Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Learning Patience

I am learning to write because the world is beautiful and I want others to feel its wonder. I am trying to give myself time to learn, but today's technologically interconnected world urges us to share instantaneously and often. Have a thought? Pull out your smartphone and post it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram now—right now, in the moment. Post and share early and often, or become irrelevant.

But the truth is that writing is difficult. Learning to write well is even harder, and finely crafted words matter little if you've nothing important to say.

My inspiration comes from the great nature writers. I can't help but wonder if Henry Thoreau, John Muir, and Sigurd Olson would have become such powerful writers if they had Tweeted each passing thought instead of letting their words mature and mellow. I have my doubts.

Lately I have been learning to slow down, and I find encouragement in the words of Wendell Berry. I share his poem, "How to Be a Poet," to urge others to slow down and be more deliberately contemplative. Good things take time.

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How To Be a Poet
By Wendell Berry
(to remind myself)

i

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

ii

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

iii

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Source: Poetry (January 2001).


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