What would it be like
to live in a library
of melted books.
With sentences streaming over the floor
and all the punctuation
settled to the bottom as a residue.
It would be confusing.
A great adventure.
Tea is an act complete in its simplicity.
When I drink tea, there is only me and the tea.
The rest of the world dissolves.
There are no worries about the future.
No dwelling on past mistakes.
Tea is simple: loose-leaf tea, hot pure water, a cup.
I inhale the scent, tiny delicate pieces of the tea floating above the cup.
I drink the tea, the essence of the leaves becoming a part of me.
I am informed by the tea, changed.
This is the act of life, in one pure moment, and in this act the truth of the world suddenly becomes revealed: all the complexity, pain, drama of life is a pretense, invented in our minds for no good purpose.
There is only the tea, and me, converging.
My heart has become capable of every form: it is a
pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
And a temple for idols and the pilgrim’s Kaaba and the
Tables of the Torah and the book of the Qur’an.
I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love’s
Camels take, that is my religion and my faith.
- From Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi
The one activity taught by Jesus in word and deed is the action of goodness, and goodness obviously harbors a tendency to hide from being seen or heard. Christian hostility toward the public realm, the tendency of at least the early Christians to lead a life as far removed from the public realm as possible, can also be understood as a self-evident consequence of devotion to good works independent of all beliefs and expectations. For it is manifest that the moment a good work becomes known and public, it loses its specific character of goodness, being done for nothing but goodness’ sake. When goodness appears openly, it is no longer goodness, though it may still be useful as organized charity or an act of solidarity. Therefore: ‘Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them.’ Goodness can exist only when it is not perceived, not even by its author; whoever sees himself performing a good work is no longer good, but at best a useful member of society or a dutiful member of a church. Therefore: ‘Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.’
It may be this curious negative quality of goodness, the lack of outward phenomenal manifestation, that makes Jesus of Nazareth’s appearance in history such a profoundly paradoxical event; and it certainly seems to be the reason that he thought and taught that no man could be good: ‘Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.’ The same conviction finds its expression in the talmudic story of the thirty-six righteous men, for the sake of whom God saves the world and who also are known to nobody, least of all to themselves. We are reminded of Socrates’ great insight that no man can be wise, out of which love for wisdom, or philo-sophy, was born; the whole life story of Jesus seems to testify how love for goodness arises out of the insight that no man can be good.
-The Human Condition
For Alan Dann
A woman came up to me in Bloomingdales and said she liked my glasses and I told her where to get them and she said, “what do you think I am — a millionaire?” and stomped off.
A woman came up to me in grad school and said she wished she was as smart as I was and I told her where to find the good theory books at the library and she said “what do you think I am — stupid or something?” and threw down her copy of Derrida’s On Grammatologyand stomped off.
A woman came up to me in the airport in Montpellier and said “Ce livre — De La Grammatologie par Derrida – c’est à vous?” and I told her I had picked it up off the ground in North Carolina, and the woman said “Quoi? Vous êtes un connard Americain?” and lit a Gauloise and stomped off.
A woman came up to me in the hospital and said “this is your baby,” and I took the baby, but she said, “I can tell already you’re a terrible mother,” and threw the baby blankets at my husband and stomped off.
A woman came up to me at the swimming pool and wanted to know why my 2 year old daughter was laughing at her classmate, and I explained that she had never seen a penis before, and the woman said “DON’T USE THAT FOUL WORD IN MY PRESENCE,” threw a beach ball at my head, and stomped off.
A woman came up to me at my house and said she wondered what all these little girls were doing, drawing with chalk on the driveway, and I said they were friends of my daughter and she said “YOUR CHILDREN ARE OUT OF CONTROL,” and the girls started laughing, and they all took giant steps behind her as she stomped off.
A woman came up to me at the university and said she wondered why everyone was so mean to each other on campus, and I said “what do I look like – a therapist?”, and she said “actually, yes, you do,” and stomped off.
A woman came up to me at a shopping mall entrance, and gave me a Kleenex because I was crying into the telephone fighting with my husband, and I said “thank you” and she said “don’t mention it. I know how you feel; you just wish you could stomp off.”
A woman came up to me at the Northampton bus station, and she said she knew me from somewhere, and I said “I am your mother,” and she said “I know — I’m just kidding and being weird!” and then she laughed and pretended to stomp off.
A woman came up to me on the beach and she said she knew where all the magic stones were, and I put down my copy of Derrida, and laid out a beach blanket, and we took turns stomping off and looking for magic rocks and then bringing them back, lying on the beach, telling each other stories, while wearing each other’s sunglasses.