Early on, I realized that being a poet was mostly about being an awake human being, which in turn was mostly about living each day as a tuning fork in the midst of life’s currents. As a young poet, I would stumble into a vision, or trip into a metaphor, or glimpse a truth, or be stopped by a deep question. Then, I’d reach for expression after expression in an effort to capture each of them. Of course, I’d inevitably miss because the only things worth saying are unsayable.
So I’d try again and miss again. I would get frustrated and press myself, trying to capture the original vision five, six, seven times. Why couldn’t I express what I was seeing and feeling? Why was I always missing? These things were so clear to me and yet I couldn’t render them accurately. What was I doing wrong?
Now, years after cancer, I’ve been forced to accept the inevitable refraction of expression that can only approximate the ineffable. This has led me to thank the unsayable for bestowing me with these five, six, or seven attempts, poems that I never would have retrieved, if not for the glow of what can’t be said. Now I say with gratitude, “Look what the unsayable has given me. It has squeezed these precious drops of insight through me into being.”
Now I accept that the original vision is never meant to be captured but is a shimmering conduit through which we can only retrieve expressions that might point to all that is unsayable, that might reveal all the ways we’re connected, that might pay tribute to the web of essence that informs existence.
Along the way, I came to understand that the tuning fork is our heart. And letting life strike the chord in our heart helps to alleviate our suffering and inner sense of burden.
When the chord in our heart is struck, we resonate with all living things and with the resources that sustain the Universe. When we give ourselves over to the epic sharing of truth and tenderness that arise from that resonance, it becomes so much more than writing. It opens a window into the Mystery, which shows itself ever so briefly after so much human toil to open that window. To open in this way requires us to be honest, accepting, and loving. Through such courage, we can remove the veils that cover us, long enough to stir our hearts into wakefulness.
A Question to Walk With: Describe one thing that remains unsayable and how it keeps speaking to you.
This excerpt is from my book, Drinking from the River of Light(Sounds True).
Join me at my new 5-session online Master Class, The Gift of Deepening and the Radiance in All Things, coming up August 28 – September1. I am also offering a free reading and conversation on September 11th. If you feel led, you can learn more at Live.MarkNepo.com.