Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Ritual of Reading to Each Other

As the tragedy in Japan continues to unfold and reveal the full scope of its implications for the people of Japan, for all of us, I have been attempting, not to make sense of it, that would be folly, but to see more clearly the full extent of our connection to each other. "No man is an island," and neither is any nation. The land masses that appear to distinguish, if not separate us, are nothing more than arbitrary allotments assigned, bought, or won, depending on the circumstances that shaped our human history. And nothing more.

We sail around the universe together, breathing the same air, drinking the same water, deriving the same nourishment from the plants that spring from our collective soil. We may not be able to see the thread that lives silently among us, carrying a current of compassion from which we all derive, but it is there. It is our responsibility to understand this so it can travel unimpeded by fear or any sense of separation.

Several years ago, I participated in what some friends and I referred to as The Annual Bungo Poetry Reading. Bungo was the name of the township two of my friends lived in. They were neighbors, so one of them usually hosted this event. We would each select three poems to read aloud. There were no restrictions, just three that felt right for whatever reason at the time. It was held in the middle of winter, a time when we needed the warmth of such an event to help carry us through 'til spring.

Through all of our moves, one of those friends is now my neighbor and we have decided to reinstate the annual event, albeit a tad later than usual. We have chosen the evening of the vernal equinox to hold our poetry reading and celebrate the beginning of spring. It will remain The Annual Bungo Poetry Reading in honor of those earlier times.

While looking through my books of poetry, making selections for the reading, I came upon one of my favorite poems, by one of my favorite poets, William Stafford. To me, it speaks of connection. We oftentimes feel a strong connection to an individual. The first time we see them, or hear their voice, something about them looks or sounds familiar, as though we've always known them. It's something I refer to as 'ancient recognition.'  These valuable connections serve as conduits through which our Oneness is expressed, thereby playing an essential role in our recognition of the interconnectedness of all life. That is my belief.

A couple of days ago, I felt I should post this poem. Somehow it helped me to understand our connection to the people of Japan, as well as the people of New Zealand, all who are struggling with the upheaval that seems to have overtaken their lives. I hesitated to do so, not sure if it was fitting. But then, last night, I dreamed of a young William Stafford (who passed on in 1993), sitting in an easy chair, his head bent towards the written page, all aglow in lamplight, and he was reading this poem to me. So, I got out of bed and sat down to tell you about it and to share his poem with you.

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephants tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs and not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider --
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake, 
or the breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give -- yes or no, or maybe --
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Photo credits:
Red Crowned Crane (Japan) by Huajin Sun
Kakapo (New Zealand flightless parrot) by Shane McInnes


  1. Teresa,
    ...that is beautiful~
    I beleive we have a deep connectedness to each other and I like the words you used; ancient recognition. It brings to mind that thought of being related in a past life and while I continue to struggle with that concept it 'feels' right because there are some people who we do meet and have a strong strong fiber shared; how to explain it?
    I need to read the poem again and again as it is truly multi-layered and reveals a new thought each time I read it!
    thanks for the brain food this lovely morning....

  2. Teresa, thank you for the wonderful poem. I have been reading Thich Nhat Hahn, who talks about the interconnectedness of all life, and how peace in one soul transmits itself to other souls. That poem is so beautiful, filled with so much meaning to me, and to others.

    Our interconnectedness through the world of blogging is incredibly important to me, to my life, to my continued growth. Thank you again.

  3. Very lovely thoughts when as our world is in turmoil, leaving many of us helpless to do anything about it. The reading party sounds unique.

  4. Tracy, I, too, still struggle with the concept of previous lives, though some people arrive in our lives and we have that sense of instant recognition. It is a multi-layered poem that I still read and re-read garnering new emotions, ideas each time.

    DJan, I used to have his saying on my sidebar, "Peace in oneself, Peace in the world."
    I strongly believe that to be true, and so I try to maintain that sense of peace in myself in order to support all people who appear to be struggling to find it for themselves. I feel a very nice connection to others in our blogging community and it enriches my life in untold ways.

    Steve, I love poetry and reading it aloud to others, having them read to me, is such a pleasure. Very unifying.

    Thanks to each of you for your comments.

  5. Hello Teresa,
    I have only just found my way to your blog, your writing is lovely and how wonderful was your dream of William Stafford.

    I too have written on my blog of the connectedness of us all, felt especially when disaster strikes, and I understand your description of of something familiar when we meet someone, a feeling that we have known them somewhere before. As William says,
    '....the darkness around us is deep.' and in the words of the song,'Fragile' by Sting....

    'On and on the rain will fall
    Like tears from a star like tears from a star
    On and on the rain will say
    How fragile we are
    How fragile we are.'

