Joseph Anderson

Juan Ramon Jiménez, “Voice of white fire”

Today I dip again into the deep well of News of the Universe, a poetry anthology by Robert Bly that has nurtured me for decades and is full of wise gems. A new Soul Cartography class is starting in just over two weeks, and in the wake of my Japan trip I am swirling with tremendous change – it’s getting clearer but is by no means clear yet. There’s a conventional notion of “teacher” as “the one with the answers” but we will begin this process with me in the midst of some important shifts, so I (and we) will just need to take a different approach! Thankfully the class is designed for us to journey together toward self-discovery. Mysteries wait to be revealed…

This poem by Jiménez (translated by Bly) is itself full of mysteries; I want to point to the final section which has the image that is resonating with me today. Speaking to God (which he, wonderfully, describes as “full consciousness”) the poet says:

Your voice of white fire
in the universe of water, the ship, the sky,
marking out the roads with delights,
engraving for me with a blazing light my firm orbit:
a black body
with a glowing diamond in its center.

This is nothing other than a statement of faith. I don’t always feel like I have a “firm orbit”, particularly in times like these when new insights are flowing and reconfigurations are in process. But let me take on the poet’s assertion that such an “engraving” is taking place: my life, the outline of my destiny, does have a meaningful and coherent shape. There is mystery there, with dimensions not fully known – that’s the “black body”. But there is also a point of clarity: the “glowing diamond in its center”.

What brings me back to this poem again and again is that image of the glowing diamond. We are continually confronted with the mystery of our purpose, our destiny.  Traversing the apparently chaotic rubble of life brings risk, dislocation, disorientation. The promise of the poem is that we are held by a vast purpose that creates a specific container within which we can grow. Limitless, it circumscribes us. Boundless, it marks out roads for us “with delights”.

In Soul Cartography we investigate the details of our lives – sometimes there is a clarity that feels like a “firm orbit engraved with blazing light”, sometimes it’s a squishy mess. But I’m working with the presumption that gaining consciousness of the contours, the patterns, the pathways of our lives will help us discern the glowing diamond at the center. As we move toward the class, here’s the bold thing I want to say: 

This glowing diamond exists for you, and it can be found and brought to your consciousness, and this will help you immeasurably, to make sense of your life, and to find healing and purpose and peace of mind.

I look forward to continuing the discovery together!