And there was endlessness

The wholeness of undivided, intimate attention – an awareing that has no boundaries, no sense of separation, where observer and observed are both obliterated in a single movement of observing – is the subject of one of Denise Levertov‘s last poems, First Love.  The whole poem is sublime, but the final few lines speak so powerfully to me that I’m singling them out for this post.

It seems to me that one taste of that timelessness changes everything. This is not some cunning escape into yet another thought-bubble; not some desperate effort to transcend one’s mediocre little life. This is an experienced glimpse of another order of relationship. Haven’t we all had this glimpse? For me, it took hold of the steering wheel and has driven the trajectory of my life.

Through the entirety of your lifetime, what is it that you’ve deeply desired?

What has been – is – the Great Motivator of your days?

 

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968)

 
 
[…]

`Convolvulus,’ said my mother.
Pale shell-pink, a chalice
no wider across than a silver sixpence.

It looked at me, I looked
back, delight
filled me as if
I, not the flower,
were a flower and were brimful of rain.
And there was endlesness.
Perhaps through a lifetime what I’ve desired
has always been to return
to that endless giving and receiving, the wholeness
of that attention,
that once-in-a-lifetime
secret communion.

 

– Denise Levertov, from First Love
 in This Great Unknowing, Last Poems

 


Painting by Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968), Morning Glories (Convolvulus)


 

8 thoughts on “And there was endlessness

  1. Attempting to return to or regain or re-live some past holy moment is a trap. It blinds us to what is, as you say, “hidden within plain, everyday view…” Thanks Miriam ❤

    • Yes, so true, Bob. Perhaps I should have mentioned that Levertov was reminiscing about an experience of seamless relationship that occurred at a very early age – almost pre linguistic. She never forgot it – her “first love”, and if you know her poetry this glimpse does seem to have driven her pen. One can speak of the natural impulse we all have towards that “secret communion” as a longing or a driving force. When the two worlds are seen as one, it’s all the same. Life longs; Life drives. Only one inconceivable thing is happening here, as you know SO well!
      Love to you dear friend and fellow traveler. ❤

      • She is an excellent poet, I particularly remember her poem “Thinking About El Salvador”:

        Because every day they chop heads
        Off
        I’m silent.
        In each person’s head they chopped
        Off
        Was a tongue,
        For each tongue they silence
        A word in my mouth
        Unsays itself.

        In terms of the OP, I have observed the craving for repetition of pleasant experiences, and avoidance of unpleasant ones — all part of the human persona’s package. Even sages such as Ramana Maharshi claim:

        “There is a state beyond our efforts or effortlessness. Until it is realised effort is necessary. After tasting such bliss, even once, one will repeatedly try to regain it. Having once experienced the bliss of peace no one wants to be out of it, or to engage in any other activity.”

        Indeed, one might even say that the purpose of human incarnation is to partake of the human experience, in all its varied forms, for the aim of expanding self-awareness.

        That is certainly all very well, but there is something which is not an experience, and even saying so is probably already saying too much, but this Chardonnay has got the best of me, so there is that. 😉

  2. Dear Miriam, thank you so much for this beautiful post. Last month, as my husband was dying at home, for the last week of his life there were no words (he couldn’t speak by then), but there was a wash of forgiveness, love, and understanding between us like I had never experienced before with another human being. The communion was astonishing, reverent and passionate. I wondered, then, why can’t human beings always be this way in relationship? My husband and I were there, experiencing it, we were capable of it, yet it was something that could never be sustained in our marriage. Just those rare fleeting moments of communion during our 37 years together, which finally washed over us in our last days together. If only human beings could experience this every day, with every soul.

    • Diane – as I read your beautiful comment about the communion you shared with your husband during his last days, I was transported back to my father’s final hours. The “wash of forgiveness, love and understanding” that both of us seemed to melt into (and our relationship was not always easy!) was intimacy of another order altogether.

      Then I looked at today’s date and had to smile – it’s his birthday!

      The blessedness of this. The consummation.

      Does it normally elude us because we fail to remember impermanence as we live out our ordinary days? At the deathbed there’s no escape, no options to fix or flee the ‘what is’ of a life about to end.

      I don’t know if it’s possible for humans to abide in this fire every day in every relationship. Perhaps it’s enough to have tasted this Grace, to know what it feels like to have been brushed by the wingtip of an angel.

      And forever changed.

      Thank you for sharing, dear Diane. I am deeply moved. My thoughts are with you as you adjust to the apparent absence of your beloved companion. He has been reabsorbed into the aware space he knew and loved – where else could he go?

      I bow to you both.

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