The Quality of Our Lives on a Straight and Narrow Path

“Maybe we try too hard to be remembered, waking to the glowing yellow disc in ignorance, swearing that today will be the day, today we will make something of our lives. What if we are so busy searching for worth that we miss the sapphire sky and cackling blackbird. What else is missing? Maybe our steps are too straight and our paths too narrow and not overlapping. Maybe when they overlap someone in another country lights a candle, a couple resolves their argument, a young man puts down his silver gun and walks away.”

Naomi Shihab Nye

 

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6 thoughts on “The Quality of Our Lives on a Straight and Narrow Path

  1. Who are we — or rather
    Who am I that I should be remembered?
    Empty words on a cold tombstone
    That moulder away in the repetitious seasons,
    Moon after moon, eventually becoming a smooth stone,
    Meaningless words obliterated by the winds and torrents of forever.

    There is only the fleeting moment of my being.
    Think of how many countless stars have died in the enormous beyond.
    Why should a mere speck in the entire universe,
    A shallow unthinking human who probably harms more than heals,
    Why should it matter that such a worthless thing be remembered?

    Let me do my small bit, my minuscule daily acts to justify my existence.
    If they, if I, forgotten, it is nothing.
    I know that I have made my fleeing mark in the immediate.
    What I am and what I have done can never recapture what I am
    In this moment, not beyond this moment.
    Words and memories lie.
    Let me be the truth of now.

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    • Karen, your sense of the time-relativity of truth really moved me.

      Your poem also made me think of Rabbi Bunim, an 18th century Hasidic leader who is supposed to have said,

      ‘Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and there find the words: “For my sake was the world created.”

      ‘but when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: “I am but dust and ashes.”‘

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  2. I write poetry on occasion. But I always wonder where it came from. One is fearful of aping something that has already been said.

    But I haven’t read the works of many other poets so I may be safe.

    I went through a T.S. Eliot period in college, loved the bleakness of it all, matching the bleakness of a South Dakota plain if you only stare at the horizon.

    If you look up, or if you look down, you see vastly intricate worlds, however.

    I still wish that I could write like Dylan Thomas. To have written:

    The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
    Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
    Is my destroyer.
    And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
    My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

    I weep every time I see it, at its beauty.

    Thank you for your kind words.

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  3. What a wonderful, optimistic articulation of our condition, that we stumble, amble and trip through life knowing only the slightest things about how we affected the world. It makes me think of our current obsession with out “carbon footprints”. That’s an important, pragmatic thing, to be sure, but we shouldn’t overlook its symbolism, either. Neil Armstrong’s footprint forever changed the moon from a place never touched by humans to a place where humans had been. An impressive thing, an event that filled many with optimism and wonder. But we think about our harmful footprints, not about the beneficial chains-of-events that could be put into action by our setting our feet on some sandy bit of Terran soil.

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