Mark Nepo, poet
REPEATEDLY WE ARE ASKED
to embody or consume;
to be in kinship with everything larger
or to order and manage everything smaller.
We are asked, every day, to align or separate;
to coordinate our will with everything living
or to impose our will on everything we meet.
And not choosing is a choice. Acquiescence
is different from patience or surrender.
All this leaves us needing to know:
whether to better the song through practice
or to better ourselves through singing.
I found this poem by Mark Nepo and I realized that we are asked repeatedly these life and world altering questions, moral questions. Razor sharp questions. Often times I turn away — turn on the television, eat a snack, do some work. But the question remains in the air, in my soul, knocking — haunting. If I turn back, even for a moment, and choose to embody rather to consume, to align, rather than set myself apart — I am always filled with music. No — not the kind you hear with your ears, but the kind that fills your heart, beating in your chest, filling your throat with a sound that could come out in a wail or a song or a deep, deep, sigh. Aliveness greets me when I turn back to embody and to align. Even when what I encounter is a sorrow as deep as space — I know myself to be alive, alive, alive. So — why do I turn away at all?
Maybe because every embodiment comes with a recognition of brokenness and every alignment with a recognition of all the ways that we live and move out of rhythm with life or worse — the ways that people have tended to impose their will on everything — nature, children, one another? And those recognitions alone could break your heart. Maybe become every recognition is accompanied by a demand of some kind — to offer healing, mending, to smooth the way, to bring some portion of harmony back to a space gone cacophonous?
That makes me think of my husband who goes on on the weekends to do ecological restoration. Cutting down buckthorn, clearing away invasive species. I wish I could do that, too, because in every act you have an outward expression of the desire to make amends to the earth. Repeated often enough — it’s a mantra of healing. Of course, even in doing that, you take out your clippers or chainsaw and impose your will again. But this time, at least, you hope it is in accordance with the well-being of the earth.
Small acts and large, when I do turn into the world rather than turning away, I am happier, more at home, more alive.
Why turn away at all?
And yet, I turn toward and away…toward and away.