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The Grace of Kindness & God’s Silence March 18, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 19-Day Fast, Baha'i, Books, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Lent, Life, Love, Minnesota, Movies, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Poetry, Religion, Suffering, Twin Cities, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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Peace and blessings to all, and especially to those observing Lent, Great Lent, and the Baháʼí 19-Day Fast during this “Season for Non-violence” and all other seasons!

“You could call someone
where it’s still early.

Go out and look at the stars
in the past

Or open the Joachim Jeremias to the densely printed
page, it’s corner folded
for some reason
not yet remembered

before you set the clock.

You have to set the clock—
for a moment that doesn’t exist yet”

– quoted from the poem “Home Remedy” in God’s Silence by Franz Wright

Do you remember this week, three years ago? Do you remember today?

I know, I know, some parts of the last three years are a blur; but, three years ago today, I was putting together a full-length practice video, to post on YouTube. It was a Wednesday, everything was shutting down, and I was posting the video so people could keep up their practice. I had no real plans to do anything else… other than post on the blog for two weeks and maybe post a couple of more videos. Goodness. Do you remember when…?

It’s a little surreal to realize that – not counting my videos on the Carry prenatal yoga and meditation app – my first full-length (physical) practice video, with all it’s flaws, is still my only full-length (physical) practice video. What is super surreal is to think about the hundreds of full-length audio recordings I’ve made in the meantime and, also, to realize that 2019 was the last time I taught a live class on the anniversary of the birth of Franz Wright.

“I am her to learn
to bear
the beams of love,
what else

through the leaves, I am here to endure the

bells tolling

– quoted from the poem “Introduction” in God’s Silence by Franz Wright

Born in Vienna, today in 1953, Franz Wright spent portions of his childhood in Washington (state), California, and the Midwestern United States (in particular, Minnesota). In addition to sharing similar poetic themes, he and his father, James Wright, are the only parent and child to win a Pulitzer Prize in the same category. The elder Wright suffered from depression, bipolar disorders, and alcoholism and focused on the emotional suffering he saw around him, especially that suffering experienced by the disenfranchised in America. The younger Wright wrote about isolation, loneliness, longing, insomnia, and death intersecting with kindness, love, faith, hope, and peace. Three years ago today, I thought it oddly and serendipitously appropriate that my first virtual offering focused on Franz Wright’s work.

Three years later, I find his words still ring true and, oddly, still fit our current circumstances.

Versions of the following were original posted on March 18th and 20th of 2020. You can click on the dates (to the left) to view the original posts. Some links (below) will take you away from my blog.

Chicago Tribune critic Julia Keller once described one of Franz Wright’s collections as being “ultimately about joy and grace and the possibility of redemption, about coming out whole on the other side of emotional catastrophe,” while Denis Johnson supposedly compared his poems to “tiny jewels shaped by blunt, ruined fingers – miraculous gifts.” I know, that’s a lot to take in (and you might need to read that Va. Woolf-like sentence again). The thing is; I think we are (still) in the middle of a Franz Wright poem. So, brace yourself.

I first came across Franz Wright’s poem “Solution” in a 2015 blog post written by Alison McGhee, a New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-nominee, who writes and teaches up the street from where I was in March of 2020. In the post (which I strongly recommend), Professor McGhee wrote about an encounter she had with someone best described as her exterior opposite. Yet the interior movements of the heart, all of our hearts, are ultimately the same – something both Alison McGhee’s short post and Franz Wright’s poem illustrate bluntly, beautifully, and miraculously.

Both the post and the poem contain reminders we could all use right now.

“What is the meaning of kindness?
Speak and listen to others, from now on,
as if they had recently died.
At the core the seen and unseen worlds are one.”

– “Solution” by Franz Wright

Franz Wright’s poems are full of natural spirituality and that oftentimes “heartbreaking human conflict between religion and spirit.” The final line of the poem “Solution” reminds me of 2 Corinthians 4:18 where Saint Paul and Saint Timothy wrote, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” NOTE: The New Living Translation translates this passage as “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” In 2020, I suggested focusing on what is unseen (during the practice). Today, I suggest focusing on the unseen as grace (how ever that resonates for you).


The long silences need to be loved, perhaps
more than the words
which arrive
to describe them
in time.”

