Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Self vs. Nature

I had a wonderful lunch conversation today with John Wright, a poet-physician friend of mine here in Seattle. We were discussing (among other things) how he is trying, in his poetry, to erase the line between self and nature. It's a very Western worldview, that humans and nature are different. I think the Eastern worldview is much more comfortable with the oneness of all things, and that the human is just another aspect of nature, and not separate from it. I was reminded of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems. I love how she sees even the act of wanting to write a poem, as part of nature. (the line indentations are not carried over . . . .sorry):

The Lilies Break Open Over the Dark Water

that mud-hive, that gas-sponge,
that reeking
leaf-yard, that rippling

dream-bowl, the leeches'
flecked and swirling
broth of life, as rich
as Babylon,

the fists crack
open and the wands
of the lilies
quicken, they rise

like pale poles
with their wrapped beaks of lace;
one day
they tear the surface,

the next they break open
over the dark water.
And there you are
on the shore,

fitful and thoughtful, trying
to attach them to an idea —
some news of your own life.
But the lilies

are slippery and wild—they are
devoid of meaning, they are
simply doing,
from the deepest

spurs of their being,
what they are impelled to do
every summer.
And so, dear sorrow, are you.

-- Mary Oliver


Suzanne said...

Peter, thanks for this. :-)

jenni said...

I agree--it's a western/european thing. and i think it's very destructive and causes people to suffer spiritually. i'm reading a native american mythology book right now and they also have a oneness with nature, they are inseperable from it, it's very interesting to me that the native americans closest lineage is the eastern cultures (according to mitochondrial DNA), and they share a very similar spiritual approach. i've watched a few pbs specials on other aboriginal cultures, south american, austrailian, african, and they too have a direct connection with nature--it's as if progress seperates us from this origin, and that may be the root of many of our social problems, this detachment, in my small opinion, of course.

A. D. said...
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