Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Emily Dickinson poems might taste good to someone recovering from a religion of certainty.

When Dickinson was in high school, her school had a year of intense and specific religiousness. It was founded religious and still was, but at this time many teachers and students had intense emotional experiences that cause them to have religious ideas that were just like the idea of the people there who had had intense emotional experiences before them.

The more people who went through this process the more pressure there was for those who were left to spontaneously have the same experience.

Emily Dickinson didn't.

She grew up. She wrote about 3000 poems, many intense.

Some intensely like being in nature, some intensely hope to meet dead friends in heaven, some intensely express doubt about whether life has any meaning, any point.

Her service to God, if any, and us all, was not in reproducing some else's branded experience.

Her job was being quite there for her own moments. Noting them in good words and not too many words. It didn't all add up to a consistent belief system. It all added up to being alive for her own particular life.

In one of her poems, she calls the ocean "an everywhere of silver." She was available for the gleams in many kinds of moments--her own individual silver everywhere. Nourishment arrives in many forms, and she was available for the ways it came to exactly her.

Her service was in being present at her parts of everywhere in her way. And often telling about it. For example:

An everywhere of silver,
With ropes of sand
To keep it from effacing
The track called land.

--Emily Dickinson

Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port,--
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee.

--Emily Dickinson

I stepped from plank to plank
So slow and cautiously;
The stars about my head I felt,
About my feet the sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch,--
This gave me that precarious gait
Some call experience.

--Emily Dickinson

I reason, earth is short,
And anguish absolute,
And many hurt;
But what of that?

I reason, we could die:
The best vitality
Cannot excel decay;
But what of that?

I reason that in heaven
Somehow, it will be even,equation given;
But what of that?

--Emily Dickinson

Musicians wrestle everywhere;
All day, among the crowded air,
I hear the silver strife.
And--waking long before the dawn--
Such transport breaks upon the town
I think it that "new life."

It is not bird, it has no nest;
Nor band, in brass and scarlet dressed,
Nor tambourine, nor man;
It is not hymn from pulpit read,--The morning stars the treble led
On time's first afternoon!

Some say it is the spheres at play!
Some say that bright majority
Of vanished dames and men!
Some think it service in the place
Where we, with late celestial face,
Please God, shall ascertain.

--Emily Dickinson