Friday, January 13, 2017
Self-Portrait with "you" / the mystery of encounter and relationship
A few days ago, I started re-reading a book written by a Zen teacher with Jewish roots. He had visited a Trappist Monastery and was startled by the anger and violence that appeared along with joy and wonder in the Psalms that were sung on a daily basis. He talked with the monks about the anger and violence and listened to their perspective that human emotions find healing through expression. He decided to investigate the Psalms for himself (just as Joni Mitchell investigated for herself the story of Job and that particular definition of "God").
Throughout these translations that came of his investigation, Norman Fischer replaces the word "God" with the word "you." His perspective is that of a Zen teacher encountering life and death in all its fullness and mystery and sorrow and joy and intimacy.
Here is what he says about the "you" that he addresses in his own poetry and (I am extrapolating) in his translation of the Psalms:
"The person to whom my poems actually seemed to be addressed was someone much more silent and much more profoundly receptive than any human being could possibly be. This person wasn't a person at all. It was nobody, nothing, and it wasn't anywhere or at any time. It was even beyond meaning. So poetry is important to me not because it gives me a chance to express myself, or to communicate, but because it is an encounter with that which is both so close to me that I can't see it and so far away I can never reach it. Poetry evokes the unknowable."
(the italics are mine -- am)