My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)
Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly
Asleep on the black trunk
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The Cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
(5 lines omitted)
I lean back, as evening darkens and comes on
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.
—from “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm” by James Wright
Familiar feeling? One those perfect, peaceful moments of complete attention, suddenly ripped apart to let all our petty failures rush into our consciousness. Is that the primary effect of giving ourselves to beauty—simply to make us vulnerable to perception of our failure to live up to the gift of life?
The best meditation counselors of all spiritual traditions disagree. They advise, “Gently bring yourself back to attention again, again. If you do nothing but that, over and over again, all your life, whatever else you are doing, you will be fulfilling the purpose of human consciousness.”
(Send the Berkeley Daily Planet a page from your own Commonplace Book)