What We Need Is Here

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 5:54am
What We Need Is Here

Parker Palmer draws on the words of two poets to remind us that we must embrace receptivity and gratitude to live a full life.

Commentary by:
Parker J. Palmer (@parkerjpalmer),  special contributor
Shortened URL
4 ReflectionsRead/Add Yours
Credit: Fabiana Zonca License: flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
"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 Wllliam 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?

Shortened URL

Add Your Reflection

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><span><div><img><!-->
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Embed content by wrapping a supported URL in [embed] … [/embed].

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

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."

Top Blog Posts

With the dulcet tones of the Copenhagen Phil, commuters find a moment of unexpected musical joy in this flash mob scene. You will too.
Rather than being defined by what she's not, Courtney Martin offers a more complex perspective from a new generation of seekers. An introduction to our new weekly columnist who will offer fresh ways of looking at "the burden and joy of trying to understand how to be a good human."
What if it turns out that faith is truly existential, not a leap of faith but a reality already there for us to notice and accept? A meditation and a poem on the suffering of Job.
At our darkest hours, when light fails to find a home, a path of buttercups may lead us back. Parker Palmer offers up thoughts and a Willow Harth poem for many of us caught "underground."
A confluence of sources show kindred minds meet for the first time. How Thoreau's quote went viral. Millennials don't do and sage advice from Maya Angelou.