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Tag Archives: eloquent questions

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.

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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.

 

Take Sides

Source: Take Sides

The link is to a quote by Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner. He is not referring to taking sides over a game. Instead, he speaks to taking sides when we witness wrong-doing and immoral acts. His book Night is a worthwhile reading.

I remind other Christians Jesus reached out to those who were most in need, living on the margins of society. He ate with sinners and tax collectors and stood up against the Pharisees and scribes (Luke 15:1–4) and (Romans 3:23).

We each have to decide what we is immoral and moral. It is not upholding abstract laws and rules, but the spirit of doing what is proper. I did not use the word right or correct . When I do, I fall into a trap of checking a binary box of right or wrong. Instead, I ask “is this proper?” In French, this is a matter of comportment and conduct.

I think the last sentence in the quote are important, worthwhile repeating. It is worth spending time whiling and linger over the words and the depth of their meaning, from a person who suffered and witnessed unthinkable human tragedy perpretrated by other people. “Whereever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”

I am not a big believer in thinking about my legacy, whatever that might be, but I want to be remembered as someone who stood up and spoke out against the wrong done to other people.

Take a Knee

I begin this post with two points. First, I am not American. I spend time in the US and enjoy my time there. One thing I enjoy, and I shared with my students, is the way Americans respond to their National Anthem. Second, Canada, where I live, has social and historical skeletons in the closet i.e. residential schools.

My aim is not to pass judgment, but to cast a different light on what it means to take a knee. In a world that is increasingly secular, perhaps I lose my way in what it means to live in a spiritual way and it can mean many things to different people.

The image that comes to mind when I think of is people kneeling and standing at the foot of the cross of the crucified Jesus. We were not there, but we are told his friends, family members, and followers knelt and stood. It seems there was no one right way.

When Colin Kaepernick first took a knee, I thought of it as praying. The etymology of prayer is to ask earnestly, to beg, and to entreat. Prayer is asking someone i.e. God or something bigger i.e. Universe or a nation than I am to intercede in a concern to me.

To genuflect is to kneel, usually with one knee. It is an act of worship and respect. Parker Palmer wrote about fidelity as something other than mere loyalty. It is loyalty to an obligation, cause, and idea one holds dear.

Who or what one asks depends on one’s spiritual and religious background. What I understand is that there are no fixed answers when I take a knee and pray. I have to listen. Part of praying is silence, listening to what Parker Palmer calls my inner voice. It is only in moments of silence, whether kneeling, standing, or walking, that I hear that inner voice.

I pray in various ways and have since I was a child. When I enter a church, I find holy water, bow to the cross, and complete the sign of the cross. I stand. As I enter a pew I genuflect, taking a knee. I do so with two surgically repaired knees. At times before, during, and after service, I kneel, I pray, and I listen to what my heart says. Other times, I stand. During the Lord’s prayer, I stand and join hands with others asking God to intercede on each of our behalf. As I receive communion, I walk slowly and quietly, bowing my head as I accept the host.

For me, kneeling, standing, and walking quietly show my fidelity to a cause and purpose larger than me. In this case, it is plight of people and our shared humanity. I make a point of being quiet, because it is a time of thoughtful meditation and mindfulness of how the world and I are broken. I beseech someone or something larger than me to intercede and, as Parker Palmer says, to make whole the broken.

 

 

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