Category Archives: Philip Viens

Signs and Superstitions

by Philip Viens

Do you believe in signs? Are you superstitious? I do and I am –  a little of each  – and not for the reasons that support either.

I believe in signs because of the magic that comes with the notion that I am present in two or – maybe more dimensions simultaneously – the idea that there is more to know and experience beyond the knowledge horizon.

I am a little superstitious for some of the same reasons I believe in signs; it’s something that keeps me humble in a way, keeps me out of the duality of life – from calling myself an atheist – which is more of a term theists use, and from endorsing anything remotely defined by theists as God.

I read about the work being done in Switzerland with the Hadron collider; was thrilled with the very real concerns expressed by some scientists that colliding particles could open a black hole that would swallow our universe and can be delightfully lost with the thought of witnessing events so tiny and so fast they could hardly be said to have occurred at all; the molecular dance.

Time is what we use when we try to define the essence of who and what we are – infinite oneness with everything in the universe – and likely, as physicists are discovering, well beyond our universe – and more like mutli-verse.  We use it to form words that try to capture the awe we experience in the presence of life, as Mary Oliver observes in her poem Picking Blueberries, Austerlitz, New York, 1957”:

Once, in summer,

in the blueberries,

I fell asleep, and woke

When a deer stumbled against me.

I guess

she was so busy with her own happiness

she had grown careless

And was just wandering along

listening

to the wind as she leaned down

to lip up the sweetness.

So, there we were

with nothing between us

but a few leaves, and the wind’s

glossy voice

shouting instructions

The deer

backed away finally

and flung up her white tail

and went floating off toward the trees –

to be absent again from the world

and alive, again in another,

for thirty years

sleepy and amazed,

rising out of the rough weeds,

listening and looking.

Beautiful girl,

Where are you?

“…the moment before she did that was so wide and so deep…”

horseshoeI have experienced such – moments. A moment is not a measure of time. The word is a metaphor that points to a suspension of time. You experience these moments. These moments are signs; they transform us even if just for that instant – we are forever altered and the responsible thing to do is to learn from it and earn the cost of it through living humbly for having been graced with the experience of whatever it was, whatever it is that altered us.

If we were to think on time as it really is, it is an experience in constant motion, being born and collapsing at speeds our three dimensional minds cannot comprehend except for those experiences in – moments – the signs that come in – moments.

Superstition is born of instinctually knowing there is something beyond the three dimensions, it is part of the world of signs.

Of course, signs and superstitions run amok fill waiting rooms of psychiatrist’s, lead some to hitch rides on spaceships obscured by comets and others to run for various offices. But I’m not talking about that. Anything, off its hinges or badly rooted is a sign of another sort. I’m talking about the signs and superstitions that cause us to pause, warm our hearts, make us smile at our foolishness, cause us to mock ourselves with how lofty we think we are.

Even if you don’t believe it, a black cat crossing your path will still make you ponder your future circumstance as will breaking a mirror, Friday the thirteenth, a full moon, opening an umbrella in the house, all of these things are a part of our heritage beliefs that tried to help us cope with a world beyond our ability to fully grasp – even today.

So much of our life experiences are based on beliefs, supported and unsupported by facts. We raise ourselves up when they are supported by facts, we reduce ourselves to primitive beings when they are not – and worse because of course, beliefs, unsupported by facts usually have painful consequences at small levels, horrific consequences on larger scales.

Be on the lookout for the signs in your life that make you wonder, that give you pause, either looking back or when you are in the presence of one; the signs that validate the goodness in your heart, that you trust are telling you that you are on the right path, are living a full life, are earning – the moment.

© All Rights Reserved, Philip W. Viens, 17 April 2016

The Form. By Philip Viens

Slowly, in a mist,

Lead by canine paws,

Walking the ancient trail that first was formed by the creatures of the wood,

 to and from food or water,

Over stone and root, beneath canopies of young green leaves

Then trodden by men who hunted them, 

A form appeared.

We stopped.

 

Having learned, as the hunted, to leave little trace it moved through the forest

Abandoning all trails and it was here that we met –

We on the trail

The form – navigating by heart.

 

In a vapor of cloud, in an aspen grove

The earth beneath us

It turned its head toward us and we looked at each other

Eternally

 

With raised head it searched for my name

I was – boy

Excited and calm, adventurous and longing

To assuage the fear so long ago instilled

To speak the words without speaking that there was no need for fear –

That we were kindred.

