“We are the transformers of Earth. Our whole being, and the flights and falls of our love, enable us to undertake this task.” — Rainer Maria Rilke,
letter to Witold Hulewicz, November 13, 1925
“Your job is to find out what the world is trying to be.” — William Stafford, Vocation
“[God] has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” — Micah 6:8
These flows of thought collide in me today. I am happy with the confluence; when rivers come together, who feels the need to dip into the lake that forms and tell where the water came from?
In Rilke’s words for today, I wonder, does the “we” speak of the poet’s task? Poesis, or creation, from the Greek verb, poiein, to make. I think of my carpenter friends, my gardeners, my cooks … they might shun the notion of their work as poesis, as poetry. But in some way all who take the raw stuff of the earthen life — whether the wood of the tree or the fruit of the field or the love of another — and create with it are poets, are makers.
Everything that makes us human bends us to this task: to make there be more beauty, greater function, wider justice, deeper gladness … even when the making can leave us broken. (Shades of Daniel Lanois’ The Maker … “my body is bent and broken ….”)
In our making, we begin with what calls out to us: the shape of what is raw or incomplete or available, and seeking to be. That is William Stafford’s understanding of our vocation, which Rilke’s words bring to mind: “Your job is to find out what the world is trying to be.”
Maybe not all the world at once … but your little corner of it, one uncreated piece at a time. And there we connect to the words of Micah this week, demonstrating that the vocations of poets and prophets are not so far apart. The invitation to the good life can be boiled down to ten words: to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
Another invitation comes later … love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself.
I wondered once upon a time how those two brief sermons fit together. Here’s one way: walking humbly with God is a way to love God. Doing justice is a way to love your neighbor. Which leaves two loose ends to tie together: loving kindness as a way to love yourself. In other words, to love yourself, be kind to yourself.
I wouldn’t have gone there on my own. I can be tough on myself, and not always to productive ends, tangling up in guilt and doubt and inadequacy at the drop of a hat. Fortunately, my beloved M is getting pretty adept at catching that hat: “How’s that working for ya?” she’ll ask. And, irritated, I have to take another look. What possibility is my guilt keeping me from seeing? What opportunities am I hiding out from with my doubts? What little thing would I be getting done if I were not so sure of my inadequacy for the big things?
Loving yourself enough to be yourself … pursuing what you are made to pursue … helping the world become what it is trying to be: more just, more kind, more deeply connected to the journeying source of Life.