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).