Taking Rubbings in the Realms of Gold


Pouring God into God a la J. D. Salinger


Between Two Infinities

All day long

the Self

takes imprints

from the cosmos




deepest roots.

The Warm Cushion of Your Brain

If the poem below doesn’t make sense right off the bat, you could use it like a saloon puzzle to practice on, like the one in my 11/7/12  post.  The payoff is that tingly sensation that comes over you as you begin to”get” it and the burst of pleasure when you do.   It took me a little while to catch on, but when I did, all sorts of realizations came popping out.  I’m still discovering connections that make me smile, and with a little attention, are astonishing.  I can guarantee you one thing: This poem is as wonderful as you are willing to let it be.

First, look at the poem and see if it makes sense to you.


One had a lovely face,

And two or three had charm,
But charm and face were in vain
Because the mountain grass
Cannot but keep the form
Where the mountain hare has lain.

– William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)

If the poem makes “sense”, you’re on your way to the Realms of Gold.

If it doesn’t make sense, mess around a while using the surface-features approach [5/29/12], noticing anything that’s there on the surface. Slow-walk it, too. [1/15/13]; let the images wash over your senses.

Or Try Some Connections. 

Where is all the stuff from outside that got past your skin stored up? After all, you’ve accumulated an infinite pile of it, haven’t you?  So where, actually,  do you store her lovely face?  What’s left of their charm when they  have  gone away?  Did you save it up inside yourself somehow?

Generally by the time you are real most of your hair has been rubbed off and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints.  But these things don’t matter at all because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.

                                                                –Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Or Think About Gravestone Rubbings.

And then have another look at the poem.   If you’d like to take home the actual lettering on some early ancestor’s gravestone, for example, you can make a rubbing.  I did that one summer  in Unity Cemetery just out from Latrobe, Pennsylvania,  where some of my forebears – Hannas, Steeles, Niccolls  –  are buried,  going way back to the late 1770s. (Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is entombed there, too.)

Rubbing 1

What you do is get a big piece of newsprint, lay it over the gravestone, and rub over it with a charcoal pencil or an oil pastel or chalk – whatever’s handy – like what I did with a silver dollar pictured here.  (That silver dollar  “coincidentally” is dated the year Mary Steiner– my wife Ruth’s mother, who married Joseph Luttner – was born.  Just think, a bit of the physical world in 1886 found its way into my hands and onto this posting and now on to you.)

What your Self is up to, as the day goes on, is taking impressions from of whatever it touches,

and then adding all those to everything that it’s ever encountered,

Like Making Rubbings Off Grave Markers.

There was a child went forth every day,

And the first object he looked upon, that object he became,

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,

Or many years and stretching cycles of years.

The early morning lilacs became part of this child,

And the grass and white and red morning glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird.

– Walt Whitman

You’re busy all day making rubbings off your encounter with wind and rubies.

The little kid sitting on a wall

in Carmel

eating ice cream

leaves an impression

on the warm cushion

of your brain.

It’s that that stays. 

The Zero Point Field

That may sound poetic, but it’s also a description of how particle physics works. I’m talking about what’s down inside your atoms.  Memory (our word for it) finds its way down that far into the warp and woof of things.  Go far enough and our artificial dictionary distinctions between physical and spiritual dissolve.

Your constant capturing of rubbings off the world you move around in – of which you are a part and which is a part of you  – is more like making holograms, those clever projections that physicists have figured out how to create.  Most of us have seen those 3-D  laser projections at science fairs or in the mall that you can walk around and see from all angles and even put your hand into.

Physically, that’s pretty much what your body (a big transceiver like the  satellite dish on your roof ) does.  By way of the sensors all over your body, inside and out, your Self is absorbing the pretty face and the charm in a permanent vessel that can never forget.  If you cut off a bit of the hologram film and run the laser bean through it, it works just as well.  Every little bit is the whole.  What a memory device! That device is you.

Hold to the now, the here, through which a ll future plunges into the past.
– James Joyce, Ulysses

And, what a bonus!, all that went on  before you started walking around the planet is in your DNA, your genetic memory — where all your forebears are and everything thing else too.  Or as Wordsworth put it, “Trailing clouds of glory do we come, from God which is our home.”

Yeats understood this completely. If you “get” his poem “Memory”, you will get it on your senses. You will take a rubbing.  Then you understand particle physics — yes, you do! — and the Zero Point Field – a sea of microscopic vibrations in the space between things

where the little girl is eating her ice cream.


One had a lovely face,

And two or three had charm,
But charm and face were in vain
Because the mountain grass
Cannot but keep the form
Where the mountain hare has lain.

So, if you really want to remember something for some artificial thing like a school quiz, take a rubbing. Your self will remember.

What’s it all about? 

Well, you have your work cut out for you:

Task: to be where I am.

Even when I’m in this solemn and absurd

role: I am still the place

where creation works on itself.

— “Guard Duty – Tomas Tranströmer


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