“Such Phenomena” – New Poetry

Rare snow this day– normally too warm for such phenomena.
Blood flows at last from my darkened places,
auspices of Winter’s night. Long travels.
Cramps loosen. We are not yet to the Land of Spring,
and I am not too eager for light’s exhausting dominion.
We know we sleep deeper still, time slows to observe inwardly
the Soul’s guiding lantern.
Footprints mark a path outside my small burrow;
Who comes to visit me now from you, Darkened Woods,
who are most beautiful.
The Lord’s beasts may visit our dreaming
and will lead us unto snow’s contemplations,
and to the heart’s spark of candle’d delighting,
and to the Visitor who is the face of the good night
Whose footprints draw nearer now
to my aching door.

Gentle J. Pine

Further journaled thoughts today:

Being sensitive is no joke: it means hearing every different type of music your apartment neighbors are playing and therein hearing and feeling precisely every different personality in physical proximity closely around you. It means being painfully intolerant of the smallest insincerity or manipulative lie when it would be easier to not feel or care, or to conspire therewith. Fatigue and Depression hound these good hearts of the Sensitive; it is nothing to mock and everything to respect. A Soul Guide, a Holy Teacher, a Truth Teller, an Underworld Guide, a true Elder, a Mentor to the Heart: all these are the ones whose baseline hyper awareness is ultimately empowered into a rare gift to The World. They learn to concentrate their gift into deep power and truth, without being overwhelmed by the massive, life-giving intensity within.

The Sacred Crux of Time

A healthy Conservatism is committed to the past, the present, and the future. It keeps our present rooted in the love and wisdom of the ancestors, including honorably learning from their errors, failures and sacrifices. Likewise, a well-rooted, conscientious Conservatism approaches a brighter future through inculcating moral courage and critical thinking in younger generations. We who live in the present are always at the sacred crux of time, remembering the love of the ancestors while we have faith in the regenerative capabilities of generations of ancestors yet to come.

This Time, We Have Come

Slowly enough to be steady, rowing sturdy canoes,
old-speak appearing in the fog on the water
first language, hand-spoken, fur-hackles
predating the migration of babble.

The land that we love should not be carved into prizes.
Nobody owns a place until their dead are laid down in it.
Are you a wild god of fury?
Are you untamed, as suspected?
There is no safety with you, then,
Unpredictable Storm.
You are the end of safety,
but somehow you are comforting.

You would know, if you are here.
You must know, if what they say of you is true.
You too must have also suffered
a severance from family and tribe.
You must know the sadness
of all songs.

This time, O Lord of Burnt Offerings,
We have come bearing a trial of lanterns
to hunt you, whispering your darkened name

and your old shadow reclaims you,
curls in relief
down in toward wooded night comfort
slinking back into thickets
evading intrusive light.

This time, God,
we have come ready to find you,
wherever you are.

This time, Mother,
whoever you are now.

Writing Wisdom from Philip Zaleski

“Words have consequences; writing is a moral act,” writes Philip Zaleski, editor of The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004. “To recognize this pays a triple dividend, for it inoculates us against the three daily literary devices of pandering to popular taste, creative laziness, and didacticism. The last item may surprise those who fear that any talk of moral writing will unleash an army of bluenoses ready to censor at will or of apparatchiks who will demand a political subtext to every sentence. But such worries stem from misunderstanding the obligations placed upon us by the nature of the craft. To write ugly prose, or to cripple one’s language to meet the standards of the day, or to warp one’s creation into a political placard -all this is to write immorally. The task of the spiritual writer is to uphold truth and beauty at whatever cost, in whatever way his art demands.”

 

 

Photo by Jason Wong on Unsplash

A Path of Devotion

Welcome back to The Leafy Paw! Here’s a new post, after a while. I got distracted (and lazy) and started making excuses for not writing. I do that because, for people who feel called to a path of devotion, sometimes it is intimidating to do what we really know we must. It can seem like too huge a task ahead, no matter how small the daily steps. But in these months away from writing, since last Fall, I have been still doing Good Deeds: learning to think differently about many things, such as how I approach tasks that cause some anxiety. This has helped me return to writing, and keep up my other practices. “From discipline comes freedom,” said Aristotle. And the magic of learning to live and act in a sacred manner is to always return to the path with compassion for ourselves. The path calls us consistently, and does not reprimand us when we return. It simply is.

