so much magnificence

August 27th, 2015


It was the day before Austria found 50 bodies in a truck on the side of the road. The day after the young Roanoke reporters were murdered on TV so the shooter could post it on Facebook and Twitter. And three days after my daughter woke up for her first day of a new school year.

“I dreamed Donald Trump bombed our school because we have gay students.”

Do you know anything about Donald Trump? I asked her.

I just know that he is stupid.

This is our world. The virulent, ignorant, unimaginable evil of it, screaming past us every day.


A few years ago, at the end of a summer yoga class, lying vanquished in the death pose, I heard a song come through the speaker. A single voice sung a four-line lyric (well, three) to an acoustic guitar, and then swelled into a two-part harmony.

There is so much magnificence
Near the ocean
Waves are coming in
Waves are coming in

It was so plain! Repeating and repeating without ever going anywhere. But I was mesmerized. Eight minutes of a song with no beginning, middle, or end, and I didn’t want it to be over, didn’t want to silence the strange and awesome power of the simplest tune I’d ever heard.

It was sung by a guy named Steve Gold. I bought the song and never got tired of it. Sometime it’s the perfect time for it.

Maybe this is what we mean by magnificence. The pristine beauty of things bigger than us and simpler than us and yet so near to us, coming in, coming in, coming in, to the sand we’re standing on.

I can’t do anything about anything, but I can share the magnificence. Let this be enough for now.


  1. Thank you for this! One can use any help one can get in damping down the roar of bloody reality.

    Comment by buddhasteps — August 27, 2015 @ 7:37 pm

  2. Yes so true. The bigness of an ocean, so big it’s abstractt in a way, like life. Caring is like the waves every day breakfast, lunch, dinner off to bed.
    I spoke with the fruitguy at the market, “berry season is almost over” he said “but that’s the beauty of it that there is different fruit in different seasons”
    “yes” I answered “but have you realised that if you live to be 70, then another one of your 70 berryseasons is now over?”
    But like the bigness of the ocean it’s too abstract to really see that.

    Comment by Simone — August 28, 2015 @ 12:37 am

  3. Thank you for this.

    Comment by florencia — August 28, 2015 @ 3:24 am

  4. I love this. Thank you.

    Comment by Kathleen — August 28, 2015 @ 6:42 am

  5. I listened to Steve’s magnificence and then I stopped a cat and dog fight in my living room. This is something I can do.
    Thank you for you practice and reminding us of ours.

    Comment by Mary — August 28, 2015 @ 7:22 am

  6. Dear Karen, what are your plans for spring? I might be on the Eastcoast next spring (saying something like that always makes me want to add “Inshallah”) and if you are in the neighbourhood I would love to come and sit with you.

    Comment by Simone — September 3, 2015 @ 8:35 am

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