Tag Archives: do unto others
How to Write Poetry and Live Poetically
Free E-Course Lesson 33.1
Chapter 11: Living Poetically
We are getting rather close to the end of this course, and I am finding bits and globs of material that should have been included earlier. If it’s a small bit or glob, I just quietly insert it. But if it’s a big fat key to the understanding of a major concept, which is the case here, I feel bound to call your attention to it. The left-out part is “What Does It Mean to Live Poetically?” and I have stuck it in its logical place, namely, Chapter 11, “Living Poetically,” which began with Lesson 33. The new segment is Lesson 33.1 and you will find it here.
A Living Poetically Fortune Cookie
I believe, when all is said and done, all you can do is show up for someone in crisis, which seems so inadequate. But then when you do, it can radically change everything. —Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
- We plan to go to the Washington Monument (intended route = straight vertical line)
- Just as we are leaving, we receive emergency phone call: Grandma has fallen down the steps. We drive as quickly as possible to Grandma’s, dodging kangaroos along the route; Grandma is able to walk (a very good sign) and knows her name, what day it is, who is president of the U.S., etc.
- We take her to see Dr. Checkerout, who says that Grandma is hale and hardy and that the very best remedy for the small laceration on her left nostril (splinter on steps) would be to spend the day at the Washington Monument (Is that a coincidence, or WHAT?)
- We drive back to Grandma’s so that she can get her hat and camera and put on her walking shoes, and we set out again for the Washington Monument
- Oh, no! There is road construction in the vicinity of the Washington Monument; we must detour via Bermuda
- Well, since we have to go there anyway, we enjoy the sun and the surf in Bermuda, along with numerous tropical drinks containing rum; Grandma is sloshed, so we check in to a hotel
- We resume our trip to the Washington Monument the next morning, arriving without incident and having a wonderful time
How to Write Poetry and Live Poetically
Dealing Poetically with Adversity
Join now! Find details about this free E-course at Lesson 1
The poetic life is nothing if not flexible.
In the above diagram, the shortest distance (as the crow flies) from our house (upper left) and the Washington Monument is represented by a vertical arrow. Once we had learned of Grandma’s accident, however, it was not possible for us to take that route, poetically speaking. The shortest distance had become much longer. If you are going to live poetically, you need to use mystic math.
(The Truth Is in the Poetry)
Is it so foolish to deny that 2
plus 2 must always equal 4? Because
one thinks immediately of Julio
and Jeanne next door, with twins, Celine and
quiet Jim — not counting Thor, the sheltie,
they are four indeed — but one in the
directory, one phone, one family,
one house, one home.
How many syllables comprise a poem?
How many deities are in the Trinity?
How many personalities have you, or I
(not in the psychopathic sense, of course,
although one wouldn’t know, would one, if there
were moments unaccounted for — so many
billion galaxies to travel in for
one a bit unraveled)?
And then there is the Christian marriage
ceremony, wherein 1 plus 1 make 1,
and during which the wedding guests affirm
that all are one in Christ.
One day, one night, together, they become —
a day. Once more, the sum of 1 plus 1
is 1, at least within the limits of
the English language — its vocabulary
vast, indeed, although, alas, not infinite.
And think of all those violins, violas,
cellos, basses, trumpets, clarinets,
trombones, and horns and cymbals, harps
and bells and such — and all the men and
women, dignified in black and white,
with all their individual concerns —
one widowed just a year ago tonight,
another six years clean and sober; to
her left, an oboist whose brother was
indicted yesterday for tax evasion; on
her right, a Pakistani having such
a frightful allergy attack — and the
conductor, who has just received a check
for twenty thousand dollars from the lottery—
but now she raises her baton — and
in that instant of anticipation, in
that sacred, silent metamorphosis, how
many, would you say, have they become?
Four notes — three quick, one slow — are played:
the Fifth (but first, perhaps, in pure
and simple glory) symphony of Beethoven
begins… and in the audience,
a few may fidget, measuring
the minutes and intending to
retreat at intermission. Violinists
count the silent beats of idleness
between their passages, but, I imagine,
seldom ask themselves how many
notes they play in all, and just
as well, it wouldn’t change a thing. Do you
suppose there’s someone who, for fun
or scholarship, attempts to number all
the microbes in the hall, and further,
calculates the ratio of respirations that
occur between the second movement and
the third? For to be sure, it could
be quantified somewhere by some technology
or other. Fortunately, no one cares.
