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Daily Archives: April 11, 2013

Early Morning Meditations from Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton was ean interesting person. I love to read his work and think about what he had to say. Despite the fact he died in 1969, I find his thinking more timely today than it was when he wrote. The concept he discussed about the violence we do to ourselves in life through busyness and being now gets coverage, but it might have seemed out of place in his time. He was visionary and before his times. At the same time, he lived such a simple and traditional life. He lived the fullest paradox of life.

A Way With Words

Thomas Merton

I was up early this morning – too early.  I was awakened by one of my “vocation dreams” where I imagine doing something new and different in my life and then wake myself up analyzing if it is possible.

Today, there was no going back to sleep, so I decided to look for a decent documentary on Netflix.  It took some searching, but I found one called Merton: A Film Biography.

Thomas Merton was many things in his life.  A little French boy of artistic parents, orphaned by age 15.  A bright, yet carousing student at Cambridge, then Columbia.  A Roman Catholic convert, received into the Cistercian order at the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky.  A hard-working Trappist monk devoted to the contemplative life of prayer.  A poet and philosopher who sought to bring healing to a desperately wounded society.  A hermit who found in Buddhist writings and friendships companionship…

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Undivided Attention

We set out tomorrow for a short trip tomorrow through the mountains and, hopefully, no snow. There will be snow. I hope it is not snowing.

A colleague recently introduced me to the poetry of Taylor Mali. He is better known for the poem What Teachers Make. That was a poem I had heard several times before, but could not have attributed it to a poet. Mali has great wit, clarity, and creates powerful imagery through his words. He was a teacher for several years and I think he would have been fantastic in the classroom building relationships with young people. I wrote about Sam Intrator several months ago and I think Taylor Mali is the kind of teacher he was describing in his book, Tuned In and Fired Up.

This poem by Taylor Mali spoke as the day unfolded. I need to be present for my students to learn. I need to give them my undivided attention so they can give their undivided attention to the subject at hand, perhaps that piano hanging eight stories up across the street. What could we learn that day?

A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps—like classical music’s
birthday gift to the criminally insane—
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth‐floor window on 62nd street.

It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers’ crane,
Chopin-­‐shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second‐to­‐last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over—
it’s a piano being pushed out of a window
and lowered down onto a flatbed truck!—and
I’m trying to teach math in the building across the street.

Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long‐necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
Like snow.

See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.

So please.

Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-­‐falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers’ crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.

Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

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