Mary Oliver, Jane Hirschfield, Rilke, and David Deida on Not Evading the Full Intensity of Living & Loving

Mary Oliver on Not Evading the Full Intensity of Life and Love

West Wind #2” – Mary Oliver

You are young. So you know everything. You leap into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me. Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me. Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to me. . . .

There is life without love. But it’s not worth a bent penny or a scuffed shoe. It’s not worth the body of a dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile away and still out of sight, the churn of the water as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the sharp rocks—when you hear that unmistakable pounding—when you feel the mist on your mouth and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls plunging and steaming—then row, row for your life toward it.


Rilke on Not Evading the Full Intensity of Life and Love

Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XII” – Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated by Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy)

Will the change. Want the transformation. Be inspired
by the flame where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself into sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to live gray and numb?
What’s frightened turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain. Flow into
the knowledge that what you are seeking
often finishes at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming
a laurel, dares you to become wind.


Jane Hirschfield on Not Evading the Full Intensity of Life and Love

Each Moment a White Bull Steps Shining into the World” – Jane Hirshfield

If the gods bring to you
a strange and frightening creature,
accept the gift
as if it were one you had chosen.

Say the accustomed prayers,
oil the hooves well,
caress the small ears with praise.

Have the new halter of woven silver
embedded with jewels.
Spare no expense, pay what is asked,
when a gift such as this
arrives from the sea.

Treat it as you yourself would be treated
if you were brought speechless and naked
into the court of a king.

And when the request finally comes,
do not hesitate even for an instant—

stroke the white throat,
the heavy, trembling dewlaps
you’d come to believe were yours,

and plunge the knife.

Not once
did you enter the pasture
without pause,
without yourself trembling.

That you came to love it, that was the gift.

Let the envious gods try to take back what they can.


So what is it that holds us back? Why do we shrink from life, not live more daringly, not live more courageously, not push ourselves to enter more of life’s and love’s strange pastures, not live with more passion and a greater sense of wonder and adventure, not row row row for our life towards the long plunging falls?

Why do we live a life where we are safe and numb and grey?

We’re only as good as our courage in our most pivotal moments allows us to be. That’s what defines us and the quality of our lives and relationships—the willingness to feel the fear and do something daring and potentially life-altering and expansive anyways; the capacity to choose courageously from what’s best in us when the going gets tough and not live avoidantly or evasively and shrink from the full intensity of life.

Riffing on something David Deida wrote—“The way love—and not fear—moves us, and moves through us, is our true destiny.”

How many of us are living this way?

How many people do you know who are living and loving this way and fiercely committed to living out their true destiny?

Are you?

And if not, why? What are you waiting for? What would it take for you to live this way?

What would you have to lose? What would have to be taken from you? What diagnosis? How much time would have to be left on the clock for you for you to start making a “two-minute drill” of your life? (“There’s eight seconds left in overtime and she’s on your mind, she’s on your mind” – The Fray, from the song “Cable Car”)

What do you think it would it take to “wake” you up and prompt you to carpe more of the diem and seize more of the day and live with more passion and intensity and depth?

Your thoughts and comments and any sign of sentient life in the on-line universe are all greatly appreciated. 🙂

(and you can read more of what I excerpted of David Deida from his book “Blue Truth” at my other blog )

Are You Wasting this Moment of Your Life?

“This is your life; and it’s ending one minute at a time.” – Chuck Palahniuk (from the novel and motion picture “Fight Club”)


Our life is an offering.
Our unoffered love is our suffering.
Our ungiven love clenches in us as stress.
Relaxing now into this moment opens us
and frees the gift our love wants to be.
You and I are love’s means.
Will we die fully given?
Or will we die ungiven and still waiting?
Now is our chance.
If you are waiting for anything
or anyone
in order to feel more full,
more free, more open,
more relaxed, more happy
or more loving,
then you are wasting this moment of your life.

(David Deida, adapted from “Waiting to Love: Rude Essays on Life After Spirituality,” pp. ix-xi)