Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Poet Mary Oliver (and my friend Chuck) on wonder

"A wise man is astonished by everything."
Photo courtesy Todd Huffman, Flickr.

MYSTERIES, YES
by Mary Oliver from Evidence (Beacon Press)

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

What does this poem mean to you?

When I re-posted the closing quotes on Facebook a few months back, my friend Chuck chimed in with a thoughtful rumination on the subtle challenge Oliver poses:
It's a balance between persistence and humility, something that I've always struggled with. Perseverance requires immense confidence in one's convictions. In order to be a bold, transformative force, to "be the change one wants to see in the world," one must be convinced that one has at least some of the answers.

It means having the courage to advocate a position and attempt a solution. It also means having the humility to avoid inflexibility and dogmatism; to change course when necessary.
I think he pretty much nailed it ... and gave me a slight complex in the process, because HOW THE HELL ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO ACHIEVE THAT?

I suppose the first step is to follow Oliver's advice and surround yourself with people who maintain wonder. Maintaining wonder doesn't mean indecision, naivete, or wishy-washiness; it means looking at the world with clear eyes and staying open to the endless awe it can inspire, even amid your chosen paths.

Yeah. That sounds good. Let's start there.

Prayer #227: The Wonder Year (part two)

When I stray too close to the naysayers, push me behind you and block the path. When I drift too far from the exclaimers, sling me back into their orbit. And when I glimpse the universe in all its bigness -- bigger than I can comprehend yet love no less -- join me in my sudden, breathless laughter.

Amen.

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