When the body is tired, there is coffee and raw sleep. When the spirit is more tired, the prescription seems more tricky. Sometimes there can be recovery in mindless activities like watching television, though for me at least there’s a bit of guilt with that sort of activity since it isn’t exercising my mind in a restorative way so much as allowing the mind to shut down and be entertained. I prefer to revert to introverted tendencies and go inward in a variety of solitary, self- and life-considering ways that I’m sure are obnoxious to some. For me, these mind-engaging activities include reading poetry, which is a bit meditative and calming to allow my mind to chew through something slowly, a deliberate difference with the rushed pace of things that are wearing me out.
In this mindset, I recently read Robert Francis’s “Nothing is Far.” Five short stanzas worth reading and included below in my analysis.
My reading of the poem finds several ideas that I find comforting, perhaps especially now when there is so much uncertainty and turmoil in my mind and life:
Though I never caught the word
of God from any calling bird,
I hear all that the ancients heard.
Though I have seen no deity
Enter or leave a twilit tree,
I see all that the seers see.
Those who came before us experienced nothing at the heart of life that you and I cannot. There was no magical time in human existence where there was not heartbreak, loss, and all of the other troubles that may line our paths. This also means that we have the same chance to experience the same magic and wonder. We can still find spiritual transcendence (“God” and deities) and delight in our lives. We don’t need gods to appear before us to experience wonder.
A common stone can still reveal
Something not stone, not seen, yet real.
What may a common stone conceal?
This stanza meditates on the stone, a common object with nothing blatantly special about it. What other common objects in our life are worth consideration and may reveal to us something of interest? It is not the thing itself revealing something but our own minds. What a beautiful, power thing.
Nothing is far that once was near.
Nothing is hid that once was clear.
Nothing was God that is not here.
Here, this moment, we have everything that anyone else has had at a certain level. Things that we knew, things in our pasts, as individuals and as a species, are still with us and available. Things that we’ve learned are still in our minds, not hidden and forgotten entirely. Whatever existed for the ancients to understand as deities is still with us. The ancients believed there to be elements of God in nature, and if we tune in to nature or anything else, we may see and appreciate that aspect that let people to make that connection with deities, whether we understand it in the same way.
Here is the bird, the tree, the stone.
Here in the sun I sit alone
Between the known and the unknown.
I find this stanza peaceful. We are surrounded by nature and the sun, which is a source of life and often symbolizes truth and goodness. In this moment, we are between the past and the future, and while we do not know what the future holds, we can reflect on the past for guidance and know that we are equipped with everything that those who came before us had as well as the addition of their knowledge and experience. Though imperfect and lacking in so many ways, we can and will survive. This moment is still, and the next may be action as we move into the future.
Breaking apart a poem like this utilizes my head and gives me a moment of still reflection. I find that mentally enjoyable and spiritually satisfying that zoning out to television. If you’re accustomed to zoning out, perhaps try something and compare how you feel afterwards. This can be akin to exercising; you work, which requires effort, but you feel better afterwards.
Cheers, and happy Sunday!