John O’Donohue was a Catholic priest who left the priesthood. Throughout his life, he retained and shared a deep spirituality and his poetry often was in the form of blessings.
Although this poem is not titled as a blessing, it still feels like one. I send this to my American friends, colleagues, and acquaintances as they celebrate Thanksgiving. We set aside certain days to pay special thanks, but we should celebrate each day and take time to be thankful for our blessings: friends, gifts we receive, health, and the wonder and mystery of living.
Now is the time to free the heart,
Let all intentions and worries stop,
Free the joy inside the self,
Awaken to the wonder of your life.
Open your eyes and see the friends,
Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
Those whose kindness watchful and near,
Encouraging you to live everything here.
See the gifts the years have given,
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be
And the mind to mirror mystery.
One of the first record albums I purchased was by Leonard Cohen. I bought it in 1970 and have enjoyed his poetry and music for over 45 years. He ranks up there with the great writers of our time.
The Poet of song
Thank you Leonard Cohen. You taught me. Words had great meaning and could come alive. You were the Poet of song. I saw you in concert in 1978 and 1979 in Germany. You were a legend to many already. The great Poet had left us. He shall never be forgotten. The word-men and word-women will hold dearly to his special song and voice. I miss you already Leonard Cohen. I hope you are singing in the tower of song.
While I was on my sabbatical, I attended a retreat. One of the highlights was meeting Parker Palmer. The people from the Centre Courage and Renewal who organized the retreat use Parker’s teachings as the foundation for these retreats.
Like Parker’s written work, the retreat focused on rich conversation, reflecting and writing, and poetry. Some poets I was familiar with, but others I did not recall hearing before. One of the poets who fell into the latter category was Barbara Rohde.
This poem reminds me my life is a continuous entering wilderness. No one entered my wilderness before. I don’t have a path or map to show me the way. I walk alone in a sense, but I am not alone.
The etymology of companion is to break bread and share a meal with others we meet on a journey. As we meet each other and hear our music, we can sing it back to each other and share it like the bread we break together. It is in sharing we can overcome fear and anxiety that comes from feeling a sense of loneliness in our lives.
We can encourage and place courage in one another. Emmanuel Levinas capitalized Other to signify an unconditional responsiblity for others. It reminds me of the line in Spartacus where others stand and say, “I am Spartacus!” What would it mean to say “I am Muslim! I am Hispanic?” We look toward that great openness in awe of the freedom and responsbility before us.
We stand at the edge of a true wilderness.No one has entered it, nor worn a path for us. There are no maps.
We look toward that great openness in awe of the freedom and possibility before us. Yet there is also something in us that causes us to face the unknown territory cautiously and anxiously.
Now, in this place, we take time out of time to look back, to see where we have been and what we have been, to reflect on what we have learned thus far on our journey.
We gather together to remind each other to see our True north, and to encourage–to place courage in–one another.
When we leave this place, we must each find our true path. We must walk alone.
But now and then we may meet.
When we meet, may we offer each other the bread of our being.
And oh, my brothers, and oh, my sisters, if you hear me plunging wildly, despairingly, through the thicket, call out to me. Calm me.
And if you find me sleeping in the snow, awaken me, lest my heart to turn ice.
And if you hear my music, praising the mornings of the world, then in that other time, in the blackness of my night, sing it back to me.