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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 24 the great avant-garde poet, saying, “I am chary (I particularly re- member his use of this word) about mentioning these two in the same breath. They exist in different worlds. Writing is effective and public; meditation is private.” Something like that. But, one could argue, MacLow’s writing was utterly private. He worked with chance operations and cut-up words, so that there was no intention or conventional communication in his work. He was never trying to say or describe anything. Still, he published copiously. Why? A decade later I was involved in a similar symposium at Stan- ford. On the panel with me were the poets Leslie Scalapino and Michael McClure, both of whom practice meditation. We were asked by someone in the audience, “Whom do you write for?” and we all answered, in different ways, “No one.” I remember that one of the professors in attendance (who, as it happened, was a Zen scholar) took serious issue with this. Writing must always be social, he argued. What we meant was not that we were uninterested in readership—we all publish a fair amount—but that in the act of writing we did not consider who the reader is or what he or she is going to make of what we are writing. We write to someone, but that person is essentially Nobody, without a name or social circumstances—we write for God. The Beyond. The Empty Nature of All Phenomena. Buddha Nature. The Mys- tery. We speak, and however little or much our words communi- cate, they touch something Out There. And somehow within the mind and within the words, that Out There is already implied. Don’t ask me to explain. Years ago I went to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and did what all tourists there do: wrote some words on a scrap of paper that I tucked into a crevice in the wall. When I closed my eyes and touched my head to the warm stone, it came to me: “All language is prayer.” This must be so. Who is it we are speaking to when we speak to anyone? To that person, and also past him or her to Out There. If there is language, it means there is the possibility of be- ing heard, being met, being loved. And reaching out to be heard, met, or loved is a holy act. Language is holy. And so, dear reader, know that at this moment of your reading this text in the pages of the Shambhala Sun, you are also touching the Mystery, the Nobody, at the center of your language-charged silence. I, the supposed author, about whom you may have formed some im- pression entirely of your own making, am not now talking to you. At the moment of your reading, amazingly enough, although I seem to be present, I am elsewhere, doing something else. I am unaware of who you are, and I don’t know that you are reading these words now. And yet, at this moment, the moment when I am composing these words—a moment long past for you but immediate to me now—I am as close to myself, and to you, as it is humanly possible to be. ♦ If there is language, it means there is the possibility of being heard, being met, and being loved.