Sunday, July 26, 2009

Part Eight, "Steeped in Time"

Part Eight
Steeped in Time

“Time steeped in infinite eagerness and patience rolls on
and, at the opportune moment, the aspirant begins to lose
the awareness of himself as being a separate ‘self….’”10
—Avatar Meher Baba

Fully steeped in time’s brew are we, such fragile containers of every word, deed, and action, yet strong enough to withstand the millions of plunges into that tiny cup of misery, shame, and sheer fun we call life.
And this brew will darken, as in and out of it we dip, careless of the fragility
of that cup whose upsetting might capsize us in that Ocean, a shore-to-shoreless Ocean, in whose depthless depths none would drown, but only merge and dissolve instantly, for each would know the Ocean as themselves, drop and Ocean indistinguishable forever.

Before, however, this forever drowning, comes first the forever remembering: each drop its own ocean, into which it daily dives and drowns, rising up breathlessly from the frenzied foam of one drop-life, falling backwards
into another, helpless against the too-swiftly moving tides of time
and its forever remembering and forgetting.
So many billions of time bubbles longing for time-bursting and time-surrendering, but each drop too drowned in its own infinitesimal ocean
to see outside its own bubble-identity, its own bubble nature.

And each moment is a memory,
each memory a world,
each world a drop the size of an ocean,
each ocean greater or lesser in depth or breadth, according to the shores
whose boundaries we ourselves have measured: some safe harbors,
some too wind-blown and high-bluffed, some too shallow-reefed to even dare approach, some great cragged peaks upon whose rocks we continue
to hurl the frail ships of ourselves.

Time the great harlot, the great whore, whose bright-bangled arms
ever hold out the promise of another moment, another this-moment-now becoming a this-moment-next, seducing us with a wink and sultry smile
that says, Sleep with me, let me encircle thee in my sweetly scented arms,
and you shall never wake to that timelessness which might set you free
from time’s embrace.

Drop-deception by dint of sheer persistence: each moment’s persistence
the guarantor of the next.
And this is time’s greatest seduction.

Time piles up:
people, places, things, things, stuff; children, husbands, lovers, wives, friends, enemies—particularly enemies.
Time piles up:
bank accounts, mortgages, bonds, loans, securities; books, CDs, DVDs, computers, cell phones; furniture, clothing, objects d’art, knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, all the playthings that fill to the brim the toy chests of our lives:
the relics of yesteryear becoming the reliquaries of tomorrow.
Time piles up:
photographs on hard drives or between the leaves of glossy photograph albums;
saved voice and emails in the dead circuits of disconnected and discarded machines, in the deep pockets of thrift shop suits, dresses, and overcoats,
in the urns and caskets of the gone and long forgotten, the no longer grieved for nor even remembered.

And in the end,
everything is put away, disposed of, recycled, auctioned off, interred,
hefted into boxes taped up tight and shoved into the darkened corners
of storage lockers whose caged bulbs burn on and on in nightless night
and dayless day, for everyone and no one.
And in the end,
everything is whisked away by relatives or strangers who give them
new homes, a new place on the shelf, endowing them now
with new meaning, new purpose, at least for a little while…
And in the end,
everything held on to is eventually let go of, deleted or done away with, erased or eradicated, removed or relinquished, demolished or destroyed, cancelled or crossed out, carted or carried off, rescinded or repealed, dumped or ditched, dismissed or disallowed, forsaken or forgotten, scrapped or scrubbed out, written off or wiped away, rejected or refused, jettisoned or junked, thrown out or thrown off, only to be taken up again in some future lifetime, perhaps by the very soul who’d possessed them last time.
And so begins again the collecting and accumulating, the hoarding and the heaping, the amassing and the accruing, the stockpiling and the storing up, the piling up of people, places, things, stuff.

Time piles up.

