Another book that I find truly inspiring and refreshing is John O’Donohue’s The Four Elements. Here are some extracts from three of his poems quoted by his brother Pat in the foreword.
From ‘In Praise of Fire’
As air intensifies the hunger of fire,
May the thought of death
Breathe new urgency
Into our love of life.
As short as the time
From spark to flame,
So brief may the distance be
Between heart and being.
May we discover
Beneath our fear
Embers of anger
To kindle justice.
From ‘In Praise of Water’
The courage of a river to continue belief
In the slow fall of ground,
Always falling further
Towards the unseen ocean.
Its only life surrendered
To the event of pilgrimage
It continues to swirl
Through all unlikeness,
Let us bless the humility of water,
Always willing to take the shape
Of whatever otherness holds it.
The buoyancy of water,
Stronger than the deadening,
Downward drag of gravity
From ‘In Praise of Earth’
When the ages of ice came
And sealed the earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream,
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed’s self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.
Let us ask forgiveness of the earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.
Some quotes from Desmond Tutu’s God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time.
On ‘a deep reverence’ for this world:
… all is ultimately holy ground and we should figuratively take off our shoes for it all has the potential to be ‘theophanic’ – to reveal the divine. Every shrub has the ability to be a burning bush and to offer us an encounter with the transcendent.
On a church that is too focused on the world to come:
A church that tries to pacify us, telling us not to concentrate on the things of this world but of the other, the next world, needs to be treated with withering scorn and contempt as being not only wholly irrelevant but actually blasphemous.
On prayer, government and the kingdom of God:
It is dangerous to pray, for an authentic spirituality is subversive of injustice. Oppressive and unjust governments should stop people from praying to God, should stop them from reading and meditating on the Bible, for these activities will constrain them to work for the establishment of God’s kingdom of justice, of peace, of laughter, of joy, of caring, of sharing, of reconciliation, of compassion.
On peace, justice and terrorism:
… instability and despair in the third world lead to terrorism and instability in the first world. … there is no way in which we can win the war against terrorism as long as there are conditions that make people desperate. […] there is no peace without justice, and safety only comes when desperation ends.
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any – lifted from the no
of all nothing – human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
I read this amazing e.e. cummings poem (from Complete Poems 1904–1962) in Janet Morley’s The Heart’s Time this morning, only to find that it also featured as part of the Easter Eucharist led by Peter Francis at Gladstone’s Library this morning. An unexpected blessing!
I pray that his land is blessed by God:
with heaven’s gifts from above,
with the deep waters stretching out underneath;
with the gifts produced by the sun,
with the gifts generated by the moon;
with the best fruit from ancient mountains,
with the gifts of eternal hills;
with the gifts of the earth and all that fills it …
Deuteronomy 33:13-16 (Common English Bible)
This, it seems to me, is the way to see our world. If we saw it like that, perhaps we would stop exploiting it in such a mindless way. We are dependent upon these gifts, but they are gifts and need to be treated as such.