Maybe Not

I have admired Deepak Chopra for a long time, but my respect for him soared when I read How to Know God, his stunning reflection on “the mystery of mysteries.” It was in this book that I first encountered the idea that “brain” and “mind” are not the same thing and that I first came to see how the brain might well be “hardwired to know God.”

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It was here, also, that I found an accessible (and, to me, revolutionary) framework for beginning to understand that our capacity to know the Divine quite likely evolves as we do. As one who has been interested for many years in the ideas of GI Gurdjieff and PD Ouspensky, among others, I found these more mainstream ideas about the evolution of consciousness not incompatible with the esoteric thought to which I had been, and continue to be, deeply attracted.

Since reading this bestseller, I have read a number of Chopra’s books and have followed his career more or less. Joining some two million others, I recently “liked” his Facebook page as well and so now get to see near-daily videos in which he speaks extemporaneously (though he glances at notes from time to time) on topics so profound one cannot help but be in awe of his elegant, understated genius.

Today, I did not want to miss his mysteriously hopeful “3 Cosmic Mysteries: A possible solution,” and so I listened in attentively to a brief talk on the following three “unsolved riddles”: 1) What is the universe made of? 2) How do DNA and our genetic material create life? 3) What is the biological basis of consciousness?

As he was wrapping up this presentation, in which he suggested that an answer to all three questions might be found in the compelling notion that “consciousness is all there is,” he leaned towards his computer to read a few real-time comments. Patty said, “Stop talking crazy and marry me” to which he responded with deadpan delivery, “Sorry, Patty. I would love to connect with you, but I can’t get married. I’m already married at the moment. And happily so.”

He went on to read another message from one Varun Vashishta (alternatively, Vashishtha), who wrote, “Very boring.” To this Chopra had the following to say:

“Vashishta, you do injustice to your name….One of the greatest sages of all time was Yogi Vashishta, the teacher of Ram, the incarnation of Divinity. And Ram went to Vashishta asking him to teach him the meaning of life. And, as was customary in those days (and even now), Ram, the incarnation of Divinity, bowed and paid his respects to Vashishta…. ‘Don’t do that. You are the Divine.’ And Ram said, ‘I might be, but I’ve forgotten. So show me how.’ So Varun, you do a great injustice to your tradition, and I’m sorry to say you should be a little ashamed of yourself. And if you don’t enjoy coming on these podcasts, you don’t need to. Anyway, God bless you, and take care.”

And thus was the immature Varun Vashishta dispatched—with but the gentlest of rebukes. Later, when considering what Varun had written to one of the most esteemed people on the planet, I could not help but think that perhaps unconsciousness is all there is.

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Colder stars

stars on a cold night

Where do we go from here,

when it is nightfall,

when soon the cold stars will spin,

the moon will die again,

and the marsh peeper

will call out to his coy lover,

who may or may not appear?

Must I beg for that last drink of you,

that spilling grace,

or for the touch of

a cool hand?

Longing can become a dark dog

awakening briefly to an emptied bowl.

If I leave here tonight unwhole,

will a smaller god follow me,


back home?


On devolution

god_jack sanders_photo by Marilyn SandersToday I caught the last moments of a Terry Gross interview on NPR. In it, she was speaking with Jack Miles, general editor of The Norton Anthology Of World Religions and professor of English and religious studies at the University of California, Irvine. He is also the author of God: A Biography, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1996. What I heard was of great interest, but most interesting of all was a seeming throwaway line I might have missed had I not gone back to read an online transcript of the discussion and reflect on what had been said.

“I have no confidence that the world [awaiting] us — given global warming, given the threat to the human habitat — is a world of ever-increasing knowledge…,” says Miles. “We may be at a peak now from which we will decline. Who knows?”

I think I can honestly say it never occurred to me that human beings would stop evolving; in fact, I have often taken comfort in the belief that we could grow out of our smallnesses and stupidities to become the enlightened band of sisters and brothers we were meant to be. But one glance at the day’s headlines, and I have to wonder if we are, in fact, on a slow, steady slide downward.


2015 — and you

Netherlands New YearEarlier, I sat down to write a poem for you about the new year, but an hour or so into the process I realized it wasn’t going to be very good. It felt stiff, contrived, and I knew I should scrap it. I’ve never been able to create on command, and I’m always surprised by where the mysterious act of creation takes me — whether I’m writing a poem from thin air or drawing an actual tree in front of me.

From the time I was very small, people have had all kinds of advice about what and how I should write. “Write about what you know,” some have said. “Write about what you don’t know,” a few others have suggested. Upon reading a novel I wrote years back, my brother asked, “Can’t you be a little more cheerful?”

Well, no, I can’t cajole myself into being upbeat. Whatever emerges almost always appears to have its own heart and mind, while I just seem to get taken along for the ride. But, if I could will myself to write something meaningful for you about 2015, it might have some of these sentiments in it: evolve; love yourself and others; live authentically and simply; be kind (or at least stop being unkind, as a friend of mine says); be honest; surround yourself with people who genuinely care about you. Leave suffering and unrequited longing behind you, if you can.




A golden eagle glides

down a mountainside & midair

drops the oily serpent

she has been holding in her talons.

This is God telling us to worship the unseen.

A young man with black eyes removes his two shoes,

throws them into the street,

& gets down on his knees.

This is God saying that our fear will be our death.

A husband beats his bride because

she will not sleep in their bed.

This is God telling us our dark thoughts

will create a dark world for our children.

A moth beats its wings against a backdoor screen

& plummets to the pavement, exhausted:

There is no way in or out.

This is not God speaking.


When love leaves her beloved

Waxing crescent moon

 Even love will catch her death

under a cold moon will become

a patch of brown grass buried

beneath an early frost will shiver

into a single dark vine winding

around a splintered trellis will crawl

panting across a desert floor will dry

up to a trickle of water down the

face of a stone mountain will run

frightened through a long hallway will slip

unseen out a side entrance will know

when it is time to turn and pull

the door closed behind her.