Jacob Rabinowitz

The Pity of It
But this grand elaborateimposing edifice of sentience,like every vessel, is a shape definedby emptiness within. An emptinessnot food, fame, sex, wealth, drugs can satisfy.And even Love, the one true good, which showshow sham’s the glamor of all else — great Loveindeed’s eternal: we ourselves are not.Its holy moments are but moments still,and momentary, ours to touch, not hold. A vague unease forever underlies,all pleasure, the unspoken poignant sensethat there is nothing we can really keep,that death will put the deathlessness of Loveitself unto a test of whose resultno one's as certain as they’d like to be — the open secret, Emptiness, it castsa shadow on awareness, transient,not always noticed, like a crack acrossthe crystal of existence, hardly seenunless you really look for it, but stilla flaw that dooms the jewel — a hidden chill,from which the warmth of an embrace derivesits poignant painful joy. That's why Love sighs — it’s dukkha, suffering. And happinessitself is fragile: sometimes just one wordis quite enough to shatter it. It slipsthe quicker from our grip the more we grasp.The greatest poets witness that ours isexistence tinged with sorrow. Beauty’s doomed. Prince Genji’s “Ah!” and Virgil’s tears, the sadsweet warning of Brangäne wafting downfrom Wagner’s castle with orchestral surge,the ruined gardens and the autumn lightof verses by Verlaine, the farewell looksof Watteau's charming last aristocrats —

Conditional Arising
Our consciousness descends from that weird realm,between existences, the bardo state,outside of time and space, whose map Lovecraftimagined, non-Euclidean, bent planesand stretched out shapes where postulates cannotapply and madness makes the axioms. — there karma lours in nightmare shapes of guilt,remorse takes living forms — if these succeedin terrorizing the unbodied self,it falls despairing into luckless birth. We vortex in the elements towardsour central emptiness, around it formsa fetus fronting for lonely gap,the hollow core, of who we really arewhich later we'll disguise with magic trickswhich are a personality. But first an embryo, we look most like a pinkand living comma: aptly, for it marksthe pause between two incarnations. Soonthe bones, still flexible and tentative,are woven with the wax-pale nascent flesh:translucent, glowing, nearly shapeless shape(exposed today to our intrusive view,by endoscopic camera’s flash.) That merefirst curl soon turns into a small furled world— our circling self-involvement contemplatesits ourobouric own existence. Nextwith outsized head, upon a lengthened stemit’s like a question mark — expressive ofits own amazing state. An outline filledwith shadows, sightless eyes in monstrous headupon a body more suggested thanexpressed, it floats there like the almost-ghostit nearly still is. Monstrous, silent life,improbably increasing in the dark,uncanny, unsunned, mushroom-like, with palehuge head — from this unprepossessing startevolves a master of the senses five,that recognizes things, wants this not that,gets jobs, holds grudges, falls in love, gets drunk—this self on which the world converges now(or seems to.) Conditional Arising: this is howwe come to be causation and the caused,and that lost cause which is identity,a tragedy in twelve repeating acts,begun in ignorance, which always endsin lamentation, pain, grief and despair—forgetful death, rebirth, repeating likean existential stutter, like a talea drunk retells to anyone who’ll hear. And thus we come to be again, achievea being that can never be enough.We are, but craving never really sleeps,it's full of schemes as exiled Stuart kingsin restless penury in foreign lands. Life after futile life, inheritorsof old injustices, our sense of self,right royal in the scope of its demands,enslaves the elements to reconstructa new identity, to coalescea Me, wrap matter round the emptinesswe feel, and weave again a living netto snare fleet being — being of the sortimparted by our karma, what we didand didn't do, the impact of our acts.Our births and rebirth evermore attestthe terrible momentum of what's done.

Jacob Rabinowitz is an independent scholar living in NJ. He has published several books of translations, most recently Dante's Paradiso. He is the author of "Blame It On Blake," and account of his friendship with writers of the Beat Generation.