Tag Archives: religion

He Reminds Us That We Matter

Has Wayne Dyer Missed His Plane?

I have a bone to pick with Wayne Dyer, but first let me give credit where credit is due.

Through his prolific authorship and his accessibility as a speaker and talk-show guest, Wayne Dyer has given vast exposure to “New Thought” (New Age, Holistic Spirituality) principles that are genuinely life-affirming and liberating. Dyer’s work has been important in reanimating, in public discourse, ideas from ancient sources — at least as old as the Hebrew prophets, coursing through the ages by way of Jesus and the BuddhaMarcus Aurelius and AristotleRumi and Hafeztranscendentalism and Christian Science, the Unity and spiritualist denominations, A Course in Miraclesand contemporary writers such as Marianne WilliamsonJoan BorysenkoRobert Holden, and Deepak Chopra.

Dyer’s impressive role has been that of a translator or interpreter, slipping complex ideas into the everyday idiom. His felicitous phrasing speaks to the learned and the poorly educated alike, affirming not merely their worth but their inherent divinity.

HE REMINDS US THAT WE MATTER

In a world where computers bobble our frantic phone calls and we interact more often with machines than with humans, Dyer’s is a comforting voice. Yes, it challenges us to take responsibility for our circumstances, but it doesn’t leave us dangling; it also celebrates our intrinsic power and creativity, which enable us to transform our lives.

Dyer has made a vital contribution to spiritual thought. That contribution has in turn made him a celebrity. Was there a trace of bemusement in Dyer’s declaration that he ranked third after Eckhart Tolle and the Dalai Lama on the 2011 Watkins 100 Spiritual Power List (the “100 most spiritually influential living people”)? (On the 2012 list, Tolle and the Dalai Lama changed slots and Dyer was listed thirteenth.) Well, it hardly matters for a man who no longer seeks God but is God.

Okay, I get that. I won’t quibble over the distinction between being Divinity and being a vessel for the Divine. If (a) God is everywhere, and (b) human beings are of God… well, one can hardly be one-half or seven-eighths divine, can one?

Other teachers, including John Lennon, announce with impunity that Love is all there is. That being so, then Wayne Dyer, and you and I, and, I suppose, Caligula,* are love throughout, and according to this tenuous chain of logic we may reasonably assert our divinity.

ME, BEING PISSY

Even so, listening to Wayne Dyer on his weekly radio program, I struggle not to feel that he has ascended to a place beyond my comprehension. Perhaps that comes of his having been healed of leukemia by John of God. Perhaps I strenuously disagree with Dyer’s position on antidepressants and ADHD drugs – remedies in celebration of which we lesser mortals bow down to the heavens eight or nine times a day. Perhaps I sometimes wonder if Wayne Dyer has not lost touch with the distressingly hyperactive, the woefully underemployed… in short, with the ninety-nine percent of us who have not yet learned to manifest near-perfect health, copious prosperity… even the wherewithal to zip down to Abadiânia for a psychic-surgery session with John of God.

Oh, I’m just being pissy for no good reason. Maybe John of God is the Real Deal. Certainly the planet has been blessed with men and women who have extraordinary mystical and medical gifts. Wayne Dyer deserves our thanks for drawing public attention to the likes of Anita Moorjani.  I applaud his vision and courage as a spokesperson for the legitimacy of a truth for which science is not the sole testament. He has reinstated, alongside science, much older realities… those of mystery, enchantment, and childlike wonder… of miracles both rare and commonplace… of infinite possibility wherein scientific certainty seems ludicrous indeed.

Nevertheless…

OH, TO BE ORDINARY!

