The Abundance Within Us and Between Us (Video)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - 6:57am
Photo by Doug Bowman

The Abundance Within Us and Between Us (Video)

I'm struck by how often we act as if what we need is in scarce supply, making life a grim contest to get our share, or more, of scarce resources.

I'm not talking about folks who live with real scarcity when it comes to basic needs like food, shelter, and a living wage. I'm talking about those of us who have enough or more than enough — and still cling to the "scarcity assumption" as if we needed more.

Even more striking is how the scarcity assumption can reach beyond our material needs. We sometimes act as if non-material goods — like attention, care, or love — were in scarce supply. If you get more than your "fair share" then I get less than I "deserve." Things like these are available in abundance within us and between us, but how easily we forget!

Sadly, the scarcity assumption leads to all kinds of things that kill the spirit: anxiety, resentment, hoarding, overwork, competition, and an inability to enjoying life.

When I find myself drifting in that direction, I return to this poem. If I read it slowly enough — savoring what Wendell Berry celebrates about nature and human nature — I am better able to open my eyes and see the truth in its last line.

The "scarcity assumption" is a self-fulfilling prophecy; the more I live as if it were true, the truer it becomes for me. Abundance comes as I break free of scarcity thinking and remind myself again and again that "What we need is here."

The Wild Geese
by Wendell Berry

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over fall fields, we name names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

I'm posting this Wendell Berry poem because I love it and need the reminder it offers every now and then — and because I want to recommend the great interview Bill Moyers did with Berry:

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Parker J. Palmer

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.


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We do have elders.We do have mentors. We do have guides. We can choose to listen or not. Those choices are manifest in the lives we live. Thank you so very much for sharing this.

Beautiful poem- I try (and often fail) to live so that I always remember and celeb rate "enough is as good as a feast)- I'm sorry, I don't know who said this beautiful statement.

"Isn't enough as good as a feast" is from Alice McDermott's book, "Charming Billy". The quote is one that can be debated over and over. For me, a "feast" can be the most simple of events or gatherings: it is our perspective and appreciation that makes something simple a feast!

Enough and no waste is better than a feast - is a quote we heard constantly from my Cork-born grandmother

bless you all for feeding our spirits with food worthy of our souls.

An amazing man Mr. Berry. My third grandchild is named for him. My little Wendell is only ten months old but I know he will carry this banner....and I am so pleased he is named for such an outstanding human, steward of the land and poet. Thank you, Mr. Berry, you are a gift also.

Exactly what I needed to remind me that, tritely, enough is enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.


Thank you for Berry’s “The Wild Geese”; my mind instinctively drifted to Mary Oliver and the world she invokes, the spread that endows its abundance to the imagination like grace itself—undeserved, unearned—“call[ing]… like the wild geese, harsh and exciting / over and over announcing [our] place / in the family of things.” The poems you have posted (Rilke, Marie Howe, Oliver…) have served as my fulcrum these last few months. I will perhaps compile them into an anthology, convey the gravity of their impact. Reading poems aloud, committing them to the synaptic currents, heals the soma from within. The effect approaches that of incantatory meditation on the mind. The distraction alone of close-reading a poem—sounding out its sounds, its meter, its movements, its organic and precise repose—coaxes the mind’s notice away from ambient and immanent noise. Perhaps in that hiatus, the body receives the soul’s approval to remap itself, to find ease in dis-ease. Why haven’t fMRIs been done on patients reading poems mindfully/aloud? I would love to see which regions of the brain light up like stars. Again, thank you for your posts that estrange thought into heeding the primordial inklings of the otherworldly, often only acknowledged in the privacy of dreams, solitudes, temples, and sanctuaries.

Thank you, thank you. We are one, one planet. we are all connected. Thank you again.

I awoke early this morning to see off my wife, Vera, who will today travel for hours to feed the hungry senior citizens through her program: Food For Seniors, a USDA program providing a monthly box of healthy food to seniors who are below a certain income guideline ( the folks who without this program might have to decide whether they will have food or medicine this month because they can't afford both. So anyway, then I had to figure out what to do before sunrise and my work at the office of seeing patients in need of healing. Then as I puttered around I found this link from my daughter Lisa, and as I listened to Wendell Berry, whose novel, Jayber Crow, I am reading now, I discovered why I was awake early: it was to listen to him for inspiration and mentoring about what to do with my 70's. What a joy and inspiration he is! And of course, his vision is similar to Thomas Berry whose video, The Great Work I have been sharing with others. I realized in the listening that I needed to be inspired by his vision of how we need to learn again that all around us and especially the earth is sacred, and not to treat it so is desecration. Maybe this work began when Katrina's flooding destroyed our home and we found our acre in the country and I started planting trees and flowers and herbs. Then there were the lemon trees that my brother was ready to cut down, and I took off his hands and replanted and now I have more lemons than I know what to do with so I share them. And already we have fruit, delicious Satsumas, from the little tree I planted 6 months ago. I don't know where all this will lead, but increasingly I have been aware that the patient most suffering and in need of healing is not the next one walking into my counseling office, but the earth and all living creatures that we have, by our greed and ignorance, made sick and dis-eased. Thanks for this inspiration interview and the hope it engenders. I'm especially thankful for his wisdom not to concerned ourselves with the results, but simply to do the right thing now that is given for us to do.
My grandfather who died before I was born, grew up on a farm in Missouri and came to work for the St. Louis Ice Company to tend the horses. I've heard the story that he did so to please his wife but was never happy in an office so far from the land. Maybe Henry lives on in me as this city boy finds in the country and the land inspiration and joy.
Now I do need to go to my other work >
> :-)
James Henry O'Neill (Jim)

Thanks for lightening my Sat in Vermont with one of my favorite persons-Wendell Berry. I am missing my home state of KY and this poem brings me joy. My husband has been reading to me at night since we Wed in 2009 and Wendell's book in Fidelity was the first. We were able to be at St Catherine's college in KY for that interview with Bill Moyers. I love the On Being segment
Be well,
Reverend Mary Perry, APRN

Thank you for posting this poem. I had not read it before. I was introduced to Berry's work within the past few years through a documentary short (link below). He quotes Berry: "under the pavement, the dirt is dreaming of grass." I love that quote.

I'm late to the conversation but this is such a powerful column. I have spent my life suffering from the "scarcity assumption." I know where it comes from but it developed when I was young and is still firmly entrenched in the core of my being. There is nothing rational about my "scarcity assumption." The beautiful thought of "Isn't enough just as good as a feast" is not natural to me. It is more like, "More, we always need more of everything lest we run out." Ugh. It is a soul sickness that needs constant assurances. Thanks to all for contributing. This column and all the responses have been beneficial.

Dear Parker & On Being Team,
This was so very powerful - an echo of a message I am hearing everywhere I turn these days. Thank you so very much for posting it. I know its time we all began the great work of patience he asks of us here.