chase it, 
the faster it runs ahead. 

This is why hardly anyone enjoys what he has, 
and is forever seeking more and more. 

Happiness, then, consists, not of solid and substantial realities, 
but of such abstract and superficial things as promises, hopes, and assurances.

There is a contradiction 
in wanting to be perfectly secure 
in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity. 

But the contradiction lies a little deeper 
than the mere conflict between the desire for security and the fact of change.
 If I want to be secure, 
that is, protected from the flux of life, 
I am wanting to be separate from life. 

Yet it is this very sense of separateness 
which makes me feel insecure. 

To be secure means to isolate and fortify the “I,” 
but it is just the feeling of being an isolated “I” 
which makes me feel lonely and afraid. 

In other words, the more security I can get, 
the more I shall want.

The desire for security and the feeling of insecurity
 are the same thing. 

To hold your breath is to lose your breath. 
Any quest for security 
is nothing but a breath-retention contest 
in which everyone is as taut as a drum 
and as purple as a beet.

To understand this 
I had to realize that life is entirely momentary, 
that there is neither permanence nor security, 
and that there is no “I” which can be protected.



Science and/or Religion

The beauty of science 
is that a theory is always provisional;
Not so with religion,
full of certainties.

 Science uses the best evidence and explanation 
that we have at any moment;
Religion
uses beliefs
from the past.

Though prone to revision, 
science is based on replicable evidence, 
which privileges scientific over other explanations;
Religion
resists revision,
claiming ultimate Truth.

Although science as a human endeavor 
is not entirely objective, 
it still offers the best prescription 
for weighing evidence 
and making sense of the natural world;
Religion's
view of nature
remains biblical.

Shifting and incomplete as it may be, 
science is self-correcting;
Religion
defies correction.

 Science seems the best method we have 
to navigate and make sense of 
this wondrous universe of ours;
Religion
views creation as man's domain.

For centuries, 
science has helped us chart our relationship 
to the natural world. 
And like any good map, 
it also points the way forward;
Religion,
backward.

Science is open;
Religion a closed,
exclusive system.

Gratitude for Life

I seem increasingly conscious of deaths 
among my contemporaries. 
My generation is on the way out.

There will be no one like us 
when we are gone, 
but then there is no one like anyone else, 
ever. 

When people die, 
they cannot be replaced. 
They leave holes that cannot be filled, 
for it is the fate
of every human being to be a unique individual, 
to find his/her own path,
 to live her/his own life,
 to die his/her own death.

I cannot pretend I am without anxiety
about my ending,
but my predominant feeling 
is one of gratitude.

 I have loved 
and been loved; 
I have been given much 
and I have given something in return; 
I have read and traveled 
and thought and written much.

 I have had an intense intercourse with the world, 
the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, 
I have been a sentient being, 
a thinking animal, 
on this beautiful planet, 
and that in itself has been an enormous privilege 
and adventure.

Thank You,
Life Giver,
BEING-in-Love.

Aging, but not Aged

Many people my age
(nearly 80)
fall into rigid patterns of living,
rigid patterns of thought.
Curiosity, risk, exploration are forgotten by them.
A willingness to explore
and to change
has been lost.

Instead I have discovered that I still have a lot to give, 
and that the more I give 
the more riches I find in myself.

Each time I write a poem
 I share my dreams 
but do not feel the poorer for it,
 as the dreams are planted in others
and they may begin to live them too.

Sharing my dreams
is the beginning of friendship and love.

I do not fear, 
hold back, 
count, 
or act miserly 
with my thoughts and feelings. 

Creation comes from an overflow, 
and I have learned to intake, 
to imbibe, 
to nourish myself
 and not be afraid of the unknown,
of mystery.

Creation's fullness is like a tidal wave 
which carries me, 
sweeps me into experience 
and into writing. 

I permit myself to flow and overflow, 
allowing for a rise in passion, 
expansion, and intensification. 



Something is always born of excess: 
great art is born of great terrors, 
great loneliness, 
great inhibitions, 
instabilities, 
and it always seems to balance them.
Everything belongs.

 I don't move in a world of certitudes, 
I live in a world of mystery;
failure to explore the mysteries of life
is tantamount to
ceasing to live.

Living in certitudes
is not living at all.

To Write

When I'm writing,
I lose all sense of time;
I'm completely enraptured.
I'm completely caught up in what I'm doing, 
and I'm excited by the possibilities I see 
in my poetry. 

When that becomes powerful, 
I have to get up, 
because the excitement is so great.

