After much conversation -- and, of course, much soul searching -- Barbara and I agreed that it's time to let go of Lectio Poetica. All things emerge and endure only for a time, then dissolve back into the silence and stillness from which they arose.
I watch my mother disappear into her dementia, and I know it's time to let go of the image of the person I once knew. She's gone. Sure, it's painful. But I know I can't hold on. It doesn't mean I don't love her.
Careers are like that. Our work goes through seasons and cycles, and winter comes. Things die. We need to let go, eventually. Once, six years ago, on retreat with clergy and lay leaders, I had a "waking vision" during a Quaker-style clearness committee, in which I saw myself dragging the corpse of my career along a railroad track, grasping its bloodless hand, hanging precariously over the edge of an open box car, speeding toward an unknown future, unable to let go. I was weeping, and exhausted, and hopeless. But I couldn't let go. Unbelievably, I hung on to that corpse for six more years.
Today, in fact, I let go. Finally. (Never mind what that means.)
Groups and communities have life spans, too. They are born in someone's imagination, they grow. For a time, if you're lucky, they thrive. Then, yes, they age, and, unless we intervene, unless we resort to extraordinary measures, they die a natural death. It's okay.
I founded a small philosophical discussion group 12 years ago, up in the mountains. Amazingly, it's still meeting to this day (without me, of course). But, so far as I can tell, the life went out of it long ago. It was sad. And puzzling. I let go. But others could not. I can't judge. I just knew it was time for me to move on.
It's like that now. With Lectio. Time to move on. It doesn't mean I don't love it. It doesn't mean it's not doing any good, when we do meet. But the life is slipping away. I feel it. If you come, maybe you feel it too. Maybe not.
And Barbara feels it. We look at each other. We talk. We doubt ourselves. We keep going. Then we look at each other again. Shake our heads. We ask each other questions. We listen to the answers. And, like the process of Lectio Poetica itself, we trust what we hear.
So, okay. Enough said. We're suspending Lectio. I can't say we'll never do it again (we quit once before, you may recall). But let's not hold our collective breath. We really need to keep breathing. Especially now.
The world is quaking beneath our feet. The Sixth Extinction is proceeding apace.
Maybe now is the time for Incarnatio--the sixth movement of Lectio Poetica. Time for the word to become flesh: the words of the poem that shimmers for you; the words your soul is speaking sotto voce, as you watch what's happening in the world; even the words you hear yourself spitting out, at times, through clenched teeth.
Maybe, inevitably, the time for contemplation must, like life itself, come to an end. Maybe it's time for action. Maybe we have to get up off the cushion, put down the pen and book of poetry, vacate the sanctuary of the self, and go do something to save the world.
Or not. I don't know.
I just know it's time to let go of Lectio.
But before I go, okay, a quote from one of Mary Oliver's poems appeared in my head, just now. Out of nowhere. I'll share that with you, and bid you adieu. With love and sadness.
"Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit to no labor in its cause? I don't think so . . . Be ignited, or be gone." ("What I Have Learned So Far," New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2, 2005).
— Jay E. Valusek