And that’s the point. They came, you see, to hear
Therefore, you’ll get no argument from me that 2 plus 2 are 4, not 3 or 17
or 20, but in turn you must forgive
the solecism I commit, suggesting there’s
a truer truth than anything that can
be proven by addition — if it were
not so, than why would anybody bother?
What would be the joy of noticing
this pattern or that symmetry? Do we
pursue a proof because the numerals
insist on our attention? I am sure
the stars care nothing of our counting
them or our refraining from it. Finding
order in the universe, or else
imposing it, or otherwise competing
in a race with chaos, really has a single
benefit — it satisfies, however
temporarily, the spirit, and
the truth, you find, is in the poetry,
not in the paper that it’s written on
or in the composition of the particles
that dart about at rates astonishingly
great — as we believe, for so the eye
of science witnesses, and since we give
it credibility, we cannot disagree.
It pleases us to cede authority
to science, even though we never see
the viruses and other microscopic
entities; but science offers remedies
for every manner of disease and warns
that to release a sneeze uncovered will
unleash a tyranny of demons; so
it seems, in our experience, and is
esteemed as fact, no longer theory…
because it matters. That’s the only
reason — saves a life, perhaps, or
fifty million. If the latter, is the
scientific effort fifty million times
more worthy? I don’t know.
You do the math.
by Sister Alma Rose
“Galaxies,” “tulips,” and “stars” images © Luc Viatour GFDL/CC
The Ashley Incident
My son Jack and daughter-in-law Ashley live next door with their children, one of whom is Little Jack, who is almost a year old.
Last Sunday, I got a 7 a.m. phone call from Ashley. She was obviously in huge pain. I told her to go immediately to the hospital, where the emergency-room personnel discovered via numerous expensive high-tech methodologies that she was hemorrhaging, which I could have told them without the machines and the expense. After about six hours spent groaning in agony, Ashley was rushed to the operating room for exploratory surgery, anesthetized, split open like a salmon, and relieved of a couple of pints of blood and a ruptured ovarian cyst.
They sent her home on Tuesday, less than 48 hours after the surgery, with an incision the length of Interstate 40 and instructions not to lift the baby or any other heavy object for two weeks. This was one of those unfunded mandates doctors and hospitals are so fond of issuing, because of course they did not send Mary Poppins or Mr. T home with Ashley.
“How,” I asked myself, “would a Person Living Poetically respond to Ashley’s dilemma?” This was not an idle question, because I tend to feel that I am to blame for everything, including World Hunger, and that everything is therefore my responsibility. I am a pathological People-Pleaser, and my default definition of myself (CONtentwise) is “one who ties up all the loose ends in the universe.”
As it happens, I had a lot to do this week, and Ashley’s plight arose at a very inconvenient time for me. I had deadlines to meet and telephone interviews to conduct and no clean underwear.
Theoretically, it would have been possible for me to keep to my schedule, just as it would have been possible for the Washington Monument–bound family to call 9-1-1 for Granny and go on its merry way. But if one has decided to live poetically, such choices are no longer simple. Another possibility would have been to help Ashley and grouse about it continually, moaning and groaning every time I had to carry little Jack from one room to another or, worse yet, up a flight of stairs, which I did, several times, moaning and groaning shamelessly because, after all, I didn’t drop him, so I attained the victory only slightly tarnished.
Fortunately, I had done the decluttering exercise in Lesson 5.1 and I had finished the personal inventory assigned in Lesson 13, so I wasn’t being a knee-jerk do-gooder when I decided to devote as much time as was needed to Ashley for as long as she needed it. Using the Golden Rule, it turns out, is a pretty good way of making decisions much of the time, and what I would want Others to Do unto Me, if I had just lost 25 percent or so of my blood supply and had major abdominal surgery and if I were lurching around due to the pain of an incision that looked like the Aleutian Islands, is, I would want Others to cater to my every whim and relieve me of all responsibility for babies, diapers, six-year-olds, meals, and the like.
So that is what I have been doing instead of attending to my blogs and my deadlines and my laundry. That, and accepting with gratitude the various casseroles and salads and desserts supplied by the Church Ladies, because that is what Church Ladies DO, just as helping one’s grown children when they are in need through no fault of their own (as opposed to being in need because they have screwed up Big Time) is what I do, when I am living poetically.
- Identify as many poetic devices as you can in “Mystic Math,” above.
- Send your assignment via e-mail to Mary@LifeIsPoetry.net. I will not grade your assignment, but I will return it to you with comments.
- Keep exploring the meditations at www.LifeIsPoetry.net, and continue with your meditation journal.
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