My friend J, who is currently situated in Shanghai and I had a series of conversations recently that revolved around
the general ugliness and lack of beauty in Chinese cities,
the destruction and marginalization of aesthetics in the mad rush of the Chinese toward development and capitalization and also
the dearth of creativity, culture and gentility amongst the Chinese.
Yes. Big topics – but mainly, I think he was tired. When your world is concrete and steel and shouting pushy people, it wears you down and it was wearing him down by slow degrees. When he left for a much needed vacation to his home in South California, I was glad. Enjoy the summer sunshine, friendliness and idealism, I told him. Enjoy.
I had no real answers for him. Just like I have no real answers when tasked about why I send out poetry to my friends, post up pieces of prose, poetry or music, on this blog and on my facebook notes. There is no real plan, no grandiose ideal about changing the world. I do not pretend to be better or worse than anyone else because I love poetry, song and story – conversely, the love for it makes me a dreamer, unfit for most jobs and definitely too impractical for the likes of my family.
I only know that it helps me, has always helped me. Francis Bacon once said that poetry 'has some participation of divineness' - and it does. I put it up here and out there because I love its beauty, its ability to awaken the mind, chart the inner landscape and set fire to the imagination.
This is why I set aside time for study - of the bible and other things my mind runs to. It is dark and–in the gracious silence afforded by early dawn or night - I look for a little light.
I was introduced to Mary Oliver via a blog I frequent and glad I am that she'd posted it up too. These days I am hungry for more - poetry, books, music, ideas - and reading Mary Oliver's collection of poetry cast a little divinity over my evening.
I've also posted the poem, because you never know, when some hungry folk might stop by your door, the way I stopped by hers, looking for - oh a little bread and milk,but also warmth, kinship and light for the path ahead.
are so perfect
I can hardly believe
their lapped light crowding
Nobody could count all of them-
the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch
only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world is perfect?
I bend closer and see
how this one clearly lopsided -
and that one wears and orange blight -
and this one is a glossy cheek
half nibbled away-
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled-
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing -
that the light is everything - that it is more then the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.
By Mary Oliver
What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.
I know that whatever God does,
It shall be forever.
Nothing can be added to it,
And nothing taken from it.
God does it, that men should fear before Him.
That which is has already been,
And what is to be has already been;
And God requires an account of what is past.