Impulse toward spirit

Oh do not ask me who I am, for I would forget.
What I dare not remember,
Running from my memory with tired legs,
With His mercy like an unclaimed mongrel,
Following, still following.
  (from The Mongrel – Ronald Duncan)

Cornwall coast at dusk(web)

Dusk on the Cornwall coast, close to Ronald Duncan’s hut

The impulse toward spirit surrounds us, its mystery is open to us daily. But sometimes it takes something more to prime our capacity for mindfulness—a dangerous capacity that needs constant tending.

Sixty years ago, when Ronald Duncan sat composing The Mongrel, in his stone hut, high on the Cornwall cliffs, he wasn’t thinking of hikers coming in from the trail reading his words and leaving changed, or at least momentarily arrested and marked for later. He was inscribing his own transformative arch, a kind of seeing, an experience coming to him from beyond his own fulcrum.

The slippery illusion that there’s no slow magic left—which is too easy to do in our methamphetamine culture—burned out, as we are, by just keeping up to the headlines. Burned out by food that comes from too far away, by fast medicine, speedy solutions, all forms of exhaust, and lack of things green and growing. Burned out by believing that everything has already been explained, and anything unexplained will be explained tomorrow because of the parameters established yesterday—which leaves us so starved for mystery that crop circles seem worthy of our singular devotion.

There is an inexorable Spirit moving below the crust, mercifully breaking up our categories and controls, working with us when we choose love, and working around us, leaving us to our isolations, when we choose envy and indifference. But never leaving us alone for long.


  1. Yes. Here’s a longer excerpt from the much longer poem:

    Oh, do not ask me who I am, for I would forget
    What I dare not remember, running from my memory with tired legs,
    With His mercy like an unclaimed mongrel following, still following

    Round and round the lives I’ve lived in,
    and out the deaths I have not died
    And the more I kick Him the closer to my heel He lies
    And the more terrible the tenderness of His eyes

    Which I recall but will not recognise
    And must deny, for were I to admit Him,
    He would devour my heart and leave me with no part of it.

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