The Beat

Come, spirit, come, our hearts control.
Our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide every deed.
By this we worship, and are freed.

-Hal Hopson

“By this we worship and are freed.” By what, exactly, are we freed? The evident antecedent of "this," in the context of the verse, would be: inward love guiding every deed. But what is that? Consider that "this" is whatever is right in front you, immediately present, right now. By THIS we worship and are freed. What do I mean? Here's a poem from one of the Beat poets that may help.

"Why Log Truck Drivers Rise Earlier that Students of Zen"
by Gary Snyder

In the high seat, before-dawn dark,
Polished hubs gleam
And the shiny diesel stack
Warms and flutters
Up the Tyler Road grade
To the logging on Poorman creek
Thirty miles of dust.
There is no other life.

What "thirty miles of dust" are you in the middle of, wishing, maybe, that it would settle down or blow away or just come to its end? There is no other life than that very dust cloud. By this -- this thirty miles of dust that envelopes us, whatever the dust of your particular life may be -- we worship. By this we are freed. Nothing else can free us, for there is nothing else. "There is no other life."

We cannot escape the fact, though we retreat from facing it in various ways. And the very retreats away from it turn into pathways back to it. Just this. THIS! In all the grandeur of its plainness and all the specialness of its ordinariness, there is no other life, nothing but this, no one but us, no other sacredness, no other religion than one or another set of worn practices of directing our attention, over and over, to no other life than this.

We forget, get distracted, get lost in dreams and plans for some other life. Over and over, then, repeat the exercises of remembering. This! By THIS we worship and are freed.

When we approach the holy beyond all speech, our words drop away in chunks, until only one word remains: "This."

Then that word, too, drops away.

And in the silence beyond, or beneath, or over, all our words, we touch the unmediated and the real -- and perceive therein a quiet rhythm, a pulse: the Beat.

* * *
This is part 4 of 4 of "Beatnik Celebration"
Previous: Part 3: "Beat Paul and the Corinthians"
Beginning: Part 1: "No Other Life"

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