The Importance of Reverence

For years, my morning routine has been to get up (a good way to start the day), have a glass of orange juice, make a cup of espresso coffee, read the paper, then sit in silence and write a prayer.  I have changed that:  instead of the paper, I read some poetry.  Right now I am reading Billy Collins’ “Ballistics.” Collins is a poet of small things – noticing what is outside his window, or on the street, his state of mind in the morning, or the lights on in the house across the street.  The poems are simple, often cute, but they are products of paying close attention to the world itself.

The newspaper can come later.  I’d rather begin the day with a poem than with news. It makes for better prayers.

Collins is like the UU poet Mary Oliver in that way.  She is especially attuned to the world of nature – Collins more to the human world, though neither are limited to one or the other.  Robert Frost and Walt Whitman were similar poets. John Haynes Holmes, a famous Unitarian minister for the early years of the 20th century once wrote that as he grew older, the philosophers gathered dust on his shelves, but the poets were stained with his tears.  That is becoming true for me, and it has something to do with recognizing the beauty and the tragedy of the world.  It causes a sense of awe in me.

Our theme this month, from the book An Altar in the World, is reverence.  Reverence comes when we experience something as larger than ourselves; there is a sense of humility and gratitude, and reverence is always touched with love. We talk more these days about being irreverent than reverent, and I am not sure that is a good thing.  What we revere matters.

What do you revere?  Think about that this week (and perhaps leave a comment below).

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One Response to The Importance of Reverence

  1. Music, all kinds, from Harlem to Vienna; it can move one person, and a room. We drove downtown to the Frank Gehry Concert Hall (I also revere individual revolutionary creativity over the dollar muscle of a company) for Dudamel’s Beethoven, and I was bleak and way inside myself. There was silence in the car, a cut-off on the freeway, a sour moment in the parking structure, and the women and men in our section above the orchestra looked hurried, punching their cell phones. Then silence, then the music started, then that other thing started. It’s not that I came out from inside myself, it’s more like my inside changed, and hooked up with everybody else in the room. I looked around; we were leaning forward or crying or smiling, and making lots of eye contact with each other. That music, in that sacred lasting moment, was bigger than everybody, and then we were ALL bigger than whatever happened in that parking structure moment.
    And it sure felt like reverence to me. For the music, and for everybody there.

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