Reflecting on matters of life and death,
purpose and chance, relations with others,
and the many turns of life,
a life mostly wonderful, sometimes hard,
but all too often plainly absurd.
Of all the words I could think of
I just kept coming back to these ones,
a clarity I could not rival nor surpass,
written from the perspective of age,
wisdom and experience, and the highest power
someone at that time could attain on Earth.
Let the words just flow then,
as they were written eighteen centuries ago
by that great soul, wise among the wise,
dear Marcus, admired teacher,
please speak, I am here listening …
Look down from a height
on the countless herds of men,
and their countless rituals,
and their various journeys
through storm and calm,
and the many different beings who are born,
live together, and are gone.
Imagine the life lived by others long ago,
and the life that will be lived
after your departure
and the life that is lived
at this very moment
among alien peoples,
and how many are not even aware of your name,
and how many will soon forget it,
and how many who now praising you
will very soon be deriding you;
and reflect that neither remembrance
nor fame nor anything else whatever
is worth a passing thought.
Marcus Aurelius “Meditations”, book 9, verse 30.
Whatever we call reality
Even if such a thing exists
Will forever remain elusive
A truly hard picture to paint
Partly objective and measurable
Partly interpreted and beyond form
Whatever we experience and remember
Whatever we tell others and ourselves
Goes well beyond events and things themselves
And delve deep into the intricacies of the self
With our story, upbringing, environment and brains
Steering up swirls of joy, fears and hopes
Forming myriad of mental images and verdicts
No matter if right or wrong
Without ever telling us a thing
We frenetically spun those stories
That we will tell ourselves
Oh! How on Earth are we going to communicate?
How can I tell you the way I perceive my world?
So you see the same thing as I do?
How can we reach a common ground?
How can we steer away of conflict
And reach that dreamed of future
Of peace, understanding and love?
infused with the fury of spring
a mighty young river flows
powerful and hopeful
with the buoyancy of youth
although unbeknownst to it
whatever rocks it may move
wherever it goes at the end
its force remains deeply constrained
by mountains long ago built
by framing ideas that persist
thick influences lingering past their due
as it happens to us as well
deeper than we can know
we keep flowing ahead
sometimes meandering around
towards a vast and distant sea
I now choose:
this steadfast commitment
to a life of wisdom,
this relentless search
for proper engagement and detachment,
this healthy custom
of cultivating my inner garden.
In whatever circumstance,
in every place and moment.
In this one my only life,
I already made my choice.
You brother, you teacher,
you brave heart, mind and soul!
Why did you stay when you knew well
they would burn you at the stake?
For speaking out loud,
standing up and showing to the world,
the bottomless depths of your thoughts,
those precious insights
that the centuries proved right.
Those shattering new ideas,
that the dark priests could not hear.
You shook down their house of cards,
you disarmed their castle of power and lies.
Why, my dear friend, did you choose to stay?
Confronting them up for your words,
for the beautiful fruit of your thoughts.
Oh! my brother, you valued truth so much more
than all the prudence in the world.
You die wrapped in rope, your tongue bond
while the empty souls shamelessly looked on.
May we never forget you,
because so little has changed,
with all these new old priests
still bustling around,
your example and pride
will forever be
a beacon of light and insight.
Ode to Giordano Bruno
only outside equilibrium
beyond the foreseeable and certain
can something new and surprising
come into life and existence
(paraphrasing a passage in Malicorne, by Hubert Reeves)
I once placed myself
at just the right distance
from people and things
and only then could I see
the vast web of dependence
of which all of us form part
and without delay I realized
that I need nothing more
than the acceptance and joy
of my bare existence.