Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
Over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
As I drove to work this morning, four lanes of traffic were stopped at the North end of Lake Calhoun. A flock of geese on their way South had wandered into the middle of Lake Street and wasn’t moving. Cars honked their horns once or twice, but once it was clear the geese weren’t responding, everyone just stopped for a minute and enjoyed the moment.
These geese, assured of their place in the world, and their place on their journey, were taking their time as they headed home again. Assured of their place in this world, they were absolutely unphased by all of our human rush and annoyance. In their confidence, and in that pause, I was reminded again of the breadth of what I experience as Holy.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how insufficient the categories are that we ascribe to our experience of the Holy: believers, unbelievers, spiritual, religious, practicing, secular, sacred. I’ve become convinced that they create categories of insiders and outsiders, and though giving us language to describe our connection with God…or lack thereof…somehow these categories, these words, make the encounter with Mystery into something static, fixed, limited. And they create artificial boundaries between us and other people.
We get so wound up in our definitions of ourselves and our communities that we forget the broader scheme of things, the life that exists outside of our human knowing, and in that lose sight of the fact that everyone, no matter who you are or what category you might currently be in, has a place in the family of things.
My prayer for our Christian community is that we might call out to all people(whether in our squawking, or in our waddling across Lake Street). My prayer is that we embody the reality that all people have a place in the family of things.