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October 2013, vol 9, no 3

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Jeffrey Harpeng

And The Soil

in the mirror

the deafness

of my reflection

To quietly know "God knows how!" that there is no true self, or self without the true. And yet, oh Homo Significans, you subtle, strange, and distorting mirror, who is who she or he relates to, who can inhabit a whole sentence, and almost believe it.

the deeper I go

the deeper I go

green mountains *

The illusion of self (1) is observed by the illusion of self: that meniscus of consciousness on the sea of mind (3) . Mind, that intricate chemical dialogue threading life together.

DDT quiet 

as DDT in the soil

changes changes

And In the Spring (italics) a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.(italics) (2) And old men's thoughts to the illusions of youth, to the illusion of self. And the green world is a blur. The blur that is a deafness. A spider is waiting in its web. What is waiting?

so drunk

I slept

with the crickets *

Listen! a cricket is calling from a beam, high in the factory roof. It tells that all is well. Let him who has ears hear, all is not well.

Standing firm with concrete under-foot, who can feel the weight pressing the oxygen out of the soil; pressing life out of it.

deaf gardener

 weeding – a magpie lark 

follows silently

"The DDT in the soil here in the plains is just as high today as when it was sprayed in the sixties." Cyril said – and Thomas wrote to Rachel (italics)...it seems that our remedies are instinctively those which aggravate the sickness: the remedies are expressions of the illness itself.(italics) (4)

no help 

for the likes of me 

I go on walking *

Our begging bowls and our bellies are full. We picnic from plastic plates. Though something always dies to feed us, the plastic goes on forever.

"And this notion of the illusion of self, this plastic rubbish on the meniscus, on the sea of mind I drowned in," jibes John from the grave, from his snug coffin in the wet clay, "I take it, that is just another way of saying that man does not transcend nature?"

sleep on the ground

sooner or later

peaceful as a clod of dirt *

…When you hold a hand-full of soil you have got millions of species and … say 95 percent are unknown. So what do they do? They rip, they tear, they shred this material, they really dissolve it, pass it through, everything is passed around, there's a little factory going on in the soil, and they slowly take organic matter, leaves, trees, dead bodies, turn it into nutrients, and those nutrients slowly grow the plants so that we can have corn on our plates… (5)

at the window

that frames the world so small

 days of rain


 In what sense is the self an illusion? For me, an illusion is a subjective experience that is not what it seems. Illusions are experiences in the mind, but they are not out there in nature. Rather, they are events generated by the brain. Bruce Hood - Director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre 
at the University of Bristol.

* haiku of Taneda Santoka translated by Burton Watson (For All My Walking – Columbia University Press – 2003)

2. from "Locksley Hall"– Alfred Lord Tennyson

3. For Bateson, consciousness is only a small part of total mental activity, even in humans. Mary Catherine Bateson writes in Our Own Metaphor that, for Gregory, "The sea was the sea of mind, with consciousness only a shallow layer at the top." Understanding Gregory Bateson – Mind, Beauty, and the Sacred Earth – 
Noel G. Charlton – (Sate University of New York Press – 2008)

4. Letter from Thomas Merton to Rachel Carson – Jan 12, 1963 (The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton – Monica Weiss, SSJ – University of Kentucky Press 2011)

5. Dr Diana Wall in her 2013 Tyler Prize Laureate Lecture to the American Association for the Advancement of Science