the virgin point


The nature of this blog.  Some poetry, some prose, some fact, some fantasy.  Reflections on art, film, literature, as well as on economics, Israel Palestine, climate change, the general crisis. 

And at its center?  The virgin point.  Meaning:  the still point, that place from which words arise, from which relationships arise.   From which we arise.

 It’s intention:  to talk about the internal  weather, to bring the crisis to a head, to cross a threshold, to say hello to the mystery. 

A young Mr. Emerson speaks to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, who has come to him in New York hoping to land a job.  “Of course,” Emerson says, “but surely you suspect there is more to it than that.  Aren’t you curious about what lies behind the face of things?”


I imagine it beginning like this: 


Zoka’s 3 baristas dancing to Motown

muses or fates, dressed in black

like guides to the underworld

some story they’re sharing

behind the counter

pouring Ethiopian coffee



The late afternoon sun

On an October day


A world apart

A darkness coming



And then a single point of light

and a person sitting cross legged

on the floor in a stocking cap,

 bald headed, slightly round. 

He speaks to us all: 


How the valley awakes.  At two-fifteen in the morning there are no sounds except in the monastery:  the bells ring, the office begins.  Outside, nothing, except perhaps a bullfrog saying “Om” in the creek or in the guesthouse pond.  Some nights he is in Samadhi; there is not even “Om”.  The mysterious and uninterrupted whooping of the whippoorwill begins about three, these mornings.  He is not always near.  Sometimes there are two whooping together, perhaps a mile away in the woods in the east.

                The first chirps of the waking day birds mark the “point vierge” of the dawn under a sky as yet without real light, a moment of awe and inexpressible innocence, when the Father in perfect silence opens their eyes.  They begin to speak to Him, not with fluent song, but with an awakening question that is their dawn state, their state at the “point vierge.”  Their condition asks if it is time for them to “be.”  He answers “yes.”  Then, they one by one wake up, and become birds.  They manifest themselves as birds, beginning to sing.  Presently they will be fully themselves, and will even fly.

                Meanwhile, the most wonderful moment of the day is that when creation in its innocence asks permission to “be” once again, as it did on the first morning that ever was.

                All wisdom seeks to collect and manifest itself at that blind sweet point.  Man’s wisdom does not succeed, for we are fallen into self-mastery and cannot ask permission of anyone.  We face our mornings as men of undaunted purpose.  We know the time and we dictate terms.  We are in a position to dictate terms, we suppose:  we have a clock that proves we are right from the very start.  We know what time it is.  We are in touch with the hidden inner laws.  We will say in advance what kind of day it has to be.  Then if necessary we will take steps to make it meet our requirements.

                For the birds there is not a time that they tell, but the virgin point between darkness and light, between nonbeing and being.  You can tell yourself the time by their waking, if you are experienced.  But that is your folly, not theirs.  Worse folly still if you think they are telling you something you might consider useful-that it is, for example, four o-clock.

                So they wake:  first the catbirds and cardinals and some that I do not know.  Later the song sparrows and wrens.  Last of all the doves and crows.

                The waking of crows is most like the waking of men:  querulous, noisy, raw.

                Here is an unspeakable secret:  paradise is all around us and we do not understand.  It is wide open.  The sword is taken away, but we do not know it:  we are off “one to his farm and another to his merchandise.”  Lights on.  Clocks ticking.  Thermostats working.  Stoves cooking.  Electric shavers filling radios with static.  “Wisdom,” cries the dawn deacon, but we do not attend. [Thomas Merton, from conjectures of a guilty bystander:131-2]