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Travelling Together

I finished reading a book by Jacques Rancière and am reading another by Emmanuel Levinas. Their philosophic writings suggest a preexisting ethical condition exists in when encountering another person. There is an empathic quality calling humans to walk in the other’s shoes as we encounter each other.

In my dissertation, I argue a teacher’s subjectivity forms in placing themselves in relationship with others, students and topics. Rancière argued humans take part in life, and are not merely external observers at a spectacle. Teaching is relational and is one where the relating with students and topics is the matter that matters.

W.S. Merwin’s poem proposes even when separated humans can wait on the other person’s side of things. In mindfulness and attentiveness, humans place themselves in the shoes of the other. Today, as I read, talked to my advisor, and chatted with Kathy a question came to mind. What has happened in the world today that we struggle with the ethical and empathic living that might heal the world we live in?

If we are separated I will
try to wait for you
on your side of things

your side of the wall and the water
and of the light moving at its own speed
even on leaves that we have seen
I will wait on one side

while a side is there

Limen

Some days, I sit and watch, listen, and sense the wonders of the world around me. Within these wonders, things and people invite me to remember things embedded within nature and in my life. The extraordinary emerges from the ordinary. Often, I overlook what and who is important in my life, who give and gave me unconditional support.

Natasha Trethewey shared this wonderful poem about the unobserved industry that goes on around me. It is not just busy industry. I focus on a particular calling in life. I find my voice in the work. For humans, there is a multiplicity in the work and the way it shapes life. Similar to the woodpecker, it seems I look for the gifts I overlook. There is more embedded in life than just hanging laundry and other obvious tasks I undertake. When I attend and am present, the barely perceptible–the liminal– is visible, heard, and fully sensed.

All day I’ve listened to the industry

of a single woodpecker, worrying the catalpa tree

just outside my window. Hard at his task,

his body is a hinge, a door knocker

to the cluttered house of memory in which

I can almost see my mother’s face.

She is here, beyond the tree,

its slender pods and heart-shaped leaves,

hanging wet sheets on the line–each one

a thin white screen between between us. So insistent

is this woodpecker, I’m sure he must be

looking for something else–not simply

the beetles and grubs inside, but some other gift

the tree might hold. All day he’s been at work,

tireless, making the green hearts flutter.

Dharma

The way the world and the universe are in order is something we take for granted in daily life. We overlook the ordinary, but there is importance layered in the ordinary. It is here we find the extraordinary. We come and go and, when we pay attention, so much is revealed about the world and the way we help create it.

Billy Collins shared a common, everyday way to examine the patterns of life, the Dharma of the world we live with all the time by examining a dog and the way she lives life without worrying about life.

The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her dog house
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance—
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Ghandi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

Being a Bee

I commented on How to Land about Eco Ethics. The underlying principle is deep ecology which shifts us from an environmental anthropocentric and views all living beings as having inherent worth and not merely instrumental value. Deep ecology understand a complex interdependence between all living beings and allows that to guide decision-making. We are part of the Earth and not holding dominion over it in this sense. We can make similar decisions about harvesting, mining, and building as we do but use numerous perspectives in doing so.

James Hatley wrote, The Uncanny Goodness of Being Edible to Bears. He referred to hunters, outdoors people, and survivors of bear attacks. People, who are deep ecologists, revere Nature and understand the risks of entering wilderness. Their view is Nature and what it holds makes us more human and complete, as we are one with Nature and not separate.

I wrote this poem as one way to better understand the concept myself.

Am I more than the sum of parts?

More than just a body, a mind, a spirit?

If so, what role might the bee play?

The one who manufactured honey?

The one I so enjoyed with bread today.

Is he or she part of me?

Or, is there even more to it than that?

What about the clover?

The water and other things used in delectable manufacture?

Can I now take that Bee’s perspective?

Ever so fleetingly,

Does it make a difference?

Might it be a lesson in being more human?

Letting the Bee be part of me?

The Uses of Not

I wrote about paradox in Warrior’s Quest and part of the motivating force was this poem. It takes real courage to accept paradox and hold the tension. The hole in the whole completes the whole.

Thirty spokes

meet in the hub.

Where the wheel isn’t

is where it’s useful.

Hollowed out,

clay makes the pot.

Where the pot’s not

is where it’s useful.

Cut doors and windows

to make a room.

Where the room isn’t

there’s room for you.

So the profit in what is

is in the use of what isn’t.

Lao Tzu

From Teaching a Stone to Talk

Annie Dillard is a wonderful writer whose prose has a great poetic quality. Her words ask me to find quiet and solitude provided on the Sabbath. In that quiet, I go deeper and seek peace among the turmoil.

“In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if we ride these monsters deeper down, if you drop them further over the world’s rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the test, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here. It is given. It is not learned.”

Take care and see you Monday.

It Is I Who Must Begin – Vaclav Havel

I made a promise coming into the school year. I would keep my head, do only what I can, and not flounder. I won’t let things get me down. I find solace in writing, nature, with Kathy, and in reading poetry. Some days I just open a book and find a poem which speaks to me in such a clear voice I think the poet stands or sits across from me sharing their words. That is what happened with this poem by Vaclav Havel.

It is I who must begin,

Once I begin, once I try—

here and now,

right where I am,

not excusing myself

by saying that things

would be easier elsewhere,

without grand speeches and

ostentatious gestures,

but all the more persistently

—to live in harmony

with the “voice of Being,” as I

understand it within myself

—as soon as I begin that,

I suddenly discover,

to my surprise, that

I am neither the only one,

nor the first,

nor the most important one

to have set out upon the road.

Whether all is really lost

or not depends entirely on

whether or not I am lost.

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