Notes to Poem:
Every Step You Make

Peter Y. Chou

Preface: On February 3, 2010, at London Sotheby's auction, Giacometti's L'Homme Qui March I (1961) sold for $104.3 million (£65), setting a new record for an artwork. It inspired the poem "Giacometti's Walking Man". The Platonic Lambda Λ described in Timaeus 35b as "soul of the universe" seemed quite abstract. When I noticed the man's legs walking by Giacometti's Walking Man at Sotheby's Auction, it suddenly struck me that the soul's shape (upside "V" or Greek letter Λ) is right before our eyes manifesting itself whenever we are walking or alive! That the soul's form (Λ) supports our torso (body) when we walk is like the invisible root that's the foundation of trees. I pondered on other invisible forces that support our visible world. Thus, the birth of this poem ending with Sting's hit 1983 song "Every Step You Take".

You can't see the wind but know its power after Katrina.

Hurricane winds
The wind is invisible although you can feel the force of strong winds toppling people, trees, and buildings. Hurricane Katrina that hit the Gulf Coast (August 23-30, 2005) was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history. With winds up to 175 mph, it destroyed the levee system in New Orleans, Louisiana. 80% of the city became flooded. At least 1836 people lost their lives, with damages of $81.2 billion.
Damage from Katrina

You can't see the roots but its foundation makes the tree grow.
The invisible supports the visible as the unseen nourishes the seen. We see a beautiful tree or flower, but it is the invisible roots beneath the ground that supports them. Likewise, it is the invisible sap that nourishes the branches, leaves, and fruits that are visible on the tree. In Antoine Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince (1943), our Prince befriends a Fox who gives him a precious parting gift (Chapter 21)— "Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." "What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

You can't see the air but it's oxygen that sustains your life.
We see humans and animals in motion, but it is the invisible oxygen and air we breathe that gives us life. Oxygen has atomic number 8 (8 protons, 8 neutrons, 8 electrons). Oxygen is the most abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust. Diatomic oxygen gas, O2, constitutes 21% of the volume of air. Animals breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Plants take in carbon dioxide and give oxygen during photosynthesis in the daytime. This symbiotic relationship between animals and plants exchanging oxygen goes on invisibly, yet it is the foundation that sustains life on our planet. All major classes of structural molecules in living organisms, such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, contain oxygen, as do the major inorganic compounds that comprise animal shells, teeth, and bone. (Image: Oxygen Cycle by Amy Todd, FOSSWeb, Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley.)

You can't see gravity but it's the force making planets orbit the sun.
Newton's law of universal gravitation states that every massive particle in the universe attracts every other massive particle with a force which is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Gravity is one of the four fundamental interactions of nature, along with strong interaction (holding protons and neutrons together in a nucleus), electromagnetic force, and weak interaction (beta decay & radioactivity). By means of gravity, objects with mass attract one another. It causes things to fall to the ground when dropped. Gravity keeps the Earth and other planets to orbit the Sun, and the Moon to orbit the Earth. The Moon's gravitational pull on the ocean creates high and low tides. (Image: Solar System by Harman Smith & Laura Generosa, drawn not to scale for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.)

You can't see love but feel its warmth embracing all over you.

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
The Kiss (1908)
Austrian Gallery,
Vienna, Austria

