Life as a shrine to meaning

National Poetry Month, Day 16  //  There’s more than one way to success. One of them is a competitive, triumphal, acquisitive way. Get the better job; win the promotion; drive a more luxurious car; move into a bigger house in a better neighborhood. “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” Then there is the way known to people like Lao Tzu, a way in which people are “content with their simple, everyday lives, in harmony, and free of desire” (Tao Te Ching 37, trans. Stephen Mitchell). “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you” (ibid., 44). I’ve dreamed about the first way. I’ve even tried to travel it. And I’ve found it doesn’t fit, nor does it make for peace, nearly so well as the latter way. Leonard Nathan is well acquainted with this latter way. So is Parker Palmer.

“So?” by Leonard Nathan (1924-2007)

So you aren’t Tolstoy or St. Francis
or even a well-known singer
of popular songs and will never read Greek
or speak French fluently,
will never see something no one else
has seen before through a lens
or with the naked eye.

You’ve been given just the one life
in this world that matters
and upon which every other life
somehow depends as long as you live,
and also given the costly gifts of hunger,
choice, and pain with which to raise
a modest shrine to meaning.

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