Monday, July 5, 2010

Bone July 4, 2010


Understand, I am always trying to figure out

What the soul is,

And where hidden,

And what shape-

And so, last week,

When I found on the beach

The ear bone

Of a pilot what that may have died

Hundreds of years ago, I thought

Maybe I was close

To discovering something-

For the ear bone


Is the portion that lasts longest

In any of us, man or whale…

And I thought: the soul

Might be like this-

So hard, so necessary-


Yet almost nothing

Beside me

The gray sea

Was opening and shutting its wave-doors..

I looked but couldn’t see anything

Through its dark-knit glare;

Yet don’t we all know, the golden sand

Is there at the bottom,

Though our eyes have never seen it,

Nor can our hands ever catch it.


Lest we would sift it down

Into fractions, and facts-


And what the soul is, also

I believe I will never quite know.

Though I play at the edges of knowing,

Truly I know

Our part is not knowing,

But looking, and touching, and loving,

Which is the way I walked on,


Through the pale-pink morning light.

Today I have a talk at the International Congress of Conservation Biology for a workshop on Religion and Conservation. I spoke of how avian conservation is a living religion, and others spoke of Christianity, Tibetan Indigenous faiths, and Islam as mechanisms to conserve nature. Here was this room of people, trying to figure out how to harness the soul for the good life. There was some tension about the various ways we look at “soul” and “god” and “spirit,” in the room, or perhaps better said, I just know there was suspicion in the air. How can there not be when for thousands of years our kind has tried to tell another what is a soul and how to save it. What if it is really just this simple. We cannot know much, but we can love. It reminds of a line in the Forest Gump movie. He says, “I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is.” Maybe all we professionals in conservation and religion can just let go of all the complexity of theology and figuring out the best way to save the world, and embrace the simplicity of loving. I should like to follow my own advice.

Could you live your life based on just love?

1 comment:

  1. I have only recently discovered Mary Oliver and am both delighted and awed at the insights she reveals as she writes about nature. I would love to live a life based just on love - oh the ramifications!
    Sincerely, Leslie Jogi