Gustav Klimt
Mother & Child (1905)
Modern Art Gallery
Rome, Italy
The love of mother for her child and the love between couples may be seen in certain gestures of tenderness, kindness, and caring. People fall in love all the time, and we hear the phrase "Love makes the world go 'round." However, in Elvis Presley's song "Fools Rush In", there is wisdom in the words "Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread / And so I come to you my love / My heart above my head... / Fools rush in, where wise men never go / But wise men never fall in love / So how are they to know". The Greeks define two kinds of love— Eros (sexual love) and Agape (divine love). In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis defines charity (agape) as the love that brings forth caring regardless of circumstance. In Buddhism, karuna (compassion) is the trait of the Bodhisattva whose enlightened wisdom is not complete unless he shows compassion to all sentient beings. An anonymous donor who gives millions for an art museum shows more love than one who wants the museum named after him for his gift. Parents who shower gifts on their children may not be as loving as those who discipline them so they'll grow up with good work ethics. Madame Nadezhda von Meck showed her love for Tchaikovsky by supporting him financially for 13 years, so he could devote himself full-time to composing music, but she stipulated that they were never to meet. Most patrons would want to meet their beneficiary. Dante's Commedia (1321) is the greatest love poem written. Yet, when Dante was fearful of the three beasts at the entrance of Inferno, he was assured by his guide Virgil (Inferno 2.70-126) that three women in heaven (Lucia, Virgin Mary, and Beatrice) have assured his safety in his perilous journey. It is this invisible love of faith in his beloved Beatrice that propelled Dante onward to paradise. Dante concludes his Paradiso 33.145 with "By Love, which moves the sun and other stars."

You can't see the soul but know its presence by its form and function
The soul is invisible and many have tried to grasp its nature. In "Some Questions You Might Ask" (1990), Mary Oliver asks whether the soul is solid like iron or tender like the wings of a moth. "Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?" Her poem inspired me to write "Speculations on the Soul" (Notes). Robert Bly's discussion on soul weight in his Stanford Poetry Workshop (May 28, 2008) inspired my poem "Soul Weight" (Notes). The Platonic Lambda described in Timaeus 35b as "soul of the universe" seemed quite abstract. When I noticed the man's legs walking by Giacometti's Walking Man at Sotheby's Auction, it suddenly struck me that the soul's shape (upside "V" or Greek letter Λ) is right before our eyes manifesting itself whenever we are walking or alive! That the soul's form (Λ) supports our torso (body) when we walk is like the invisible root that's the foundation of trees. [Image: Man walking by London Sotheby's that auctioned Giacometti's Walking Man I for $104.3 million. Photo by Carl de Souza (AFP, Getty Images)]

for every breath you take, every step you make— It is watching you.
I've borrowed these lines from Sting's 1983 hit song "Every Step You Take". The single was one of the biggest of 1983, topping the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for eight weeks. Sting won Song of the Year and The Police won Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the Grammy Awards of 1984 for "Every Breath You Take". The song ranked #84 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and #25 on Billboard's Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs. Lyrics: "Every breath you take / Every move you make / Every bond you break / Every step you take, I'll be watching you." The track was written during the collapse of Sting's marriage to Frances Tomelty; the lyrics are the words of a sinister, controlling character, who is watching "every breath you take; every move you make". Sting later said he was disconcerted by how many people think the song is more positive than it is. He insists it's about unrequited love, written at the time he and his then wife divorced. It's about the obsession with the lost lover, the jealousy and surveillance that followed. Before reading about Sting's revelation on his song composition, I interpreted the lines of Sting's song as referring to the soul's scanning our life in near death experience (NDE) cases. In such a life review, a person rapidly sees much or the totality of their life history in chronological sequence and in extreme detail. It is often referred to by people having experienced this phenomenon as having their life "flash before their eyes". What's amazing is during the life review, you also experience the feelings of those you've wronged as part of your life lesson. This has been reported in Tibetan Book of the Dead (circa 8th century AD), where Yama, the Lord of Death shows a mirror of all the events of your life. The judge is not some God, but none other than yourself as to the rewards and punishments in your afterlife, and the karmic retributions leading to your next rebirth. Since God breathed into man and made us a living soul (Genesis 2.7), and our steps are in the shape of the Platonic Lambda (Λ), the World Soul, we see that our Soul is the Witness Self watching us all the time. Perhaps the Great Seal of the United States on the back of the $1 banknote is a good symbol of our Soul's Eye in the top triangle watching the pyramid we have build (our life's work). Such a DVD ("Death View Disk") is played back in the Life Review (Yama's Mirror) when we die. (Images: 7" vinyl record album single of "Every Breath You Take" by Police, 1983; Great Seal of the United States on back of $1 banknote.)

                                                            — Peter Y. Chou
                                                                Mountain View, 4-8-2010

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