by A.R. Ammons
It is not enough to be willing to come out of the dark
and stand in the light,
all hidden things brought into sight, the damp
where fear, arms over its head, trembles into blindness,
invaded by truth-seeking light:
it is not enough to desire radiance, to be struck by
radiance: external light
throws darkness behind its brilliance, the division
nearly half and half:
it is only enough when the inner light
kindles to a source, radiates from its sphere to all
points outwardly: then, though
surrounding things are half and half with
light and darkness, all that is visible from the source
it is not enough to wish to cast light: as much
darkness as light is made that way: it is only
enough to touch the inner light of each surrounding thing
and hope it will itself be stirred to radiance,
eliminating the shadows that all lights give it,
and realizing its own full sphere:
it is only enough to radiate the sufficient light
constant source, the light beyond all possibility of night.
My first reading of this poem took my breath away, as things do when they overwhelm you, amaze you, or humble you. It’s like Ammons took the inexpressible and the intangible and weaved them into these cohesive, comprehensive, magnificent lines I can hold on my tongue.
After bathing in the pure beauty and perfection of it, my mind started to step back in. It began to analyze the poem. This part I agree with, this part not so much… on and on went the mental banter.
The mental dissension came down to the concept of enoughness. One necessary foundation for presence – or perhaps the fruit of presence – is enoughness. Whatever we are is enough, whatever we have is enough, whatever exists is enough. It engenders a state of fullness, of ease.
Into this abundant ease we can relax, settle in, remove some layers of striving, and just BE where we are. Often this state feels so energizing, inspiring and alive that we can’t help but take an enlivened step in the direction of our choice. A step out of fullness, not out of emptiness.
I would say that every phase mentioned in the poem is enough in itself:
the willingness to come out of the dark
the standing in the light
the desiring radiance
the wishing to cast light
These stages in themselves are steps to what I would call the peak experience, the ultimate state of connection, of trust, of fullness.
when the inner light kindles to a source
when our light can touch the inner light of each surrounding thing
when we radiate the sufficient light within
the constant source,
the light beyond all possibility of night.
When we tap into our own fullness, we have more than enough to share with the world. When we experience our own open-heartedness, we are not afraid to love or to lose. When we connect with our own internal, deep-seated truth, being, existence, we can’t help but see that in every living thing around us. We can’t help but connect to their source because we are connected to ours.
In order to get here, we have to be willing to come out of the dark. We have to stand in the light. We have to desire radiance.
We have to keep arriving and reevaluating the next step from Here. I suspect there is no limit to how full and how alive we can become.
In this context, one translation of the word Namaste I often hear in yoga takes on a new depth for me, and I offer it to you, wherever you are: