AMBITION AND ASPIRATION
Ambition and aspiration.
Ambition is running around looking for votes.
Aspiration is a glottal fricative.
A breathing out.
Aspiration gets more things done
because it’s got a verb.
You can ambire in Latin
but you can’t ambish in English.
Ambition is an accountant
who cooks the books
for money power wealth fame
and tracks the harvest from grain to bread
as if its head were an oven
trying to keep one step ahead
of the rise in inflation.
To ask someone what they aspire to
as if it were the same as winning an election
is like asking the wind what it wants to be
or where it’s going.
The wind is its own destiny.
As are we.
And just like the wind
we’re always looking for the easy way around.
But when you aspire
you grow like fire.
You’ve got one aim.
To set everything aflame
and let everything out
as if you were an emergency exit in hell.
The cure is in the heart of the disease.
Forgiveness is the consummate genius
that masters the art of hate.
Wind and fire creatively conspire
to keep the candles burning
on Van Gogh’s scarecrow straw hat
until he finishes painting La nuit etoilee
or three cowpaths in a cornfield with crows.
but no gate.
but he wasn’t ambitious.
He didn’t assign a destination to his fate.
It’s like the stars
that burn themselves out
without knowing what it is they illuminate.
Ambition wants to put a bit in the mouth of the mindstream
and ride it like a waterclock
at a brisk trot.
Aspiration lets things flow their own way.
Ambition hasn’t got any time for music
unless it pays
but aspiration knows how to play like a lark
for the sheer love of it.
Ambition gnaws like a star-nosed mole
at the roots of the covert truth
underneath the beauty of the word
because it’s flower-blind in the light.
Aspiration doesn’t know what to say
when the stars take its breath away
and a cosmic silence
enthralls the night
with a small inner voice
that’s only got one word ah for radiance
and the rest of its vocabulary
amounts to forty thousand ways
of being left speechless in the light.
As an enlightened man once said.
I was germinated in fire
in the West Coast creative seed-bed of the sixties
like the broom pods everybody tried to smoke
to get high
just before grass showed up from
and the angels and the demons
both turned to dealing in spiritual elation.
As an ignorant man once said.
Let it all hang out
and what don’t hang
Buttons replaced zippers
and I dropped out of astronomy
to get deeper into the stars
than the eye of a telescope
that had lost its passion
for what it was looking at.
The only way to embrace the night
is with wonder.
The only way to add your shining to the light
is with a creative insight into the mystery
without expecting it to explain itself.
I followed my heart.
I didn’t abandon my mind.
I aspired to paint and write poetry
and left my astronomical ambitions behind.
I aspired to an earthly excellence
that would expand the spiritual dimensions of space
like inspiration going supernova.
Success if it came at all
could follow me like a seagull in my wake.
Or the crumb of an old dream in the corner of my eye.
Everything was poetry.
Everything was metaphor.
Everything was images converging
like the wavelengths of endless lifelines
into the radiance of sidereal symbols.
Sunsets moonrises and roadsides
taught me how to paint the picture-music
that haunted me day and night
like the ghost of a lost moodring
it used like a palette
on the other side of the mirror
to contact me in colours
that expressed its mixed emotions.
I practised a revolutionary discipline
as a way of life
an enlightenment path
and I stopped listening to the light
like a radio telescope listens to the stars
and started hearing what a sunflower hears
when it turns its ear toward the sun.
Sight is not seeing
just as life is not living
knowledge isn’t knowing
and art isn’t beauty.
I stopped treating my thoughts
as if they were my personal possessions.
You can take notes in a dream
but that’s not the same thing
as understanding the music
like daylilies and wild irises
growing along the mindstream
like the treble clefs and semiquavers
of a visionary symphony of stars
with the wind as first violin
fireflies on timpani
and the moon booming out tides
like a gigantic pulse of light
on the hide of a kettledrum.
It’s harder to make something
out of your own inner resources
than it is to break it.
It’s easier to do what you’re told
than it is to do it for yourself.
People too lazy to work get jobs.
Their conscience adjusts to a paycheck
like a standard of living
they’ll kill to sustain
like a tapeworm
in the bellies of the poor
for more and more and more and more.
Indifference is fossilized innocence
and their innocence was only following orders.
Children lose their eyes.
And the poor live like asterisks
and wry asides among movie stars.
But the double helix of my chromosome
is a stairwell with bannisters you can slide down
two snakes copulating
not an anaconda crushing my lungs like accordians.
that you’re not really working
until you’re working with the same intensity and focus
as a child when it plays.
I’ve written and painted that way for years.
But aspiration leads on to aspiration
and creative fulfillment is never complete.
I have an appetite for that kind of hunger.
I have a longing to be consumed by life
without being mistaken for food.
If my life has been a demonic love affair
with the earth
it’s only because angels don’t eat.
But the dark abundance of a full silo
is as good
as the bright vacancy of an empty cupboard to me.
What’s the difference?
The reality remains the same
though interpretations change with circumstance.
The void looks upon the plenum
the way a poor man looks upon the rich.
