Pablo Neruda

February 23, 2010 by  
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Beautiful Pablo Neruda poem. Enjoy!

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms,
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers.
Thanks to your love a certain fragrance,
risen darkly from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride,
so I love you because I know no other way than this:
where “I” does not exist, nor “you,”
So close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
So close that your eyes close and I fall asleep.

-Pablo Neruda


My Friend

July 24, 2009 by  
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A friend of mine who is in deep pain sent me a poem she has written.

“I am a beggar.  I beg.  That is what I do.

Sir, can you spare some love?  And what about you sir?  Will you love me tonight?  How about tomorrow? And the day after tomorrow?

I am cursed.  Cursed to watch the years roll in front of my eyes.  To witness the losses.  To withstand emptiness. 

I’m cursed. Let there be no mistake.  The moment the mother left the child she condemned the child to bear witness to the passage of time, to put up a fight, to withstand, but to finally beg. 

I beg, I beg, I beg. 

Will there ever be an end to the begging.

My heart is cold.  The ice is broken.  The storm is coming.  Do you hear the whispers? 

Lift up the veil, my gallant one and kiss the lips that utter your name.  Have no fear.  I have seen the bottom of the well.  Please, let help me not ever go there again. 

Shush me sir. 

Sir, have you got any to spare?  Please, sir, will you feed my hunger?”

I was very moved while taken aback by the depth of her pain.  As she had email the poem I thought she would like to get my support and so I called her.

She said she’s feeling really lonely and in so much need to be loved and to love.  I told her I loved her, but she said “thank you but I mean a partner”. 

I think we often make the mistake of thinking that others can fill the holes we have within us but if we are honest with ourselves we know that is not the case. 

Life is complex and never made up of one constant color or feeling.  No one is always happy, satisfied, unhappy, depressed, and/or anxious.  I think somehow we need to learn to navigate these waters for ourselves.  Of course having a partner, being in love is a wonderful thing but even being in love goes through highs and lows. 

I have realized I am my own master piece, that my life is about learning who I am and overcoming and changing the parts of me that need a little chiseling.  I am my one and only constant companion and therefore I need to learn to love myself.  If I can accomplish that finding moments of happiness and love from the simple things, will be an easier endeavor.

I hope my friend can calm down and realize that she already has the love to comfort her within her own self.


Darkness Within Darkness

June 17, 2009 by  
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The tao that can be told

Is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named

Is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.

Naming is the origin of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.

Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source.

This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.

The gateway to all understanding. 

          – Lao Tzu (571? – ? B.C.E.)

In this poetic reflection on the Tao, written over 2500 years ago, Lao Tzu addresses matters of ultimate reality, and aspects of the human condition that are essentially unchanging. Of course, the particulars of human life have changed dramatically over the course of the past 2500 years; advances in technology, a scientific framework of understanding, as well as many societal customs, comprise circumstances that differ greatly from those of Lao Tzu’s era. One major difference, pertaining to the theme of this poem, involves the degree of connection that the average person experiences between the natural world and daily life. In Lao Tzu’s age, nature was not perceived in the abstract, as a domain that existed “somewhere out there”, at a safe remove from one’s living room. There were no towering cityscapes to obscure the limitless expanses of the natural world from view. It was the sphere within which the whole of human life unfolded, from birth to death. Connection to the living earth, to its creatures, and its forces of climate and weather, was viscerally felt; these were the immediate determinants of experience that gave the world its shape.

Similarly, the Tao of which Lao Tzu speaks does not refer to an abstract concept, a comforting notion that bestows harmony upon the world. Rather, this Tao is discerned in the encounter with the physical world that surrounds and dwarfs human beings – and the cosmos beyond it, that dwarfs everything else. It is in directly confronting this natural vastness that the mind is overwhelmed by a sense of incomprehensibility, by the appearance of inexplicable questions that seem to reverberate through all existence. Such questions bring a sweet metaphysical ache to the mind that has been transfixed by them. They take the form of koans such as “How can any of this be?” This poem is Lao Tzu’s response.

“Free from desire, you realize the mystery. / Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations”, writes Lao Tzu; that is, we see with a limited view, aware only of the phenomena that our senses take in and convey to the mind. Caught in the grasp of gnawing desires we are distracted, in a state of disharmony that leaves us unable to perceive the presence of “mystery”, the essential reality that inhabits all things. This essence, “the eternal Tao” and its recognition or discovery amidst the world, are the central themes that shine across this poetic statement.

How is it that desire can place such blinders upon the mind, obscuring awareness of the awe-inspiring and mysterious Tao that Lao Tzu understands to be at the heart of all things? How do the habitual longings that dwell in our minds, alter our daily encounter with the world, negating the sensibility of wonder that Lao Tzu tells us would otherwise be present. It is the nature of desire to demand attention, to siphon and divert it from the encounter with present reality. Its binding power generates a mental state that is narrowly focused upon the objects of desire that do not appear in the current picture of the world – the stuff of greener grass and bluer skies. A mind so enthralled is intent upon altering this picture to accord with the images of its imagination and dreams, notions toward which the universe is generally indifferent.