In a radio promo for his 2012 book Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting, Dyer disparages all that is “ordinary,” then goes on to depict the ordinary human being in a way that makes me salivate. Ordinary people, he says, go dutifully to their ho-hum jobs, pay their bills, fill out sundry forms in the time allotted, and presumably present themselves at their suburban homes when the workday is done, perhaps sitting down to a family meal, weeding the tomato patch, romping with their two-point-four children, reading bedtime stories to the toddlers, reminding them to brush their teeth, tucking them in, and at last enjoying missionary-style sex with their spouses after the lights go out.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this scenario, Dyer stipulates, after which he paints with eloquence the higher calling of the soul, which [he says] seeks beyond all else expansion, with even greater fervor than it longs for happiness – although the soul that is denied expansion is, he laments, “miserable”  — which allegation moves me to point out that happiness, in the sense of not being miserable, is therefore at least commensurate with expansion as something every discriminating soul desires.

More than at this teleological inconsistency, however, I bristle at the scorn (if scorn overreaches, I’ll deal down to condescension) with which Dyer dismisses ordinary people leading ordinary lives. It rankles on two counts, the first selfish, the second philosophical:

  1. Wayne Dyer’s “ordinary” embodies all I ever wished for. When I had ordinary, I never failed to celebrate my rare blessedness. Outside the stability and contentment of marriage and active motherhood, I pay bills on time at gunpoint. I have known gaping loneliness that would welcome the intrusion of rowdy children and an ordinary man who loved me. If he carried in the groceries as well, I’d stick ‘til death and beyond.
  2. There are no ordinary people, and an “ordinary life” is an oxymoron. The fact of human life is always extraordinary, verging on miraculous. The face of any man or woman who has experienced three-quarters of a century displays elation and disillusionment, ease and exertion, and the courage sometimes required to take yet another conscious breath. The octogenarian doesn’t exist who has not one morning awakened in an unfamiliar universe. Live long enough and you must learn to navigate a course from which all known landmarks and guideposts have vanished.

When the time has come, in this incarnation or another, for greatness or glory, we cannot escape it any more than the fetus can remain immobile in the womb. Life’s engines urge us on at the pace of the tides and our own natures. The most impassioned exhortations will never make the sap rise out of season.

WELL DESERVED

Not having so much as laid eyes on Wishes Fulfilled, perhaps I speak in ignorance of its penetrating wisdom, but my comments relate only to the radio promo. If by not reading the book I deprive my soul of a one-time-only opportunity to enlarge, my soul will have to muddle along, puny and pitiful, refused even a glass of ale in bars where only confident, robust souls are served.

I should be more charitable to a man who just slipped ten notches on the “most spiritually influential” list. To be fair, Wayne Dyer speaks to millions, resonating with greater numbers than the Pope, evidently, whose Watkins rank is a pathetic thirty-fifth. Dyer has earned his wealth and fame. If his center has shifted under them, his is not the first; it won’t be the last.

———

* When several kings came to Rome to pay their respects to [Caligula] and argued about their nobility of descent, he cried out “Let there be one Lord, one King”. In AD 40, Caligula began implementing very controversial policies that introduced religion into his political role. Caligula began appearing in public dressed as various gods and demigods such as Hercules,Mercury,Venus and Apollo. Reportedly, he began referring to himself as a god when meeting with politicians and he was referred to as Jupiter on occasion in public documents. (Wikipedia)

Metaphorical You

How to Write Poetry and Live Poetically

Free E-Course Lesson 19
Chapter 7 (continued): Metaphorically Speaking

All the Animals You Are

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Blake was a painter as well as a poet. Here is Blake's *The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun* (1805)

Blake was a painter as well as a poet. Here is Blake's *The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun* (1805)

Sharpen your intellectual claws. We are going to attack (metaphorically) one of the most famous and admired poems in English literature, “The Tiger” (or “The Tyger”), by William Blake (1757–1827). First, though, you’ll read another of Blake’s poems, “The Lamb,” which is often studied as a contrast to “The Tiger.”

THE LAMB

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee.
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

THE TIGER

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Jargon to impress your friends

William Blake's Title Plate for *Songs of Experience*

William Blake's title plate for *Songs of Experience*

Here’s a bit of vocabulary that you can use to sound really smart when discussing the mechanics of these poems:

Quatrain — Four-line stanza, usually containing a rhyme scheme. “The Tiger” consists of six quatrains.

