Philosophy is to the mind of the architect as eyesight to his steps. The Term 'genius' when applied to him simply means a man who understands what others only know about. A poet, artist or architect, necessarily 'understands' in this sense and is likely, if not careful, to have the term 'genius' applied to him; in which case he will no longer be thought human, trustworthy or companionable. Whatever may be his medium of expression he utters truth with manifest beauty of thought. If he is an architect, his building is natural. In him, philosophy and genius live by each other, but the combination is subject to popular suspicion and appellation 'genius' likely to settle him--so far as the public is concerned.
It is the poet and philosopher who provide the community of objectives in which the artist participates. Their chief preoccupation, like the artist, is the expression in concrete form of their notions of reality. Like him, they deal with the verities of time and space, life and death, and the heights of exaltation as well as the depths of despair. The preoccupation with these eternal problems creates a common ground which transcends the disparity in the means used to achieve them.
In an age when nations and individuals routinely exchange murder for murder, when the healing grace of authentic spirituality is usurped by the divisive politics of religious organizations, and when broken hearts bleed pain in darkness without the relief of compassion, the voice of an exceptional poet producing exceptional work is not something the world can afford to dismiss.
When Great Trees FallWhen great trees fall,rocks on distant hills shudder,lions hunker downin tall grasses,and even elephantslumber after safety.When great trees fallin forests,small things recoil into silence,their senseseroded beyond fear.When great souls die,the air around us becomeslight, rare, sterile.We breathe, briefly.Our eyes, briefly,see witha hurtful clarity.Our memory, suddenly sharpened,examines,gnaws on kind wordsunsaid,promised walksnever taken.Great souls die andour reality, bound tothem, takes leave of us.Our souls,dependent upon theirnurture,now shrink, wizened.Our minds, formedand informed by theirradiance,fall away.We are not so much maddenedas reduced to the unutterable ignoranceof dark, coldcaves.And when great souls die,after a period peace blooms,slowly and alwaysirregularly. Spaces fillwith a kind ofsoothing electric vibration.Our senses, restored, neverto be the same, whisper to us.They existed. They existed.We can be. Be and bebetter. For they existed.
If I woke up one morning and realized that all I ever was going to be was a business man, I'd probably die. All my dreams would be shattered. Early in life I had many dreams. I dreamed of being a great basketball star. I dreamed of being a preacher. I dreamed of saving the world from war and racism. And I dreamed of being a great poet. Today, I dream only of writing.
God takes away the minds of poets, and uses them as his ministers, as he also uses diviners and holy prophets, in order that we who hear them may know them to be speaking not of themselves who utter these priceless words in a state of unconsciousness, but that God himself is the speaker, and that through them he is conversing with us.
I saw the spiders marching through the air,Swimming from tree to tree that mildewed dayIn latter August when the hayCame creaking to the barn. But whereThe wind is westerly,Where gnarled November makes the spiders flyInto the apparitions of the sky,They purpose nothing but their ease and dieUrgently beating east to sunrise and the sea;
When confronted with suffering that won't go away or with even a minor problem, we instinctively focus on what is missing,...not on the Master's hand. Often when you think everything has gone wrong, it's just that you're in the middle of a story. If you watch the stories God is weaving in your life, you... will begin to see the patterns. You'll become a poet, sensitive to your Father's voice.
For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow. Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail. A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live. When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all. A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one's suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother. So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.
Here I stand in this buildingOf 1816,Of before the World Wars. The infant age of steam.If these walls could tell usOf times before these,Would the humbling talesBring us to our knees?They don't speak, Although they whisper, it seems, They have something to say.They groan at the beams.If these walls could talk, Would they laugh, would they scream?Would they say we are mad?Would we know what they mean?