What We Need Is Here

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 5:54am
Photo by Fabiana Zonca

What We Need Is Here

"What we need is here."
—Wendell Berry

In one way or another, every wisdom tradition I know says that what we need is here. It's just a matter of opening our eyes and appreciating what I call "secrets hidden in plain sight."

But we can't do that when we're obsessing about the past or the future, or about what we don't have, or allowing a thousand distractions to prevent us from noticing the gift of "here and now."

Here's a poem from William Stafford that reminds us to pay attention to such simple gifts as the way "sunlight creeps along a shining floor," respecting and receiving them for the gifts they are. Look around, he says, "starting here, right in this room," and see what we've been given.

He's not advocating passivity. He's advocating receptivity and gratitude, without which life becomes hollow.

You Reading This, Be Ready
by William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. The interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life—

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

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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.

Share Your Reflection



I've found that I can practice this a little more each day. It's an addition to prayer/God time and creative time. Sometimes two, sometimes all three of these are the same thing.

This is beautifully said.. I truly derived a sense of calmness and tranquility as I read this. Thank you.

As for the big questions, like, "Do you believe in God," my answer is that I strive to pay attention every day. In the big and the small experiences of day to day life are the clues, the hints, that I believe will, over time, answer those questions. I'm OK with not knowing. By paying attention, though, the answers acquire a bit of shape every day.

Beautiful. Reminds me of words of wisdom once shared with our family:
"Wherever you are, be there."

Two poems by William Stafford, both found in the collection, "Ask Me", reminded me why his works seems so timeless: A Ritual to Read to Each Other, and Learning, which holds a mirror to the language of hate that is so prominent today.