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A Ritual to Read to Each Other

People quite often have views of the world and people that are fixed. We become observers and outsiders separate from the life we live in a sense.

William Stafford‘s poem offers another approach. We read our lives as stories to each other and share in the living. This is important in leading, which we are all able to do. In a sense, reading life is leading, learning, and teaching in the world we co-inhabit.

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

I Want to Write Something So Simply

Mary Oliver has a magical way of writing. There is a simplicity in her writing that is moving and stirring. It always gently reminds us that we are not alone even when we are alone. We are part of a larger complex called humanity which has many common shared loves and pains. When we pause, even for a moment, we get a sense of this largesse.

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your heart
had been saying.

Snow

I chose this poem by Louis MacNeice for various reasons which is one of the poem’s underlying themes. The poem is about the fragmented ways we see the world. Humans are limited in that sense, but being mindful, present, and attending to our immediate world begins to offset this and present a more complete picture.

There is always a (w)hole in the hole, a sense of mystery, but it seems less challenging and we see the extraordinary we might otherwise miss. We are in the world not separated from it by windows and walls we construct.

Spokane received snow yesterday and it is easy to wish spring were here or summer. But, the snow added a backdrop and left provided a crisp world that has lasted into today.

This morning, I watched a squirrel tentatively climb snowy tree limbs. It moved slowly, but eventually reached its food. It was a blessing to be in the world and not outside.

The room was suddenly rich, and the great bay window was

Spawning snow and pink roses against it

Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:

World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,

Incorrigibly plural, I peel and portion

A tangerine and spit the pips and feel

The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world

Is more spiteful and gay than an one supposes–

On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands–

There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Chuang Tzu And The Butterfly

Li Po wrote poems that asked questions. A common theme was drinking alcohol, but, when I read his poetry, I wonder if it was alcohol or his intoxication with the world he lived in? What is real and not real sometimes blurs boundaries and we ask questions about what is real and not real. Who is the leader and who is not appears in Li Po’s poetry.

Herman Hesse blurred the lines between Leo as a leader and Leo as a servant in Journey to the East. Who serves who? What does it mean to lead and serve? There is a Taoist quality in those questions.

Chuang Tzu in dream became a butterfly,
And the butterfly became Chuang Tzu at waking.
Which was the real—the butterfly or the man ?
Who can tell the end of the endless changes of things?
The water that flows into the depth of the distant sea
Returns anon to the shallows of a transparent stream.
The man, raising melons outside the green gate of the city,
Was once the Prince of the East Hill.
So must rank and riches vanish.
You know it, still you toil and toil,—what for?

Be with those Who Help your Being

Rumi, the Sufi poet, wrote this poem several centuries ago, but it resonates today strongly. In the fast-paced world, it seems easier to calculate and do, rather than mediate, pray, and be. The latter takes time, patience, and caring. Once the calculation is done, quite often the business is done. When we enter into the space where we listen deeply to our self and others, there is no business to do. It is just being in relationship, first with the person who is me and with the other who has listened with care.

Be with those who help your being.
Don’t sit with indifferent people, whose breath
comes cold out of their mouths.
Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.

A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces.
If you don’t try to fly,
and so break yourself apart,
you will be broken open by death,
when it’s too late for all you could become.

Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots
and makes them green.
Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?

Praying

Mary Oliver writes in uncomplicated ways. It is not simple, but there are elements of simplicity linked to complexity. Her poem Praying is an example of this simplexity. Praying is an entreaty or asks for something and suggests creating space for responses. There is a simplicity in the way prayer unfolds. It happens anywhere, anytime, and with few words. The complex part is being quiet and discerning the answers. This requires quiet spaces that we have to craft out of the busyness of modern lives and days.

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Bellhouse Bay

Yesterday, Stephen posted this wonderful poem on his blog Grow Mercy. Normally, I re-blog, but Stephen uses another platform and I have not figured out how to re-blog across platforms or, for that matter, if there is a way. The poem and post were profound and I wanted to share.

Dorothy Livesay wrote this as a reminder we inherit Earth from our children and grandchildren to paraphrase Chief Seattle. There is a great interconnection that extends beyond what is present to the generations to come. We are surrounded by sentient and inanimate parts of the world that connect us to each other and to the world we live in. We should soak it in and leave more than the pictures behind. We should leave what is real and tangible so our children and grandchildren might touch its beauty and be touched by its beauty, as well. We share this Creation today with what is revealed to us and what will be revealed to others yet to come.

Last night a full silver
moon
shone in the waters of the bay
so serene
one could believe in
an ongoing universe

And today it’s summer
noon heat soaking into
arbutus trees blackberry bushes
Today in the cities
rallies and peace demonstrations exhort

SAVE OUR WORLD SAVE OUR CHILDREN

But save also I say
the towhees under the blackberry bushes
eagles playing a mad caper
in the sky above Bellhouse Bay

This is not paradise
dear adam dear eve
but it is a rung on the ladder
upwards
towards a possible
breathtaking landscape.

A Great Need

The great Sufi poet Hafiz wrote this several centuries ago, but I think it applies today as much as ever. We find each other when we find community and common purpose which is part of human being. We find strength in difficult times and that is found in the richness of holding hands and not letting go.

Out

Of a great need

We are all holding hands

And climbing.

Not loving is a letting go.

Listen,

The terrain around here

Is

Far too

Dangerous

For

That.

A Noiseless, Patient Spider

When I looked for a poem to post, I found this Walt Whitman verse. It reminded me of the writing of Mary Oliver, Parker Palmer, Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh, and others who write about the quietness needed for the soul to emerge. It is like to a wild animal, perhaps a spider, which is timid and reluctant to emerge as we crash around. As we sit quietly and listen, it emerges for us to see and listen more closely.

A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.

Learning is the Thing for You

I told students, when I learned something new, I was going home to tell my wife. I unsure they believed me, but, often, I would go home and tell Kathy what I had learned or a particular frustration from the day. Often, the latter led to learning.

T. H. White, in this excerpt from The Once and Future King, suggests learning is a universal solvent for what ails us at any given moment. It distracts us from worrisome, sad, and fearful things focuses on something right here in the present moment. It occupies our minds, fills our bodies, and feeds the soul of our being.

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn… “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss you only love, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then–to learn. Learn why the world ways and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured, never fear or distrust, and never dream regretting. Learning is the thing for you.”

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