My colleague Michael Glaser, a former Maryland poet laureate, recently alerted me to this observation by Trappist monk Thomas Merton:
The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. Our frenzy as activists neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our work because it kills the root of inner wisdom, which makes work fruitful.
The passage is at the foundation of a three-day retreat (October 21-23) Michael will be leading, along with his wife Kathy, entitled Seeking the Divine Through Poetry and Community. Michael tells me that they will be using poetry by Mary Oliver, John O’Donohue, William Stafford, Denise Levertov, Wendell Barry, and Rumi “to help us examine and explore the wonders and gifts of our individual and mutual journeys.”
Michael tells me that those interested signing up for the workshop (at the Kirkridge Retreat Center in Bangor, Pennsylvania) can find more information here or call 610-588-1793.
This Wendell Berry poem will be one of those he and Kathy will be using in the retreat:
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
The website of Australian artist Susan Stewart can be found at www.susan-stewart.com/chippaint.htm.
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