Thursday, October 08, 2009


Somewhere in his mammoth biography of Coleridge, Richard Holmes notes that Coleridge's emotional instability, difficult as it was for his friends, kept him curious and learning and growing into middle age. He never hardened, as Wordsworth and Southey did, into a caricature of himself. The world was always new and wonderful to him, no matter how wretched he might be at any given moment.

One way of looking at my life over the past couple years is that I've plunged back into world, and given myself up again to the rollercoaster of Samsara. My meditation practice is practically gone. I no longer peddle myself as the sage of the internet: it would be too ludicrous, even for me, to pretend to be anything but the plaything of pleasure and pain, bobbing where the wind takes me.

Still my main response to this is relief. I feel not that I've missed a chance, but that I've dodged a bullet. It made me deeply uncomfortable when people would refer to me as wise. I knew that it was not true, for one thing, and for another, I had an obscure but urgent sense that accepting that designation would land me in a blind alley that I might never escape.

And anyway, I had other work to do. It's no small thing to have established what Buddhists call "right livelihood." In addition, I've cleared my mornings for writing. I commute by bicycle now, which I love. I've fought the food thing to a draw. Love is as difficult and wonderful and upsetting as ever. The fundamental struggles of my life are all either won or in full play, which is where they ought to be.

But it's time for some serious meditation again. My clarity has been deteriorating. My eyes are clouding over. This could be a blind alley too.

Love in Winter

Cold clouds
Drifting over long descents of bare field,
Full, feverish faces hidden in the broad chest of God,
Tears flowing like butter over pancakes. Maudlin,
Desperate, eager, kissing like the first time or the last,
Lips and tongues swollen, heavy with love,
Charged with wanting. Yes, winter is coming,
The long dark: but chilled skin melts under hot fingers,
And blood beneath rises to meet them; the flames
Burn hotter in the cold.

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