 

Just then, a chipmunk scampered down a trunk and across my boots

A messenger likely sent to inspect my intent

And the form lowered its head

Turned and continued on its way, granting me passage

 

“Young boy

You are always welcome in this place

Come and stay with us a while

Climb over our rocks,

Drink from our springs

Cool in our shade

Warm in our sun

See your reflection in our ponds and never forget whom you see there.

You are one of us – boy

No matter where life takes you

No matter the years

You are to us – boy

 

And we will be here when you return

From your journeys, from your distractions

Waiting for you – boy

Here, you will cast off the forms you will take on when you leave – here

And you will be – boy.

To us, you – are.

Precocious, and tender shepherd.

We will wait for you – here

For we cannot follow where your desires will take you but dog knows the way back

And dog will be your companion

 

Dog will love you as God loves you

As we – love you

 

Dog will be your familiar

Your mentor

Dog will know your longings, your joys

You will come to know love through dog as you will come to know your greatest grief when dog, as is must

Returns here and waits for you.

 

We will wait for you here – boy

You will come back to us.

 

© Copyright, All Rights Reserved, Philip W. Viens 24 April 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crow

by Philip Viens, Circkles contributing writer.

There’s a crow outside my window

Hopping along the road, announcing –  something.

Only the finch in a neighbor’s tree answers, the pink and orange leaves now stripped after yesterday’s wind and rain – colder, it would have been sleet – but they lay scattered in the wet green grass while a weakening summer clings to this hemisphere between Earth and tropopause – the thin places.

I touch my fingers to my lips and look out the window, the crow, now in the distance still with something to say.

It’s as if I am the only human creature, the crow, the finch the tumbling leaves.

The gentle wind that blows through the wind chimes, the hillside of golden-yellow beneath a pallid bank of cloud – praying as the incense of decaying leaves fills the air.

Last evening a great gaggle of geese feasted on corn in the stubble of the cornfield, joined by a dozen or so deer. It was the most beautiful sound, the most beautiful sight, the silhouette of the geese and the deer and the sunset – vespers before the long quiet night.

I’m emancipating magic spiders. I do not hear them come in – not a buzz – wondering what they’d sound like with shoes.  I simply look and there is one – on the floor, motionless, knows I see it. I walk as if I don’t, we are both aware of each other, two creatures, to the cupboard for a jar and a piece of cardboard then quickly settle the jar over the magic spider, gently scooping the thin piece of cardboard beneath the jar until the spider sits on top of it and beneath the dome of the jar. We walk to the door and I set them free and they scurry off, across the wooden planks of the deck and down its side. But then I think, am I emancipating them? Did they come in the house for warmth? Likely. But it seems clear to me that they are as uncomfortable being in the house as I am having them here. What am I to the spider? Predator? Foe? Breakfast? To me, the spider is not fully understood but understood enough that I think I’d rather have the walls of the house be our dividing walls. I’m happier for it being outside but it may not share my feelings.

But God is God and we are not and so I listen – for what the crow is telling me, what the finch is signing to me, what the geese chatter to me of what they know – that life is gossamer – fading – wisps of sublimity.

God is God – and I am not.

© Philip W. Viens, 09 April 2016

Nomads: A poem by Philip Viens

NOMADS by Philip Viens, Circkles contributing writer.

We were never meant to rest.

Never meant to stay in one place too long.

You can tell it by what happens when we do.

We get greedy, fearful

Of loss,

We covet, we corrupt, congeal, coagulate

We putrefy

It began when we confused not resting with hardship

Or, when resting felt particularly good one day at the oasis

Beneath the shade of a palm in the desert, next to a pool of clean water

When we were overtaken by the knowledge of husbandry

When we indulged in the notions of entitlement

And began to lose the sense of our essence – nomadic

Everything about us cries for movement

Our thoughts, our boredom, the encouragement of our children

old world compassThe notions that we want better for them than we had

It is an unconscious awareness that we long to wander and we want them to wander

To see, to feel, to taste and smell,

To touch, to touch to TOUCH!

