[Maybe you missed last weekend’s “Rain and Snow” festival featuring Pádraig Ó Tuama and many others? Or maybe you were there and now you him, or miss poetry? ]
“What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade”
Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,
how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.
After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s
voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—
something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home….
- Brad Aaron Modlin, [This is the start of a poem that Padraig shares and discusses in the first episode of the new podcast he started with On Being just before coming to St. Stephen. Hope it whets your appetite for more. Check this out for the full poem and Padraig’s reflection.]
[This past weekend was the inaugural (?) “Rain and Snow” winter festival at SSU, and Carol and I had the privilege of offering hospitality to Pádraig Ó Tuama, receiving more hospitality than we gave, from his presence, his words, and his easy appreciation of our shared moments. Here is a passage that shows the thoughtfulness behind an approach that combines hospitality with truth-telling:]
In many circles of faith or spirituality, there is generous time given to the testimony – the telling of the story of conversion, or re-conversion, of enlightenment or change. It is a moving thing, to listen to the testimony. But testimony, if told or heard unwisely, can be a colonisation of a single experience into a universal requirement. Jesus fed me when I was hungry, we hear, and those who are hungry feel bereft. Jesus healed me when I was sick, say the healthy, and the burdened feel more burdened. Meditation cured me of depression, say some, and others make plans to hide the Prozac. Upon whom is the burden of words? I don’t know. I don’t think there is answer. I cannot dampen gladness because it will burden the unglad. But I cannot proclaim gladness as a promise that will only shackle the already bound. Faith shelters some, and it shadows others. It loosens some, and it binds others. Is this a judgment of the message or the messenger, the one praying or the prayer prayed? I don’t know.
Hello to what we do not know.
What I do know is that it can help to find the words to tell the truth of where you are now. If you can find the courage to name ‘here’ – especially in the place where you do not wish to be – it can help you be there. Instead of resenting another’s words of gladness or pain, it may be possible to hear it as simply another location. There are there and I am here. At another point, we will be in different locations, and everybody will pass by many locations in their life. The pain is only deepened when the location is resented or, even worse, unnamed.
Hello to here.
- Pádraig Ó Tuama, from In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World
[Peacemaker, Jarem Sawatzky, learned from Thich Nhat Hanh to write poetry as one way to be more mindful. He encourages his readers to “take me as your guide and write bad poetry”:]
The Freedom of Non-Entitlement
Beneath some of my suffering lies anger
Beneath anger, impatience
Beneath impatience, entitlement and wrong expectation
Entitlement is the seedbed of wrong expectation
Expecting now what cannot be now creates impatience
Impatience erases time and creates anger rooted in the
injustice that our wrong expectations cannot be lived now
Anger overflows to suffering
The suffering of wrong thinking and
The suffering of wrong action
The presence of this kind of suffering
waters the seeds of anger, impatience, wrong expectation
And the cycle of violence goes on
Transform entitlement and a new horizon of being
Bubbles forth into the present moment
Through the law of non-entitlement
we can embrace and enjoy death
The ones who know
the universe does not owe them anything
A great weight is lifted
We are not entitled to our entitlements
They are not what makes us beautiful
The flower follows the law of non-entitlement
It does not expect to live without end
It does not see its own death as injustice
Gazing at the flower we know will die
Does not feed within us the seeds of anger
Somehow suffering diminishes
in the presence of the flower’s fragile beauty
How can I live and die
Like the presence of the flower?
How do I embrace the way of non-entitlement?
- Jarem Sawatsky (with permission), from Dancing with Elephants: Mindfulness Training for Those Living with Dementia, Chronic Illness or an Aging Brain
[In these early days of the new year, many of us are focused on praying for peace. This morning I received an update from an NGO that I’m involved with (Mennonite Central Committee) that is actively involved in peace work in Iran. They offered this prayer, adapted slightly from Richard Rohr:]
O Great God of Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings. Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world. Today we pray especially, and deeply, for peace in the Middle East. May leaders be drawn to the table of negotiations and away from the temptation to more missiles. You are hearing us better than we are speaking; we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God. Amen.
[An excerpt from a lectionary reading on this First Sunday of Advent followed by a stanza of a poem that resonated:]
You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. – Romans 13.11
…. It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air….