The tendency to wish for certain conditions to be otherwise is the definition of dissatisfaction, or Dukkha as it is referred to in the Buddhist tradition. It is regarded as the central dilemma of human life, depriving us of happiness, rendering us unable to perceive the mysterious fullness and abundance that surrounds us. It is in proportion to the intensity of the forces of our own cravings, of our hankerings and yens, that Dukkha enters and dominates experience. This is the mental ballast we schlep on the path to enlightened experience. I believe it was also Lao Tzu, (or someone that played him on TV) that said – it is only our Yens that keep us from our Zens.

Lao Tzu’s poem is not a moralistic verdict on the human condition. It is an analysis of the encounter of the human mind with reality, an examination of how structures of human consciousness and embodied existence impose barriers to the encounter and comprehension of reality in its ultimate form – the eternal Tao.

The terms Lao Tzu has used to convey this theme are significant: “manifestation” and its shadowy twin “mystery”. “Manifestation” refers to the mundane world that is driven by cycles of production and consumption, by concerns for achievement and accolade. In contrast, “mystery” points to an experience of the world that is born of gratitude and reverence, based on the recognition of an enduring aspect that underlies all things. This quality has been given various names – the ground of Being, Godhead, ultimate reality, Emptiness, the eternal Tao – each tradition responding to the encounter with reality on its own terms. Or it has simply been acknowledged as the very fact or condition of existence.

The realization of the “mystery” of Lao Tzu’s poem involves an approach to life that is primarily concerned with an experience of being (rather than with the ceaseless pursuits of “doing”), and the ultimate reward of happiness that this ordering of ones affairs brings. Such attainment is not rooted in belief or tradition; it is grounded entirely in experience. As Lao Tzu has made clear in his opening stanza, “The tao that can be told / is not the eternal Tao. / The name that can be named / is not the eternal Name.” Attempts on the part of the world’s traditions to enshrine the Tao in texts or rituals, lead only to its entombment. It cannot be sealed in form or formula; it will ever evade verbal and conceptual captivity.      

Lao Tzu’s passage which speaks of the “Darkness within darkness.” is the most enigmatic of lines. It expresses a paradox of concealed illumination, implying that wisdom is available through the navigation of these regions. The unenlightened mind can only speculate as to the nature of this statement. Is he describing a mind that has emptied its own vessel, attained a state of clarity that is coextensive with the “Original Mind” of which Zen tradition speaks? 

“…you realize the mystery.” is another enigmatic statement. It does not suggest an unraveling but rather an entry, or immersion into the midst of the unknowable. Again, it is reminiscent of the Zen tradition in which attainment of a state of “Great Doubt” is considered the springboard for “Great Enlightenment”.

In this poem, Lao Tzu has drawn a clear line of demarcation between two disparate orders of human experience. “Yet” he goes on to say “mystery and manifestations / arise from the same source.” – that is “darkness”. In the Buddhist tradition this common origin is referred to as emptiness, the undifferentiated source from which all phenomena emerge. It is in this opaque region that “The gateway to all understanding.” evidently lingers. By pointing to their original unified state, Lao Tzu brings about a synthesis of these seemingly disconnected facets of the world. It is a reminder that the life of the spirit unfolds within the sphere of daily human experience. There is nowhere else for it to go, or to be.


The Kitchen

June 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured

Written by Cirina Catania

My daughter and granddaughter are running up the stairs and laughing as they jockey for position on the steps.  “I want to go this way!”  “No, I want to go this way!” “You go the other way.”  “Ahhh….I’m going to beat you!” They giggle and squeal and their footsteps echo in the hallway on the second floor rippling back to the kitchen where I am fixing breakfast and preparing ahead for lunch.

The smell of the peppers broiling takes me back to my childhood and my grandmother’s smile appears in my reflections of the morning.  The yellow, red and green peppers, skin slowly turning dark, bubble in the oven.  Fresh mushrooms already sliced wait near the stove and I am rinsing bright green spinach from a local grower.  Eggs from a nearby farm and provolone cheese wait patiently for me to add them to the omelet.  Rosemary and olive bread, thickly sliced,  is going to be so good with just a smidge of fresh butter on it!

Nana used to love to cook for us.  Her daughters, my aunts, would all gather in the kitchen and the smells of Italian delicacies would make my mouth water.  Soups, breaded cutlets, chicken parmesan, fresh vegetables, pastas, cheeses and….deserts…mmmm…those deserts.  I was too young for wine or coffee, but I remember watching as the grown-ups sat around the big table, the men chomping on their unlit cigars and the women laughing and chattering on about their day.

It is a time far away now, but so closely held in my heart; a time once again remembered, prompted by the sounds of laughter and footsteps of my own daughter and her daughter.  Family, generations, reminding me how lucky I am to love and be loved.

Cirina Catania is the producer of the highly successful show Digital Production BuZZ.  She is a writer/producer/director and an active member of the Producers Guild of America and a former studio executive with 8 years at MGM/UA where she served as VP Worldwide Marketing.



