One of the best things about my job is the people I get to meet and the various ideas they bring into my life. Earlier this year, for example, I was exposed to the poet Mary Oliver during meetings at the Banff Centre.
More recently, while I was Christmas shopping, I saw that Oliver had compiled decades’ worth of poems into a new book called Devotions. Confession: I bought the book as a gift, but then decided to keep it for myself after flipping through a few pages.
One of the first poems I came across is called “The World I Live In,” copied below:
I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house of
reasons and proofs.
The world I live in and believe in
is wider than that. And anyway,
what’s wrong with Maybe?
You wouldn’t believe what once or
twice I have seen. I’ll just
tell you this:
only if there are angels in your head will you
ever, possibly, see one.
When I saw the emphasis on the word “maybe,” I immediately thought of this blog.
Unlike the first verse, I don’t refuse to live with reason and proof. After all, I once worked for a guy who (nicely) called me Spock because of my tendency to revert to logic whenever we faced a tricky issue. And it’s true that I’ll often break a complicated topic into pieces and start by trying to make logical sense of how they fit together. But I’m with Oliver when she says the world is wider than that.
Like I said when I named this blog, there are more ways of seeing than I’ll ever have access to, because I’ll never fully know other people’s experiences. Empathy can get us closer, but there are just some things I’ll never fully understand or explain – whether those are spiritual experiences or a perspective that shapes the way someone else sees the world.
I’m not much for new year’s resolutions, but I am often thinking about how I can be better. And the ability to balance reason with the knowledge that there will always be so much I don’t know: that still seems like a combination worth striving for.
When Oliver writes “only if there are angels in your head,” it reminds me about being open to possibility. Along with the words I shared about solstice in my last post, that seems like a good way to enter a new decade.
Happy new year, everyone.
P.S. The people who introduced me to Mary Oliver are also some of the folks behind this systems thinking/social innovation program at the Banff Centre. In case you or anyone you know might be interested, please note that applications are open until January 28. (Full disclosure: it’s a great part of my job that I get to be involved in supporting this program.)