 I almost can’t continue to write 
because I'm jumping ahead of myself. 

The moment is so saturated with passion
that there’s no future or past;
I'm in an extended present 
in which I'm making meaning. 
And dismantling meaning, 
and remaking it. 

It’s not just essential communication,
 it’s total communication. 

When I'm writing something
 and it's working well,
 I have the feeling 
that there’s no better way of saying what I'm saying.

One of the amazing things about what I do 
is I don’t know when I'm going to be hit with an idea, 
I don’t know from where it comes. 

I have a great receptivity to language, 
and I think I can see something in a phrase, 
or even in a word, 
that allows me to impart Truth.

I have no idea where my ideas come from. 
It’s a great mystery to me, 
but then so many things are. 

I don’t know why I’m me, 
I don’t know why I do the things I do. 
I don’t even know if my writing is a way of figuring it out.

 I learn more about myself the more I write, 
but that’s not the purpose of my writing. 
I write because it gives me great Joy.

I constantly move 
between a relaxed, receptive, nonjudgmental openness to experience
and a highly concentrated critical focus.

My attention coils and uncoils, 
its focus sharpens and softens, 
like the systolic and diastolic beat of my heart. 

It is out of this dynamic change of perspective 
that a good new poem arises. 

Without openness
 I might miss the significant experience. 
But once the experience registers in my consciousness, 
I need the focused, critical approach 
to transform it into a vivid verbal image 
that communicates its essence to the reader.

I do not take myself too seriously.
But that does not mean that I take my writing lightly; 
in fact, my view of poetry is serious as any. 

My writing grows out of the condition of my mortality: 
Birth, love, life, death, being are the stalks 
onto which my verse is grafted. 

To say anything new 
about these eternal themes I do a lot of watching, 
a lot of reading, 
a lot of thinking. 

I see a main skill 
as just paying attention to the textures and rhythms of life, 
being receptive
 to the multifaceted, constantly changing yet ever recurring 
stream of my experiences. 

The secret of saying something new is to be patient. 
If I react too quickly, 
it is likely that the reaction will be superficial, 
a cliché.

My challenge is 
to keep my eyes and ears open, 
and my mouth shut
for as long as possible.

Then, 
upon reflection,
To Write.

I Doubt; therefore I Am

When I don't know the answer to a problem, 
I am ignorant. 

When I have a hunch as to what the answer is, 
I am uncertain. 

And when I am pretty darn sure of the answer, 
I am in some doubt. 

In order to grow
 I must recognize my ignorance 
and always leave room for doubt. 

Religious doctrines and dogmas
are statements with varying degrees of certainty
some unsure, 
some nearly sure, 
none absolutely certain.

Age of the Spirit

There can be no peace among nations
until there is peace among religions.

Society cannot be reinvigorated if religion is not. 

The Church has much to learn from secular society
with the Second Vatican Council making moves 
to incorporate a modicum of democratic attitudes and actions. 
These were undermined 
by the autocratic preferences of Popes John Paul and Benedict. 

The Church needs to advance its own democratizing, 
not only for its own sake 
but also for society at large. 

The way knowledge has been controlled 
by JP II and Ratzinger
is shameful. 

The Church should welcome progressive ideas and practices, 
with much to be gained.

If religion were given the freedom
 to explore frontiers 
and the opportunity to present these discoveries, 
a shared benefit would result. 

We live in very troubling times; 
and we are fortunate to be alive now 
when we have so much possibility for growth in love. 

We are in the midst of a spiritual awakening,
the Age of the Spirit. 

Faith is resurgent, 
while dogma is dying. 

The spiritual, communal, and justice-seeking dimensions of Christianity 
are now its leading edge.
A religion based on subscribing to mandatory beliefs 
is no longer viable.

Beckoning

At age 55,
upon ending a 32-year career with Ford,
and beginning what was to be
a 25-plus-year adventure
helping grievers and their caregivers,
I came in contact with a stranger
beckoning me
on a Spiritual Journey
that changed my life.

Though I knew him not,
his welcome was at one in the same time
seductive and challenging.

The path up the mountain of life
he urged me to take
outside and away from the bushel
in which I dwelt
would require traveling light,
meaning I would have to leave behind
the doctrines, dogmas, creeds, 
rules, regulations, rites, and rituals
which I thought were part and parcel
of my identity.

I also had to leave behind
any unforgiven hurts
as carrying those losses up the mountain
is impossible.

He promised me no prize
at journey's end,
warning that the climb
would entail many stumbling blocks,
wrong turns, and setbacks,
but that
the trip would be bathed in
and sustained by 
Love and Compassion.

