March 27, 2015

Two Favorite Poems, Two Interesting Videos

It's been a busy week and I need to start preparing for a family reunion next week. So I'm taking it easy today.

I keep a folder where I store things I come across and I like. Here are a few of the items from that grab bag.

First, two poems: 


ON AGING

When you see me sitting quietly,
Like a sack left on the shelf,
Don’t think I need your chattering.
I’m listening to myself.
Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it,
Otherwise I’ll do without it!
When my bones are stiff and aching,
And my feet won’t climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor:
Don’t bring me no rocking chair.
When you see me walking, stumbling,
Don’t study and get it wrong.
‘Cause tired don’t mean lazy
And every goodbye ain’t gone.
I’m the same person I was back then,
A little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.

But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.


--from Maya Angelou's And I Still Rise, published in 2011 when she was 83.
Ms. Angelou died last year.

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WALKING TO SLEEP

As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there,
Or a general raises his hand and is given the field-glasses,
Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind.
Something will come to you.
. . . 
As for what turn your travels then will take,
I cannot guess. Long errantry perhaps
Will arm you to be gentle, or the claws
Of nightmare flap you pathless God knows where,
As the crow flies, to meet your dearest horror.
Still, if you are in luck, you may be granted,
As, inland, one can sometimes smell the sea,
A moment’s perfect carelessness, in which
To stumble a few steps and sink to sleep
In the same clearing where, in the old story,
A holy man discovered Vishnu sleeping,
Wrapped in his maya, dreaming by a pool
On whose calm face all images whatever
Lay clear, unfathomed, taken as they came.


--beginning and end of Richard Wilbur's poem "Walking to Sleep" 


In an interview with John Graham (Conversations with Richard Wilbur, 1990) Wilbur said this poem concerns someone giving advice to someone else about how to get to sleep. The first line, “As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there,” provides an image of the confidence with which a person should enter the land of dreams.

It reminds me of my recent post about dealing with insomnia without pills. Another possible way of understanding the poem is to see “sleep” as a metaphor for death, and the journey as the process of dying. That, too, is a subject we've addressed in this blog.

That first stanza also describes how I feel when I begin mindfulness meditation.

For the full text of the poem, click here.

Next, two videos:
Here Jon Stewart interviews George Takei, the subject of the documentary To Be Takei in which George describes spending part of his childhood in one of the Japanese-American internment camps established to remove these U.S. citizens from California. I'd forgotten that Earl Warren led the effort  to legislate this dark chapter in U.S. history before he became Governor of California and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.



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The interesting exchange project shown below uses video chat technology to connect students in Brazil with Americans living in Chicago-area retirement homes.



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I wonder how old you have to be to laugh at this five-second video showing a woman returning to work after a 30-year absence:




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