And so
we climbed up and out of our lifetimes, standing on the shoulders
of our accomplishments and cringing under the fortresses of our failures,
craning our necks to see over the tops of our ambitions,
always looking outward but never turning our gaze inward,
ever captivated and even consoled by the bright lights
of our own teeming cities, each abode a dwelling place for our
million-footed wants, desires and fears, which then begat new wants,
desires and fears.
And so
these cities of our own design and construction soon became over-crowded
to bursting, and, as with all over-crowded cities, slums began to appear
where once stood the proud and shining towers to ourselves,
and with the slums came the crimes: the crimes of self-absorption and self-pity and self-loathing and self-indulgence, and to stem this tide we sent out our thought police and word police and action police, but all our efforts
to arrest them were met with failure, because this war was within ourselves, deep within our own hidden hearts.
And so
the rot set in and we were helpless and hopeless against its spreading decay;
we were still untutored in the arts of that higher helplessness and hopelessness that comes not from placing our help and hope in the world outside of us,
but rather in that world within us.
And so
began the time of time-wasting and time-abiding; began those great
Olympic games of time-play: time-sprinting and time-hurdling
and time-swimming, all played out in the mammoth arena of ourselves, ourselves the cheering crowds, ourselves the daring contestants, ourselves
the time-keepers who would cheat time itself it we could, cheat even death
at its own game, if only the Coach would, for God’s sake, please call “time-out,” but there can be no time out for time.
And so
You bided Your time while we played our games, and kept playing until
the games played themselves out, exhausted by our inexhaustible need
to succeed but always so fearful of failing.
And though we could not see them, Your footprints were there beside our own, had in fact always been there, Your hand too always out-held to help and guide, but we saw not, nor felt the occasional tug.
And so
in Your infinite patience You waited for us to grow tired and weary
of our games, our endless time-wasting, time-filling and time-emptying,
waited for us to fully and finally become bored with these outward distractions
and begin turning our gaze inward, where the footprints could now be seen beside our own, inward where that tug at our hearts could now be felt
and responded to.
And so
You watched and waited while we climbed up and out of our lifetimes,
watched and waited until the climbing tired us beyond even our own endurance, watched and waited while the seed You’d planted once so long ago
now began to take root, this time in fertile soil, watered by the rain
of our own tears and the winds of our own sighs; no longer did the seed
lie fallow in the hardscrabble earth we’d grown so accustomed to dwelling in,
we never imagined that there might be a better place to live.

Live we now in this moment’s dreaming, still lost in the dream
but waking just long enough to differentiate between You,
the Dream Creator, from us, Your dream creation.
Live we now in each moment’s possibility of Your pleasure,
placing Your pleasure above our own, when we can, Lord, when we can.
Live we now in each moment’s possibility of Your remembrance,
which only the folly of forgetfulness can fully teach us.
Sing we now the song of Your sweet Name, and swell each chorus
with Your praise, though the realization of our own unworthiness
‘oft stoppers up our throats and ties our tongues.
Die we now not the easy death of the body, but the slow and painful death
of our desires, though each desire’s death doth scorch the lining of our hearts.
Drown we now in Your Ocean, though the fear of drowning keeps us clinging
to our own most slippery shores.
Wake we now to Your ever-abiding presence, though we absent ourselves
too willingly and too often, ever turning our faces away from the sometimes
too bright shining of Your sun.
Content us now with Thy gifts, which Thou hast heaped full-handedly
upon our this-time-lives, though we oft take both gift and Giver
for granted.
Forgive us now our sins, though we oft seek Thy forgiveness only to continue our sinning, assured of Your ever-again-forgiveness.
Preserve and protect us now and forever in Thy care, though we sometimes appear to care not.
Hold us now and forever in Thy embrace, though we oft struggle
against it’s seeming constraints, and keep us now and forever
in Your world without end, Amen.

Hurry down the days did we at a madman’s sprint, so eager to feel the wind
in our faces, the breath rising in our expanding chests, storming the heavens
with a poem or a song.
We’d jettisoned the past and the future in favor of that ever-elusive NOW.
But that now always became a then; we none of us knew
where that now-and-then would take us.
Only too late did we come to know that we’d drunk and smoked our lives away
for a promotion, a raise, a VP-ship, or some ship doomed only to sink beneath
the weight of empty ambition.
But somewhere, sometime in one or more of these lifetimes,
Someone had knocked on our heart’s door, essentially coming to meet us
instead of our coming to meet Him.
And though we may have never met Him in the body this time round,
time steeped in infinite eagerness and patience had rolled on
and caused Him to knock on the door of our hearts,
the door very nearly closed but not completely;
it was still slightly ajar and alight with love for Him.
So yes, yes! we really did meet Him in this lifetime, but we always invert
the pronouns, saying, “I came to Baba," when the truth is, He had come
to meet us.
He had touched our hearts outside of time, during this our-now-lifetime.
He had put His finger into the cup of our unique and distinctive brew
and stirred out hearts into His wakefulness.

So much now for the coming and the going, the dying and the birthing,
the fathering and the parenting, the sowing and having sown,
the loving and having loved and the hating, too, the accumulation of stuff
and then the tossing of it away, the stockpiling of riches that must one day be left behind, the ceaseless rocking-back-and-forth of the same damned chair, the chair which has become ever weaker from the ever-increasing weight of it’s occupant, until it threatens to collapse completely
And isn’t this what You wanted all along?
To stop the incessant rocking, tip us over, crushed and cowed finally,
at Your feet?

