desired things


Be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by your serenity, make others more tranquil.  Serenity is contagious. ~Satchidananda

This is a simple little poem for sharing.  The Latin word in its title translated means desired things.  It starts out a little rough, gets heavy with didactic advice about midway through, but trust me.  It’s a little bit of lovely in the end.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.


After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories [and poetry] are the thing we need most in the world. ~ Philip Pullman


[dot_recommends]    Email This Post

why Jesus wept

jesus-weptWhen I read John’s Gospel, I can’t get past just how many times Jesus points out the lack of faith in his followers.  It seems on just about every page of that Gospel in my Bible, he’s grumbling and poking and asking Why do you not understand what I am saying?  He grows weary, in my opinion, of those who remain blind to who he is, who can not have faith in his words alone but require signs.  I love this weary Jesus.  I love that he sighs, groans, rolls his eyes.  It makes him human, this subtle impatience.  I’m pretty sure this eyerolling Jesus isn’t the traditional reading of his character, but it’s how I read him in this Gospel and his wry complexity makes the narrative interesting for me.

Last night my littlest love and I put down Homer and read instead the day’s scriptures, the readings that in the Catholic Church are said at daily Mass.  Some of you may be familiar with John’s story of the adulterous woman thrown before Jesus by an angry mob ready to stone her to death.  Jesus famously responds with, Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.  Littlest love is quiet and snuggling into me as usual beneath her cozy blankets, and after a minute or two of silence, she says to me, Shouldn’t Jesus have thrown a stone at her, then?  I didn’t know what to say.  She’s sort of right, if you follow the logic.  More complexity.

On Sunday we heard John’s story of Lazarus raised by Jesus from the dead.

When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and he said, Where have you lain him?  They said to him, Sir, come and see.  And Jesus wept.

Many believe that Jesus weeps at Lazarus’s tomb because he sees Mary and Martha and the others crying.  Such an emotional scene would forge a lump in anyone’s throat, and the usual interpretation is that he is filled with compassion and joins them in their sadness.  But I think Jesus is “perturbed” and crying because they don’t truly believe in him.  I can almost imagine a soft and slowly emitted sigh just before he asks where they’ve lain him because he’s thinking, here I go again, proving myself.  My Bible has a footnote explaining that the word “perturbed” is a startling phrase in Greek and translates to “He snorted in spirit,” and the editors suggest this snorting was perhaps in anger at the presence of death.  I don’t think he’s angry, though.  I think he’s annoyed.  This is the eyerolling Jesus I love so much, and he is about to perform the miracle of all miracles to prove once and for all he is the Son of God.  He loves Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and when someone you love does not have faith in you, that is certainly cause for tears.  Jesus wept for them and their disbelief.  He is the light of the world, but people prefer to live in darkness.

O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you and endure you? ~ Luke 9:41

You Might Be Interested In: The Eyerolling Jesus | What She Might Tell Us

[dot_recommends]    Email This Post


Day by day, what you do is who you become.  ~Heraclitus

Two summers ago I had been taking my little loves to a country club a few times a week.  They would have a swimming class and then, since we were not members of the club, we’d gather our things and make our way home.  The girls looked forward to the swimming, of course, but even more than that, they would burst out of the locker room and make a bee line for me, palms up in great expectation that I would cough up that dollar for the snack bar.  It became our routine, and on some days I had to scrape beneath the seats of the car for change so that they could waltz down the wooden steps and cross the parking lot popping melted M&Ms in their mouths or gnawing on chewy Red Vine ropes.

Well, one day on our way out we whisked past a frail elderly woman struggling to get down the stairs.  She was receiving assistance from another older woman who might have been her daughter.  This companion was there mainly to prevent a fall and had one hand at the ready behind her back and the other gently guiding her by the elbow.  As we passed them, I noticed the elderly woman was carrying a large handbag that looked like it weighed more than she did, and she was also clutching a newspaper under her arm.  It was such a precarious situation that in my mind I worried the woman might fall in front of us or worse, that she might blow over as my little loves flew past her.  Just as we made our way over to the car and began loading our things into the back, littlest suddenly looks up at me and says, I’m going to go back and help that lady.  She raced back across the parking lot to the two women and held out her hand, eventually taking the newspaper and then her tiny body standing alongside them to make sure they made it down the steps safely.  Alleluia, there is HOPE, I thought.  Maybe I even cried out loud or climbed on top of my car and waved my arms in praise.  I tell you, it was an indescribable joy that I will grip with both hands and carry with me like a shield when she’s fifteen, sleeping all day, and telling me that I and everything else in the world sucks.  The seeds of compassion planted in the heart.  The willingness to reach out.  Holding hands with a stranger.  What a blessing!

