Sunday, April 6, 2014

At Play in the Fields of the Lord

“When we are mired in the relative world, never lifting our gaze to the mystery, our life is stunted, incomplete; we are filled with yearning for that paradise that is lost when, as young children, we replace it with words and ideas and abstractions—such as merit, such as past, present, and future— our direct, spontaneous experience of the thing itself, in the beauty and precision of this present moment.”—Peter Matthiessen, on meditation 
I’ve been saddened this morning to learn that Peter Matthiessen has died.  I was lucky enough to be at two writers’ retreats with him years ago, in Key West, and to have him answer a burning question I had (“how do we know at what point we should give up believing that what we’ve written is any good?”) with an appropriately Zen answer (something like “writing is a process, and the writing itself will tell you”).  I recently imagined myself on a boat ride with Peter Matthiessen and Derek Walcott—a poetic journey of amazing words—which of course reading the work of either of them is.  That journey will go on, and the remembrance of the wisdom and compassion that defined him—though he is now, like the title of what’s probably my favorite book of his (besides The Snow Leopard), at play in the fields of the lord.

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