You need not do anything. Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait.
Just become quiet and still and solitary
and the world will offer itself to you to be unmasked.
It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
This sentiment came up in our comment-conversation over the past few days in conjunction with Dan’s
desire to become still enough that he might be more available to poetry.
I wisecracked that I didn’t want the muses to think that by seeking quietude I would no longer welcome their unpredictable input. I’m not sure I agree completely with Kafka, though this quote charms me: truly I want to roll in ecstasy with the world. Recognizing it as metaphor, I still know what Kafka means and that’s the part of the quote that’s most resonant for me. I also recognize the draw toward being quiet and still and solitary – without those qualities in some small measure I lose my center, am pulled this way and that, filled with chatter. I wonder, though, if it is true, that one should not
I think the world wants us to listen, it wants to be beheld and held dear, it wants us to slow down and be quiet, yes, but with attention. I don’t think Kafka is suggesting we find quiet created with fingers in our ears, with refusing to listen, but maybe I have to take his words a little further to make it work for me: don’t listen for something, tuned in to only what you expect, but be alert, attentive, aware; don’t wait, but be available.
I’m always up front here about how I’ve not really experienced any great mystical awakenings other than the moments during which the poetic arises from awareness of what is under (or beyond or below) the froth of the mind’s conversation with itself. The world is communicating.
I’m rereading David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous and am reminded that it’s a new way of thinking we moderns have that allows us to judge the metaphors we use to show the world alive, and the sense we have that intelligence is all around us, as simply wishful, fanciful thinking. In our solipsistic arrogance we condemn our experience of sentience everywhere as merely arising out of our own minds.
Even I doubt, sometimes, thinking I’m just “merely” imaginative, that I see what I want to see in order to fulfill an inner need for community/commonality, yet perhaps it’s the imagination that’s most connected to the rest of an existence that doesn’t require of itself a livingness restricted to rationality and overt consciousness.
I’d like to reconsider Kafka’s original, “it will roll in ecstasy at your feet,” with how I posed it above: “roll in ecstasy with the world,” and pass along the gift of Jane Hirshfield’s words from “Against Certainty,” where she reminds us of waiting as path to disappearance into the world and becoming, again, one with it.
When the cat waits in the path-hedge,
no cell of her body is not waiting.
This is how she is able so completely to disappear.
I would like to enter the silence portion as she does.
To live amid the great vanishing as a cat must live,
one shadow fully at ease inside another.
So I’m curious – tell me about how the world is alive and personal for you: it’s not metaphorical – I’ve had plants call out to me, stopping me in my tracks until I turned and turned and spotted who it was. Tell me about your moments sitting quietly when the world did or did not roll at your feet – in meditation I feel vaguely impatient and nothing talks to me, but walking near the creek or in the hills is another story. When you’re in a different mindset do the birds not fly from the branches on your approach? Sometimes I feel like I’m am blundering through everything and there’s not a bird in sight.
Do you need to live a life in which it’s possible to be still and quiet and solitary?