    I hope your coming week is a good one, and thanks for posting the clip of Monty Python it's hilarious! :)


  6. Your writing is so beautiful and thoughtful, Teresa, and I love the poem. I did not know William Stafford until now.Thank you.
    This bird with colours like the environment around it: The eyes are so sensitive. It's almost like it is asking for help. This bird moves me very much.

  7. Reading outloud, another, yet different stimulation for the mind. I remember my parents reading nursery rhymes to me. Thinking about that I see it is a very intimate and loving thing, reading to others. It causes the mind to pay attention in a different way, something to think about. This is a very complicated and interesting poem, I will have to come back to it again a few times. You have reminded me of when I was a child riding in a car with my parents many times traveling and thinking, I have been here before, asking my parents and them saying, no we haven't been here before, and yet there was a definite rememberance in my mind, I have that feeling with people too, of somehow knowing them. This morning I've been thinking hopefully out of this tragedy of quakes it will bring more world love and togetherness. Thanks for your thoughtful post, love that crane in the air and the soft parrot is almost completely camophlaged

  8. Jane, I'm so glad you visited my site. And thank you for your comments. Our connectedness is a topic that continually expands for me. I see it does for you as well.

    Grethe, Thank you So Much. Those birds, and in particular that one, move me, too. The eyes, yes.

  9. Linda, What nice thoughts about reading aloud. It is an intimate thing to do and a part of learning to really listen.

    I have those remembrances, too, places I feel I've been before. Sometimes I dream about a place and then see it somewhere. An interesting world we live in, isn't it? We share many ideas. Thank you for your comments.

  10. Teresa, Not only do I love reading your blog, but enjoy all the comments. You have a way of bringing us together by posting your inspirational thoughts, then further inspiration is provided by the comments of a like minded group. I'll check back now n then, just to read more comments. Another great post.

  11. TM, Thank you, Lynn, for being a part of this fine group. I like the sense of connection and community that it creates.

  12. This one thing I know, we are definitely all connected. I'll leave it at that for your same reason at first, not knowing if it's fitting. If he was reading to you, he WAS reading to you. Dreams are unbelievably powerful. The one thing I wish for, would be able to remember. I wonder why some are given that gift and others not. When I talk to Ken, I feel enlightened. I have a girl friend whose Grandson is 11 and gifted. They live with her now. Last week, the little boy woke her in the middle of the night and told her she had to take care of certain papers. Sure enough, the next day she found serious consequences over a forgotten paper. This knowledge would be so useful . Then we'd know.
    Love and peace

  13. Such a thoughtful post. I like the idea of ancient recognition; I have experienced this myself. I too believe in our Oneness.
    The kakapo photo is so very beautiful, I have yet to see one of these rare birds.

  14. Manzanita, It is my belief that we can train ourselves to Know, on a very deep level, to Remember. It takes active listening and then acting on what we see or hear in the appropriate way. Dreams have long been valuable sources of necessary information. Thank you so much for sharing that story of the young boy and his ability to listen. Young people are so receptive. It's Life and culture that get in the way.

    Marilyn, Thank you for reading and commenting. I was thinking of you and Joan as I selected that image to illustrate New Zealand, its beauty and wonder.

  15. Teresa, I believe we're all in this together, and our connections are deep and ancient.

    While I dash around in my life, you create words of substance in yours to share. Thank you for that gift of yours.

  16. This is such a lovely thoughtful post and I Loved seeing the kakapo there! Thank you for being the beautiful person you are. The older I become the more aware of this inter-connectedness that you express so well.

  17. Linda, Thank you for the kind words. Your dashing around includes helping to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. Nice dashing there, kiddo. I agree, our connections are "deep and ancient."

    Joan, It's a growing awareness for me, as well. Thank You.

  18. That photograph of the crane just speaks volumes. I love it. The poem is really powerful. I'll try hard to be mindful of the shrug.

  19. Gorgeous poem. It really made me think about union.

    The tragedy in Japan has helped me to remember how little control we have over the universe and how important it is to appreciate each moment. The next turn can bring strange and unusual events.

  20. Hi Cheryl, Shrugs tend to be fraught with indifference, so I agree, mindfulness of those things is important. Thank you!

    Hi Bill, I'm glad it spoke to you, too. It does appear that we live in tumultuous times. But, even if we didn't you know how to appreciate each moment. So, we're doing fine... :)

  21. "Though we, searchers for truth, seem eternally bound, born for the grave, the answer lies simply in collapsing the probability wave." Cletis Stump

  22. I agree, Cletis, utterly and absolutely.

  23. i had to read the poem a few times to see and feel it as it speaks of our importance to see each other. it is our responsibility as lights and lovers to hold each other close, no matter how far away they may actually be from us.
    thanks, my friend.