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Tag Archives: hermeneutics

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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Slow Down, You’re Going Too Fast

Slow Down, You’re Going Too Fast.

Paul Simon is supposed to have written the song 59th Street Bridge Song which includes the line “slow down you move to fast” while sitting in a traffic jam on the 59th St. Bridge in New York City. It is not so much that we have to or, for that matter, can make the morning last longer. It is more likely when we pause and take time to enjoy the world as we move through it and it moves through us we feel that morning lasts longer.

Chronos time is a human-made construct. Here, we master and manage time. Kairos time is a fluid, natural flow of time without measure. One is calculating and the other meditating. When we live in the world in a hermeneutic way, we take time and read the contours of the world as it appears, as we encounter and experience it fully with all our senses. There is no rush in those moments.

Lie Down

Nancy Paddock wrote this wonderful poem about letting go and just being in the world and not separate from it. I loved her imagery created in getting me down to ground level where we can live differently.

When I am at ground level, I am in the world and not outside and over it. I spend time in sabbatical wandering uncharted territory. This theme is emerging in my dissertation where I compare teaching to a hermeneutic exploration of the classroom, it participants, and living topics like a rich, textured landscape we navigate relationally. At ground level, teachers encounter, interpret, and understand a particular world that is their teaching and no one else’s teaching.

Parker Palmer has a quote about teachers using technique until the real teacher shows up. It takes time and patience; togetherness and solitude to bring this about. As I write and read, I think about what that meant and means to me as a particular teacher who is still coming to be in new ways particular to me.

Lie down with your belly to the ground,
like an old dog in the sun. Smell
the greenness of the cloverleaf, feel the damp
earth through your clothes, let an ant
wander the uncharted territory
of your skin. Lie down
with your belly to the ground. Melt into
the earth’s contours like a harmless snake.
All else is mere bravado.
Let your mind resolve itself
in a tangle of grass.
Lie down with your belly
to the ground, flat out, on ground level.
Prostrate yourself before the soil
you will someday enter.
Stop doing.
Stop judging, fearing, trying.
This is not dying, but the way to live
in a world of change and gravity.
Let go. Let your burdens drop.
Let your grief-charge bleed off
into the ground.
Lie down with your belly to the ground
and then rise up
with the earth still in you.

East Coker

As I write, I am beginning to see learning as based on hermeneutics. We learn the world by reading it. We learn about our self by turning in and listening. In all this, we observe and hopefully find meaning. It could be in the form of words, images, and is just as easily what is left out. T. S. Eliot reminds us of the challenges of learning language and finding meaning them in. We learn, unlearn, relearn all in cyclical fashion. We read the world and try to make new sense of it with each iteration as we move back and forth between the whole and the parts to make sense of either. It might seem all a waste, but perhaps it is not.

So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years–

Twenty years largely wasted, the years l’entre deux guerres

Trying to use words, and every attemp

Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure

Because one has only learnt to get the better of words

For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which

One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture

Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate

With shabby equipment always deteriorating

In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,

Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer

By strength and submission, has already been discovered

Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope

To emulate–but there is no competition–

There is only the fight to recover what has been lost

And found and lost again and again; and now, under conditions

That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss

For us, there is only the trying, The rest is not our business.

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