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Friday, April 18, 2014

At the center

Jaime R. Vergara

The poetry sings to the tune of Try to Remember, that famous Tom Jones song in the mid-’60s that even got the mellow voices of Nana Mouskouri, Andy Williams, Harry Belafonte, Ed Ames, Roger Williams, the Brothers Four, the Kingston Trio, and the lively beat of Gladys Knight and the Pips on vinyl. Jerry Orbach originally sang it on Broadway’s Fantastiks

When you encounter
the light at the center,
the final dawn
of worlds converging.
When life’s illumined
by light at the center,
assured by wisdom’s
swift emerging.
When knowing’s ended
in light at the center,
and life’s sacred meaning
is in you surging.
Then at the center,
in blinding encounter
you be it.


What does it mean to “be it” at the center?

As it is in our Oral English in China, “encounter” is our primary pedagogical mode. Now encounter is not just saying “hello” to friends we meet, or wave at folks in encounters on the street. Encounter has more of the quality of a forceful bump that may occasion a radical shift in consciousness, a reformulating of images, which, in science, is called a paradigm shift.

The lyrics of our song were penned by kindred spirits in the ’70s. As we unwind into our exit out of this page, we realize that sometimes, prose will have to give way to poetry so readers can hear us sing.

There are five directions in the Chinese language: east, west, north, south, and center. Wu fang, the center, qualitatively different from being in the middle, Zhong in Zhongguo (country) and Zhongguoren (people), is more akin to the stillness at the center of being that is our focus this week. It is from this position that one dares take the transcendent lucidity from the heights of Olympus, to the immanent intensity of the depth and profound core of being on this earth. It is the courage to care at the center of the mystery of life itself.

As you can tell, we wax poetic on the subject. Now, back to our song.

When you encounter
the peace at the center
where earthly hopes
are all transcended.
When life’s unburdened
with peace at the center
where worldly cares
are all suspended.
When you’re delivered
to peace at the center
for mortal foes
your hatred’s ended.
Then at the center,
where no problems enter
you be it.


There’s a lagoon shore bench not too far from the Oleai Center where the FHB is located, and a ledge where planters are placed at Garapan Square, where I spent late afternoons or early evenings humming my song. At the center is in the midst of ordinary existence.

When you encounter
the joy at the center,
your tingling deeps
in animation.
When you’re possessed
by the joy at the center,
all things received
with affirmation.
When you are speechless
in joy at the center,
all moments brim
with wild vibration,
Then at the center,
in wonder filled rapture
you be it.



At the center, we encounter awe, we become awe-filled, and the experience is awe-some.

When you encounter
the life at the center,
condemned to be
a dead man waking,
When you are boundless
with life at the center,
compelled to live
on water waltzing,
When you are risen
to life at the center,
a man who is ageless
with history walking,
Then at the center,
while dancing forever
you be it.


No need to wonder. We are not dying; we are being our encounter, and we are dancing!

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