The Discipline of Recognizing What’s True and Beautiful

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - 5:00 am

The Discipline of Recognizing What’s True and Beautiful

This Mary Oliver poem carries a reminder I can use every day: look and listen all the time for whatever it is that will “kill me with delight,” that will “instruct me in joy and acclamation,” that will help me grow wise.

It takes no special talent to look around our world and point out things that are numbing, depressing, or death-dealing. But becoming keenly and consistently aware of what’s good, true, and beautiful demands a discipline: we must open our eyes, minds, and hearts, and keep them open.

As we open up, we begin to see beauty everywhere, not only in nature but in human nature. There’s a lot of bad news out there, but there’s a lot of good news as well. Pass the word and help keep hope alive!

“Mindful”
by Mary Oliver

Every day
   I see or hear
      something
         that more or less

kills me
   with delight,
      that leaves me
         like a needle

In the haystack
   of light.
      It is what I was born for—
         to look, to listen,

to lose myself
   inside this soft world—
      to instruct myself
         over and over

in joy,
   and acclamation.
      Nor am I talking
         about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
   the very extravagant—
      but of the ordinary,
         the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
   Oh, good scholar,
      I say to myself,
         how can you help

but grow wise
   with such teachings
      as these—
         the untrimmable light

of the world,
   the ocean’s shine,
      the prayers that are made
         out of grass?

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Contributor

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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