Monday, September 24, 2007

Attention Must Be Paid

Yes! No!
Mary Oliver

How necessary it is to have opinions! I think the spotted trout
lilies are satisfied, standing a few inches above the earth. I
think serenity is not something you just find in the world,
like a plum tree, holding up its white petals.

The violets, along the river, are opening their blue faces, like
small dark lanterns.

The green mosses, being so many, are as good as brawny.

How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly,
looking at everything and calling out

Yes! No! The

swan, for all his pomp, his robes of grass and petals, wants
only to be allowed to live on the nameless pond. The catbrier
is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppy
rocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better
than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless
and proper work.


I think that Mary Oliver is (and this is vast presumption on my part, presumption beyond what I ought, to imagine that I can add anything to what Mary Oliver, who, like Euclid, has looked on beauty bare, has to say) half right. Half of our work is to pay attention. I spent years and years working out as a spiritual truism just how crucial it is for us to pay attention, just how much Deity, embodied in the Earth, needs for us to pay attention, what an act of sustaining worship it is for us to pay attention, how much Deity loves it when we appreciate what's here. And one can spend several lifetimes honing that skill -- truly learning how to pay attention.

But I am convinced, here, as the Wheel of the Year slides toward Samhein, that we are called, as well, to pick a spot and to try to make it, in the words of the Beatles' song, better. To repair the web, to heal the world, to create beauty, to give comfort to the sick, to move forward the great, brave ideas of liberty and equality and sorority. To pick up trash, make art, teach mathematics, write clear prose, set an example, do Reiki on the ground beneath our feet, pick herbs for the unwell, write poems, father a child, drum a rhythm, find the ley lines, make soup, have sacred sex. To plant trees, engage the Ents, save the forests.

I can't imagine that we were put here only to pay attention. There must be a point to all of that paid attention, a reason why the Goddess chose to experience life in each of these particular forms. My reason, oddly enough, is to write clear legal prose in the service of good energy policy, to mother and grandmother interestng men, to serve a circle of brilliant women. What's yours?

1 comment:

Anne Johnson said...

My reason is to be an advocate for better treatment of turkey vultures.

Seriously, if you've read my entries about the Monkey Man, you'll be tickled to know that he has met Mary Oliver and had pleasant conversations with her!