So much now for the coming and the going, the looking inward and the looking outward—to find what? What?
A Face that would always be there to greet us,
a pair of infinitely wide and stretching arms that would always be there
to hold us, to rock us in the Name of His Love, to greet and hold us
in unvarnished joy and unshaded sorrow, in deepest-hidden shame and still, still, the unalloyed acceptance of our every fault and failure.
For this was the Face of the Friend whose glance would now always look down upon us as long as we continued to keep our faces turned toward the sun
of His smile, whose hands would hold ours throughout the millions of lifetimes
though there would be times when we would not be able to feel them,
yet somehow we would know they were there, encupping ours in His,
this Friend who would never leave us, no matter how many miles we traversed
always going nowhere, no matter how many wives and children we had,
always exiting the stage alone, lifetime after lifetime vanishing in memory,
each falling and fading back, yet tumbling toward that forgetfulness of self
so sought after and yet so elusive, each lifetime too short a span of time
to remember You truly, deeply, and wholly, the so many distractions
always there to turn our faces away and blur the fragile framework of Your face.

It was that auld lang syne time of the year, lipstick on cigarettes and champagne glasses, everywhere a glad confusion of streamers, pulled taut and snapped
over parquet floors and pirouetting figures.
So that you might remember, I sent you that too-feminine embroidered card,
the one with the poem I had labored over till each line scanned and each rhyme rhymed perfectly—Oh, don’t you remember? It began, “Dearest one…”
or was it simply “My dear one…”?
I don’t recall just at present, but surely you remember.
Please say that you remember…
Why should the winds of our lives carry off everything,
but always leave the words, the words so carefully chosen, so carefully wrought?
But this wind is no chisel but a chiseler, that most petty yet persistent
of all thieves: time.

Like an old, retired pianist, whose fingers remember the notes but not the brain
that first learned them once so long ago, comes the sudden, surprising memory
of long-ago fashions and dance steps that magically awaken in legs that know only be-bop, jazz, rock—each aghast at how in the world they could possibly remember such arcane footwork as the Charleston, the Mambo, the Twist,
the Mashed-Potato, and-oh-my-god, even the cotillion.
Say, where did you learn to waltz, for chrissake? Look at you…
Then sometimes also comes the memory of long-fallen-out-of-use words
and phrases that seem to rise to the lips as though unbidden, unsolicited
and unexpected, a priori and astounding to the speaker.
And perhaps most telling of all: one’s clothing—for apparel doth oft proclaim
the man—in the sudden yearning for a walking stick or shawl collar,
or a pea coat we somehow knew would look right on us,
despite the jests of spouses and friends.
Sometimes we aren’t even amazed at this instant-moment’s-now knowledge,
but look upon it as some well-deserved gift or inheritance we were once
entitled to, long, long ago.
Such heart-swept heights have we climbed, such fear-fathomed depths
have we plumbed, amidst skies cluttered with airplanes and parachutes, battlements and bombs, amidst skies unclouded by fear or grief,
under summer suns that warmed young and old hands enjoined
in a forever-promised love, under night stars that ached with stars
and starbright words whispered in the throbbing dark,
in rooms sweet with memories of a lifetime lived well,
in homes warmed full up with forgiveness and tolerance,
each life as a puff of breath in the frozen air, soul wisps so eager to be seen
and heard but so reluctant to vanish, each life a new chapter-heading
in that almost pageless book we proudly call the book of ourselves.
Sing we now our songs into the whistling winds and swift-flowing currents
of our lifetimes, sing we now into that void we so desperately fear will swallow us up, devour us whole, and delete the memories we want to hold onto forever, though it were holy writ.
And this is why we sometimes exclaim, for no apparent reason,
Don’t you remember? I remember. How can you not remember?

It had been a busy night, and the souls were whizzing about like crazy,
trying to find suitable forms to inhabit, the right parents to secure,
to be happily enwombed once again and on their way to the world,
the loadstone of desire forever pulling them down into yet another lifetime.
We couldn’t make reservations for the perfectly positioned life
the way we made reservations for the finest restaurant or play.
We had to take what we got, and deserved, and learn to make the best of it
in His Will and time.