If I weren’t hungry you wouldn’t eat.
If I weren’t a sinner you couldn’t be a saint.
If there weren’t confused losers like me
how could you be the clear winner?
See what I mean?
I set the table like a canvas for mine
and sing as I paint on the table-cloth
knowing it’s worth the same cup of coffee now
as it will be later
though the world thinks of value
as a function of time
and makes much of nothing
that can’t be assessed.
Everything’s as up to date as space.
Like a mirror is
or the features of your face.
You sit down like a market share
with a stock portfolio for a napkin
and wait for the waiter to attend to you.
A hungry man breaks bread with friends.
You break yours like dividends
and leave the crumbs for the poor
espousing trickle-down economics
as if you stepped out of a public john
where you shook your peg
but the last little drop
when has it ever not
went down your leg.
Aspiration moves on like a homeless threshold.
Ambition hangs on like a door.
Aspiration is objective about its subjectivity.
Ambition thinks of its ego as a logo
and stamps it like a trademark on everything.
That’s how the identity of objects
But I’m not trying to shove
a polluted atmosphere up anybody’s nose.
You don’t have to huff the air
to be a rose of blood that blooms
with swords for thorns
in a dying bull’s nostrils
as the sunlight wounds the moon
because you always kill the thing you love
the way a matador murders
then makes a bow
and throws a rose and an ear
like Van Gogh in the brothel to a lady.
There will always be suffering.
Bad news for the Buddha.
Worse for the bull.
I’m just trying to clear things up
by letting the light fall where it may
Aspiration is into wildflowers.
Ambition likes a bouquet.
But I don’t think a ray of light
that falls on the pate of
or the Dome on the Rock
to build the Colesseum
is any more divine
than the ray that illuminates a fly’s wings
with olaceous rainbows.
Sometimes you just need
to try and get a fix on yourself
like an atom of anti-matter
to remind yourself it can’t be done.
I take Picasso at his word
that art is a sum of creative destructions
but nature does that better than anyone
and there’s no artifice in it.
Nature isn’t a cubist mirror.
In nature as in the mind
nothing that appears is deceptive.
Nature doesn’t lie to itself.
Just as it hasn’t lied to me once
in all the lightyears I’ve been writing poetry
about what’s human
and what can’t be otherwise.
You can see it in your own eyes.
And that’s what my life’s work amounts to.
And be happy and sad as you like.
Be a fool.
Be a black lightning bolt with bad wiring.
Be a fat buddha denuded of existence.
Be a good nun that holds God up to your head
like a handgun
with her finger on the trigger
of your spiritual G-spot.
Be the anti-climax of an aging poet
who found his voice
in the mouth of a consumer society.
Nothing that appears in nature or the mind is deceptive.
doesn’t stand on the far side
of what’s divine and mundane
what’s petty and profound
about this human love affair
with the multiuniverse
that’s been going on a lot longer
than the stars have been keeping journals.
Enlightenment isn’t grain.
Ignorance isn’t chaff.
Ambition might be a baker.
But aspiration isn’t a wind
that sorts things out.
I’ve seen it drive
as many loveletters
down the gutter-grate
as it has cherry blossoms
and lottery tickets.
Wisdom takes the low place
like the sea below the salt
and everything runs down into it
like a river in its own way
in its own good time.
The clarity of an enlightened insight
into its mysterious affinity with us
is a space that doesn’t try
to put corrective lenses on the light.
And the creative genius of it all
is that all its works
are an ageless rite of passage.
Nothing that appears
in nature or the mind
Not the blind.
Not the window.
Not the ego.
Not the enlightened tiger in the zendo.
In everything you do
and everywhere you go
Just be honest with your own face once
and it’s easy to realize
the full potential
of the presence behind it.
Just to show up with eyes is enough.
Like the geni that lights the lamps.
Ambition and aspiration are two.
Even when you get everything you want
nothing’s come true
nothing proves false
because nothing was ever missing.
As it is now
so it will be then.
It’s all you
from the unborn beginning
to the undying end.
And time may well be
the death lyric
the rhapsodic aubade
of an enlightened inspiration
with eternal overviews
that makes each of us in turn its muse
and being a poet
I’d be tempted to ask for that.
But the last wish has got to count
or you’ll be eating
your face with your eggs in the morning.
So all aspirations and ambitions aside.
I choose space.
It isn’t selective.
It embraces everyone alike.
And of all the things I’ve come to know
in a long creative life
before and after everything else
this jewel of an insight
like a star from the ore of the night
within and without
if you feel the need to put a gate on it.
You don’t need to defend it
because it’s at peace with everyone.
It doesn’t need to be healed
because you can’t wound it.
You can’t lose it.
And you can’t win it.
And whatever path you walk in life
your always in its presence.
It can’t be disowned.
It can’t be possessed.
It doesn’t try to perfect
or reject anyone
because it isn’t selective.
Space is love.
And everything I know
and am ignorant of
everywhere I go
above or below
all that I’ve ever experienced
because space is as effortless as love
and just as spontaneously unselective
is intimately impersonal
and generously receptive.