Friday, January 30, 2009

Walt, Dizzily

Tonight I went to the yoga center again. We were doing a book group on the Bhagavad Gita. Here's a sample of Sri Krishna, an incarnation of God, from the Eknath Easwaran translation:

I pervade the entire universe in my unmanifested form. All creatures find their existence in me, but I am not limited by them. Behold my divine mystery!

The room is full. There are probably 20 or more people there. We are spread out in a circle on a polished wooden floor. Mostly women, a few men, scattered about on blankets and bolsters. We begin with a solemn period of meditation, everyone oriented toward the two flickering candles in glass canisters at the the center of the room. As soon as we break off the meditation, some sock-clad person making a beeline toward the snacks will indavertently send the candles skittering across the floor. After filling our hands, our napkins, our plates, we will discuss.

Ardent practitioners, concerned parents, seekers, lapsed Catholics, Capricorns and Scorpios and a handful of us on the cusp on Gemini, who knows what else is going on in the room. There's a woman inspired by the Gita to consider a study of comparative religion and a man who chokes back a sob as he reads a passage about spiritual wisdom. The home-baked cookies circulate, and the box of chocolates, and the gourmet popcorn and those vinegar potato chips. Offerings spread out on paper napkins. Seltzer, juices, Honest tea, wine in plastic cups.

I don't actually know what anyone in this room is after. I myself have resolved never to aspire to enlightenment. At moments like this, when Oneness (the Unmanifest) is in the air--these seem to be exactly the moments when I find myself surging in love with this world and all its grief and particularity. When it's all over, someone suggests that in the future we could try reading other kinds of poets, like maybe Whitman. "That's a crazy idea," announces a woman rolling on her back in some kind of upturned-beetle pose, somehow without causing offense. I think about Whitman on the way home. It's a crisp night with stars. You could eat the air. There's only one line I know: "I contain multitudes!" This reminds me of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and Leaves of Grass.

Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt;
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd;
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d; 25
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood, yet was hurried;
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships, and the thick-stem’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

I too many and many a time cross’d the river, the sun half an hour high;
I watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls—I saw them high in the air, floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
I saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies, and left the rest in strong shadow, 30
I saw the slow-wheeling circles, and the gradual edging toward the south.

That's Crossing Brookyn Ferry, snatched from Wikipedia. I swear that's the only spiritual experience I ever have--walking over the bridge (which he didn't walk; that was a ferry!) and feeling him and all his people and seeing what I do the way I do because he told me to. I love the way he piles up the specifics. All that he saw that is no longer there is there because he reminds me it once was; all that I see I know he would feel; the masts are gone and the seagulls remain, but who knows where even they will be a hundred years hence. My heart bursts every time.


1 comment:

JMC said...

This is beautiful:

That's Crossing Brookyn Ferry, snatched from Wikipedia. I swear that's the only spiritual experience I ever have--walking over the bridge (which he didn't walk; that was a ferry!) and feeling him and all his people and seeing what I do the way I do because he told me to. I love the way he piles up the specifics. All that he saw that is no longer there is there because he reminds me it once was; all that I see I know he would feel; the masts are gone and the seagulls remain, but who knows where even they will be a hundred years hence. My heart bursts every time.

Dude