I know why the caged bird sings

by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps on the back
Of the wind and floats downstream
Till the current ends and dips his wing
In the orange suns rays
And dares to claim the sky.

But a BIRD that stalks down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through his bars of rage
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill for
The caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
And the trade winds soft through
The sighing trees
And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright
Lawn and he names the sky his own.

But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with
A fearful trill of things unknown
But longed for still and his
Tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom.

Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen,
die sich über die Dinge ziehn.
Ich werde den letzten vielleicht nicht vollbringen,
aber versuchen will ich ihn.

Ich kreise um Gott, um den uralten Turm,
und ich kreise jahrtausendelang;
und ich weiß noch nicht: bin ich ein Falke, ein Sturm
oder ein großer Gesang.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 20.9.1899

No one writes like Rilke, and the poetry does not really come through in English. I won’t try to render this into English poetry.  But here’s the meaning:

Rilke begins stating that he lives his life in growing rings, spreading out over  the world’s things. He does not know if he will complete this final turn, but he is determined to try. He circles for millenia around God,around that primeval tower. He does not know yet – in this circling, is he a falcon, a cyclone, or a great song?

BG

“One of the few things I know is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for later, give it all.  Give it now, something more will arise for later.  Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you.  You open your safe and find ashes.”

Annie Dillard

– an interesting idea; I suppose it needs to be combined with good judgment and she is not advocating spending your last dime on treats and being unable to pay the rent.  More the idea of not living in fear of poverty and so starving your actual life of experience. BG

To take things seriously – as my books are said to do – betokens no heaviness of spirit. Taking things seriously is no more than according things their true weight and seeing their innate value. It springs from a desire to weigh things on the scale of the heart rather than indulging in suspicion and distrust.

Rilke – Letter to Rudolph Bodlander, 13 March 1922

I yearn for my work, because it always helps me make sense of things.  For never was a horror experienced without an angel stepping in from the opposite direction to witness it with me.

Rilke – Letter to Marianne von Goldschmidt Rothschild December 5, 1914.

If we imagine our being as a room of any size, it seems that most of us know only a single corner of that room, a spot by the window, a narrow strip on which we keep walking back and forth. It gives a kind of security. But isn’t insecurity with all its dangers so much more human?

We are not prisoners of that room.

Rilke – Letters to a Young Poet

A voice said, Look me in the stars

And tell me truly, men of earth,

If all the soul-and-body scars

Were not too much to pay for birth.

“There is an idea current in the prevailing culture that writing about something that means you heal the pain.  I was not, when I began writing my life story, and I am not now, healed of my mother.  You do gain a small distance from anything by keeping it in suspension in your mind while you work at finding the words to fit it.  The process is so slow and incremental that you do not notice its effect, but the point is that it is a process.  I found out when I was a little girl that if you are crying uncontrollably and want to stop, the thing is to do something useful with your tears — water a plant, say.  They’ll dry up for themselves.  The same happens when you try to make sentences of painful material: the material lightens as it is put to work.”

Nualo O’Faolain in “Almost There”, pg. 36.

Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things. –Thomas Merton

Compassion is the ultimate and most meaningful embodiment of emotional maturity. It is through compassion that a person achieves the highest
peak and deepest reach in his or her search for self-fulfillment. –Arthur Jersild

Compassion is not sentiment but is making justice and doing works of mercy. Compassion is not a moral commandment but a flow and overflow of the fullest human and divine energies. –Matthew Fox

The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, forgiveness. –H.H. the Dalai Lama

Albert Einstein:

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Daniel Goleman:

The act of compassion begins with full attention, just as rapport does. You have to really see the person. If you see the person, then naturally, empathy arises. If you tune into the other person, you feel with them. If empathy arises, and if that person is in dire need, then empathic concern can come. You want to help them, and then that begins a compassionate act. So I’d say that compassion begins with attention.

Diane Berke:

The major block to compassion is the judgment in our minds. Judgment is the mind’s primary tool of separation.

Felix Adler:

To care for anyone else enough to make their problems one’s own, is ever the beginning of one’s real ethical development.

HH the Dalai Lama:

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

Joanna Macy:

Compassion literally means to feel with, to suffer with. Everyone is capable of compassion, and yet everyone tends to avoid it because it’s uncomfortable. And the avoidance produces psychic numbing — resistance to experiencing our pain for the world and other beings.

Mairead Maguire:

We frail humans are at one time capable of the greatest good and, at the same time, capable of the greatest evil. Change will only come about when each of us takes up the daily struggle ourselves to be more forgiving, compassionate, loving, and above all joyful in the knowledge that, by some miracle of grace, we can change as those around us can change too.

Martin Lowenthal:

Compassion is a foundation for sharing our aliveness and building a more humane world.

Pema Chodron:

When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.

Sogyal Rinpoche:

…when we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being, and from this can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all beings.

Viktor Frankl:

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Here’s something Rumi’s remarkable father had to say on the subject of conversation:

“Visitors come here when I’m ill or morose, and they don’t mention anything about disease or melancholy. They should be more generous. You can say anything here. Don’t mind my mood. Conversation breaks up the ground and allows vegetables to grow. Eggplant, radish, lettuce, peas, cabbage. Let talking find its way with no restrictions. Let the long pods sprout on their spontaneous stalks, so we can be fed the beans of conversation.”

Bahauddin