Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


“Are you a God?” they asked the Buddha.
“No,” he replied.
“Are you an angel, then?”
“A saint?”
“Then what are you?”
Replied the Buddha, “I am awake.”


I belong to no religious set,  but that doesn’t preclude me from respecting the messages that the main religions often agree on. Buddhism has attracted me, but not enough to make me a follower.  I do believe in a unifying energy that is existent in all living beings, a connectedness that streams through all of us regardless of whether we recognise it or not.  I have been attracted to the mysticism in many writers of poetry and prose and see a similar thread of recognition  of that energy from various cultures and eras.  There is a commonality of experience that cuts across individual experience putting us in touch with the essence of deep living. How do we wake ourselves up to our own lives?  In secular times there are a myriad of ways that we can do that, and even more ways of ignoring the call and living a sleepwalking version of that life.  I think most of us sleepwalk through most of our days, and that isn’t a criticism, just an observation.  It’s difficult to filter out the noise and the pressure that living a modern life produces.  Being one of seven billion or so people on the planet determines that we have to find ways of making the subsistence of life work.  But after you have food in the belly and a bed to sleep in, what do you want?  What do you really choose to seek?  When I was younger I chased my tail, wanting to appear prettier than I felt I was, cleverer than I knew I was and as independent as I could be from my family.  I looked for love, not realising that lovers didn’t necessarily provide it, and worked hard in a small printing firm for prestige and status,not realising you can never be as important as you want to be. I grew, and beside me I grew a family of my own, never believing in my ability to provide the sustenance they needed.  I was fully sincere in wanting my family to have its needs met, but felt I wasn’t doing it in a way that made sense to me. I had to find a way to be the mother I wanted to be, and to do that, I had to hear my own voice. When I separated from my husband, and we agreed to co-parent the boys it felt like a hurricane had passed through our lives. What seemed wrong in so many ways was actually the right thing to do. Difficulties abounded, and there was pain all around, but beyond the suffering there was hope .  This poem by Mary Oliver is a poem of transformation.  When you step out of a set of circumstances it can be discombobulating, but walking towards truth is always worthwhile. And dangerous. 

              The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.    Mary Oliver
There is a power in poetry that can change the way you think, even change the way you are.  It becomes a mirror that reflects your own experience to yourself in a manner you had never seen before. Poetry can be the alarm clock you need to wake up to your life.
The painting is from the Tretyakov gallery, by Arkady Alexandrosovichn Rylov. ‘In the blue expanse.’


One thought on “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

  1. Pingback: Wild and Precious Life - Toot Sweet 4 Two

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