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Tag Archives: eloquent questions

The Poet’s Obligation

I am back. I found it difficult to write a poem and turned to others who might offer me something today.

Pablo Neruda wrote about the poet’s obligation to those cooped up in an office, away from the sounds of nature, and the foam of the sea. Poetry brings the world and its text to people who for whatever reason they are no present to that part of the world.

The poet brings the sea, the thunder, and the foam to the reader in what Neruda called a perpetual cup. Poets share and are part of the world others cannot always find.

The poet is mindful of the world and reflects on it to capture its essence and meaning in ways each person can experience and interpret what that means to them. They pose questions without ready answers to structure each person’s with the world and the poem. The poem becomes a medium to interpret the world as a text.

To whoever is not listening to the sea
this Friday morning, to who ever is cooped up
in house or office, factory or woman
or street or mine or dry prison cell,
to him I come, and without speaking or looking
I arrive and open the door of his prison,
and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
a long rumble of thunder adds itself
to the weigh of the planet and the foam,
the groaning rivers of the ocean rise,
the star vibrates quickly in its corona
and the sea beats, dies, and goes on beating.

So. Drawn on by my destiny,
I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
the sea’s lamenting in my consciousness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
and gather it up in a perpetual cup
so that, wherever those in prison may be,
wherever they suffer the sentence of the autumn,
I may be present with an errant wave,
I may move in and out of the windows,
and hearing me, eyes may lift themselves,
asking “How can I reach the sea?”
And I will pass to them, saying nothing,
the starry echoes of the wave,
a breaking up of foam and quicksand,
a rustling of salt withdrawing itself,
the gray cry of sea birds on the coast.

So, though me, freedom and the sea
will call in answer to the shrouded heart.

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To Discriminate

I will not post this weekend, as I am away. As well, I want to begin writing an article, so my schedule will change next week, but I will be back.

After I wrote my poem yesterday, I thought about what it might mean to live in a different way than I do. I cannot. I do not have those experiences. To discriminate is to see and recognize differences. In a world of extreme ideologies, there are those who simply refuse to see differences as essential to our human condition.

Hannah Arendt wrote about living in pluralism being the ultimate human condition. It is what makes us each a person, separates us in some distinct way from others. It is challenging and unavoidable.

I lived in a small town in Northern Alberta when I was young. We were the only French-speaking family with children in the community. I understand others have suffered more than I ever did. It seems it is only the loud ones with most extreme ideology who act and speak with violence that are seen and heard.

Edmund Burke contended “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing.”

Albert Einstein said “Compassionate people are geniuses in the art of living, more necessary to the dignity, security, and joy of humanity than the discoverers of knowledge.”

Thomas Merton pointed us in the direction of mindfulness: “The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”

I think compassion is being mindful of the beauty we find in the differences of others and the world. It is speaking up and out when we see things done that are not proper. It is in being mindful and present to the Other that we are most human. I leave you with these thoughts.

To discriminate,

To see the differences in the Other,

It is what makes living worthwhile.

Without seeing differences,

The world is a monotone,

A sea of sameness.

Without seeing differences,

The world is extreme,

A dangerous place.

Without seeing differences,

I do not see the exceptional,

I cannot see an Other’s humanity.

 

Sand Castles

Children live in each moment. Their inexperience allows them to be in a world that seems novel. They build sand castles in those moments. As adults we think we lose that ability to build our sand castles.

Being mindful and present to the world and others is a way of building sand castles, perhaps in some metaphoric way. How can I think about this person and that thing differently? How do I bring less suffering and pain to the world in understanding “differences make a difference?” Unlike children, adults often understand differences as threats.

It reminds me of Tolstoy‘s quote: “if you want to be happy, be.”

A child, playing in sand,

Building sand castles,

Absorbed in that moment.

The world is immediate,

Demanding one be present,

To embedded in this very moment.

As a child,

We know nothing different,

Our castles are real and momentous.

To outgrow our castles,

That is a tragedy,

To lose being mind(ful).

Let me return to that world,

To build castles in the sand,

As only a child can.

When I taught, the Grade 7 students built chairs for Science class. A criterion was they had to use recycled materials. They always built terrific chairs with little help from adults.