We pay homage to the free spirit

The courage warrior of human soul that will not go quietly

The gifted poet

The moving artist

The explorer

The hero

So move

Fly

Give wings to your children

Teach them to explore in their souls through their mind’s eye

But you – too –

See the great cathedrals

Your breath on a winter’s day

See – beauty and be moved beyond words by it

Feel the warmth of passion, arms and legs entwined, sweaty and breathless and the soft afterglow

Take in the fragrance, of firs and mountains, plains and desert, the petrichor of the earth from which we spring and will return

Do not fear the desert

Move

Be moved

To tears when ever possible

Listen to your heartbeat,

Hear your breath, the psithurism, the major 5th

The minor chords, the incomplete chords

They are most like us and they resonate inside us when we hear them

We were never meant rest in any one place too long

Even the biblical harbinger of shaking the dust from our sandals was more about

Moving – not about judgment

Even the great prophets – moved

No place to rest their heads

Even the sacraments are there to move us

And we go forth girded by faith and hope

Keep moving

We are made holy through movement

We are ensconced in Grace only through movement

The greatest evil in the world is complacency

It is the preamble to all that is corrupt in life and it breeds when we cease to move

When we calcify and are rigid

Life is not complacent

It calls us to steer clear of those cliffs no matter how enchanting the song

But it is we who must answer

© Philip W. Viens, 09 April 2016

Do the Work

Why are seekers so few? And why have they not found? Is it because they seek the wrong things? Or is the answer they find not the one they want?

The platitudes of my lifetime, worn gossamer thin for their exploitation and meaninglessness are paraded out as new by every new-age psychologist or self-help guru ad nauseam, not to actually help anyone but for the achievement of wealth by those who spout them and gain followings, preying on a longing and a desire so long sought, by all people so simple to achieve and paradoxically so difficult to embrace. And if it isn’t the self-help guru, it’s religion, or political party, or association with whom individuals can bond to stave off the burden of real responsibility.

Life, when stripped of self-help, mood elevators, alcohol, drugs or an abundance of other addictions that feed fear, like nationalism, patriotism, socialism, capitalism, television, entertainment, has no platitudes, passes no judgments. A virus kills indiscriminately. In winter, nature takes the life of creatures exposed to the elements. The rain, falls, the sun, shines, the wind blows, the seasons change, we are born, and we die and in between, the fleeting period, in a good deal of the United States, the people were sold a bill of goods that promised freedom from the true responsibility of living – most of it, just in the last one hundred years.

In light of the upcoming presidential election, suddenly everyone is a critic, a political scientist, or an expert at character judgment while doing little, in between elections to fulfill their responsibilities as citizens and more importantly, as people, to fulfill their responsibilities as human beings. They bandy issues on social media, post and re-post ad hominem, tu quoque arguments like they were Vladamir Pozner, at least until someone challenges their position and then quickly degenerate into vitriol, given to these violent characteristics because they form, in their minds, the notion that somehow these delegates are an extension of themselves.

In his book, “The Cost of Discipleship” Dietrich Bonhoffer distinguishes the difference between “Cheap Grace” and “Costly Grace.”

Cheap Grace is: “Let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let he/she model herself/himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from her/his old life under sin.” Costly Grace is: “…gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which we must knock. It is costly, because it costs our life and it is grace because it gives us the only true life.”

Rising above the revisionist history of the word “Sin” and removing the judgmental element from it, “Sin” is simply the refusal to follow our truest path; no judgment, just an observation – but – choosing not to follow our truest path is the path to perdition, again, not in a judgmental way but in the same way that to choose to wade through the mud to get to the other side will bring with it ills that would not be present were we to use the bridge. But to use the bridge, requires a conscious choice and throughout the short history of humanity, consciousness has been the path chosen by the few.

Most choose unconsciousness and through this choice, insist that someone, or something else is the cause of their pain and they are ready to strike out at anything that they perceive to be a direct or indirect cause of their pain – everything and everyone except themselves.

However, once we are enlightened, as Plato observed in his Allegory of the Cave, we can no longer turn back. We know – better – again, not judgmentally; we become conscious and once conscious, we understand that the original notions of baptism are as much about those standing with us, taking an oath to protect us from our unconsciousness as it is being – reborn.

In the movie, “Bridge of Spies” the character, James Donavan makes a moving speech before the Supreme Court, defending a suspected, and likely Russian spy. The tenor of the movie was, as Spielberg often does, to expose our unconsciousness, the collective madness that is opinion, judgment, bigotry, sexism and other prejudices. In his address, he says:

Mister Chief Justice, and may it please the court, the Cold War is not just a phrase. It’s not just a figure of speech. Truly, a battle is being fought between two competing views of the world. I contend that Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, Colonel Abel, as he was called even by the men who arrested him, is our foe in that battle. He was treated as a combatant in that war until it no longer suited our government to so treat him. Accordingly, he was not given the protections we give our own citizens. He was subjected to treatment that, however appropriate for a suspected enemy, was not appropriate for a suspected criminal. I know this man. If the charge is true, he serves a foreign power, but he serves it faithfully. If he is a soldier in the opposing army, he is a good soldier. He has not fled the field of battle to save himself. He has refused to serve his captor. He has refused to betray his cause. He has refused to take the coward’s way out. The coward must abandon his dignity before he abandons the field of battle. That, Rudolf Abel will never do. Shouldn’t we, by giving him the full benefit of the rights of the system that define our government, show this man what we are? Who we are? Is that not the greatest weapon we have in this Cold War? Will we stand by our cause less resolutely than he stands by his?”