He warned me
that many who remained behind
would think me a heretic.

Without knowing why
or where it was leading,
I took up his welcome,
the challenge
to leave the bushel
and climb the mountain.

Twenty-five years
into the Journey,
I have found
Love and Compassion
I never dreamed possible
while helping myself
as well as many other fellow travelers
with whom I connected,
turn life's stumbling blocks
into stepping stones
along the way.

I discovered 
I did not need a prize
at the end of life's journey,
for the climb itself
is the treasure
with the view from the mountain
far more beautiful
than it could ever be
stuck in a bushel.

Along the way,
I grew in intimacy
with the beckoning stranger
only to learn
he was me,
my true self,
the Divine within.








Free Spirit

I only began to attain spiritual maturity and completeness 
upon my emancipation or unbinding
from religious tyranny.

Prior to that, 
I seemed firmly and forever chained to church's place and pillar.

The great liberation came like an earthquake: 
my soul was shaken, torn apart, cast forth
 comprehending not itself what was taking place. 

An involuntary onward impulse ruled me
 with the mastery of command;
 a will,
 a wish to go forward
 a mutinous, willful, volcanic-like longing 
for a climb up the mountain of life.

Anger and grief were part of the great liberation, 
a malady that can destroy one, 
this first outbreak of strength and will 
for self-destination, 
self-valuation, 
this will for free will
to be free spirit.

Liberated I roved fiercely around, 
with an unsatisfied longing 
suffering from a perilous expectancy of pride,
tearing to pieces the doctrine, and dogma,
rules and regulations,
rites and rituals
which previously bound me. 

With a sardonic laugh I overturned 
whatever I found veiled or protected by any reverential awe: 
I began to see what these things really look like 
when they were overturned.

I am able now to bask in a special sunlight of my own, 
with a feeling of birdlike freedom, 
birdlike visual power, 
birdlike irrepressibleness, 
something extraneous 
in which curiosity and delicate disdain have united. 


Now a free spirit
refreshingly grateful in any mood, 
it sets me aglow. 

I  live
 no longer in the bonds of discrimination and exclusion, 
without a yes or no, 
here or there indifferently, 
in the knowledge that
everything belongs.

My free spirit draws near to life again, 
slowly indeed, 
almost refractorily, 
almost hesitantly. 

But there is warmth and mellowness,
 as if now for the first time my eyes are open to things near. 

I sit hushed, 
where have I been? 
These near and immediate things;
how changed they seem to me! 

I now look back gratefully
 for my wandering
as now for the first time I really see myself
 with so many surprises in the process. 

What joy in the exhaustion! 
How it delights me, 
suffering to sit still, 
to exercise patience, 
to write,
to walk and bike,
to lie in the sun! 

It is a fundamental cure for all my pessimism
 (the vice of all idealists and humbugs), 
to become free spirit, 
to bit by bit grow spiritually healthy.

 It is wisdom, worldly wisdom, 
to administer health to oneself for a long time in small doses.



I had to become master over myself, 
master of my own good qualities.

 Formerly, the religious hierarchs were my masters: 
when they should have been mere tools
 along with other tools. 

I had to acquire power over my yes and no 
and learn to hold and withhold them 
in accordance with higher aims.

 I had to find out the inevitable religious error 
in every Yes and in every No, 
error as inseparable from life,
as conditioned by the perspective and its inaccuracy. 

Above all, I had to see with my own eyes 
where the religious error is always greatest: 
where life is littlest, narrowest, meanest, least developed. 

Church cannot help but look upon itself 
as the goal and standard of things, 
and smugly and ignobly and incessantly 
tear to tatters all that is highest and greatest and richest.

As free spirit I put the shreds into the form of questions 
from the standpoint of my own well being.

As free spirit, 
my destiny exercises its influence over me 
even when, as yet, I have not learned its nature,
it is my future that guides my today.

Room for Doubt

When I don't know the answer to a problem, 
I am ignorant. 

When I have a hunch as to what the answer is, 
I am uncertain. 

And when I am pretty darn sure of the answer, 
I am in some doubt. 

In order to grow
 I must recognize my ignorance 
and always leave room for doubt. 

Religious doctrines and dogmas
are statements with varying degrees of certainty
some unsure, 
some nearly sure, 
none absolutely certain.

Vital Uncertainty

I have learned
that a search for meaning, 
much like the search for pleasure, 
must be conducted indirectly. 

