Friday, November 23, 2012

Love of Place

Max Ehrmann composed the Desiderata, the poem/poster that was so popular in the seventies. I confess I used to make fun of it as a teenager, it was just everywhere. But I love what he says here about his home country of Terre Haute, Indiana which reflects my own feelings of the sacred ground of home, and my own love of place:
It seems good to be here on this spot of earth, not far from where I was born, where I have lived and worked nearly all my life... I would that all persons might find some such loved spot of earth. It is a spiritual possession no less valuable than solid masonry. To belong somewhere, to be known somewhere, to labor somewhere to have ties somewhere that the years have endeared--these are not the least among the durable satisfactions of life.
Love of place is a Yin feeling that doesn't need much talk behind it. The place is its own reward, and feels like an ancestor surrounding you. Living in the same place adds layers of meaning to your life over time.

Much social action is quite Yang, you are going out into the world and changing it. You are speaking truth to power and generating a great deal of Will. You WILL do this you say and then write letters and show up at hearings. It is all action, strength and passion. Someone who does social action can become finally, a shouting head -- or just very tired.

Its different when you do the action because of  a love of  place. The Yin and Yang complement each other. Love of place can give strength to social action.

The Max Ehrmann quote is one I found while reading Restless Souls by Leigh Eric Schmidt. Its a book about the religious left and the history of spiritual seekers in America. The take away from the book is that many famous American spiritual seekers were grounded in scholarship, community and had a strong social conscience -- unlike their reputation which is that they are flaky, self-centered and not grounded in tradition. Max Ehrmann was a surprise profile -- a sensitive seeker who wrote from home town in Indiana while he worked as a lawyer.

No comments: