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    Shepherd's Avatar
    Shepherd
    Supporting Member

    Thanksgiving Wishes

    The following arrived on this Thanksgiving Day, 2017. It is the writing prompt for the next quarterly all-day gathering of the Veterans Writing Group (www.vowvop.org), which I have been part of for over two-dozen-years. Buddhist novelist Maxine Hong Kingston, who edited our book Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace, is our teacher. She is one of the people quoted below, along with philosopher Jacob Needleman, scientist Rachel Carson, and poets Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson.
    May peace by with you, Shepherd

    From Jimmy Janko:
    I’m thinking of what Jacob Needleman wrote in A Sense of the Cosmos: “If one steps out on a starry night and observes one’s inner states, one asks if one could hate or be overwhelmed by envy or resentment...Is it not true that no man or woman has ever committed a crime while in a state of wonder?”

    We live—for the most part—in an infantile culture plagued with the standardization of thought and various varieties of fundamentalism— political, religious, or otherwise—that push life into unbreathable corners. Needleman’s quote cuts through all of it. A sense of wonder: this, in essence, is what writing is about, what life is about.

    In addition to Jacob Needleman’s quote, here are two more on roughly the same theme. The first is from Maxine Hong Kingston, from China Men:

    “Men build bridges and streets when there is already an amazing gold electric ring connecting every living being, as surely as if we held hands, flippers and paws, feelers and wings.”

    And from Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass:
“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journeywork of the stars.”

    Wonder, like all experience, is complex, and does not always serve as a gateway to peace or joy. This is from Emily Dickinson:

    “There is a pain—so utter—
It swallows substance up—
Then covers the Abyss with Trance— So Memory can step Around—across—upon it—
As One within a Swoon—
Goes safely—where an open eye— Would drop Him—Bone by Bone."

    I mention this poem by ED because some within our writers’ group may need to work with this other side of wonder. Given the recent fires, the hurricanes, the multiple disturbances near and far, it may be a good idea to leave the slate open. Who knows what people need to work on?

    From Rachel Carson: The Sense of Wonder

    “A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear- eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe- inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years...the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

    “For most of us, knowledge of our world comes largely through sight, yet we look about with such unseeing eyes that we are partially blind. One way to open your eyes to unnoticed beauty is to ask yourself, "What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?
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