Saturday, February 18, 2017

"Help us to eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors"



My friend Carrol shared this prayer from the The Book of Common Prayer on social media last week. I have decided to share it in turn in the form of a postcard to my representatives, along with a personal message to each on the back. Something felt important about doing this by hand, and the repetition of the words and the patterns around them. Lingering on all of it. These are words that need hearing, and attending to.




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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"Elision," Rock & Sling 11.2



My poem, "Elision," is included in the current (11.2) issue of Rock & Sling. I received my contributors' copies recently, and they are beautiful. What an honor to have my work included. This issue does not seem to be available yet through their online store, but I can share the link with anyone who is interested when it does become available.




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Saturday, February 11, 2017

From My Reading, 2/11/17


from Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy, by Viktor E. Frankl:

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.

*     *     *

I have been taking my reading extra-seriously these days. There was a time when I was younger that I let myself believe I did not have room to read "for pleasure." It took crisis to realize that reading was not, in fact, a luxury, but food for my heart and mind. I made the decision that there was room in my life for books more than twenty years ago, and sure there are lean times, but I no longer have qualms about calling reading essential. Through the years you might have been able to find me reading while nursing babies, while knitting, while stirring pots of things-that-need-constant-stirring on the stove. Sometimes my head drops into the book on my pillow at night before I've read even a page, and sometimes these days I have trouble keeping the book propped open well enough to read on the treadmill. It does not matter, though; I am finding nourishment, even if it is in tiny bits. Plus, I get to meet the most amazing people through their books. Last week I got to know Viktor Frankl, and while I was familiar with some of his ideas, I needed to hear them more deeply.  Things like the passage above. And like this:

I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, "homeostasis," i.e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.

I was also stunned by passages like this one:

For as soon as we have used an opportunity and have actualized a potential meaning, we have done so once and for all. We have rescued it into the past wherein it has been safely delivered and deposited. In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured. To be sure, people tend to see only the stubble fields of transitoriness but overlook and forget the full granaries of the past into which they have brought the harvest of their lives: the deeds done, the loves loved, and last but not least, the sufferings they have gone through with courage and dignity.

There is poetry in there, don't you think? And maybe enough strength for the day?




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Friday, January 20, 2017

Origami


When the news gets to be too much, send paper stars out into the world.

Not that you won’t get back to the news, the opinion columns, the how-to-survive-what’s-next articles. Not that you haven’t been talking about it, educating and comforting your children, ranting to those closest to you. You have vowed not to turn away, to do everything you can to support the people and programs and systems that are at risk.

But you know you have to find a way to live beyond the fear and sadness. The horror at each day’s developments. What do you do with it all? You told your kids the day after the election that you would keep living the way you knew you should live, and fight harder than ever for what you believe is right. But what do you do with this Waiting now, for the days to reveal just how many people have been betrayed, and how much damage will be done?

Start folding stars, for one thing.

At first they were Christmas ornaments for your family. For your children to take with them into adulthood: tokens of your love, a bridge from old home and old life to new. For the one close to you who left all extras behind as she fled a life of abuse in order to build something new and better.

It did not take long for this project to turn into something else, though.

It’s not just the working of your hands, or the bright squares of paper, or the repetitiveness of the task. It is the power to put good out into the world that compels you. To make something beautiful in the face of ugliness, and out of humble things, and with your own hands.

These are your greatest acts of defiance: beauty, kindness, love. They are not the only things, but they are the beginning, and quite likely the end. A promise to yourself and the people around you that you will not stop doing what you know is right.

And you keep folding. Take note, as you memorize the folds. So many fussy little preparatory creases: seven, followed by a cut and an unfolding, and you are holding a pentagon in your hand. Fifteen more folds and un-folds, a little pinching and arranging, and suddenly the paper pinwheels into shape. Five more creases, a tuck—and there. You are holding a star. And that moment where everything shifts into place becomes something you want to repeat, over and over.

There are no shortcuts. You forget once, and do all the preparatory folds with the pattern face side up. You try to force the pinwheel into shape anyway, thinking that maybe the backwards folds weakened the paper enough to make it do what you wished. But no. You have to go back and fold everything the right way. The paper had been weakened, yes, but in preparation for something else.

And this is what sinks deep into every cell of your body: how the folds weaken the paper, how the sheet softens in your hands. How without this weakness there would be no getting to the new shape.

Note how the new thing—this bright and delicate star—is stronger than the original.

Repeat, again and again, folding yourself into the process. Bend yourself over and over, in preparation for what is next. Hone your skills for beauty. Flood the world with stars. 




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