Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A coincidence of cosmic shepherds and poets

"... Jesus was a good guy, he didn't need this shit ..." (from "Jesus The Missing Years," by John Prine, at 2:46.  I hope you have time to listen to the entire song.)

For my birthday, not long after I watched the birthday greeting card video featuring a shepherd, a friend gave me a copy of the CD, "The Tree of Forgiveness," by John Prine.  She had just discovered his music and thought that I might like it, too. 

The first time I heard John Prine's voice was in the 1970s when I was in my mid-20s.  I was washing the dinner dishes while my former husband sat in the living room watching television.  My mind was far away and unsettled.  Suddenly I thought I heard Bob Dylan's voice coming from the living room.  I had been listening to Bob Dylan since I was 14 years old, and he had become my cosmic shepherd and poet.  I turned abruptly from the dishes and ran to the living room, fearing that he would be gone by the time I got there.  Instead of Bob Dylan, I saw a younger man singing.  That man turned out to be John Prine.  I don't remember what he was singing.  It didn't matter.  He had my attention.  I knew that, once again, I was hearing the voice of a man that I could trust and learn from, a voice of someone who had experienced both joy and sorrow and had a sense of humor.  I had found another member of what in the years that followed became for me a vast community of cosmic shepherds and poets, many of whom had died before I was born.  Cosmic shepherds and poets continue to be born.  Sounds like a story from a John Prine song.

Yesterday this came up on on my blog reading list:

“We could say the search for meaning – which is a holy search – becomes imperiled whenever the poet-self and the shepherd-self are out of balance. If one is only a shepherd, she will risk being pedantic and overly serious; her ego will get in the way of her true service, and she will forget that each being shares the burden of caretaking – it is not up to her alone. The image of one shepherd over many no longer holds. Similar to how it has been said that the next Buddha is the sangha, the Jewish view of redemption imagines a shepherd-collective, a community of shepherds taking turns taking care. 
If one is only a poet, without a good measure of shepherd mixed in, there is a risk the poems will not reach outward and be in dialogue; that they will not intend towards the transformative – which is where all poems must intend, even if they fail. The poet brings to the shepherd an appreciation for the multiplicity of truths, for the impossibility of fixing anything. Without the poet-self, we become ideologues. The shepherd brings to the poet a reminder that too often our search becomes self-serving, discovery of self for its own sake; that others become stepping stones for us on the road to some imagined “actualization.” Often the search for meaning unwittingly becomes a defense against whatever or whoever is quietly sitting across from us in the café, across the table, by the side of the road, the other in our life as it is.”
—Josh Boettiger
Then "What the Figtree Said," a poem by shepherd-poet, Denise Levertov, came to mind:
"... I served Christ the Poet, who spoke in images ..."
and I found what she wrote in her poem "On a Theme from Julian's Chapter XX":
"... Every sorrow and desolation he saw and sorrowed in kinship ..."  
In the past few weeks, I came across this quote:
“We are equal beings and the universe is our relations with each other.”  (Thaddeus Golas, from Love and Pain)
There is now a growing world-wide community of shepherds and poets who see and sorrow in kinship.  Some of us belong to the religious and spiritual traditions of the world.  Some of us, including me, don't.  We respect each other.  We work together.  We aren't going away any time soon.  We are a beloved community that doesn't condone the shit that went down before and is going down in 2018.  They can't crucify all of us, but they will try.  A diverse community, we will survive against all odds.


ellen abbott said...

but will this country? I think the US is being fundamentally changed. the end of an empire? perhaps, historically it's about time. even if we overcome all the damage Trump and the Republicans are doing and will do before their time is up, this will not be the same country.

ellen abbott said...

and yeah, all beings (and here I am not referring to only human beings) are equal in the eyes/heart of the universe.