Cesar Vallejo’s “God”

vallejo1While proofing a 1989 article in Sojourners by Daniel Berrigan, I came across this poem by Cesar Vallejo. Berrigan referenced it in relation to Isaiah 49.

Vallejo was a Peruvian poet. He was born in 1892 and published his first collection of poems – Los Heraldos Negros – in 1918. This translation of “Dios” is by Robert Bly.

God
by César Vallejo

I feel that God is traveling
so much in me, with the dusk and the sea.
With him we go along together. It is getting dark.
With him we get dark. All orphans . . .

But I feel God. And it even seems
that he sets aside some good color for me.
He is kind and sad, like those that care for the sick;
he whispers with sweet contempt like a lover’s:
his heart must give him great pain.

Oh, my God, I’ve only just come to you,
today I love so much in this twilight; today
that in the false balance of some breasts
I weigh and weep for a frail Creation.

And you, what do you weep for . . . you, in love
with such an immense and whirling breast. . . .
I consecrate you, God, because you love so much;
because you never smile; because your heart
must all the time give you great pain.

The Importance of Daydreaming

peachesAwhile back I wrote a column titled Getting Our Gaze Back that focused on how it important it is for the human brain to rest and recreate itself by staring blankly out the window or daydreaming. In part:

I’ve noticed about myself recently that I stare out the window and daydream when I’m desperate. The unrelenting beam of information aimed at me via the computer screen too often occupies my eyes. My gaze is clouded with data bits. The mind silts up with details, images, pleas for help, advertisements, and thousands of worthy campaigns for social change. “Life shouldn’t be this hard,” I think.

Eventually, nothing can float freely in the stream of my consciousness; everything is stuck. After some time staring at my mind-mud, I turn to the window. A psychological switch is thrown. I watch butterflies and wonder about color variations on peaches.

brainubcNow, the Big Brain Scientists at the University of British Columbia are finding out the same thing, according to Science Daily.

“Mind wandering is typically associated with negative things like laziness or inattentiveness,” says lead author, Prof. Kalina Christoff, UBC Dept. of Psychology. “But this study shows our brains are very active when we daydream – much more active than when we focus on routine tasks.”

The findings suggest that daydreaming – which can occupy as much as one third of our waking lives – is an important cognitive state where we may unconsciously turn our attention from immediate tasks to sort through important problems in our lives.

“When you daydream, you may not be achieving your immediate goal – say reading a book or paying attention in class – but your mind may be taking that time to address more important questions in your life, such as advancing your career or personal relationships,” says Christoff.

Read the whole report here.

I love it when neuroscience finally catches up with the 4000-plus-year-old discipline called Sabbath. It’s what makes us human.

Dublin: How to Pray When You Have a Desk Job

At Trinity University in Dublin, along with the Book of Kells, there were other medieval manuscripts on display. The Book of Armagh, the Book of Darrow, and (one of my favorites) the Book of Mulling were all there to ooh and aww over.

Illumination of St. John from the Book of Mulling

It is perversely comforting to find the monks and nuns of the Middle Ages wrestling over the same issues we wrestle over today. In particular, how to pray when you have a desk job.

One display case held a copy of a sermon preached at the Durham Cathedral in England sometime in the 1100s. I was really touched by the details and the craft.

Medieval Allegory of the Scribes Tools

The parchment on which we write is pure conscience;
the knife that scrapes it is the fear of God;
the pumice that smooths the skin is the discipline of heavenly desire;
the chalk that whitens it signifies an unbroken meditation of holy thoughts;
the ruler is the will of God;
the straight-edge is devotion to the holy task;
the quill, its end split in two for writing, is the love of God and of our neighbor;
the ink is humility itself;
the illuminator’s colors represent the multiform grace of heavenly wisdom;
the writing desk is tranquility of heart;
the exemplar from which a copy is made is the life of Christ;
the writing place is contempt of worldly things lifting us to a desire for heaven.

.

Howth: “Spiritual Direction”

Dateline: Howth, Dublin, Ireland, overlooking the Irish Sea

The sun has poked up over Howth Head this morning and the sea is bright and blue. Howth harbor is a seal sanctuary, so the seals are rolling over slowly in the surf and the seagulls are harassing them with glee.

Last night, our writers group gathered at a local pub, Krugers, for a poetry reading by Ted Deppe from his forthcoming collection Orpheus on the Red Line (Tupelo Press, 2009). It’s a collection with great tenderness, wisdom, and a touching feel for the rough sides of ordinary life. I especially loved his poem “Houses of Hospitality” about Dorothy Day. I’ll try to get a copy and post it here.

In the meantime, below is one of Ted’s poems:

Spiritual Direction

Because she poked fun at the way his white robes
flew out behind him as he biked back
to the monastery for vespers

and then, recording her jokes in his journal,
he tried to recall each thing she’d said or done.

Because his hands shook when he phoned her
and later, when they walked beyond the gatehouse,
how the hills wouldn’t stop trembling–

he told himself he knew at least this much,
if the world shakes, pay attention!

Because of the long night, then, when he couldn’t not
think of her. Or the energy surging
through his ordered life, a wind

rising within him, the same energy he’d followed
long ago into the abbey, almost helpless again before it.

His reaching out of bed for his journal,
trying to describe the sound of her laughter
in the gatehouse corridor. As if God was leading him

away from the church, away even from God.
As if he was at last at the mercy.

-Theodore Deppe (from The Wanderer King).

‘O spiritual soul’ St. John of the Cross

“O spiritual soul, when thou seest thy desire obscured, thy will arid and constrained, and thy faculties incapable of any interior act, be not grieved at this, but look upon it rather as a great good, for God is delivering thee from thy self, taking the matter out of thy hands … The way of suffering is safer and also more profitable than that of rejoicing and of action. In suffering God gives strength, but in action and in joy the soul does but show its own weakness and imperfections.”–St. John of the Cross (noted in Dorothy Day’s diary for Friday, August 18, 1936).

In Harmony With God

In Harmony With God

by Rose Marie Berger

When Jesus uses it, ‘perfect’ means to be in harmony with God. To be in harmony with that dynamic change that God made part of life. Life changes. So perfection is learning to be in relationship with the changes in life. To be human we have to undergo changes. The focus is not so much on physical change as it is on spiritual change. When we choose to move closer to God, when we deepen our love and we spend more time in those kinds of thin spaces, we get a deeper sense that God loves us. But we could also choose the opposite. We could choose to move away from God. We could choose to control a kind of static world, and we could live in such a way that we resist growth at every step. Because God’s love is without limits and because we are made in God’s own image, we can never, in our human love, reach the limit of our ability to love.

Source: Radical Grace, Vol. 19, No. 2, the Center for Action and Contemplation

Add your thoughts at inward/outward..