Heraclitus says, day by day, what you do is who you become, and isn’t that wisdom for all of us to think about?  I know this is going to sound sillyhearted, and God if I can’t get the memory out of my head of my friend recently referring to me in jest as Mother Teresa, but I’m going to say it anyway.  I do.  I really really do want to spend my days holding hands.

Their hands reaching and joining are the most powerful prayer I can imagine, the most eloquent, the most graceful. ~Brian Doyle from his 9/11 poem “Leap” posted below

leap by brian doyle
A couple leaped from the south tower, hand in hand. They reached for each other and their hands met and they jumped. Jennifer Brickhouse saw them falling, hand in hand. Many people jumped. Perhaps hundreds. No one knows. They struck the pavement with such force that there was a pink mist in the air. The mayor reported the mist. A kindergarten boy who saw people falling in flames told his teacher that the birds were on fire. She ran with him on her shoulders out of the ashes. Tiffany Keeling saw fireballs falling that she later realized were people. Jennifer Griffin saw people falling and wept as she told the story. Niko Winstral saw people free-falling backwards with their hands out, like they were parachuting. Joe Duncan on his roof on Duane Street looked up and saw people jumping. Henry Weintraub saw people “leaping as they flew out.” John Carson saw six people fall, “falling over themselves, falling, they were somersaulting.” Steve Miller saw people jumping from a thousand feet in the air. Kirk Kjeldsen saw people flailing on the way down, people lining up and jumping, “too many people falling.” Jane Tedder saw people leaping and the sight haunts her at night. Steve Tamas counted fourteen people jumping and then he stopped counting. Stuart DeHann saw one woman’s dress billowing as she fell, and he saw a shirtless man falling end over end, and he too saw the couple leaping hand in hand. Several pedestrians were killed by people falling from the sky. A fireman was killed by a body falling from the sky. But he reached for her hand and she reached for his hand and they leaped out the window holding hands.I try to whisper prayers for the sudden dead and the harrowed families of the dead and the screaming souls of the murderers but I keep coming back to his hand and her hand nestled in each other with such extraordinary ordinary succinct ancient naked stunning perfect simple ferocious love.Their hands reaching and joining are the most powerful prayer I can imagine, the most eloquent, the most graceful. It is everything that we are capable of against horror and loss and death. It is what makes me believe that we are not craven fools and charlatans to believe in God, to believe that human beings have greatness and holiness within them like seeds that open only under great fires, to believe that some unimaginable essence of who we are persists past the dissolution of what we were, to believe against such evil hourly evidence that love is why we are here.

No one knows who they were: husband and wife, lovers, dear friends, colleagues, strangers thrown together at the window there at the lip of hell. Maybe they didn’t even reach for each other consciously, maybe it was instinctive, a reflex, as they both decided at the same time to take two running steps and jump out the shattered window, but they did reach for each other, and they held on tight, and leaped, and fell endlessly into the smoking canyon, at two hundred miles an hour, falling so far and so fast that they would have blacked out before they hit the pavement near Liberty Street so hard that there was a pink mist in the air.

Jennifer Brickhouse saw them holding hands, and Stuart DeHann saw them holding hands, and I hold onto that.

Brian Doyle (born in New York in 1956) is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He is the author of thirteen books, among them the novels Mink River and Cat’s Foot, the story collection Bin Laden’s Bald Spot, the nonfiction books The Grail and The Wet Engine, and many books of essays and poems, including Grace Notes, Credo, Saints Passionate & Peculiar, and (with his father Jim Doyle) Two Voices.. His Huge Whopping Headlong Sea Novel THE PLOVER will be published in April 2014 by St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books.

[dot_recommends]    Email This Post