Tag Archives: wisdom

Shutting Up

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I’ve thought of many books and inspirations that I’d like to pump into your veins to inoculate you from the traumas of living on this planet in a human body, but in the grand scheme of things I really, truly know that you will find all the wisdom you need at the moment you need it.

This is what I opened last week, slipped out of a little brown envelope and held in my hands. The card was perfect for me, complete with the stamp of a chicken and Rumi quote about birds flying and falling and flying again.

At first, I thought:

What?! Please, please, inoculate me! Send me every quote, every book, every shard of wisdom you have because right now I’m feeling so incredibly overwhelmed by being who I am and not who I am supposed to be.

But then, after a few moments of feigned irritation, I realized she was right.

I wasn’t ready.

And just as I have been suffocated by genocide in Iraq, Ebola in Sudan, the anger of supermarket workers and strikes, the racism and fear and riots, the brokenness of my students, the brokenness of everyone I love, the brokenness of me, I wonder if I would be equally as suffocated by bits of wisdom that I’m not yet ready to digest.

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This was where the rest of my post was, the part where I write about learning to shut up and stop giving advice, stop giving wisdom. Where I stop myself from talking.

Then the irony caught up with me.

“You will find all the wisdom you need at the moment you need it.”

That was enough wisdom for that moment. And this one.

Athena and Poetry

I bought myself an owl necklace a few days ago. It has a long chain and pearls for eyes. He sits perched on a little swing, his body round and his nose pointy.

I bought it for an Athena costume because the owl is the symbol of wisdom, and Athena is the goddess of all things wise. It’s no coincidence that the goddess of wisdom is also the goddess of the arts: painting, drawing, writing, singing, they all mingle in her power.

I’ve worn it a few times now, always expecting to put on something else – something a little more normal, a little more traditionally me – but each time I reach for this odd gold owl. I like that when I talk, I can hold it, and I like the way it feels in my hand.

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I taught my first poetry class to a room of adults, and I wondered What am I doing? but instead I said, Here, read this Ted Kooser poem about loss and brokenness, and let me define “imagery” and “diction” and “personification”. And please, pretend you’re in eighth grade and this is all new to you. Thanks.

I tried to present poetry like the mysterious gift that it is. What is imagery? You tell me. What do you see, taste, touch, hear, smell? What do you feel, and how does the poet make you feel that? What does Kooser do that other poets do not? Can you create your own images? Can you reshape this to be yours?

This is the work of poetry. This is the distilling of moments.

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I slipped the long chain over my head as I got dressed in the dark. My first poetry lesson would be in roughly two hours. My first attempt at teaching this thing I have come to love would be over in roughly two hours and twenty-five minutes.

The owl swung down on its perch, its pearly eyes wide.

[Photo: Farid Fleifel.]