There had been a terrible air disaster the day before, all one-hundred-and-seven passengers, pilot and crew, lost at sea, the FAA having now gone from
search and rescue to search and recover, one-hundred-and-seven souls now never to be found by human eyes but followed nevertheless by the ever-watchful gaze of His love and compassion.
And then, almost simultaneously, there had occurred that earthquake in China,
9.7 on the Richer scale.
Now all of these poor souls were either suffering the torment of the hell state
or the delight of the heaven state, each and all according to their destiny,
or were already humming wombward to a new life and yet another opportunity
to play the whole game again and for once get the goddamned thing right…

Oh dear, another life gone, the roar of the crowd in my ears, such crowded hours, each moment demanding its own spotlight, the screams from some smoke-blinded battlefield becoming the cries of a babe, pulled wet, naked,
and helpless into yet another lifetime, into yet another birthing room, immaculately clean-tiled and too brightly lit, too many pairs of hands yanking
at me, trying too hard to pull me out from a place I don’t want to leave,
at least not yet, to wake from that nether sleep of forgetfulness and remembrance.
And so the crowded hours of one life begins its frightful roar into a new
calendar of days, months, years, whatever the allotted time shaped
by our ever-present past.
Dipping into one life, then dunking into another like some enormous
karmic doughnut, making the brew of ourselves stronger and stronger each time,
swimming wildly about in that cup and then drowning again,
only to come bubbling up into yet another cup.

So we grew up on Coco-Puffs and Nestlé’s Hot Chocolate, unaware of the sweeter seed that He had planted in our hearts.
And in time we would learn to stop hurrying down the days,
and begin rather to parse them into a highly mnemonic, endlessly repeatable,
two-syllable word: BABA, BABA, BABA.
We awoke to that portion of grey sleep which perhaps for the first time
disallowed the density of dreams and the insistence of desires
and drove us up into that region of His wakefulness and Name-remembering.
Our souls bubbled up through their individual lifetimes, hurtling each one
into solid flesh but a body now with a new name, new birthplace, new parents,
inhabiting a new moment of existence which would be called our birthday,
the imprint of past impressions coining each one anew, like a coin that is struck
from a single dye and the dye tossed away forever.
These imprints of impressions from so many lifetimes are the fingerprints
we leave behind, leaving a trail better than bread crumbs
by which God may find us, take our hand, and lead us Home.
So that was what all that soul-whizzing was about.
Even as we walked about chain-smoking and guzzling bottomless drinks,
wandering in and out of marriages, careers, cities and townships,
parents and people’s lives, we were all aware in a near-dawn-sleep kind of way
just what was going on all around us.
New lifetimes in His awareness were being started,
some begun at just about the same point at which they’d left off,
only some now a little or a lot more tolerant, a little or a lot more kind,
a little or a lot more awake to that sleeping wakefulness
which has the power to erase all previous sleeps.
So many beautiful soul-bubbles, each going its own sweet way: north, south, east, west, rich, poor, sick, healthy, beautiful and less beautiful,
childless or drowning in a caldron of children, not leaving the baggage
of our pasts behind at the station but taking most if not all and then some to our next destination.
Thus do we become the travel agents to ourselves,
and the handmaidens of our own destinies.

Little shuttle-crafts are we, mini flesh-and-blood missiles, hurtling wombward and tombward, the flickering images from one screen projected onto another, even before the old screen has gone silent and dark.
Film running time this last time: eighty-five years, three-hundred and twenty days, four hours, three minutes, nine seconds…or just a blink of the Cosmic Eye.

And each life is its own Cracker Jack box with its own peerless, precious prize hidden in its saccharine-sweet depths, to be taken out and admired
and held up to the light of ourselves’ bright shining.
Then one day this prize’s bright shining is seen to have tarnished some
around the edges, grown dull and unattractive, until it too is eventually
tossed onto the heaved up and still mounting higher trash heap of time.
So we look for and find a brand new prize, which too tarnishes with time,
and is again tossed away, until one day our hearts rise above our heads
and we dive deep into this box and find that prize which never tarnishes
but is its own bright shining, sufficient unto itself, now and forever.

Time Rhymes

There’s an End to Everything

My son, there’s an end to everything,
Be it good, or bad, or worse;
What began one day in the cradle
Will end someday in a hearse.
So what’er you may be suffering
Be assured of this one true fact:
There’s an end to every beginning,
And a curtain for every act.

The Lord’s Erasure

Have you seen the Lord’s erasure? He keeps it in His hand.
He didn’t buy it at Staples, I’m sure you understand.
It’s such a powerful erasure, He uses it every time
We die and change our bodies, leaving the memory of each behind.
He erases the memory of who we were and what we did to whom;
He erases the memory of where we lived, and where we died, in a grave or
garish tomb.
If He pocketed His erasure, and left it all unused,
Just think how nutty we all would be, not to mention how confused!
It’s hard enough to live this life, with all its doubts and fears,
Without having to remember our former lives, which stretch over millions
of years.
Thus He carries with Him this erasure, so round from rim to rim,
That we might more easily live this life in complete remembrance of Him.