Rhyme scheme — Pattern of rhymes in verse. A different letter represents each rhyming sound. In “The Lamb,” the rhyme scheme of the first eight lines is AABBCCDD. In “The Tiger,” the rhyme scheme of each quatrain is AABB, if you allow eye and symmetry to rhyme. Blake might have been indulging in “near rhyme” (half rhyme, slant rhyme) there. It’s also possible that the words were pronounced differently in the late 1700s, when Blake wrote the poem. Or there might be intentional irony in the nonrhyming couplet, which is, in a sense, not symmetrical. (Other common quatrain rhyme schemes are ABAB, ABBA, and ABCB.)

Couplet — Pair of consecutive rhyming lines. In “The Tiger,” each quatrain has two couplets.

Foot — A group of 2 or 3 syllables — one stressed, one or two unstressed — forming a “metrical unit,” the basic unit of poetic rhythm (TI-ger is a foot in “The Tiger.” Compare with “ARE you // GO-ing to // SCAR-bor-ough // FAIR,” which combines two-syllable and three-syllable feet.)

Trochaic foot (trochee) — A two-syllable foot, in poetry, in which the first syllable is stressed and the second syllable is unstressed, as in the four trochees “PE-ter, // PE-ter, // PUMP-kin // EAT-er” (as well as in “TI-ger, // TI-ger, // BURN-ing // BRIGHT.” The absence of a final unstressed syllable [which would be present if Blake had written “TI-ger, TI-ger, BURN-ing BRIGHT-ly”] is called catalexis).

Iambic foot (iamb) — A two-syllable foot, in poetry, in which the first syllable is unstressed and the second is stressed (Christopher Marlowe‘s famous line “Come LIVE // with ME // and BE // my LOVE” consists of four iambs.)

Tetrameter — A line of poetry in which there are four metrical feet (All the examples above are either in trochaic tetrameter or, as in the Marlowe line, in iambic tetrameter.)

Trimeter — A line of poetry in which there are three metrical feet (In “The Lamb,” the first two lines are in trochaic trimeter; the following six lines are in troachic tetrameter with catalexis.)

Frontispiece, by William Blake, for *Songs of Innocence and of Experience*

Frontispiece, by William Blake, for *Songs of Innocence and of Experience*

Observe how Blake uses, in addition to metaphor, the following rhetorical devices in the two poems:

Anaphora — Repetition of words or phrases at the beginnings of lines

Alliteration — Repetition of the same beginning letter or sound for words in a series or in close proximity

Cacophony — Harsh-sounding passages in poetry or prose; note that harshness comes from hard consonant sounds (K, T, and CH, for example) as well as word meanings (The cacophony in “Tiger” contrasts markedly with the euphony in “Lamb.”)

Euphony — The opposite of cacophony — pleasant-sounding, perhaps mellifluous; note that pleasing sounds come from soft consonants (such as L, R, and V) as well as word meanings

A poem you can sink your teeth into

“The Tyger” seems to provide unending food for thought, which is one of the things that make it a truly great poem. Here is one analysis:

Of course, there can be no gainsaying [denying] that the tiger symbolizes evil, or the incarnation of evil, and that the lamb (Line 20) represents goodness, or Christ. Blake’s inquiry is a variation on an old philosophical and theological question: Why does evil exist in a universe created and ruled by a benevolent God?  Blake provides no answer. His mission is to reflect reality in arresting images. A poet’s first purpose, after all, is to present the world and its denizens in language that stimulates the aesthetic sense; he is not to exhort or moralize. Nevertheless, the poem does stir the reader to deep thought. Here is the tiger, fierce and brutal in its quest for sustenance; there is the lamb, meek and gentle in its quest for survival. Is it possible that the same God who made the lamb also made the tiger? Or was the tiger the devil’s work? —Cummings Study Guides, accessed November 4, 2008

This commentator sees the tiger as a symbol of evil and the lamb as a symbol of Christ. I respectfully gainsay his or her view. A symbol can be but is not always a metaphor. A handshake might symbolize friendship or agreement, but it is not a metaphor for friendship or agreement, just as the U.S. flag is not, in itself, a metaphor for our country.

