Saturday, March 8, 2014


I recently came across a poem that fails to escape my mind.

"Drawing Hands" by M.C. Escher.


Escher got it right.
Men step down and yet rise up,
the hand is drawn by the hand it draws,
and a woman is poised
on her very own shoulders.

Without you and me this universe is simple,
run with the regularity of a prison.
Galaxies spin along stipulated arcs,
stars collapse at the specified hour,
crows u-turn south and monkeys rut on schedule.

But we, whom the cosmos shaped for a billion years
to fit this place, we know it failed.
For we can reshape,
reach an arm through the bars
and, Escher-like, pull ourselves out.

And while whales feeding on mackerel
are confined forever in the sea,
we climb the waves,
look down from clouds.

~From Look Down From Clouds (Marvin Levine, 1997)

The human condition enables us to create a vision within our minds and to bring that vision to fruition. As Escher depicts in his artwork, we can draw things into existence; we can create something from nothing. This is a marvelous ability -- we can self-transform. And this is a dreadful capability -- we can self-destruct.

Whether marvelous or dreadful, the paradox of hands being able to draw themselves catapults us humans into a realm that is utterly disconnected from the universe -- from the spinning galaxies, the collapsing stars, and the rutting monkeys. We have become so far removed from the natural world.

There are times when I want to set aside my ability to transcend. I just want to be. Not climbing the waves. Not looking down from the clouds. I want to simply exist. As the cosmos intended.

How does this poem speak to you?


I would love to hear your comments on this post!