Poetry approached me in that chaos of raw inverted power and leaned over and tapped me on the shoulder, said, “You need to learn how to listen, you need grace, you need to learn how to speak. You’re coming with me.” I did not walk off into the sunset with poetry, or hit the town with a blaze of gunfire with poetry guarding my back. Rather, the journey toward poetry worked exactly as the process of writing a poem. It started from the inside out, then turned back in to complete a movement. And then on and on in the manner of a ripple in water, a song in the air.
There is a tendency in the West to be convinced of the badness of human nature… It is essential that we be convinced of the goodness of human nature, and we must act as though people are good. We have no reason to think that they are bad. […]
I noticed in New York, where the traffic is so bad and the air is so bad … you get into a taxi and very frequently the poor taxi driver is just beside himself with irritation. And one day I got into one and the driver began talking a blue streak, accusing absolutely everyone of being wrong. You know he was full of irritation about everything, and I simply remained quiet. I did not answer his questions, I did not enter into a conversation, and very shortly the driver began changing his ideas and simply through my being silent he began, before I got out of the car, saying rather nice things about the world around him.
“So I decided to start bowing to everyone who crossed my path. Just a little teeny bow of my head. Just enough to remind myself not to be a jerk, since no matter who I’m talking to, whether it’s a child, or a principal, or a gas station attendant, or a frenemy, or Craig, it’s GOD I’m talking to. And as I bow, I say Namaste, God in me recognizes and honors God in you. I just think Namaste in my head, like the way Orthodox Jews wear a yarmulke to remind themselves that they are living under the hand of God. Or how Muslims pray five times a day to remind themselves of whom they serve. The world and the people in it are so beautiful when you are awake. And so the bowing and the silent Nameste is just a little practice to remind myself what’s real. What an amazing life I’m leading and what a gift the people I meet are to me. I know all of this might sound a little nuts, but I have decided that I am just over worrying about that. Robin P. Williams said, “You’re only given a spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” And maybe the world needs some crazy love. So I am embracing my spark of madness. Fanning it, even. And I’m bowing. And something’s happening because of it. It’s working. I’m starting to see God everywhere.
~ Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life
But most hearts say,
I want, I want, I want, I want.
My heart is more duplicitous,
though no twin as I once thought.
It says, I want, I don’t want, I want,
and then a pause.
It forces me to listen…
— Margaret Atwood, from Selected Poems II: 1976 – 1986
- Image Source: Jenna McElroy (via Journal of a Nobody)
- Quote Source: Paper Ghosts
- Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
- Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
My favorite sound is the gentle rumble of an elephant greeting. It’s a very low “brrrmmmbrrrmmm.” A large component of that rumble is infrasonic — below the range of human hearing. It carries quite far. And if an elephant is close to you, you can actually feel it vibrating in your chest. It’s just the most relaxing, gentle and friendly sound.
~ Cynthia Moss, a wildlife researcher and conservationist who has spent more than 40 years living with and observing elephants in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Botswana.
- Source: NY Times: Cynthia Moss
- Note to Self: Some day, if we’re not careful, this sound and this incredible creature will be gone. And what a monumental loss to this planet it will be.
The silence is profound this morning. It is not portentous; there seems to be nothing in the waiting. It is a gentle silence, liquid and pastel, a shimmer on still waters. It is good to listen to the silence that surrounds each day. In the same way that music is made alive by the silence that surrounds the notes, a day comes alive by the silence that surrounds our actions. And the dawn is the time when silence reveals herself most clearly.
I once met a man who was raised on the Canadian prairies. We got to talking about the open space, and how it had shaped his spirit. “When the wind stops,” he said, “it is so loud that everyone pauses to listen.” The thought intrigued me. How could the end of a sound be loud? But when I traveled to those prairies, I began to understand. For the people in the great prairies, the sound they hear, the music that underlies their lives, is the constant and ever-present howl of the wind. To them it is no sound at all. When it is removed, the silence takes a different shape, and all are aware of it; all pause to hear.
We need to pay heed to the many silences in our lives. An empty room is alive with a different silence than a room where someone is hiding. The silence of a happy house echoes less darkly than the silence of a house of brooding anger. The silence of a winter morning is sharper than the silence of a summer dawn. The silence of a mountain pass is larger than the silence of a forest glen. These are not fantasies, they are subtle discriminations of the senses. Though all are the absence of sound, each silence has a character of its own. No meditation better clears the mind than to listen to the shape of the silence that surrounds us. It focuses us on the thin line between what is there and what is not there. It opens our heart to the unseen, and reminds us that the world is larger than the events that fill our days.
Into this morning’s silence comes the first call of a bird. I listen carefully. It cuts through the silence like a rainbow through the dawn.
~ Kent Nerburn, ‘The Eloquence of Silence’ from “Small Graces: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life”
…I’ve never seen anything as strong or as stubborn,” he says.
And I think,
how do you tame a wild tongue,
train it to be quiet,
how do you bridle it and saddle it?
How do you make it lie down?
~ Gloria Anzaldua, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue“, From Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
Ouch. Hitting close to the bone here…