These are words of consciousness and there are acts of consciousness that go with words that do not abandon dignity.

As Bonhoffer observes, we must seek, we must ask, we must knock – and not just once – but again and again sometimes, as Brian Tracey observed of taking responsibility, we must ask through gritted teeth.

The original sin is our propensity for laziness or, to say it another way, unconsciousness, the path of compulsive thinking, of thinking with no responsibility. But once baptized, we are dedicated and while we will always be subject to the whimsy of and the appeal of the path of complacency and inactivity, all those who have traveled that course, including myself, find out that it leads to nothing or worse, the dis-ease that inflicts us and everyone around us.

As people, we are no greater or lesser than we have ever been, no more conscious or unconscious than we have ever been, only the set circumstances differ, but in that – lies the key for now, unconsciousness, cheap grace bears the consequence of real annihilation, from contaminated water, to corrupt government, from environmental genocide to starvation of mass numbers of silent beings whose suffering is ignored.

The Golden Age thinking that looks to make America “Great again” insults the intelligence of anyone living here who struggles to make ends meet and should sicken anyone who busts their ass everyday, who helps others, who are involved in their communities, who bring up their children to respect others and who do their damnedest to wake up each day and do better than they did the day before with the struggle to remain conscious, responsible and alert when it can feel like no one else is – the people who live their lives by Costly Grace.

Nobody said it was going to be easy; they didn’t even say it would be worth it. They just said it’s what you have to do. No blame, no excuses – just do the work.

A Treatise on Perception

by Philip Viens, Circkles contributing writer.

Our experience, our – perception of life is three-dimensional: length, width, and height. To conceive of dimensions beyond these three requires imagination and mathematics. As perceived three-dimensional creatures, most of us seldom bother to ponder our three-dimensionality, let alone explore dimensions beyond them unless we look out into space on a clear night and even then, our minds will attempt to understand what we are witnessing, through our three-dimensions; fewer still, the poet, the ascetic, the scientist will ponder, and grasp the truth that life is not constrained by dimensionality and they touch the finger of God and can awaken in us this truth.

Once awakened, there are those who remain awake and will navigate, in the deepest darkness, by the stars, guiding us to this truth – that our destiny, as it were, is in our own hands.

They tell the story of discovery and the hero through allegories, lore, myth, religious themes, and characters, through proverbs and prophets, not to have us conform to the rigidity of our three-dimensional understanding but to free us from our unconscious state and if we are to avoid the cataclysm of annihilation, of all kinds, of any kind, by a million cuts, of climate, environment, starvation, savageness, indignity, at my life at the expense of yours, an evolutionary jump will have to be made as some of the twentieth century evolutionists support who insist that each species is an entity with an abrupt origin and an abrupt end and that evolution proceeds in short bursts of turmoil followed by long periods of idleness, as observed by Bruce Chatwin in his book The Songlines.

As a species, for us to consider ourselves more advanced than other species, to be more advanced than our ancestors, it is necessary for us to grasp the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness and while this comparison reeks of new-age, thinking, so much of it absent of substance and designed more for the talk show or the magazine rack next to the chewing gum and candy bars, it’s reach is evolutionary. It is also not new, not religiously based and not beyond the grasp of the human mind.

As the young Blaise Pascal wrote: “All of humanities problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

The human being is unconscious, is unaware of what it does or more precisely, why it does. Unconscious, it functions in duality; life and death – and everything is shaped around this belief – good and bad, love and hatred, ups and downs and if challenged to think beyond this, will either struggle and fail, dismiss, curtly or violently or rarely, succeed but to succeed is neither a linear experience nor can it be defined by the unconscious mind in which most of humanity is enslaved.

To be conscious is to be aware of our thinking; to treat the mind as if it were its own being or, a tool that we can wield or one that will consume us. The mind, unchecked is greed and fear incarnate. It is nothing else. Its role is survival – at all costs.

 Any experience in life, distilled through the unchecked mind is considered a threat to its existence; the physical threats are often clear enough; a blow, a pointed weapon, encroachment of space but in society, some physical threats can be more subtle; cutting in line, encounters in automobiles, words; still other psychological threats can cue the unchecked mind; rejection, ostracism, social status, indignities all are cues to the unchecked mind to fight or flee and once triggered, cascade across the planet, from one to another, from nation to nation.

