Updated On — 17th Jun, 2021
Despite all that is wrong, I can still take delight in a moment of well-being.
News stories are not the conversation starters they used to be. In the day, I could fill an awkward gap by saying “Guess what I heard on NPR this morning?”
I don’t use that line anymore.
These are intense times. We need to find our footing in an information age that may be getting the best of us. We need to find some balance here.
Sometimes a poem jumps off the page and invites you to see the world with new eyes, if only for a moment.
a poem can change everything in a moment
I was looking at the world through those Anxiety Eyes before I read this poem by the Irish poet Derek Mahon, who left this earth just a couple of months ago.
Tonight is the final presidential debate in what many are calling the “election of a lifetime” (which is how I felt about Bush-Gore). No sense here going through the litany of everything which is wrong with the world.
Then I read his poem:
Everything Is Going to Be All Right
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.
“There will by dying”, he acknowledges, “but there is no need to go into that.”
Yes! That line averted my Anxiety Eyes, telling them, it’s OK, contemplate impermanence, but don’t hold on to it, you can let go.
“The lines flow from the hand unbidden / and the hidden source is the watchful heart.”
I feel Derek letting me inside his heart as it relaxes, taking a little sip of joy as the lines flow from his pen, from his “watchful heart.”
And in spite of everything–the election of a lifetime in less than12 days, continuing racial injustice, the economic and environmental pillaging– the sun rises, and the beauty of the “far cities” will be there for us when we can travel again.
delight is all around, help yourself
Yes, this can sound trite, but it doesn’t to me.
For me it means that despite all that is wrong, I can still take delight in a moment of well-being.
Like the anonymous person in this well-known Zen story from the classic 1957 collection published by Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones:
A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above.
Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him.
Only the vine sustained him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away at the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other.
How sweet it tasted!
Yes, there are tigers everywhere we look.
But there are also moments so sweet they stop the mind from whining. And they are everywhere, if you just relax those Anxiety Eyes, as Derek shows us, letting us into a most intimate moment of the morning, in bed, lying
“in a riot of sunlight.”
… watching the day break and the clouds flying.
How sweet those moments of well-being are!
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