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Enriching the Earth

I spent a few days with my brother on his farm. He is in a space where satellites and towers seem to miss his place. It was nice to chat, reminisce, and laugh. I was not dressed for the farm, but still helped as best as I could. My brother pointed out several times I was setting a new fashion standard with shorts and sandals. I was careful where I walked.

I introduced Wendell Berry’s writing to my brother. Although he is more high-tech, there are qualities about my brother that remind me of Wendell Berry. They are both relatively low tech and understand the need placed on them when they use technology i.e. a car and airplane to do their work and live their life.

Farmers experience the reality of shipping animals. My brother uses Temple Grandin‘s ideas about humane treatment of animals. Good farmers know they put into and take out of the world. In some ways, we have lost sight of the cycle that we are part of in the world. We are spectators and it is easy to criticize. The cycle of life and death is entangled.

When farmers harvest, they return the parts of the plants, the weeds, and the waste into the ecosystem enriching the Earth. Human treatment of the Earth reflects the character of a person. Humaneness extended to Earth, all sentient beings, and inanimate phenomena is an imperative in enriching the Earth.

To enrich the earth I have sowed clover and grass
to grow and die. I have plowed in the seeds
of winter grains and of various legumes,
their growth to be plowed in to enrich the earth.
I have stirred into the ground the offal
and the decay of the growth of past seasons
and so mended the earth and made its yield increase.
All this serves the dark. I am slowly falling
into the fund of things. And yet to serve the earth,
not knowing what I serve, gives a wideness
and a delight to the air, and my days
do not wholly pass. It is the mind’s service,
for when the will fails so do the hands
and one lives at the expense of life.
After death, willing or not, the body serves,
entering the earth. And so what was heaviest
and most mute is at last raised up into song.

 

I love Hermann Hesse

I love Hermann Hesse.

Hermann Hesse’s book The Journey to the East set the stage for Robert Greenleaf writing about servant leadership. The quote in the post is about the character that unfolds, revealed in living life, not as a planned, linear project, but a dynamic journey. We do not know what is about to happen and it is in the joy, sadness, exhilaration, and disappointment our humanity is revealed.

We live in a world which is can be paradoxically forgiving and unforgiving. It is the attitude of letting go which helps us overcome, moment-to-moment, the unforgiving part. It is in these challenges that the character lines are revealed in the continuous sculpting of our faces which appear over time.

Daily Reflection and Peace

Daily Reflection and Peace.

We face an important challenge with mindful practice. The article linked above addresses this challenge with questions. Questions are fundamental to being challenged. When I am challenged, I ask questions. I question what is happening and what is making me feel a particular way.

When I read many articles about mindfulness, I find the articles miss the key underlying aspect of mindfulness, being present in the world in ways that improve one’s life and in that improvement the world is continuously becoming a better place. It is not about a corporate bottom line in the way we understand a corporate bottom line. I guess the bottom line is harder to measure. I cann0t apply a number to it, report it to shareholders, and make a banker satisfied. What I can do is ask, “Did I make the world a better place in some way by becoming a better person?”

Can you imagine if 7 billion plus people worked on making the world a better place through their living? That might be a number that is unmeasurable, but that is OK. It would be so big it would not need to be reported. Its quality would speak for itself.

Love After Love

Derek Walcott wrote this wonderful poem about celebrating life. He suggested we greet ourselves offering hospitality as we realize that we let other things take the place of getting to know the person who was us.

The poem describes a wonderful (wonder filled) companionship in the second stanza. Companionship is sharing meals as we sojourn. Journey is the daily, perhaps moment-to-moment work we do while sojourning. Jacques Derrida drew on an Algerian-French-Jewish background in writing about greeting the stranger, but I don’t know if he meant ourselves.

I considered this today as I prepared a presentation. The world speaks to us and we speak to it, but are we listening as the conversation unfolds? It is in listening to our self that we make sense of the world and it in turn makes sense of us.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Make the Earth Your Companion

Nature teaches and is always present for us to learn. When we pause and are present with the universe, we can learn. J. Patrick Lewis wrote this poem as a reminder of lessons available when we take time and make the Earth our companion.

We do not live separate from the Earth and its inhabitants, sentient and non-sentient. We live in relationship with the Earth. This suggests the companionship is direct and active, dynamic and energetic. Companionship is about breaking bread with another. When we journey as companions, we are in communion calls on us to be stewards and serving the Earth and the relationships we live in. Communion is  fellowship and mutual participation, an exchange of energy which is life-giving and affirming.

Make the Earth your companion.

Walk lightly on it, as other creatures do.

Let the Sky paint her beauty- she is always

           watching over you.

Learn from the Sea how to face harsh forces.

Let the River remind you that everything will pass.

Let the Lake instruct you in stillness.

Let the Mountain teach you grandeur.

Make the Woodland your house of peace.

Make the Rainforest your house of hope.

Meet the Wetland on twilight ground.

Save some small piece of Grassland for a red kite

on a windy day.

Watch the Icecaps glisten with crystal majesty.

Hear the Desert whisper hush to eternity.

Let the Town weave a small basket of togetherness,.

Make the Earth your companion.

Walk lightly on it, as other creatures do.

The Wisdom of Peace

Lao Tzu wrote this poem as part of his work many centuries ago. The hard work of transforming life begins internally and closest to home. Sabbath practice and the mindfulness that comes with it are essential ingredients to living life in a fuller, honest, and moment-to-moment way.

We only bring peace to the world when there is peace in our hearts. From there, we gradually move outwards and the ripple effects are felt gradually first in our home, then our communities, cities, in our nations, and finally in the world. It is not the work of one person and one life time, but the work of many and many life times.

In this rippling, leading is not leading others as much as it is leading my self in the world and touching others with new-found peace.

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

Walking

I finished my course work last night and head home Monday where I will continue the dissertation process. What is ahead is as uncertain as what I faced when I arrived at Gonzaga in June 2008. At the time, I envisioned me in a classroom, teaching and finishing this work during summer months.

I cannot predict what lies ahead and even the most immediate step tests new ground. When I look back, there is no going back. I see memories, frail and wispy, more distant in each ensuing moment.

Antonio Machado reminds me the journey is not planned with absolutism. It emerges anew in each step which is never re-traceable. I used the line “walking you make the road” in my last course paper describing teaching not as planned, mandated work, but as in-between spaces, ecotones, Teachers and student live those plans out in their real lives.

I look forward to going home, but know this place and these people, after 10 months living here, leave  imprints. They offer spaces ‘regular’ life does not always. There is no going back on what I learned, knowing it shapes my path.

Walker, your footsteps

are the road, and nothing more.

Walker, there is no road,

the road is made by walking.

Walking you make the road,

and turning to look behind

you see the path you never

again will step upon.

Walker, there is no road,

only foam trails on the sea.

 

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