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Spiritual research (06/26/2005)
By Janet Lewis Burns

"It may be that the strongest bonds are forged in silence. In a Zen monastery, monks work side by side for hours without ever speaking. Yet the sense of fraternity grows steadily without the aid of conversation." - Japanese Zen haiku

Is today's human lost in a whirlwind of brainpower and extreme capabilities? It seems that far more credibility is given to science than its rightful due. Ogden Nash has a point: "Progress might have been alright once, but it has gone on too long."

In attempting to technologically devise sophisticated means and ways to connect with one another in a global society, has the human race lost touch of the spirit, an enlightening dimension of "being?"

As with a soulful individual, an elevated, internal awareness leads to a philosophical intelligence. The "spirit" moves different people in different ways. You, alone, are the strength, or weakness, of your own spirit. If one denies a spirit, does it exist? Hmm.

A title for my own published book, simmering on the back burner for decades, is about all I have accomplished toward that ambition..."Spiritual Research" has seemed to settle in indefinitely.

Current, notable author, Anne Lamott shares countless gems in "Bird by Bird - Some Instructions on Writing and Life." The thing you had to force yourself to do - the actual act of writing - turns out to be the best part," she comments.

"It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony." (If you're mumbling, "Yah, caffeine isn't good for a person anyway," you missed the point.)

As nature author and chronicler Annie Dillard puts it, "This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else." Capture the moment with words...a versifier's mission call!

In those funky 70s, as I tried to pass myself off as a frustrated poet, I soon discovered that such a declaration was an immediate "conversational cold shoulder." Folks wanted nothing to do with that subject matter, forcing me to withdraw to the bookkeeper and young mother of three.

Exceptionally talented poets, writers, and lyricists possess an uncanny capacity to draw from the spirit as they compose their images and messages, always true to who they are at any given time.

American Indians remember and honor their ancestors, who they often consult for spiritual guidance by means of traditional ceremonial rites. Assiniboin, Rachel Snow spoke thusly, "When I come to powwow, I gain strength to carry on with my life."

1990 Nobel Laureate, Latin American writer and critic, Octavio Paz refers to the essence of poetry as "the other voice." "It's voice is other because it is the voice of the passions and of visions." "It is their own, someone else's, no one's and everyone's."

"Everything seeks everything, without purpose, without end, without cease." Now that's heavy!

A rapturous spirit likely goaded Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, to rant and ramble on and on, and that flair lives on in his well-renowned literary work. Found in "The Over-Soul," Emerson muses, "From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all."

Of the soul of mortal man, Emerson writes, "When it breathes through his intellect, it is genius; when it breathes through his will, it is virtue; when it flows through his affection, it is love."

Zen haiku rests easy on the mind. Few are the words that say so much. My favorite is, "The image of a wagon wheel is used to emphasize that the whole whirling world has, at its center, a place that is still and empty." "Thirty spokes share an empty hub."

Starving for soul food, one drifts aimlessly. With hearts on fire, the spiritual soar to the ends of the earth. Anyway, that's how survivors see it.

May the spirit be with you. 


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