Week’s Best

The best thing I read this week was a poem by Lithuanian Poet, Cseslaw Milosz. I first came across it a few weeks ago in Parker Palmer’s book, On the Brink of Everything, and my thoughts keep returning to it.

It’s a poem for later life (not that I am remotely near later life myself, or would ever suggest that you are, dear reader….). So let’s agree its a poem for middle life:


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.

Czeslaw Milosz [1911-2004]

As a young man I felt that native indestructibility that makes life so much fun. With an exaggerated sense of permanence came the the idea that I was somehow important. I mattered, in some unique way, to the world.  That’s not quite as pretentious or as foolhardy as it immediately sounds because we do contribute to the world, each in our own way, so we should be kind to our younger, naive selves. 

Having now commenced my seventh decade I have a clearer view of my 1:7,960,000,000 role in humanity. And those are only the ones living now. As Milosz says, I am only one thing among many. 

Perhaps the trees around our home, and the birds in the trees, might call me friend.  I am not so different from them: made of much the same stuff, taking my place in creation in much the same way. Do I know what purpose I serve in it all? Do any of us, really? Must we know? 

Enough to live well today, saved from the burden of significance; and, God willing, tomorrow.


(The website that hosts Rejoice! has changed just about everything, and I’m quite lost! So if it looks a bit crook that’s why. Perhaps in my 7th decade I can learn a new trick, perhaps not).