The Grandness of Uncentering Ourselves

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 5:00 am

The Grandness of Uncentering Ourselves

Robinson Jeffers (1887–1962) was an American poet who was deeply involved in the environmental movement of his time. He was one in the great procession of saints who’ve devoted their lives to trying to end the mindless damage we human beings do to the precious planet we call home.

In his poetry, Jeffers challenges us to “uncenter” ourselves. We must stop imagining that the earth revolves around us, our needs and our greed. We must learn to live lightly on this “sparkling blue and white jewel” floating in space (to quote astronaut Edgar Mitchell).

When people told Jeffers he was a dreamy idealist, he said (in effect), “Well, here’s some realism for you! One day the human race will disappear, but the earth will carry on long after we are gone.”

To put it more poetically, as Jeffers does in “Carmel Point,” nature “knows that people are a tide / that swells and in time will ebb, and all / their works dissolve.”

For all my love of the human tribe, I find strange solace in the fact that, in the end, the rocks and weeds and insects will outlast us all. Mother Nature will triumph!

But how grand it would be if — with that awareness — we could “uncenter” ourselves as Jeffers challenges us to do. How grand it would be if we could put the largeness of life itself, not our egos, at the center of our attention, care, and active concern.

“Carmel Point”
by Robinson Jeffers

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses—
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads—
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.—As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

Share Post

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.

Share Your Reflection

Reflections

apples