For me,
Meaning has come through meaningful activity: 
the more I deliberately pursued it, 
the less likely I was able to find it; 
the rational questions I posed about meaning 
always outlasted the answers. 

Meaning is a by-product 
of engagement and commitment, 
and that is where I now direct my efforts,
 not that engagement provides the rational answer 
to questions of meaning, 
but it causes such questions not to matter.

A capacity to tolerate uncertainty 
is a prerequisite.
The powerful temptation to achieve certainty 
through embracing a closed religious system of doctrine and dogma 
is treacherous and futile;
Religious beliefs block uncertain and spontaneous encounters 
necessary for Spiritual Growth.

Meaning,
rather than an object of my Quest,
has found me.



From a New Place

Once I envisioned Church as it might be,
 as it ought to be, 
 it became impossible to live compliant and complacent
with Church as it is.

And so I walked out 
and blossomed,
the way a flower comes out of the shadows into the sunlight
and blooms, 
because it has no other calling. 
It has no other work;
nor do I.

I, like all, am a Spiritual Being
with all that that implies 
of creativity, imagination, craziness, wisdom,
passionate compassion, selfless courage, 
and a radical reverence for life. 

Love for other
rises out of me, 
seeking something larger than myself, 
call it what you will.

 I now dwell in the joy of my soul, 
life’s longing for itself. 
I am enJoying heaven on this side of the grave,
not waiting for the other side promised by Church,
resident in that tidal wave of Love that rises up 
when I simply let it.

My mission is to plant myself
 at the gates of Love and
not the gates of blind religious obedience,
which are narrow
nor the stalwart, boring gates of doctrine and dogma,
nor the strident gates of religious self-righteousness,
 which creak on shrill and angry hinges,
 nor the cheerful, flimsy pearly gates 
of some heaven in the next life.

But the place in which I now dwell,
outside the Church's bushel of false hopes,
is a sometimes lonely place, 
a place of truth-telling, 
about my own soul first of all and its condition, 
a place of resistance and defiance.

It is a piece of ground from which I see 
the Church and the world 
both as they are and as they could be,
 a place from which I glimpse not only struggle, 
but Joy in the struggle. 

And I stand here, 
beckoning and calling, 
telling people what I am seeing, 
asking people what they see,
which Church hierarchy seems afraid and unwilling to do.

Outside the bushel,
everything,
every thing
looks different.


Restleness

There is a divine restlessness in my heart. 
Though my body maintain an outer stability and consistency, 
my heart is an eternal nomad. 

No circle of belonging 
can ever contain all the longings of my heart. 
As Shakespeare said, 
we all have immortal longings.

All my creativity issues from an urgency of longing.

The restlessness in my heart 
can never be stilled by any person, project, or place. 
The longing is eternal. 

This is what constantly qualifies and enlarges circles of Love.
There is a constant and vital tension 
associated with my longing for Love.

Without the guidance of love,
 my longings would lack direction, focus, and context; 
they would be aimless and haunted, 
constantly tugging my heart in a myriad of opposing directions. 

Without love, my longing would be demented. 
As memory gathers and anchors time, 
so does Love guide my longing.

If my longing died, 
my creativity would cease. 

The arduous task of being a human 
is to use my longing for Love
to ensure that all the potential and gifts 
that sleep in the clay of my heart 
may be awakened and realized in this life.

May my tombstone read,
John Loved
and was Loved.






Upsetting

Writing, 
is a lonely life.

 I write my poetry alone 
and if I am a good enough writer 
I  face eternity, or the lack of it, 
every day.

Each poem is a new beginning 
where I try again
 for something that is beyond attainment. 

I always try 
for something that has not been done 
or that others have tried and failed. 

Sometimes with great luck,
I succeed.

How simple writing poems would be 
if it were only necessary to write in another way 
something that has been already written. 

I write far out where no one can help me.

I write what I believe must be said.

Feedback,
in agreement, support, and encouragement
and even in disagreement and disdain,
 helps dispel the loneliness.

Those I upset
need to be upset.

I Strive to Be

I strive to be a good Poet 
who helps people figure out not only what matters in life,
 but also why it matters. 

I try to dance 
up the ladder of understanding, 
from information to knowledge to wisdom. 
Through symbol, metaphor, and association, 
I write to help interpret information, 
integrate it with knowledge, 
and transmute that into wisdom.

A good poem is not about providing information, 
though it can certainly inform,
 it invites an expansion of understanding, 
a self-transcendence. 

