telling or being told

[On International Women’s Day – may all women be blessed to tell their own stories]:

We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or hate, to see or be seen. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then become a story-teller.

– Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

imagining justice

The exercise of imagination is dangerous to those who profit from the way things are because it has the power to show that the way things are is not permanent, not universal, not necessary. Having that real though limited power to put established institutions into question, imaginative literature has also the responsibility of power. The storyteller is the truthteller.

We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom. We cannot demand that anyone try to attain justice and freedom who has not had a chance to imagine them as attainable.

  • Ursula Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind

freedom of non-entitlement

[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 entitlement
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
are free
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

a response to confessions

[a follow-up to the last poem by Rachael Barham]

confessions ii : God responds

Hear this.
I don’t care
whether or not
you believe in me.

I believe in you.

I don’t need you to protect
my fragile sense of self
by defending me,
by ensuring I am the answer
to every question,
by twisting and distorting your precious soul
to accommodate this little image of me
that you’ve created but outgrown.

I am not small
and I don’t need you
to play small
or play safe for me.

Can’t you sense
that I am always
beyond,
outside,
and calling you
to join me there?

Can’t you feel
this unstoppable force
carrying you towards
a love so powerful
that it is breaking your brittle heart
and remaking it
as a river?

Can’t you see
that I don’t exist
for me,
but always for you,
always for the other,
and that you are just like me?

So please.
Let go.
Stop fighting
and give in to the mighty flow of reality
which is love.

Let whatever is
be.
Let your own beloved self
be.
Whether or not you believe I am
Let me be
for
you.

Let me be
in you.

Let me
believe
in you.

– Rachael Barham – see her blog to find this and related poems

avoiding tidiness and perfectionism

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

Besides, perfectionism will block inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California). Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground—you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation….

– Anne Lamott