Inward and outward

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barcelona dawn | photo at pixabay

The Inner History of a Day

Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that travelled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.

The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.

John O’Donohue
The Inner History of a Day
To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

I’ve been enjoying photos of the Eclipse as seen in the US; and good and brave souls embracing and ‘getting back to normal’ on Las Ramblas in beautiful Barcelona; and hundreds of other snapshot fragments of life around the world on the 21st August 2017.

And I’m so grateful for John O’Donohue’s calling our attention to the ‘eucharist of the ordinary’ – that quiet inner life, the dawn ‘born quietly from deepest night,’ where all humankind and natural phenomena together are joined in the ‘work through which the mind of the day / and wisdom of the soul become one.’

Transforming our broken fragments.

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The best thing

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photo at pixabay

The best thing

What do you want me to
do for you?

The best thing about a
poem is that no-one
has to read it unless
they want to: the poem
exists though, here and there –
maybe invisibly
everywhere, inside me
perhaps, and also in
you too, but quietly
present, unthreatening
breathing, invitation
art and recreation
for a contemplation
that might be for many
a kind salvation, full
of gift and grace and free –
even if demanding
in the reading, and for
me – again – the best thing
is that no-one has to
read the poem unless
they want to, so many
may do, as though that had
been poetic grand plan.

Simon Marsh

Attentiveness

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photo at pixabay

This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness

Mary Oliver
cited by Parker J Palmer,
Quaker elder and columnist for
On Beinghere

What would the world feel like tomorrow morning if broadcast ‘world news’ tonight was comprised of just the one piece of Wisdom Mary Oliver notes here?

No advice, no opinions, no looking to leaders of any kind, nor any seeking to lead or be led. Just every single person in the world watching quietly, without reaction, and with benign interest, the stream of soul-destroying thoughts ticker-taping inside their own head. And letting them go.

What would the world feel like tomorrow morning if there was a complete absence of noise – noise replaced with no thing other than focused attentiveness, however brief?

Could we laugh at ourselves and our shifting certainties? Could we put to one side our politics and religions, our tribes and education, our perceptions of culture and dominions – even for a little space? Would we yearn to return soon to the stillness and silence of such a soul-building place?

In the morning and at afternoon and evening: let it begin, again, with me.

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The one that sings

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The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Wendell Berry
Standing by Words, Essays by Wendell Berry

Friends ask ‘do you really have a poem for pretty much any occasion?’

Two answers come quickly to mind: the first, that I’m not nearly well read enough for that to be true; the second, that I’m wary of the proposition – believing as I do that thoughtlessly ‘dishing out texts’ willy-nilly can lead to some pretty unhealthy outcomes.

Yet, for all that, there’s no getting around that I do look to poetry as guide, nourishment and sustenance almost every day. Sometimes this involves taking down books from shelves, and at others going down deep and in silence into the library of the soul.

Sometimes a poet’s message is clear, read or remembered, plain as a pikestaff – and that’s good, so long as I remember that next time I come to the same poem the experience – and the message – will be, probably ought to be, quite different, or at least a little more evolved.

At other times it’s a poem’s nuance that I’m attracted to. A certain open-endedness,  invitation to an abiding, to contemplation and / or reflection.

Poetry is always a gift for those who are lost, confused, unsure, unclear and perplexed (that’s to say, all of us at different times in our lives) because it brings us to a halt for a while, even if only for seconds, reminding us that we’re never in full possession of ‘answers’ to this world’s mysteries. Never were, are not, never could be.

And yet there is an enduring melody, a cantus firmus somewhere in the depths of us. In the place where we recognise

The mind that is not baffled is not employed,
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

And in the singing come to grow, if not to know. And today’s new work becomes clear. Here.

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Magnified

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photo at pixabay

Oh Barcelona! Beautiful city. Home and host to the Temple of Light, unsurpassed art, my nephew, and a host of international friends; beautiful, warm city where only months ago 160,000 compassionate and humane citizens marched in favour of opening wide gates of welcome to desperate refugees from Syria – how are we to retain optimism tonight?

How are we to avoid sounding cheap or trite when our hearts reach out to friends, some as close as family, in these days of bewilderment in the United States of America? Or Berlin, Brussels, Damascus, Homs, Jerusalem, London, Manchester, Nice, Paris, Stockholm …? I do not know.

I only know that I must reach out, holding fast to – and speaking frequently of – the kind of optimism that on the surface of things simply doesn’t make sense on evenings and in weeks like these. Holding fast to the kind of optimism (if that’s even the right word?) that insists every day on recognising the height and depth and breadth of goodness that does, truly, exist in the heart of humankind, though loud and shocking minorities work to have us believe otherwise.

Human love and tenderness, hospitality and welcome, compassion and forgiveness, holding fast to good – these things are not controlled by, nor in the gift of lawmakers, nor the ‘politically correct,’ nor presidents, princes, preachers or praters; not controlled by, nor in the gift of the demanding, the domineering, the fanatical, the leering, the violent, nor those who have difficulty hearing anything but the sound of their own tragic, woeful ignorance.

Optimism, the hope of the world, human love and tenderness, hospitality and welcome, compassion and forgiveness, holding fast to good, walking hand in hand, standing shoulder to shoulder – these things are in the gift of the majority of humankind – whose hearts lurch in horror as they think on events in Barcelona today, or in Charlottesville just days ago.

‘They tried to kill my child, shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her,’ said Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro  …

Height, depth and breadth! Love in the mothering heart of just one humane human that may leave us speechless for a while. Speechless but not hopeless. Our task, wherever we are in this wounded yet still beautiful old world, is to turn up the volume, not of rhetoric, but of Susan Bro-like optimism and magnifying love. Like a candle in the dark.

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Transparent screens

ullswater

1954
May

Attachment to the self renders life more opaque. One moment of complete forgetting and all the screens, one behind the other, become transparent so that you can perceive clarity to its very depths, as far as the eye can see; and at the same time everything becomes weightless. Thus does the soul become a bird.

Philippe Jaccottet
Seedtime: Notebooks, 1954-79

It is a marvellous thing to observe from time to time that one forgot oneself – even for a few moments. And I recall that Philippe Jaccottet had similar thoughts back in 1954. I’ve noted them often enough that they come back to me of their own volition every once in a while.

I wonder how many people recall the frequent ‘don’t forget’ (this, that or the other) of schooldays and years of life-school days thereafter? Don’t forget. Don’t forget. Don’t forget.

And I forget, and perhaps you forget, that it can be good to forget. Especially oneself. Once in a while, like an ever more glorious dawn, we forget so completely and wonderfully – and maybe unexpectedly – that we know without a doubt that we’re alive!

Five senses are suddenly, inexplicably, entirely attuned. Curtains, screens, checkpoints, and don’t forget lists fall to the floor, and everything takes on the dimensions of the extra-ordinary. And a person flies.

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