Current Issue

Presence: Parabola Volume 45, No. 2, Summer 2020

The world is battling the coronavirus as I write, and we are isolating from one another. This is an extraordinary time, calling for extraordinary measures.

In the opening essay of this Summer edition of Parabola, American Zen pioneer Alan Watts points to a profound remedy to this suffering. He asks what we can do when there is no escape. His answer is, “watch what happens”—both internally and externally, in ourselves and with others. Seeing is a medicine prescribed in every tradition to cope with spiritual affliction. And the only way we can see clearly is through the cultivation of presence.

Within these pages, we hear from Persian Sufis, a Hasidic rabbi, African Bushmen, a Hindu sage, an orangutan, two poets, a diplomat, and more, all with the same basic message: It is only by being present to the moment, here and now, that we can fully embrace this precious life and one another. What these and other contributors offer is not just theory; there is much practical advice in this issue on how to engage with the present moment, that is, with reality.

The miracle is that the practice of presence not only enlivens ourselves, but allows us to share that new life with others and also to receive the presence of the Divine. It is the foundation for truth, and it is the genesis of hope. With practice, presence can, in the words of John G. Bennett, allow us “to serve the future, and to serve with love, with hope, with confidence that it is possible for mankind to be born again.”

May this issue help us all in that sacred endeavor.

Parabola mourns the recent passing of James George, who in his 101 years proved a great friend not only to this magazine but to humanity and the earth. An instance of Jim’s wisdom can be found beginning on page 76 of this issue.

—Jeff Zaleski

Cover Description: Christ Appearing to the Apostles (detail). Rembrandt van Rijn, 1656. Etching and drypoint. Gift of Felix M. Warburg and his family, 1941. Metropolitan Museum of Art



What Happens? Alan Watts
A lesson in awareness

Inner Grace: Charisma and Presence David Ulrich
JFK, Ram Dass, and the mystery of Being

A Wisdom Voice from Deep Down: The story of Ronald King Robert Hirschfield
He spiraled toward the abyss—and then Krishnamurti called

To Become a Vessel Jeanne de Salzmann
Opening to the Higher

Eternal Presence David Guy
A boy grows up, into the present moment

Who Are You? Jennifer Skiff / Willie Smits
An extraordinary encounter with a young orangutan

What Cannot Be Found By Seeking Mary Lane Potter
Blessed by grace

Grandmother Moon, Come Back Nancee Neel
A Maya family greets a lunar eclipse

Freedom from Addiction: The presence of a moment Anonymous
The remarkable story of A.A. co-founder Bill Wilson

The Practice of Presence Patty de Llosa
Sage advice on being here, now

I Am Held Betsy Cornwell
A young mother remembers God

God’s Divine Egg Jul’hoansi Bushman Elders, edited by Bradford Keeney and Hillary Keeney
How the Bushmen experience divine presence

Called to Awaken James George
The work for presence

Into the Heart of Persian Sufi Poetry Marian Brehmer
The Iranian soul revealed

The Presence of Beauty Tobin Hart
Waking up to a world renewed

He Is Speaking All the Time Jean Sulzberger
A conversation with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


The Golden Swan Anonymous / Buddhist
Retold with commentary by Margo McLoughlin


Amiens Lee van Laer

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Robert Frost


Gifts in the Promised Land Trebbe Johnson
A pilgrimage of spirit, song, and friendship