– quoted from the poem “Home Remedy” in God’s Silence by Franz Wright

Franz Wright won two National Endowment for the Arts grants (1985 and 1992), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1989), a Whiting Award (1991), the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, (1996), and the aforementioned Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. His first collection after winning the 2004 Pulitzer Prize was entitled God’s Silence. I haven’t read all of it (yet), but I am still fascinated by the idea of 144 pages worth of Franz Wright poetry curated around the idea of “God’s Silence.” Notice, that it’s 144 pages – not 144 poems. (Poets everywhere are now doing the math.) This is the kind of the thing that gets me oddly excited, because there is so much I want to know!

I want to know if he was referring to silence that is the response to a prayer or a request (or even a curse); the silence that precedes an answer; the silence that follows the answer (when the questioner is dumbfounded or in awe of the response); the silence when one is pondering the best way to phrase something and therefore measuring their words; the silence of shock (can we shock God?); the silence of disappointment; the silence of wonder; the silence when no one is around; the silence of sleeping children; the silence between one breath and the next; the silence of meditation; the silence of peace; the silence honoring the dead; the silence just before a newborn declares itself alive; or….The list goes on.

He could have been talking about all of the above. Or none of the above. There are so many possibilities – and they are all full of grace (whatever that means to you in this moment)!


Armed Conflict

Snowy light fills the room
pronouncing itself

softly. The telephone ringing

in the deserted city— ”

– the poem “Armed Conflict” quoted from God’s Silence by Franz Wright

The first section of God’s Silence is entitled “East Boston, 1996” and the first poem in that section, “Armed Conflict,” sets the stage for the other poems, including “Solitary Play: Minnesota, 1961” – which is a dark and twisted coming of age poem. The latter feels even darker and more twisted given so many current events related to children and our conflicts about the 2nd Amendment. And that’s the thing, again, about Franz Wright’s poetry: We don’t have to go through the things he went through to feel, deep inside of our own hearts, the gut-wrenching things he felt.

We don’t have to be the son of James Wright to understand what it is like to stand in the shadow and the light of a parent who struggled every day with their own darkness and light. Neither do we have to be abandoned by said parent to see the poignant irony of living (and dying) in much the same ways. Nor do we have to spend our finally days, dealing with terminal lung cancer and writing what are essentially love poems to our spouse*, to understand why a collection of memories is named Kindertotenwald (essentially, a forest of ones who will never age). We all get it, can get it; especially, if we read (or listen to) Franz Wright’s poetry.

Maybe, possibly, we can also get the grace that was his kindness, love, faith, hope, and peace.

“After all, it was only a blizzard in Minneapolis in 1959. How are you supposed to describe something like me? And when you think about it, why should you try, why should you even care?”

– quoted from the prose poem “Wintersleep” in Kindertotenwald by Franz Wright

I not only care about poetry that gets you through hard times, I love it. In part, because it makes you realize that someone has been through harder – or, as hard of a time as you. Additionally, I think one of the reasons I was/am so fascinated with the idea of God’s Silence is that part of my practice involves silence, moving into silence and stillness. The kind of silence and stillness that can make people uncomfortable, because it is so powerful. Yet, it is simultaneously the kind of silence and stillness that is the epitome of peace. When Patanjali codified the philosophy of yoga in the Yoga Sūtras, he wrote, “yogash citta vritti nirodah.” (YS 1.2) Yoga ceases the fluctuations of the mind.


Perhaps, God’s silence.

“Like you a guest, a ghost here

Everything will be forgotten

And either I am too alone
or I am not
alone enough
to make each moment

(no one bats 1,000 friend
no one
bats 500)

And I have heard God’s silence like the sun
and sought to change

I’m just going to listen to the silence
till the Silence.”

– quoted from the poem “Introduction” in God’s Silence by Franz Wright

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, March 18th) at 12:00 PM. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “07082020 On Death & Dying”]

*NOTE: Franz Wright was married to the translator Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright. In addition to writing and recording some of his poems (including the Clem Snide song  “Encounter at 3AM,”) Mr. Wright recorded some of his final thoughts and conversations before he died in 2015. Last Words, is a documentary featuring those final recordings.

“All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

– The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians 4:15 – 18 (NLT)

This playlist includes the full-length practice from 2020 and music for that practice. The music is similar to the playlists above.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

### Ecology ###