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Sunday, 31 July 2011

What makes us human

Disjointed thoughts sparked by a BBC4 arts series, "British Masters".

Evolution, life's
main chance (maybe
life's only chance),
is too much stressed.

We're changing
the environment
far too quickly
for life forms
to accomodate.

Albert Schweitzer's
great insight was
to have understood
the full meaning of
his: "I am life
that wills to live
in the midst of life
that wills to live."

My father, shaping
wood, observed the
grain before he'd
start - then felt
it as he worked.

"The grain has made
the wood," he'd say,
"the grain respects
the wood - will see
it safe and sound."

All true craftsmen
work in harmony with
grain of some sort.

Is not nature
the grain that
runs through life -
all Life, that is?

Bio-diversity
and the will
to live: which
one drives? and
which is driven?

We are altering
the environment
too rapidly to
feel the grain
responsively...

Playing a great
cathedral organ
Schweitzer was
asked if he was
not afraid that
some notes might
be wrong. "No,"
he replied,"God
does not hear a
wrong note." He

was my first hero,
my first bastion
against the gloom,
and my first saint.
His writings were
pure gold and came
direct from heaven.

I read then differently
now, but still they are
as good and true, as up
to date and wonderfully
fresh as they were then.

His insight led him to
Lambarene to found and
work in a leper colony
and hospital. That was
working with the grain
all right, part of his
"Reverence for Life".

12 comments:

Jinksy said...

Working with the grain, or going with the flow - methinks basic life force is really the boss...

TechnoBabe said...

What would Albert Schweitzer think of the way the planet has been abused? How would he change it or would he say it is too late to reverse the damage?

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes I admired his work when I was young Dave, but as I read about him in later years I was not so keen. Although he was a great man in many ways he always I believe craved attention and admiration and was a bit of a control freak. But that does not take anything away from his good work at a time when lepers were totally despised.

jabblog said...

Working with the grain is a tactile form of listening and we all should listen more and carefully.

Adrian L. said...

Very good Dave!

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Dave, great poem and engaging reflections. I have a pencil portrait of Albert Sweitzer in my study. It was made by a poet and illustrator, from Holland, we became friends in the eighties because I lent him a typewriter here in Venice. He gave me many books of his which I recommend, among them "The Zen Of Seeing" and "Echoes from a bottomless well".
And at the end he gave me, in a marvellous frame, his portrait of Sweitzer. I have somehow always put the two together since then.
Frank had opened a "shoestring" project of something near New York to help people...

Jenny Woolf said...

An inspiration, but slightly frightening, too, because his vision was so clear.

Nice analogy with the grain of wood, but actually Nature is more than that, because it will certainly endure. Man is more like a boat setting out on a rough sea.

Windsmoke. said...

We are only here for a short time, ever changing nature will be here for an eternity :-).

lucychili said...

yes powerful thinking
have you seen elinor ostrom on youtube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5ZPGeF2ics
i think she works with the grain of ecologies and communities.

Dave King said...

Jinksy
I'm sure that's right in some ways. The trouble with basic life force is that it is selfish - hence the Selfish Gene etc. It's boss, but is it human?

TechnoBabe
Good questions, and very deep ones. I think I could guess what his thoughts would be, but I'd dearly love t know whether he would be optimistic or the reverse.

The Weaver of Grass
Yes, you're quite correct in what you write. He wasn't as perfect as I initially saw him, but, as in works of art, it isn't perfection that makes for masterpieces, and I still see him as one of mankind's masterpieces. He gave up two careers close to his heart - music and theology - for the sake of the lepers. I also think that even saints do what they do from mixed motives. (Of course, I hadn't realised that back then.)

jabblog
Excellent point. Yes, it is a form of listening.

Adrian
Many thanks.

Tommaso
Fascinating sketch. Much thanks for it. "The Zen of Seeing" sounds up my street. Shall try to look it up.

Dave King said...

Jenny
Take your point, but I do not have your confidence that it will endure - and I'm an optimist by nature!

Windsmoke
Hope you're right, but my response is as above.

Lucichili
Thanks for the link. No, I haven't seen her, but I will go there anon.

Mary said...

Dave, I just came upon this poem I had missed in your blog. I love the quotes from both Schweitzer and your father. I do think nature IS the grain that runs through life..I like your interpretation and the way you make connections. I find myself wanting to read more about Schweitzer.