As I mentioned earlier, consciousness is not a destination, it is not achieved and certainly not linearly. It is a state of being, a state of – presence. It is understood outside of the three-dimensional mind’s propensity for quantifying which, itself is a characteristic of the three-dimensional mind’s need to define linearly.  The resistance of the three-dimensional mind to consciousness is that the unchecked, three-dimensional mind can only focus on linearity; past, present and future and of the three, it is best at past and future for this is where greed and fear are cultivated.

 Our experience of life enslaved to the unchecked mind is the experience of happiness and sadness and every iteration of each and everything in between, at the individual level and at nation levels. Even in the United States our forefathers based the declaration of independence on, among other things, “…the pursuit of happiness…” but even this concept was perceived by the white – men who wrote it. The very experience of happiness must, by definition have its opposite, sadness or, at the very least the absence of happiness to be understood. This is because the human species is largely, unconscious. It is shepherded by the mind unchecked and unless an adversity, so great, compels it to consciousness, it generally remains unconscious and defends it right to so indulge.

Enough discovery has been made, enough evidence is available to support not only the reality that the human species is largely unconscious. The physical manifestations cannot be ignored even if we focus on our current state; political upheaval on a global scale, human beings allowing other human beings to be slaughtered or starved, manifest destiny run amok. But in spite of this, voices still speak out, encouraging a rise to our next level – without, perhaps for the first time in human history, massive loss of all life.

In his definitive work on communism, To The Finland Station, Edmund Wilson observed:

 “Here…we see the fogs that obscure the horizons of the remote reaches of time recede, the cloud-shapes of legends lift. In the shadows there are fewer monsters; the heroes and the gods float away. What we see now are men as we know them alone on the earth we know. The myths that have made us wonder are projections of a human imagination like our own and, if we look for the key inside ourselves and learn how to read them correctly, they will supply us with a record, inaccessible up to now, of the adventures of men like ourselves.

 And a record of something more than mere adventures. Human history had hitherto always been written as a series of biographies of great men or as a chronicle of remarkable happenings or as a pageant directed by God. But now we can see that the developments of societies have been affected by their sources, their environments; and that like individual human beings they have passed through regular phases of growth. “The facts of known history” Vico writes, are to be “referred to their primitive origins, divorced from which they have seemed hitherto to possess neither a common basis, nor continuity nor coherence.” And: “The nature of things is nothing other than that they come into being at certain times and in certain ways. Whatever the same circumstances are present, the same phenomena arise and no others.” And: in that dark night which shrouds from our eyes the most remote antiquity, a light appears which cannot lead us astray; I speak of this incontestable truth: the social world is certainly the work of men; and it follows that one can and should find its principles in the modifications of the human intelligence itself.” And: “Governments must be comfortable to the nature of the governed; governments are even a result of that nature.”[1]

Only through the presence of mind, the conscious mind does the clarity of thought illuminate. Thoughts of “Making America Great Again” are the harbingers of a mind enslaved to unconsciousness, appealing to the unconscious who live lives of hope that they will be happy again – somehow, at the hands of someone else who thinks they know best how to make someone else happy when they are enslaved to the unchecked mind. If ever there were evidence of the blind leading the blind these days, our world is rubbing our noses in it.

To evolve without catastrophe, we must take control of the instrument we have – our minds. We must cease to indulge in the thoughts of judgment greed and fear for as long as we do, we will never be free thinkers and enslaved thinkers are eternally obsessed with one thing, their enslavement.

 

  [1] To the Finland Station 1940: Edmund Wilson, Chapter 1. Michelet Discovers Vico

 © Copyright, All Rights Reserved – Philip W. Viens, 23 April 2016

Sacred Sounds

SACRED SOUNDS by Philip Viens, Circkles contributing writer.

Beneath the pallid canvas of cloud

And the budding cherry blossoms blooming

Late in the wintery air

A season trying to outlive its time bound nature tied to the rotations of –

The Earth

I bear witness to the comings and goings of sounds

Of barking dogs

Couples of cardinals

Golden finch

Robin

Of train whistles that break the silence,

Of hissing tires on wet pavement

Living brilliantly and lovingly short lives and

Die back into the silence from which they were born

Leaving me with a grief of passing and an eternal joy of the shared moment

With my heart,

Through my ears,

The channel through which they travel

That leaves me with a quivering gratitude

To be a part of all of this holiness

Oh great and wonderful life

Oh great and wonderful – life

© Philip W. Viens, 09 April 2016