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