More than that, 
it plants seeds 
and makes it impossible to do anything but grow a new understanding
 of life, 
of ourselves, 
of God,
of some subtle or monumental aspect 
of existence.

At a time when information is increasingly cheap 
and wisdom increasingly scarce, 
the gap is where I reside
and write.

I hope someday to be
 a good poet akin to the kindly captain 
who sails with tremendous wisdom 
and boundless courage; 
who points the boat 
in the direction of horizons  
with unflinching idealism and integrity; 
who brings us somewhat closer to the answer, 
to our particular answer, 
and to that grand question about
Being.


The idol Conformity

To create anything at all in any field, 
and especially anything of outstanding worth, 
requires nonconformity, 
or a want of satisfaction with things as they are. 

The creative person
 — the nonconformist — 
may be in profound disagreement with the present way of things, 
or he may simply wish to add his views,
 to render a personal account of matters.

To remain an accepted member
of the Roman Catholic Church,
I would have had to shed my non-conformity,
and hence my creativity.

But I had no really vested interest in the Church's status quo.

The only vested interest
 — or one might say, concern — 
which I do have in the present way of Church things 
rests in my ability to observe them, 
to assimilate the multifarious details of reality
and to form some intelligent opinion about them.

I maintain an attitude at once detached
 and yet deeply involved. 

Detached, in that I view the Church with an outer and abstracting eye. 

Contrasts in Church life move constantly across my field of vision
 — tensions between the grotesque and the sad, 
between the contemptible and the much-loved; 
tensions of such special character as to be almost imperceptible; 
dramatic, emotional situations within the most banal settings. 
Only with a detached eye am I able to perceive the properties 
and qualities of these things.

Within such contrasts and juxtapositions 
lies the very essence of what Church life is today, or any day. 
To know this and capture its essential character 
I must maintain such a degree of detachment.
But, I never fail to be involved
 in the joys and the desperations of Churchgoers, 
for in them lies the very source of feeling 
upon which my writing is based. 
My feelings, 
always specific and never generalized, 
have their own vocabulary of things I experience.

It is because of these parallel ideas 
of detachment and of emotional involvement 
that I have become a critic of Institutional Roman Catholicism
and so often voice my disgust for its abuse of people. 

It is likely why I am nonconformist in my personal life.

The deadening effects of over-conformity in the Church 
are well understood. 
Yet, when it comes to the matter of just what kind of nonconformity 
shall be encouraged, 
liberality of view recedes
and disappears.

There seems to be no exact place in the Roman Catholic way
where nonconformity can be fitted in.

Without people of outspoken opinion, 
however, 
without critics, 
without visionaries, 
without the nonconformist, 
any Church, whatever its degree of perfection,
 falls into decay. 
Its habits (even virtues) 
inevitably become entrenched and tyrannical; 
its controls become inaccessible to the ordinary laity.
Witness the Roman Catholic Church today.

Nonconformity is a basic pre-condition of growth, 
as it is a pre-condition of good thinking 
and therefore of greatness in a people. 

The degree of nonconformity present
 — and tolerated — 
in a Religion must be looked upon
 as a symptom of its state of health.

Again, witness the Roman Catholic Church
today.


Loneliness

Loss is a cousin of loneliness. 

They intersect and overlap, 
and so it’s not surprising that a work of mourning 
might invoke a feeling of aloneness, 
of separation. 

Mortality is lonely. 
Physical existence is lonely by its nature, 
living in a body that’s moving inexorably towards decay, 
shrinking, wastage and fracture. 

Then there’s the loneliness of bereavement, 
the loneliness of lost or damaged love, 
of missing one or many specific people, 
and the loneliness of mourning.

A cure for loneliness may not be just meeting someone, 
not necessarily. 

It's about two things: 
learning how to befriend yourself 
and understanding that many of the things
 that seem to afflict us as individuals 
are in fact a result of larger forces of stigma and exclusion, 
which can and should be avoided.

Loneliness is personal, 
but it is also universal. 
Loneliness is collective. 

As to how to inhabit it, 
there are no rules 
and nor is there any need to feel shame, 
only to remember that the pursuit of individual happiness
 does not trump or excuse our obligations to each another. 

We are in this together, 
this accumulation of scars, 
this world of objects, 
this physical and temporary heaven 
that so often takes on the countenance of hell. 




What matters is kindness; 
what matters is solidarity. 
What matters is staying alert, 
staying open, 
because if we know anything 
from what has gone before us,
 it is that the time for feeling lonely need not last.

Love is the answer
to many, if not all, questions,
especially loneliness.