Spiritual Poetry posted July 22, 2016


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
A departure from the usual

Retreat

by Mark Valentine

There are two ways to gain the moral high ground:
Pull yourself up, or push the other down.
Either strategy you choose, the outcome is the same,
But seems to me, the key might be to just not play the game.
 
All of us are characters in someone else’s narrative;
We’ll never find our peace of mind if we feel it imperative
To change their minds, to win their praise, to shape their comprehension;
Whatever stand you make will draw somebody’s condescension.
 
The nuns used to say, “Be in it but not of it.”
But when you’re in, you try to “win”, and cannot rise above it.
“Repay meanness with kindness”, that’s what they used to teach you,
But maybe there’s a place where the meanness cannot reach you.
 
And that brings me to the monks…
 
You see, there was a monastery way up on a hill.
‘Twas long ago, for all I know, the monks reside there still.
I went for a retreat once - my junior year in college;
Tired of books, and looking for a different kind of knowledge.
 
Every day these silent souls just prayed and did their work.
Part of me admired them, and part thought them beserk.
Something so remote, I thought, must surely be irrelevant.
(Was I the only one to see this room contained an elephant?)
 
For what can be the meaning of a life lived in seclusion?
You’re meant to be God’s witnesses so, pardon my confusion,
But if no-one sees the lives you lead, except St. Joseph’s statue:
Can you still be a witness if nobody’s looking at you?
 
And thus, as I descended from that haven on a hill,
A bit annoyed the void within remained, for me, unfilled,
I packed my bags, said my goodbyes and then went back to school,
Thinking I had wasted time, and thinking monks were fools.
 
But these days I’m not so sure…
 
Too much social media, and too few social graces.
Apocalyptic apoplexy fills all empty spaces.
Chitter chatter everywhere, but none to make you think,
Poisoning the very wells from which we’re s’posed to drink.
 
Seems everyone hates someone else, and they, in turn, are hated;
As if the golden rule somehow had been invalidated.
This race-baiting, gay-hating – What can be its purpose?
To overthrow the reign of love and let hatred usurp us?
 
And at some point the noise all blends – you just can’t listen to it;
But love endures. To steal a phrase, perhaps we should “Just Do It.”
“Do the Work.” “Be the Change.” Ignore the madding crowds.
Lift our eyes above the fray, soar high above the clouds.
 
Even if no-one’s watching.
 
I think those monks knew what they were doing.

 


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