It was something I heard once about writing; don’t wait for inspiration to come. Be an open faucet, through which water flows. The water will not flow when the faucet is closed. Funny and true, when I begin writing an email to friends, suddenly a lot of satisfying writing comes pouring out, and I hadn’t written intentionally in some time. But without forethought, the flow of thought into life appears.

This morning, in a yoga class, I found that the moves did not exhaust me quite like they did several months ago when I was pushing hard past barriers of learning those new physical poses. So it’s true then, what Sakyong Mipham says in his excellent book, Running With the Mind of Meditation: we may have been away from our practice for a time, but upon returning, we might find we are doing better than we thought. Ah- there it is again, forethought clouding our heads! How sweet is the non-thought way of animals who live lightly in their minds and fully in their bodies. I experience this, finally…) We haven’t lost everything in our time away, in fact the time away may have subtly empowered our actions, making us better prepared to return to a discipline. I’ve been running lately, and I’m really pleased with how this practice has improved my way of thinking about approaching tasks of difficulty, whether in physicality, writing, or keeping a consistently upright mind when I encounter obfuscating distraction on the sacred way of daily life. It is this: Don’t worry about what you haven’t done. Think only about what you can do right now. It applies to keeping an upright mind in everything. The human mind is full of ghosts. We can drown ourselves in thoughts of what we have or haven’t done, in useless regrets about how something isn’t a certain way. That is not an ounce helpful. It is greater instead to think about what small act of devotion we can practice in this moment, and these moments are what really count. Looking back over a life of these many present moments, we are pleased with a life well-lived. So I think about what is right and good already –in my own life, in my species, in the beautiful world– and from this, the energy of action comes. Sakyong Mipham says, “The mind benefits from stillness. The body benefits from movement.”

I have found that action is truly secondary to being. From being comes action, not the other way around. It’s alarming to see the temptation to be caught up in unaware action without remembering your own core of being. There’s a be-er in that do-er. Give the be-er within the credit for being a vessel of all this crazy action we expect of our lives. But I am very content to be a be-er. I suspect this is why I never get bored. By not dwelling so much on the heavy forethought of doing, and instead lightly showing up to be, from this the right action will come, sustainably and with good energy.

 

photo© 2013 Gentle J. Pine

The Spell-Charm of Everyday Speech

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Lately I’ve noticed how automatic and unconscious speaking a language is. We know what sounds right, but we don’t always know why it sounds right. We rarely stop to think through every word we say in a sentence unless we’re learning a new language, or when we trip over words that don’t sound right. Intriguing. In doing some research on this I came across stories of people who grew up without a language: deaf people born to hearing parents who were unable (or unwilling) to sign with them, as in the astounding article from Greg Downey, Life Without Language (Susan Schaller wrote a book on this, A Man Without Words). Many of these people, until found and rehabilitated by the deaf community in adulthood, were depressed and isolated without any ability to communicate, or even to clearly distinguish one object from another. With language, symbols for communication, the parts of everyday life actually become more real and discernible.

For example: I’m wondering why the difference between “much” and “many” is a big deal to native English speakers; and we catch it when we pick the wrong one of these two– “she has much dollars” makes our ears wince– but we can’t immediately explain why. Follow the white rabbit down the hole of linguistic anthropology to the mysterious root of language in our species. What began as a question of grammar becomes a deeper marveling at why we say anything at all, why pattern adds up and sounds make sense. Why is it these symbolic patterns, this unconscious depth continues to overtake our attention, sometimes causing us to speak a glitch in the system?

When I am feeling emotionally distanced from language itself as my primary mode of expression is when I am more likely trip over grammar and not care about how it sounds. I have always considered myself a wordy person, but in the past couple years I’ve been more focused on physicality, less “in my head” and at times more keen to express myself not immediately in words, but through image or movement. It was then the difference between the plural and the singular became increasingly irrelevant, my patterns of speech loosened and I could write more freely without self-censorship. Creative writing became easier, not harder, when I wasn’t stuck in Wordlandia, but explored other forms of language (language is not only words, it’s the conveyance of meaning). Being stuck in the realm of the “left brain” becomes restricting. It is necessary to break language’s patterns, invoke the animal body. Experimental freedom in language may happen more readily in spoken language, as that is when we allow ourselves to be more unselfconscious in our communication, in tune with others’ body language and focused on physical ques of the real, sensory world. Compare this to the cerebral strangeness that is writing an essay on a computer screen, every mis-written word underlined in red squiggles.