Eloquence of Ambiguity

Language matters. Yesterday, I read a post on an educational blog. Essentially, the person argued that “data driven education” was stupid and education was “child driven.” I accept children make choices about what they learn. As a teacher, I used data, including their choices, to inform how I taught.

What I understood demeaned anyone who spoke differently than this person. It is in pluralism and diversity the essence of eloquent ambiguity that we appreciate the world and receive gifts.

Most people accept a world that is grey and their language appreciates the eloquence of ambiguity. Language has a way of fixing things as if they were more permanent. It is the capacity of humans to interpret and re-interpret that brings forth the elegance of the world.

Appreciate the world as it is

It does not arrive pre-packaged.

Embrace uncertainty and ambiguity

Let its eloquence emerge.

Open your heart

Receive unimaginable beauty.

There are no pat answers

Only an internal compass that guides you.

This is a path in Waterton Lakes National Park. A person only sees a short distance ahead when walking a path. What comes next is uncertain.

Introduction to Poetry

Billy Collins asks to play with poetry and its words as we read it. Let the poem speak to us and we do not have to beat it with a hose to find out what it really means. I find that each time I return to a poem I find something that eluded me the other times. Maybe it was the mouse trying to find its way out or the waterskiier waving at the poet’s name.

Hermeneutic phenomenology is much like that, as well. When I interviewed each person for my dissertation the first time, they hesitated in telling their stories. The second time, they each began recounting their stories from the first interview.

Paul Ricoeur said hermeneutics is digging below the surface of our stories to find what the text of our lives tells us. I recount the story in poetic, fictive language and understand each time I (re)member the story differently.

“Differences make a difference,” as I am mindful to different aspects of the story and me as a character in that story. I cannot beat the meaning out with a hose.

I ask them to take a poem

and hold it up to the light

like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem

and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room

and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski

across the surface of a poem

waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do

is tie the poem to a chair with rope

and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose

to find out what it really means.

 

Silver Star

When I looked for a poem, this one by William Stafford found me. Mountains appear to be immovable and unchangeable, yet as people do they do so without immediate notice. Yet, when we revisit them, we realize the changes that occurred.

In the case of teachers, Parker Palmer speaks about asking the question “who is the self who teaches?” We are each teachers in our own particular ways, so asking this question is essential. We often overlook this question in pursuit of easier to answer questions about the what, when, where, why, and how.

When we ask who we are, we explore the values that anchor us in living life. In times of crisis, those values guide us and help us through those tough times. Attending to them in mindful ways each day as a gardener would her/his garden grounds us in them in times of real need. They have spiritual meaning that come to life in living and expressing them daily through who we are as a human being.

If we serve our values well, “we will hear the world say, ‘Well done.'” The patience of living a good life, which in Aristotle‘s terms, is indefinable will be the reward. Like a mountain guiding us on our journey, the values we live and express guide us and others on a shared journey.

To be a mountain you have to climb alone

and accept all that rain and snow. You have to look

far away, when evening comes. If a forest

grows, you care; you stand there leaning against

the wind, waiting for someone with faith enough

to ask you to move. Great stones will tumble

against each other and gouge your sides. A storm

will live somewhere in your canyons hoarding its lightning.

If you are lucky, people will give you a dignified

name and bring crowds to admire how sturdy you are,

how long you can hold still for the camera. And some time,

they say, if you last long enough you will hear God;

a voice will roll down from the sky and all your patience

will be rewarded. The whole world will hear it: “Well done.”

How do I listen?

When I began to look for a poem today, I chose one by Hafiz. It reminds me of the following Buddhist proverb:

How do I listen? The question is eloquent, as it does not have a fixed and expected answer. It suggests being present and mindful as another person speaks and as the universe speaks to me. Hafiz counsels me to treat what the other says as a gift to be cherished as the last words of a Master.

It is when I listen that the teacher appears. I am ready for the teachings of the Other. Emmanuel Levinas capitalized other to point out an unconditional responsibility for the Other. How I listen reveres the Other, who is my teacher in that moment.

How

Do I

Listen to Others?

As if everyone were my Master

Speaking to me

His

Cherished

Last

Words.

 

 

 

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