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On Healing The Heart...

November 11 2013
November 11 2013



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.

Czelaw Milosz (1911-2004) was a Polish poet and writer of Lithuanian decent who survived WWII and eventually defected to France in 1951.  Nine years later he immigrated to the United States, and became a literature professor at the University of California-Berkely. Milosz received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980, at which time many in his native Poland became aware of him for the first time because so many of his works had been banned by the communist dictatorship.

This poem is meaningful to me because It so wonderfully captures the modern sickness common to so many- thinking the more tightly we grip our lives, the more expert knowledge and the more we get our way, the more fruitful and meaningful will be our lives.  As Milosz suggests, the truth lies in the opposite direction.  Only when we see ourselves as one thing among many do our hearts begin to heal.  Only when we have been set free from quantifying our contributions can we make our greatest impacts.

Those of you who know me know that I love trees.  I think Milosz has also been one of their students.  Additionally, I would like to think the Gospel inspires such reflection too!


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