A series of setbacks and a translation attempt

I show you my great masterpiece
of which I am so proud
and all it is is fantasies
of being cared about.

I have had various serious difficulties. This weekend, I was hoping to go on a creative writing retreat, live in a hotel for two relatively distraction-free days and get much of the remaining work on the fourth Sermon done. It was a gift from my lovely wife. Unfortunately it turned out to be impossible to square with my other duties. Before that, a special meeting of creative designers of meditations and rituals turned out to be impossible for me to attend as well. I will miss out on a lot of input, feedback and motivation I was hoping to get there, and I’m losing the urgency of wanting to have something new to present there. And before that, as I have previously mentioned, a significant part of what I have written for the fourth Sermon turned out to be not good enough.

What strikes me about these three setbacks is that for various reasons, they all directly result from having children. And overall, I have not finished a new Sermon in three years, largely because I have been a dad for nearly that time. That is the best possible reason for poor progress on my art, but still, my progress is poor. To realize this can feel miserable, but I have felt feelings like this before and I know they always pass, just like feelings of elation and confidence always pass. Behind them, I can appreciate the logic and poetic justice of prioritizing my human connections over a Sermon about the importance of human connections. This is one of many occasions where meditation experience helps not take momentary emotions too seriously.

My mindfulness has slowly grown.
Small things that bothered me
now fail to reach upon my throne
of equanimity.

What matters is to keep putting in the work. And I do. Work on the fourth Sermon is at a delicate stage where I’m not comfortable revealing too much, but I have taken on another side project. I am trying to translate Children of the Milky Way into German. There are three reasons for this. First, I want my daughter to sing it with me. Second, I find appreciation of the Sermons requires better English language skills than most people around me have, and I want to have a kind of sample of my work to show them what it is like. Third, translating formal poems well is famously really hard, I haven’t tried it in earnest, and I like the challenge. For example, the first half of the song’s last stanza…

The knowledge we are made of dust
compels us to admit
the universe is in us just
as we are within it.

…in German came out like this:

Weil wir aus Sternenstaub besteh’n
und wenn wir das versteh’n
spür’n wir den Kosmos durch uns weh’n,
so wie wir durch ihn geh’n.

A literal translation back into English would be:

Because we are made from stardust
and if we understand that,
we feel the Cosmos blowing through us
just as we move through it.

That’s close enough to be satisfatory to me. And all four lines use the same rhyme, I think that’s extra neat. But this, and the other first halves of the four stanzas, are the easy part of the lyrics. The tricky part is the last halves, where there are repeated lines combined with semi-repeated ones and the interplay of children (plural) and voice (singular), all while trying to make both poetic and grammatical sense. We’ll see if I can find a good solution. It feels like a delicious adventure to enter with eyes wide open.

My mind is like the open sky,
awareness shining bright,
devoid of thoughts to wonder why,
a mirror full of light.