Recently I posted a blog entitled The Dance – which shared my take on meaning and purpose, or more specifically my answer to the great philosophical question: why are there beings rather than nothing? That may seem like pretty heavy stuff but I wonder, without some sort of position on that central question, on what do we anchor our lives?
Of course there have been tomes written on this subject by an all-star lineup of great thinkers. Much of it I find weighed down with creeds and certainties that make it inaccessible to me.
But sometime after I penned my own thoughts on this subject, I happened upon a short poem by Wendell Berry that said it so perfectly from a different perspective. Berry uses few words but large ideas. He has a way of doing that.
Anyway, this is his delightful poem The Hidden Singer.
“The gods are less for their love of praise.
Above and below them all is a spirit that needs nothing
but its own wholeness, its health and ours.
It has made all things by dividing itself.
It will be whole again.
To its joy we come together —
the seer and the seen, the eater and the eaten,
the lover and the loved.
In our joining it knows itself. It is with us then,
not as the gods whose names crest in unearthly fire,
but as a little bird hidden in the leaves
who sings quietly and waits, and sings.”
Wow! Just wow! That was all I could think as I read and reread the poem. These few lines are extraordinary, each one holding a lengthy lecture’s worth of wisdom.
One of the many gifts of the poet is leaving space around the words so we can breathe them in, letting them speak to us at a deep level.
I was moved to find in his artfully crafted lines echoes of my own thoughts in The Dance. That is both humbling and reassuring.
I particularly like his ending, the image of the little bird hidden in the leaves, singing.
So the little bird waits – while we distract ourselves with material things, lost in our yesterdays and tomorrows, waits until we recognize the need to be fully in the present, and accept our destiny.
Meanwhile we get to enjoy the bird’s sweet song, as the beauty of life unfolds around us. As we struggle to wake up…to the dance.