William Blake, in an 1807 portrait by Thomas Phillips

William Blake, in an 1807 portrait by Thomas Phillips

The writer fails to consider “The Tiger,” which appeared in Blake’s book Songs of Experience, in relationship to “The Lamb,” from Blake’s Songs of Innocence. (Blake considered the two books a unit and published them together, as Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.) Another shortcoming of the reviewer’s analysis, in my opinion, is that it assumes a conventional attitude toward religion, Christianity, God, and Christ that Blake did not possess.

He did not hold with the doctrine of God as Lord, an entity separate from and superior to mankind; this is shown clearly in his words about Jesus Christ: “He is the only God … and so am I, and so are you.” —Wikipedia, accessed November 4, 2008

Finally, it’s not at all clear that Blake saw his metaphorical tiger as pure evil — the lamb and the tiger are not necessarily opposites — but rather as beautiful and terrifying.

Because scholars have for over two hundred years continued to debate the complex message of “The Tiger” without reaching consensus, I shall boldly contribute my own theory: The lamb (both in the poem “The Lamb” and in the allusion to the lamb in “The Tiger”) are metaphors for facets of the human personality, including Blake’s own inner angels and demons, and the “contrary states” of human life.

When one is young and innocent — untested — one is “tender,” “meek,” “mild.” (Need I mention that Blake and his wife and lifelong companion, Catherine Boucher Blake, had no children?) With adulthood comes experience and power, to be used for good or ill. One does not stop altogether being a “lamb” when one gains the “fearful symmetry” of a “tiger.”

The following analysis of “The Tiger” presents a more refined understanding, I think, of the poem and its intricacy:

The reference to the lamb in the penultimate [second-from-the-last] stanza reminds the reader that a tiger and a lamb have been created by the same God, and raises questions about the implications of this. It also invites a contrast between the perspectives of “experience” and “innocence” represented here and in the poem “The Lamb.” “The Tyger” consists entirely of unanswered questions, and the poet leaves us [in]… awe at the complexity of creation, the sheer magnitude of God’s power, and the inscrutability of divine will. The perspective of experience in this poem involves a sophisticated acknowledgment of what is unexplainable in the universe, presenting evil as the prime example of something that cannot be denied, but will not withstand facile explanation, either. The open awe of “The Tyger” contrasts with the easy confidence, in “The Lamb,” of a child’s innocent faith in a benevolent universe.Sparknotes.com, accessed November 4, 2008

Assignment 19.1

What animal are you?

Regardless of Blake’s intention — and who’s to say that it was static and fully formed even as he wrote the poems? — I believe it’s fair to say that we are all, metaphorically, at different times and in different situations, an entire menagerie. Throughout history and literature, people have been compared to and represented as lions, puppies, rats, mice, panthers, fawns, even elephants.

I wrote “The Kitten” (below) strictly to illustrate this lesson — as a metaphor for my own vulnerability — not to win any poetry prizes. I live alone now, but I was once pampered and protected. I can be sturdy and resilient — like, say, a Saint Bernard. I can be an “eager beaver.” Sometimes I like to hibernate, like a bear. But occasionally — when, for example, I have to carry a bag of groceries home from the store, or when the plumbing gets stopped up, or when I’m weary or just plain lonely — I’d enjoy being treasured and taken care of.

THE KITTEN

I am a kitten, wishing to lie
in a soft, sunny spot with my lover nearby,
to be fed when I’m hungry and stroked when I sigh
and held all through the night when the wind rises high.

Your assignment is to write something similar — it needn’t be in the form of a rhyming poem; a few lines of graceful prose will do as well — about yourself. Begin with the words “I am a,” then name the animal you are, and describe a few of that animal’s features that are like your own characteristics.

Please e-mail your assignment to Mary@LifeIsPoetry.net. I will not grade your work, but I will return it to you with comments.

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