May 11 – summer season begins

Monday, May 11 — “you had better get / your eyes checked / or, better, still, / your diminished spirit”

How many encounters could I remember if I worked at it, when someone took the trouble to tell me, bluntly and lovingly, to pay attention to the way I was not paying attention? — An old Lakota grandmother when I was just 24, her eyes alight with humor, knowing that I was just young. An older Jesuit telling me that I’d pushed too hard, a new priest daunting the congregation unnecessarily. An atheist scholar friend observing that when I spoke at MIT, I excluded my listeners from the heart of my thinking. This list is long and deeply refreshing, people who took the trouble to be allies to me. Their voices run as deep as those of people who worked to be precise when telling me I was beautiful. Mary Oliver writes of clouds to remind us of our allies, when scolding, when celebrating, our pilgrim selves.

Commencement is like that too. A campus full of memories when tough professors criticize and praise. Commencement gives graduates time to celebrate both as the voices of allies.
Every now and then Mary Oliver just smacks me . . . . to get my attention and helps me pay attention to the depths in my life.

Have a good week.


john sj

Today’s Post – Mary Oliver: “The Fist”


There are days
when the sun goes down
like a fist,
though of course

if you see anything
in the heavens
in this way
you had better get

your eyes checked
or, better, still,
your diminished spirit.
The heavens

have no fist,
or wouldn’t they have been
shaking it
for a thousand years now,

and even
longer than that,
at the dull, brutish
ways of mankind—

heaven’s own
Instead: such patience!
Such willingness

to let us continue!
To hear,
little by little,
the voices—

only, so far, in
pockets of the world—
the possibilities

of peace?
Keep looking.
Behold, how the fist opens
with invitation.


“The Fist” by Mary Oliver. Text as published in Thirst: Poems (Beacon Press, 2007).

Art credit: “Hand of Peace,” photograph taken on September 12, 2009, by Aidan McRae Thomson.
 “Peace sculpture on the seafront in Kusadasi [Turkey] town centre in the form of a giant white concrete hand releasing birds.”

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