A friend of mine sent me this link in the morning. It’s a beautiful page and was just what I needed. On Being is a “social enterprise” with a radio show at its heart. It looks at questions that we wonder about but are always scared to ask: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?
Those are questions that have always fascinated me. I have asked myself since the time I could put questioning thought to answering mind if I understand life. Do I know its nuances? Do I know it well enough to live it with the courage to be human, and the passion to make it beautiful? I have asked that question in relationships. In words. At work. Outside work. In travel. In movies. In art. I haven’t found yet the answer. I don’t even know if the question alone is worth its lifegrams in weight. On Being is the kind of site I would love to come back to, to see if they have some more questions as well. But before that,I read this big question there: Does my life have meaning?
It was one of those questions that I have gently skirted around. Maybe, I have to be really old to ponder that, I thought? My life has been one of a search for happiness. In this search, I have derived meaning. But as I read through the article, I was filled with new insights. And I fell in love. With this poem.
Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills—
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
The first line drew me in. In a few beautiful wise lines, Milosz taught me so much about the narcissistic self. The self we agonize over. The Poison Tree in our hearts we nourish with great self. It’s a wondrous thing, our self, and as Whitman said, we ought to celebrate our self. What Milosz reminds me though is that “you are only one thing among many.” Feel that way and you start to heal your heart. And this cute line: A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
I have been making friends with the birds and the trees, and the flowers the past few months. With the incessant squirrel that chirrups its way outside my window. These are beautiful friends, which have been healing me. They and this line “you are only one thing among many.” That, and to look at myself with the value of distance. In meditation, they might say it’s detachment. I like the word distance though. If only I were to look at my self from a distance…and gently loosen its claws, maybe I would be on the way to understanding that big question: How do you truly live with yourself?