Thursday, June 11, 2009

Symposium, A Precarious Position

I am doing the best I can. Years ago, in 1967, actually, I vowed to be wise. In poetic terms, I pledged to Sophia or Athena. I promised to be a messenger, to be Hermes, if permitted. It seemed in those days that drugs were involved. Trips to Asia were involved too. Investigating the Eastern forms of spirit were involved without question. That is because the instinctive language of the time had that flavor. I was nothing if not a child of the 60's. I was a little older, but I had lagged behind throughout my childhood. I not only was emotionally younger than my years, I looked younger than my years, and still do.

As I have traversed my life, my mission, as it were has never fundamentally changed, but my understanding has. I no longer place wisdom at the acme. It is instead foundational. Witness is the process and compassion in the deepest sense is the solution. In some real sense, radical forgiveness is the action within witness that gives rise to compassion.

The eschatology of this process, in the words of my old friend Phil (who is at least briefly back in my work life by serendipity), we either all go to heaven or we don't. In other words, where my vow was to Sophia, it is now to Bodhisattva.

The poem Symposium is historical and points to way back then. It is still true in its way, because it is foundational.


I throw all of me,
Not just my head, nor my feet,
Not my heart alone,
But my house and throne
And indeed the soul of home
And the thralls as well
Into this cauldron
On the fire I tend for you
Letting all else go,

All for wisdom's sake.

January 15, 2009 7:23 AM


Maybe in A Precarious Position I mean hanging out over a river just like it says. Maybe as well, this is a metaphor for taking any risk that is sort of like that, which would include not knowing if I rely on something too weak to take my reliance.

My first thought is full circle back to the beginning. I was conscious at that time that I was taking a tremendous leap in faith. The leap was that I was not tricked or mentally ill but had met closely with Truth in some way beyond my understanding. I had to trust this in a radical move and then accept the responsibility for not only the choice but the consequences. I knew there was no way back. There was nowhere to go back to. There was only measuring up or not. But it could be a trick of some kind, a hoax, and then I would pay for that too if I ever found out. Or I could be mentally ill precisely in the center of it, which could mean terrible loss if I embraced this juggernaut. I was in terror over the risk I was taking some of the time. And shortly for related reasons, I was deeply tested by what I had to do. Precarious times indeed.

A Precarious Position

If I were hung out
Over the river like that
I would be praying.
My feet dangling just
Above the wet line when I
Keep my toes up tight
And wondering when
This too thin branch will begin
To crack and let go.

January 15, 2009 9:15 AM


  1. I don't have many words today....thank you for speaking me so often


  2. Christopher, I think wisdom IS pledging oneself to forgiveness and compassion. Would I like to be wise? Only if it leads to fellow-feeling.

    Your reflections are wonderful to read. They let me know a bit about your life and make me think about my own. Thank you, my friend.

  3. {{{Michelle}}}

    Karen, I think you are right, and that is why I suppose that my evolution is as it is. I would suggest that a young heart, lacking practical long term experience sees some things more clearly and a more mature heart sees the other.

  4. A thousand thousand years ago, someone taught me how to use a cauldron that way. I've been trying to remember ever since.

  5. Rachel, it's a problem :)

    Seeing as how I am in the cauldron as I tend it. When I crank up the fire, I get to feel the heat. If I don't crank up the fire, I am not doing my job.

    If I don't get fired, I get fired. What?

  6. This is stunning Christopher, thanks for sharing and for your lovely poem at my place! God bless

  7. '67. Not possible.

    Funny, I was just talking to a friend about spirituality in the East. I was overseas in a few Eastern Asian countries in the 90's and I was shocked that I didn't feel the spirituality I had anticipated. I wonder if it could have been the time, or perhaps myself. Either way, I felt hollow while I was there. I felt like something was being sucked from me. It was a curious time.

    Risk is a dangerous thing, but a life yielding thing too. I think I might just welcome a little.

  8. In '67, I was very wise:) 4 years old...probably wiser then than I have ever been since.

    Christopher, as always...beautiful words.

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  10. Erin, I don't know what you mean by not possible. That was the year I turned 22 in November. That was old for a Sixties kid by a couple years. That June I left with my Mom and Dad for Bangladesh (East Pakistan then). We didn't come back til 1969 at the end of summer. That was after I received my Honorable Discharge from the Army and could come back to the States.

    I too had expectations that the east might be somehow higher than human. I thought the earth would be different there, and people would be naturally spiritual in some obvious way. Instead I found horrible poverty and disease and masses of obviously struggling people who had no time for high minded pursuits. I also found of in the distances some signs of spirit. Not that different from here in that way.

    The east was very different in some ways and just like home in others. I didn't go looking for the ashrams. I was in the wrong country for that. Bangladesh is dominantly Muslim.

    Faith, yes, four year olds are very wise. You were four when I was 21. I was no longer so wise. I needed a vow.

  11. 'I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now'

    I never seem to stop feeling that way. I hope I don't try to be so clever now as I did when I was younger, and consequently I might be just a little wiser. Yet sometimes when I see young people being grandiose or over-clever or trying to be wise, my heart goes out to them, with not a little amusement. And sometimes I'm impressed with how wise they genuinely are. I like it that the French way of saying a child is good is to say they are 'sage'.

  12. Lucy, what a lovely thought about children. That's good of you to share. Children are sage. Of course that is a British version. We do use the word that way, meaning wise, but so rarely in my experience that I have trouble not thinking of the herb first and foremost. That makes children sound tasty, good in that sense, medium rare.

  13. Christopher, I meant there is no way that you were 22 in '67. Unless that picture is 20 years old, there is no way. I'm pretty sure your math must be faulty.

  14. My real father, Erin, looked around 60 when he was nearing 80. The picture is about three years old. Trust me, I would look older in person, but not a lot. I still have a full head (thinning now) of hair with almost no gray in it. My beard is almost all gray. This has been true all my life. I was carded at the liquor store when I was 27, and they refused service even though that was two years older than the cut off on the Oregon Liquor Control Commission ID card that they demanded to see.

  15. Christopher, you look great. Numbers don't mean a whole lot to me, but numbers or not, you look great.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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