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Saturday, December 09, 2006

the spiritual and the mundane

A few days ago, I mentioned that the following poem is one of my favorites. It calls for a balance...all the way through, emphasized in content and structure. There are some conversations going on at various book blogs concerning the spiritual and the divine. Meinke's poem says it all for me as far as the balance of the demands of daily life and the importance of something more, something spiritual. This poem pretty much agrees with Maslow's pyramid - that both physical needs and spiritual needs are necessary. Religion isn't mentioned, but the symbols are evident. These symbols are spiritual symbols and do not relate to a specific religion. Or even an organized religion. I realize that others may interpret this poem differently.

Advice to my Son
by Peter J.Meinke

The trick is, to live your days,
as if each one may be your last
(for they go fast, and young men lose their lives
in strange and unimaginable ways)
but at the same time, plan long range
(for they go slow: if you survive
the shattered windshield and the bursting shell
you will arrive
at our approximation here below
of heaven or hell).

To be specific, between the peony and the rose
plant squash and spinach, turnips and tomatoes;
beauty is nectar
and nectar, in a desert, saves -
but the stomach craves stronger sustenance
than the honied vine.

Therefore, marry a pretty girl
after seeing her mother;
show your soul to one man,
work with another,
and always serve bread with your wine.

But , son,
always serve wine.

The other poem I use in connection with these ideas is one that Lotus mentioned in the poetry meme:

Abou Ben Adhem
by Leigh Hunt

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight of his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:
-Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
'What writest thou?'
- The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered 'The names of those who love the Lord.'
'And is mine one?' said Abou.
'Nay, not so,' Replied the angel.
Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, 'I pray thee then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow-men. '
The angel wrote, and vanished.
The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names who love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

I learned this poem by heart very young, in grade school; it was one of my mother's favorites and encapsulated religion for me.

Later, I discovered Meinke's poem which I love equally as well and that says,essentially, (this is my personal interpretation) that physical welfare and spiritual welfare should be intertwined. Bread and Wine. We are not complete with just one. Bread symbolizes physical sustenance; wine, spiritual sustenance. The practical and the beautiful, the mundane and the spiritual. Existence and transcendence.

For me, again a personal take, Hunt's poem says behavior is more important than words.

My opinion - religion is not necessary for spirituality, but is present more often than not. An aid, not a requirement?


  1. What a beautiful post, Jenclair! I have no insights or anything to add at the present moment,I just wanted to thank you for reminding me of Meinke's poem and for giving me food for thought.

  2. Jenclair, I love this post. Your blog is wonderful.

  3. Amen to what you said and what the others have said. This was a beautifully written post with meaningful content. I agree with your thoughts whole heartedly.

  4. Lotus - both poems are so full of ideas. I was so glad that you loved Abou ben Adhem as a child, too.

    Janet - Thanks!

    Cheya - I just agree with both poets. That is why I love them, they say it so well.