"Two men looked out from the prison bars.
One saw only mud, the other saw stars."
I was crossing the foot bridge over Route 29 going to the Mall when I read these words. I was so taken by them that I copied them down on a scrap of paper. No author was given credit on this graffiti poem scrawled on the wall. It was so profound. It can’t have been written by the person brandishing the sharpie could it?
No, a Google search proved it to be written by Oscar Wilde. Well, maybe he was “crossing over” Route 29 at the time.
What I appreciated so much about the poem was the reminder that while I may not be in control of every aspect of my life, I am responsible for what I make of my life.
The Buddhist believe that one should embrace rather than deny the painful aspects of our lives by using each situation as an opportunity to feel your heart, to feel the wound, to touch the soft spot.
Brother David Steindl-Rast’ in his book Gratefulness, the heart of prayer teaches us that to find the gift in situations, we must be open for surprise which is the essence of hope.
His take on optimism and pessimism is interesting. He says that pessimism is preferable because optimism can be mistaken for hope, but that “hope happens when the bottom drops out of our pessimism” and “we have nowhere to fall but into the ultimate reality of God’s motherly caring.”
Brother David also regards the tension in our lives as important in living a life of fullness. He writes “only a heart familiar with death will appreciate the gift of life with so deep a feeling of joy.”
After taking the “Gratefulness” class with Jerry Goethe, I wrote a few poems that touched on these subjects. I would like to share one of them with you:
Tension is the line
between joy and despair
. . . too good and not good enough
. . . fulfilled and overwhelmed
I live near the middle
most of the time
. . . pulling for one
. . . pushing against the other
Sometimes I slide
despair seems near
. . . and I'm not good enough
. . . and I'm overwhelmed
And life is hard
For some reason, I can't reproduce my poems without having them double spaced in this blog. Since that takes up so much room, I only choose one poem to share. If anyone is interested in others, please let me know and I will post another soon.