Saturday, February 13, 2016

Awe -- the answer

Among many old Zen Sayings (are there many new Zen Sayings?) is the one that goes "When the student is ready, the master will appear." I think I've experienced some of that this past week. A couple of days ago I was writing about my concern that "The real issue seems to be that not enough of us appreciate such beauty as the world brings to us." This morning, as I huddled under a blanket, hiding for the -15F temperatures outside, I (re)read a column by Catherine Buni in the current issue of Orion magazine. Unfortunately, The Power of Awe isn't available on-line, so I'll share an excerpt here.
south shore of Lake Superior
south shore of Lake Superior
Photo by J. Harrington

...The human nervous system is rigged to "quiet the voice of self-interest, and to feel a sense of reverence for the collective," he'd found. The most reliable trip line from individual to collective, he reported in Born to Be Good, the 2009 book detailing his research, is awe. "Prototypical experiences of awe," he wrote, "involve perceived vastness, anything that is experienced as much larger than the self or the self's typical frame of reference." A grand vista. A forest. A hurricane. The birth, or death, of a child. The act of writing a poem...."
Buni's piece helped me to remember a wonderful story from a relatively recent issue of Yes! magazine, about one poem that helped to save a forest. It's a story of poets and poetry and awe and caring about people and life and the only home we have, as well as the beauty of serendipity and masters arriving when students are ready. I believe it would be worth your while to take the time to read it this Valentine's Day weekend and, ideally, share it with those you care about. I hope you enjoy this weekend surrounded by the warmth of those you love and who love you, filled with awe about how lucky we all are to have each other and our common home.

Awe of Everything

By Dara Wier
Do you know what’s the unluckiest thing
In the world, a differential grasshopper
Said to me. I paused, I put down the
Diesel grinder I’d been trying to fix,
I turned off the stealth bomber, I faded
Away from the faded away pedals, I put up
Finely embroidered silk panels over the
Faces of the statues, I pulled the green
Vacillating amplifier into the hallway,
I swiveled seven of the chains and
Loosened the bolts in the balcony, I went
Into the barn to unlace the cattle and
Overturn the empty buckets, I put the
White flag on the mailbox, I cut the
Telephone wires, I fed the ducks better
Than I usually feed them, I adjusted the
Faucets so they’d drip a little, I waved
At old Mr. Wiley with his smokeless pipe
And his manpowered plough across the field,
I moved a claypot off of a narrow ledge,
I taped the key to the bulldozer to the
Roof of the canopy, I took the cup of
Auger bits away from the rabbit hutch,   
I put a padlock on the children’s playhouse,
I picked up a stick by the sideyard gate,
I broke it over my knee, I went to the well
To fill a stone pitcher with cool water,   
I let the donkey & the goats go. I took
A ladder to the hayloft and took down a   
Suitcase. I could see across the valley
Down to the river from up there.


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