We need to find God and God cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grow in silence; see the stars, the moon, the sun, how they move in silence. Is not our mission to give God to the poor in the slums? Not a dead God, but a living, loving God. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. All our words will be useless unless they come from within—words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.
— Mother Teresa from A Gift for God
Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love.
— Kahlil Gibran from The Vision: Reflections on the Way of the Soul
The Peace of the Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles. (February 23, 1944)
At such moments I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains. This is where Mother and I differ greatly. Her advice in the face of melancholy is: “Think about all the suffering in the world and be thankful you’re not part of it.” My advice is: “Go outside, to the country, enjoy the sun and all nature has to offer. Go outside and try to recapture the happiness within yourself; think of all the beauty in yourself and in everything around you and be happy.” (March 7, 1944)
— Anne Frank from Diary of A Young Girl
When I came to a teachable age, I was, as most youngsters are, directed toward the acquisition of knowledge, meaning not so much ideas but demonstrated facts. Education as I knew it was made up of such a preestablished collection of certainties.
Knowledge has entertained me and it has shaped me and it has failed me. Something in me still starves. In what is probably the most serious inquiry of my life, I have begun to look past reason, past the provable, in other directions. Now I think there is only one subject worth my attention and that is the recognition of the spiritual side of the world and, within this recognition, the condition of my own spiritual state. I am not talking about having faith necessarily, although one hopes to. What I mean by spirituality is not theology, but attitude. Such interest nourishes me beyond the finest compendium of facts. In my mind now, in any comparison of demonstrated truths and unproven but vivid intuitions, the truths lose.
I would therefore write a kind of elemental poetry that doesn’t just avoid indoors but doesn’t even see the doors that lead inward — to laboratories, to textbooks, to knowledge. I would not talk about the wind, and the oak tree, and the leaf on the oak tree, but on their behalf. I would talk about the owl and the thunderworm and the daffodil and the red-spotted newt as a company of spirits, as well as bodies. I would say that the fox stepping out over the snow has nerves as fine as mine, and a better courage. I would write praise poems that might serve as comforts, reminders, or even cautions if needed, to wayward minds and unawakened hearts.
I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our changes are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves – we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny.
I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.
— Mary Oliver from Upstream
In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips, I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying, ‘Master, I am thy slave. Thy hidden will is my law and I shall obey thee for ever more.’
But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest passed away.
And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain and again spoke unto God, saying, ‘Creator, I am thy creation. Out of clay hast thou fashioned me and to thee I owe mine all.’
And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings passed away.
And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain and spoke unto God again, saying, ‘Father, I am thy son. In pity and love thou hast given me birth, and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.’
And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant hills he passed away.
And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain and again spoke unto God, saying, ‘My God, my aim and my fulfilment; I am thy yesterday and thou art my tomorrow. I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky, and together we grow before the face of the sun.’
Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness, and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to her, he enfolded me.
And when I descended to the valleys and the plains, God was there also.
— Khalil Gibran from The Collected Works
- The Gift Of The World Is Our First Blessing
- Eyes of the Heart: Photography as Contemplative Practice
- Gratitude for the Work of Loving the World
- To Know Beauty
- If We Are Willing To Sit Quietly And Wait For A While …If We Are Willing To Sit Quietly And Wait For A While
- A Prayer For Our Earth