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Tag Archives: eloquent questions

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

I enjoy Wendell Berry’s writing and recently began reading his fiction. He wrote a series of novels about a community called Port William and explores what it means to belong to a place and have roots there. He refers to these roots as belonging and caring for a place in way that is reciprocal. As I care for the place, it cares for me.

This poem is my favourite, because it is about belonging in a way that allows me to ask what it means to belong. The title reaches out and I cannot resist it. The first stanza questions the lack of belonging we experience in the modern world.

What does it mean to be radical? The word radical means going to one’s origins or roots. When I read the poem, I think of the possibilities a radical life offers. I seek my roots, the wisdom of those who came before me, and lived on the land. I trace my genealogy and tracks on the land my ancestors tilled and how it cared for their needs.

The second stanza draws me deeper. When I read it, it challenges me to think about what it means to do something that doesn’t compute, like loving unconditionally and not knowing what that means.  The third stanza challenges me to question in ways that do not result in easy answers and embrace the mysteries of living.

Do something that does not compute, make many tracks, and sometimes confuse the world. Go against the grain and do not always take the easy path. Take a proper one and understand I belong to a community of more than one.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

 

Do Pigs Have Udders?

The last year I taught I was away for a week in the fall. When I returned, the students told me they had not enjoyed the substitute teacher. They felt he did not let them chat and told them their conversations were inappropriate. As those students rarely crossed the line between appropriate and inappropriate, I was surprise and asked for an example of a conversation topic.

As they did their Science one day a student asked another if pigs had udders. They felt the conversation was proper and it fit with biology and animal husbandry. One girl, who lived on a farm, insisted they did and the other, who lived in town, said they did not. They asked me if I knew. I laughed and told them I did not know.

Initially, I phoned Kathy who was raised on a farm. She said pigs might have udders, but, if they did, it was a result of a biologic need to nurse offspring. Over the years, the topic came up. A farmer told me farmers don’t ask questions like that, because they don’t really care. Last summer, I read this poem at a retreat and described what had happened. A colleague did a search and informed us pigs do not have udders.

The experience informed me in two ways as a teacher. First, it pointed out an irrevocable truth: human curiosity and questions without absolute answers are essential in living and learning. Second, humans require safe spaces to ask questions like this.

A simple question

Eloquently posed,

It lacks a ready answer

Our curiosity is engaged;

Fueling our learning and conversations.

What does something mean?

Is it true?

Many queries;

We seek to fill gaps–

Certitude is elusive;

Uncertainty prevails.

Years later

I smile and chuckle;

I (re)member–

I appreciate–

A simple, provocative question–

Do pigs have udders?

People can ask the darnedest things. Humour is a cure for even the most challenging moments. It opens up safe spaces for questions to emerge.

 

also

Source: also.

The link is to a Mary Oliver quote. We often say one thing and qualify it with something that is an “also.”  In this case, it is a being kind and being mischievous.

Who we each are is a rich amalgam of paradox and contradiction that points out the essential nature of differences between each of us. Differences make a difference. It is in them we discover and explore the rich tapestry of our lives and those of people we come in contact with, near and far.

By being attentive and mindful to the differences between us and paradoxes, we can experience richness in life that is unending. We discover and explore questions that have no fixed answers and invite us into vibrant conversations with each other.

Mindful

This poem is my favourite by Mary Oliver. It took on more significance in the last week, as I defended my dissertation and completed my PhD requirements.

Every day I see or hear something that more or less

kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle

in the haystack of light. It was what I was born for – to look, to listen,

to lose myself inside this soft world – to instruct myself over and over

in joy, and acclamation. Nor am I talking about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant – but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations. Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help

but grow wise with such teachings as these – the untrimmable light

of the world, the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made out of grass?

I find the idea that the daily life I live, which I often take-for-granted, is essential to my growing wise. The dissertation and research took on that form, as I gathered the lived-experiences of several teachers, including myself and explored how we are becoming teachers.

It is in the daily lives we live, our autobiographies, that we find the richest date, even though it sometimes slips through our fingers in the midst of the busyness we experience. Our stories call us to stop, be mindful of them, and seek meaning in the thoughtful questions we ask.

I find wise teachings in the untrimmable light of the world.

Thought for Today

“Where love is, there God is also.” – Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi

Source: Thought for Today

Gandhi stood for a non-violent way of life. In our lives, we find the extraordinary in the ordinary. When we look around us and inside ourselves, we can find God in many forms.

We discover and journey along a spiritual path through relationships with others, the world we live in, and ourselves. When we are mindful and attentive to what those mean, we find love in the world.

The Guest House

I know I have posted this poem before, but it has a beautiful message. Rumi reminds me I cannot accept only the good that comes into my life. When the darker emotions show themselves at the door of my life, I should welcome them and accept them as a guide from beyond.

Like my delightful emotions, the darker ones are fleeting and temporary. While they are with me, the metaphor of a guesthouse allows me to experience them more fully and be mindful to what they mean at that point in my life.

In those moments, those closest to me help me understand what each arrival may mean. We can ask questions without presuming the answers in advance.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

How Poetry Comes to Me

Much like poetry, living comes to each of us and it blunders along just out of view from us. It is like sitting around a campfire and knowing there is something outside the ring of light the fire casts.

Within the ring of light, there is a warmth, perhaps a certainty. We think we know what is happening next. In truth, the living happens just outside our reach. Wendell Berry describes it as happening, but, once it happens, we cannot be fully describe it.

Gary Snyder wrote about his poetry writing as having to go meet the poetry just outside the range of his campfire. When we are attentive and mindful of each moment and what is just beyond our reach and vision, life dances at the edge of the light, like poetry.

Instead of certain answers, we encounter questions that cannot be fully answered, but help form the conversation and poetry that is our living.

It comes blundering over the

 Boulders at night, it stays

 Frightened outside the

 Range of my campfire

 I go to meet it at the

 Edge of the light

 

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