Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Moves You?

[If the above video doesn't open for you, it is Alison Kraus singing "Down in the River to Pray," from the film Oh Brother, and is available on YouTube.]

This morning I heard from a friend who has struggled for many years to reconcile reason and spiritual experience.  Or maybe the problem was that he wanted to reconcile reason and faith - what people believe about that which cannot be captured in a laboratory (which is most of everything).  He wrote about being tremendously moved by music sung in a foreign language.

I feel that too, but also thought of how I have been moved sometimes by the captured/expressed energy of visual art.  The scene above is a lovely marriage of visual art and music, the ethereal chorus moving slowly and in harmony toward baptism.  The river, a symbol that is universal wherever people have rivers.  I was also thinking of the time I walked around a corner in The Museum of Modern Art and found myself face to face with a small painting, "The Starry Night."  Layers and layers of paint.  It hit me in the solar plexus.  It is the most famous of van Gogh's many attempts to capture "It," the divine essence in everything. If you like, you can go here and scroll down for a brief experience of it.

Daniel Terragno once said to me mildly, "Zen is not for everyone."  In fact, Zen claims that the essence, reality, the sacred is everywhere in everything.  Where is it for you?  Is that in your life?


  1. Music is one of the things that moves me most. But I am also very moved by nature's beauty, and feel most at peace when I am walking in the woods.

    Thanks for this article and video! May you be well!

    1. I have really missed walking in the woods this year. Spring has been so strange, came late and then everything bloomed at once, for high pollen counts. My immunosuppressants made this much worse. I am trying things out a little, sometimes wearing a surgical mask, but so much of walking in nature is smelling it. But seeing it is good, too.

  2. Music for sure -- and if in a foreiegn language I'm partial to Portuguese.

    Conversation -- the breath of life -- for me the best conversations have this sacred quality to them. I'm one of those who hopes, if there is a heaven, it just means we can talk with anyone from anywhen for as long as we want to...

    Making and viewing visual art.

    Poetry (Rumi, Ikkyu, Rike, Whitman, Dickenson).

    I know what you mean about that van Gogh--when I saw his exhibition I went about from awe to awe, just could not believe how many orders of magnitude more powerful, brilliant (in color and technical flair), and VIBRANT they were. Even a still life of an upside down crab vibrated off the canvas.

    The home-birtths of both our children.

    And Redwoods!

  3. Conversation - I've been in some really good ones after people have meditated together, or after church (I'm UU)....Poetry - there are poets I've dived deeply in, most recently Wallace Stevens, and feel they contributed to my spiritual depth and understanding....Redwoods - I am so grateful we went to be in them when we visited California. Now, it doesn't look particularly likely that we'll get back there, too many health limitations on driving and financial limits on flying....Of all van Gogh's works, I feel most responsive (right now) to his shoes; the divine totally expressed as they shaped themselves to their wearer, whoever those might be....I was there holding my daughter's hands for the emergency C-section that brought Otto into the world. Then I got to carry him down the hall to meet his father. That short walk was one of the highest spiritual moments of my life.
    Thank you for writing.