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Tag Archives: eloquent questions

What Have I Learned so Far?

I enjoy Mary Oliver and questions she asks in her poems. Living is a question, as I am uncertain what will happen, even in the next second, and how I will respond/react.

How we each live is the answer to a Mary Oliver question from The Summer Day: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Do I sow seeds of kindness? Do I somehow make the world a better place, without understanding what that means in advance, perhaps ever?

As I rise from meditation and prayer, I do I move in a mindful way, more attentive to my words and acts. Meditation and prayer help make the world holy, more whole as I attend to it. We each live Living in our particular concrete and real world of human relationships with each other and the world.

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of — indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.

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From The Irony of American History

Although Reinhold Niebuhr his book The Irony of American History, I think it speaks to each person’s and each collective’s history.

As I read this and his autobiography, I wondered what it means to be a refugee, to seek refuge, and be an immigrant. My family traces its roots in Canada to the mid 1600’s and Kathy traces her’s to the latter part of the 1700’s. On both sides of our family, our ancestors could not expect what was to come for them and us.

Parker Palmer and Allan Watts speak of faith, which allows each of us to step into the future, without understanding what that brings. My ancestors, coming from France, did not know the risks and opportunities that lay ahead. They had faith in what was to come, without knowing what was to come.

What is to come in my life is emerging through the lives of each person that follows. Thich Nhat Hanh writes we are an amalgam of our ancestors. We are individuals that emerge within a collective that is both present and absent in our daily lives. Who we are is a result of product of virtue and love we receive from others. Who we are is not accomplished alone. It is an act of compassion and faith; an act of forgiveness that we will do what is proper.

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.

The Summer Day

I could have entitled this post calling, vocation, voice, etc. Mary Oliver shares what it means to be called and how we respond to this call through our particular life. Voice and vocation share etymology and come from the Latin verb to call: vocare.

Mary Oliver captures the essence of a calling with a metaphor of a grasshopper, which has its role to play and expresses herself in how she fulfills this role. This poem reminds me of Matthew‘s verse about the lily of the field and how God provides for each plant and animal. We each have a role and place in a complex way of being and we each respond according to how we interpret what that might mean.

The first three lines and the last two, as questions, speak to me. I am never certain of what life holds for me. Life emerges as eloquent questions that are open and not foreclosed by easy answers, yet emerge from the first three questions. I ask eloquent questions without predetermined answers. They inform my dialogue with the world and with others.

Since completing my dissertation, the last question has become part of my thinking about the themes. It was not in the dissertation, but is essential to experiencing and understanding teaching as a calling, which holds deep spiritual meaning.

I posted my dissertation on Academia and an executive summary on Medium.

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

 

I took this picture in Yellowstone several years ago. I was about 25-30 feet (8-10 metres) away from this wonderful animal. He knew I was there, but seemed unconcerned. We were both living our lives.

Leap of Faith

via Quote: Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets. Even when she writes lines in declaratory ways, there is a profound question being asked.

In this wonderful quote shared on Rethinking Life the question is what happens next. Even under the best and most controlled of circumstances, we do not know what will happen in the next moment.

Living is a leap of faith filled with mystery we can embrace. When we believe we control the next moment, the next instance, we fall short. Mindfulness can help us embrace the mystery. Being grounded in each ensuing moment is the only place we can be.

Merry Christmas

I wrote this poem several years ago about the magic provided by the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and Christmas. What message was in those celestial colours and sounds? As a child, I thought the sky talked to me and told me a creation story.

I grew up in Northern Alberta and Christmas was a special time. I recall cold winter nights. I mean they were cold–almost minus 40 at night. Our windows upstairs were almost completely frosted over. On moonlit nights, the light kept me awake or that is what I told others.

During Advent, my mom and older brothers walked across the street for evening Mass. The younger ones, including me, went to bed. I did not fall asleep right away and would watch out the window for them to come home. I thought no one saw me, but my Mom would come up and tell me to go to bed.

At that time of year, I recall is the Northern Lights and how you could hear them as well as see them light up the sky as they danced across the sky. We don’t see them very often in Edmonton with the urban light.

When we spend time at the farm at Christmas, we hear and see them again. On cold nights we hear the train (about a mile away) and it sounds like it is coming through the house.

Small children–

Breathlessly awaiting,

Peering through frosted window

Soaking it in.

Heavens rippling–

Lights undulating;

A celebratory fury

An indisputable guide.

This old house speaks;

Nature answers–

Heavens crackle

Sweet symphonic sounds shimmering.

Earth’s floor–

Blanketed in white

Celestial colours speaking

Capturing young senses.

A vivid winter scene,

A sensual, sensory palette,

Reminding us–

Christ’s Mass is here.

pic_wonder_northern_lights_lg

Wildness

via Wildness

Michele‘s post reminded me of poems by two of my favourite poets.

Environmentalists refer to Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver‘s poems. An educated guess is that Henry David Thoreau, who Michele quotes, informed their writing.

Wendell Berry wrote in moments of despair he “comes into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought.”

Mary Oliver ends Summer Day with the following question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?” Paradoxically, the question is an answer to her eloquent questions about who created nature.

Nature has a way of being and providing us with lessons for life. It is in meditative moments, when we just are, we grow to understand what that can mean. We grow and value what is essential not to us, but to those who come after us.

“We do not inherit the world from our ancestors, but borrow it from our children.”

How Quotes Enoble Us

via How Quotations Ennoble Us

I love quotes. They make me reflect about meanings that are not clear. They raise eloquent questions that have no pat answers. They inspire me. Balroop provided three quotes that underscore these points.

Poetry is like quotes and I find many quotes from poems and poets. There are spaces between words, lines, and stanzas I can stand in and wonder.

I leave you with quotes that inspire me to think deeply and ask questions about the meaning of my life.

The first two are from Mary Oliver.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.”

The following is from Wendell Berry.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound…
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

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