Updated: Dec 13, 2021

Ugolino and His Sons, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux

Narcissism has become such a term of condemnation we seem to forget we're all self-preoccupied. We abhor the term so much we often neglect our own pain. In the non-pathological sense, our narcissism alerts us to our buried wounds. When someone disrespects us, we react. When we lose someone we love, we can be incapacitated by the injury to the self. I'm thinking of the line in one of Gerard Manly Hopkins' poems, "My own heart let me more have pity on." A monk, who was somewhat embarrassed by his own talent as poet and artist, turned inward to his own pain as a spiritual reality. I write this in that spirit.

Years ago someone on Facebook circulated this exercise and I responded:

Fifteen Random Things About Me

I am not normal. I can see music. Yes, see it. I can close my eyes and see colored configurations of sound. When I listen to Coltrane I see long streams and swirls of molten gold, etc.

I have a spiritual impulse that is mostly realized in poetry. I believe that all natural things well seen are holy. In this way I think I am like the romantics. The holy makes me feel a part of something larger than myself but sometimes the holy is terrifying. Red in tooth and claw and green with fire. My God is not anthropomorphic. He/She is something like the Buddhist idea of interdependency wherein everything we do matters, has its affect in the world, negative or positive. Sometimes God is a presence, an intimation that there is a great reality to which we all aspire when we are at our best. But I have no set definition of God. Names, like icons, are forms, and all melt away. I believe that Buddha, Mahavira, Mohammed, Jesus, and the rest were people of great personal power who taught essential things about living. I don't believe in the religions that were based on their teachings, or perversions of their teachings, or appropriations of their teachings in the pursuit of power.

I am talented in music,