This episode of Living Myth honors the spirit and soul and great imagination of the poet Robert Bly, who passed on to the otherworld on November 21st of this year. Michael Meade begins this honoring with a quote from the Spanish philosopher and poet Miguel de Unamuno: “Our greatest endeavor in this life must be to make ourselves irreplaceable, so that no one else can fill the gap that will be left when we die. Each of us is unique and irreplaceable; our soul that is, not simply our life.”
“I first read those lines by Unamuno shortly after meeting Robert Bly and it was immediately evident to me that he was one of those living so fully, so uniquely, that he was on the path of being irreplaceable. Robert had a sense of the immediacy of the soul, that rare sense that the next moment can break open. And that we must, not simply allow that, but we have to marry it, step into it and become ourselves in that moment of opening and awakening. If we fail to do that, then we have not fully participated in the world. Then, the awakening that is needed, the blossoming that was possible, fails to occur and there is a loss of soul.
I want to celebrate the soul of Robert Bly and acknowledge his capacity to open the old roads of spirit and lead the way to awakening and wonder, as he did with his poems and his translations of the poems of others, and his willingness to be vulnerable and open and allow the soul to speak.
In the Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, Robert wrote that: “… a therapy of the psychic roots of culture involves an opening of the doors of the soul that allow the angels to come back into the world.” He wrote of the cultivated heart as “an extension of the garden of the soul, where deep things are cultivated, and the depths of love and care are grown. The heart is a place of tenderness… that can be imagined as a house with many rooms or as a walled garden with rare flowers and solitude, a place of deep intimacy with another. It represents an extreme effort to move towards achieving a cultivated heart before we die."
Robert spoke often of the necessity of grief and wrote that "personal grief can lead a person to the sorrow of the world. The growth of a person can be imagined as a power that expands downward into the hurt feelings, then further downward into compassion and further downward into the vast rooms of melancholy under the Earth where we are more alive the older we get, more in tune with the Earth and the great roots."
That's close to what Unamuno meant about how a person becomes irreplaceable. And now that he's gone to that other world, I want to imagine him having caught up with Kabir and Rumi, Rilke and Neruda and all the great poets that he translated and companioned with, I want to imagine him in the company of them now and having what Kabir called “the face of satisfied desire.”
Robert lived uniquely and gave more and more of himself; going beyond himself and becoming irreplaceable. And I want to remember him that way, working his way into the realms of the blessed and being there long enough to become able to bless. I know that he blessed me and was able to bless many other people. And in the strange ways of poetry and beauty and passionate affection, those blessings remain alive in the hearts and souls of all who knew Robert Bly.
You can hear Michael Meade live by joining his new online series “Soul’s Hidden Wholeness” that begins on Friday, December 3. Register and learn more at mosaicvoices.org/events.
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