I once heard the idea that words as symbols can actually separate us further. At the time I heard this I was approaching near-worship of wordiness, an unconscious response to finding myself suddenly immersed in a (beautiful) subculture of an outdoor school which valued physical experience and body language as much as the spoken and written word, if not more. I loved this place, but worried my inclination toward expressing myself verbally was uncool in this social scene I so pined to be accepted in. The idea goes as follows: if somebody says “wolf”, you may both think of the animal, but if they go on to say, “An old grey wolf in summer is hunting for food,” that could separate you more. You both have different internal ideas of the animal’s fur color, what an old or young wold looks like, how summer feels, but maybe you were imagining snow on the ground before they said “summer”. More specifics could lead your imaginings further apart, according to the idea. It was an ear-opening way of understanding the world, and human communication. I think it is easy in modern society to over-glorify words in particular as the best means of communication, when we also have other ways of understanding each other.

In the academic paper Psycholinguistics, Formal Grammars, and Cognitive Science, Fernanda Ferreira introduces the field of psycholinguistics and its relationship to what might be going on at the level of cognitive processing. She writes,

 

“Psycholinguists who study adult processing are interested in how people understand and produce language. In the sub-area of comprehension, their aim is to develop theories that explain how listeners understand utterances in real time, even in the face of massive ambiguity and indeterminacy in the input. For production, the goal is to capture how speakers move from a communicative intention to a series of articulatory gestures, which results in utterances that are reasonably fluent and typically comprehensible to others. Psycholinguistic investigations focus on the constraints associated with real time processing. People understand language at the rate of about 300 words per minute, which implies that lexical retrieval, syntactic parsing, and semantic interpretation all occur in a matter of a few hundred milliseconds. Considering the size of the databases that must be consulted during comprehension, the speed and accuracy of human processing is truly astonishing.” (Ferreira)

 

That “speed and accuracy of human processing” is what I have come to appreciate from being a writer who draws from real-time, spoken life. To write in this way is to scratch the surface of what language is and why we are so sensitive to it. In tracking spontaneous, unedited patterns of speech from myself and those around me, I’m caught in wonder by the warm-blooded mechanics underlying evolving human language. Calling on any logical sequence of words as a species is real-life magic. It’s no accident that there’s a double meaning to the word “spell”; to write a word, to cast a charm. And there is hidden spell-charm in everyday speech. I know several people whose names are seemingly common, called the same as another’s, but they do not sound the same to me. To the untrained ear of an outsider there may register no difference. But to me, they have different names. One of my friends named Alex is not the same as the other, and it takes a friend to hear the difference. Somewhere in the ether between the life of the lips and the ear of the beholder, a word is made flesh. Even common names are incantations. Language may be a smaller pattern within nature mimicking the structure of nature itself.

 

 

Works Cited

Downey, Greg. “Life Without Language.” Neuroanthropology. WordPress, 21 July 2010. Web. 3 Sep. 2016. https://neuroanthropology.net/2010/07/21/life-without-language/

Ferreira, Fernanda. “Psycholinguistics, Formal Grammars, and Cognitive Science.” The Linguistic Review 22 (2005): 365-80. Lingo.stanford.edu. Stanford University. Web. 3 Sep. 2016. http://lingo.stanford.edu/sag/papers/ferreira05.pdf

 

photo by wilhei, Public Domain. Pixabay.com

Interview: “Yo-kai Watch” Inspires Fitness, Challenges “Pokémon” with Animist Tales

Hey everyone!

I just completed a sumptuous article and interview about Yo-kai Watch and Pokémon Go. It was a lot of work and I’m proud of it. Cats are involved. The piece focuses on the mythological underpinnings of these gaming stories. They can have a positive effect on urban people in search of embodiment and a relationship with the natural world.

Check it out! Share!

“Yo-kai Watch” Inspires Fitness, Challenges “Pokémon” with Animist Tales

 

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photo by DaFranzos. CC0 Public Domain. pixabay.com

 

Welcome to the Lifeworld

Welcome to The Leafy Paw, a place where I will burrow into The Big Questions concerning culture, the soul, and the changing earth –and all the shimmering strands that weave between them. Some questions we will get into here are; why is a string of words, arranged like so, so beautiful? Why does it make you feel power in the middle of your chest? And how is that experience of power and deep beauty urgently relevant to humanity’s current cultural struggles to know and care for the world?

Where do theology and science meet and lay down under a great big shady tree together? Why does nature demand blood? What is evolution seeking?Where do dreams go to live? Where can wisdom be found? Why are cats adorable?

I will also share my own poetry as well as others’.

My name is Gentle J. Pine: join me in drawing closer to the sacred heart and soul of The World.