June 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured

Written By Wendy Hammond

kids-2One very cold night when I was 41, I called my girlfriend Yannick.  She was in her early 30s and now lived in Pasadena with her new husband. She was also eight months pregnant. She complained how crammed her bed had gotten. For most of her life  she had slept alone, and now she, Jeff and her enormous stomach crowded into her double bed. All those bodies made things hot, she said.

As she joked, a fierce wind rattled my window panes. Chilly air seeped through my badly insulated walls and I snuggled down further under my comforter. When Yannick and I finished talking, I hung up the phone, turned off the light and tried to get warm. My queen-sized bed seemed enormous that night, and so terribly empty. The wind whistled outside and my mind whirred with thoughts: I’m too old now to have children. I would adopt a child if I had a partner, but I don’t. I’m not one of those women who can raise a child alone. I’m 41 years old without a partner; it’s time to face I’m not going to have a child.

I went through some weeks of mourning over this. I comforted myself with the knowledge that there are other ways to have children in one’s life. I had a niece I was close to. I could volunteer to work with children.

And then I met Paul and fell deeply in love. On my 42nd birthday, he asked me if I would try to have a child with him. I still remember the sensation of my face scrunching up into an enormous smile. But I was worried, too. Some time before this a doctor had told me I’d have a hard time getting pregnant, and this coupled with my age made me wonder if I could conceive.

Four months after stopping the pill, when my period was three hours late, I took a home pregnancy test and watched as both blue lines filled in. My hand started to shake.  I grabbed the phone dialed Paul’s number. “Are you sitting down?” Paul was so thrilled he jumped in his car and drove straight through from New York, where he was working on a job, to our Michigan apartment. He stopped only for gas and at a toy store where he bought a toy chest and a stuffed animal for the child we had conceived.

I was 20 weeks along with a “bump” when we had our wedding. Friends performed a puppet show telling the story of our courtship, and Paul proudly displayed the sonogram photos of our boy child to our wedding guests.

A complication came up at the end of my pregnancy. Dr. Ward said I needed to have a cesarean birth and told me he would call when he got one scheduled. He called at 9:30 the night before my 43rd birthday and told us to be at the hospital at six. The next morning, while we waited in an examining room for a nurse to give me an epidural, Paul read me the Molly Brown section of Ulysses to calm me. What a birthday present. To have a child!

Maybe it was the epidural, but once they wheeled me into the operating room I became flooded with joy. A brand new human being was about to come into the world! A miracle! I began to weep with the wonder of it. Meanwhile, Paul snapped pictures of: the doctors and nurses, the instruments, the light fixtures, the yellow disinfectant they smeared over my belly.

As they worked on me, I saw the doctors begin to weep with joy, too. (Paul later said this didn’t happen.) And then I saw a white, white light fill the room. It felt as though the veil between the material world and the world of spirit had thinned almost to nothing. When the doctor held up our baby, Will, I felt and believed I saw God hand over a most precious creation, a human soul in a tiny body. God loved this child passionately, and was lending him to us to care for and raise up. I loved Paul madly, but nothing in my life had prepared me for the ferocity of the love I felt for our precious child or the overwhelming, bursting joy that consumed me as I beheld this new born boy.

Since then at various times-when I look at people piling into a subway, or when I pass people on the sidewalk, and of course when I look into my child’s eyes-I remember the moment of Will’s birth, how infinitely God loved (and loves) him, and I realize once again that every human being is infinitely precious in just the same way. It blows my mind and fills my chest with the sweetest warmth. This is love to me: to kneel in awe at the overwhelming magnificence of each created human being.

Wendy Hammond is a playwright and screenwriter.  Her plays have been produced in NYC, regional as well as Berlin, London, Milan and Tel Aviv theatres.

She has adapted two of her plays to the screen, Julie Johnson with Lily Taylor and Courtney Love and Jersey City with Dana Delany, Debi Mazar, Jesse Garcia, Angela Sarafyan and Bai Ling.


My Yard

May 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

I’m just about to write the biggest cliché of all clichés but when I walk outside to my yard and hear the birds and look at my tree full of oranges and at the flower trees, I think life is good.

My dog runs out and meets up with his friend, a street cat that comes to the house every day, and they greet each other and then lay down together in the sun.

If I sit on the steps with the dog and the cat and join them in taking in the sun, life is perfect.  For that moment I don’t think about my husband, who is gone, financial difficulties, or my dad’s failing health. 

Of course I have the privilege of having a yard with oranges, flowers, and animals. What if I lived in a slum and when I came out I saw garbage and hungry faces?  I don’t know.

But I would like to offer from my very bourgeois experience that for each person there is a “yard” out there.  That each of us needs one. And maybe its not one with oranges but it is only a plant grown from a seed. Maybe the pride of seeing this seed turn into a plant can be someone’s yard.

I have to remind myself tomorrow to come out to my yard.   Maybe you can do the same.