Filed under: the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: love, Mary Oliver, self justification, striving, Wild Geese
Here is some solace, within reach, that gives relief from the human habit of constant striving. It’s in the form of a poem by Mary Oliver which tells us up front to end our ceaseless and vain attempts to justify ourselves. Then it says to simply succumb to what we love.
There’s a yawning void between self justification and yielding to what we love. We desperately and forever cling to our habits of guilt and self immolation. But the suggestion here is clear, we should – and it is natural to – yield to what our bodies want.
How can we be sure? It rains on the mountains and the geese are flying home, and all of these things – the world and everything in it – are calling to us to accept our proper place in it. The world floods our imaginations and becomes the overwhelming evidence that to belong and to rest in it is natural and desirable. By design it is not a place of striving but a place of belonging and rest, a place where we are allowed to love what we love.
Here is Oliver’s beautiful poem:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Wild Geese, Mary Oliver
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