Wounds Inflicted by Reason


the dark“Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.” 


Stephen Hawking is publishing a new book, The Grand Design.  In it he writes that “because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.  Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.” 

Stephen’s statement if it is true would be a triumph of reason over mystery, but it is not true.  We won’t eliminate the mystery why we exist through rational approaches. 

Truth is not to be found exclusively in reason.  Each time I think I know with certainty, something I couldn’t expect or see shows me another way.  It is just as likely that answers come from the shadowy secrets of the heart.

Consider the first five lines of Jane Hirshfields’s extraordinary poem, “Against Certainty.”

“There is something out in the dark that wants to correct us.
Each time I think “this,” it answers “that.”
Answers hard, in the heart-grammar’s strictness.

If I then say “that,” it too is taken away.

Between certainty and the real, an ancient enmity.” Continue Reading »

Transformation is Linguistic in Nature

Transformation is linguistic in nature. Yet we have forgotten this in Western culture and our institutions. Our culture is so focused on the short term and the present. We largely use a mechanistic, lean, efficient language that has served us well at times, but like anything that is overused and out of balance, it has had its costs. We have forgotten the long line of history of story and myth that articulates our humanity. Take for the example the creation story in Genesis. (Whether you believe it or not, doesn’t matter for the sake of my point. The story articulates a human need about creation. Every religion has a comparable story.)

In Genesis, the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon it until God spoke and said “Let there be light.” God had to speak, had to form words, for light, plants, animals and man to come into being. God didn’t just think things into being. God had to make the private public. Continue Reading »

Poetry? I Don’t Read Poetry!

reading poetry

David S. had been promoted to co-direct the homeless project.  He worked the late afternoon and evening shift.  Jessica, his co-director, worked the morning and early afternoon shift.  My task was to build them into a stronger leadership team.  Their executive director had given me a day to do it.

I planned a retreat in the mountains with a mix of activities:  telling each other their personal leadership stories, rock climbing and a poetry experience.

Against the backdrop of a rock wall at 9,000 feet on a sunny August morning, the co-directors and I discussed expectations.  David S. was open and skeptical about the value of everything I had planned.  To my mind, his honesty was a good thing. Continue Reading »