2012-07-23

Beat Generation Celebration Service: Closing Words

Gary Snyder
You may have heard: There is no other life. Beat poet Gary Snyder said that as the closing line of his poem, "Why Log Truck Drivers Rise Earlier that Students of Zen"
In the high seat, before-dawn dark,
Polished hubs gleam
And the shiny diesel stack
Warms and flutters
Up the Tyler Road grade
To the logging on Poorman creek
Thirty miles of dust.

There is no other life.
That’s the poem. Whatever thirty miles of dust you are in the middle of, wishing, maybe, that it would settle down or blow away or just come to its end: Hey. There is no other life.

We cannot escape the fact, though we retreat from facing it in various ways. And the very retreats away from it turn into pathways back to it. "Where do we come from?" we might ask in a philosophical mood, or a mood of wonder. The answer is: There is no other life. "What are we?" The answer: There is no other life. "Where are we going?" There is no other life.

Thirty miles of dust. There is no other life.

This is our religion. This is our worship.

This.

Poet James Broughton writes:
This is It
and I am It
and You are It
and so is That
and He is It
and She is It
and It is It
and That is That

O it is This
and it is Thus
and it is Them
and it is Us
and it is Now
and Here It is
and Here We are
so This is It
Here we are, so this is it. The direction of implication flows also the other way: This is it, so here we are. Just this. In all the grandeur of its plainness and all the specialness of its ordinariness: There is no other life. There is no other sacredness. There is no other religion than one or another set of worn practices of directing our attention, over and over, to no other life than this.

Over and over we forget, get distracted, get lost in dreams and plans for some other life. Over and over, then, we do the exercises of remembering.

This!

When we approach the holy beyond all speech, our words drop away in chunks, until only one word remains:

This!

Then that word, too, drops away. And in the silence beyond, or beneath, or over, all our words, we touch the unmediated and the real --

And perceive therein a quiet rhythm, a pulse.

The Beat.

Moving to that Beat, the new way we can build is the way of finally knowing that there is no new way but the ever-fresh newness of this way. The only peace to make is the peace we find. The work we do to be free is the work of returning, rhythmically, over and over, to This. This life. There is no other.

Amen.

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