Nov 26 — Thanksgiving and the Ferguson verdict

Wednesday November 26       “. . . transform opposers into friends . . . “

No classes today so campus gets to decompress and let the buildings and infrastructure rest a bit.  Same with UDM employees.  I’m slipping in this off-regular cycle post to remind myself, and the 1655 readers enrolled on the “Work Day in Hard Times” list, that the gratitude we celebrate this week does not mean that we go temporarily blind and deaf to the wounds of our world.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s invocation of “the beloved community” —  taken I believe from the American Pragmatist philosopher Josiah Royce — makes good Thanksgiving Day reading.  It invites us to invite to our family tables those enraged by and those who defend the Ferguson Grand Jury.   Dr. King was right when he implied that as a nation we are nowhere near finished with violence.

He was right too, to stake his hope in “the beloved community.”

Happy Thanksgiving;  I hope you get to put your feet up and breathe a little.

See you next Monday.


john sj

Beloved Community

“But the end is reconciliation;

the end is redemption;

the end is the creation of the beloved community.

It is this type of spirit and this type of love

that can transform opposers into friends . . .

It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return.”

MLK 1957


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Nov 24 – “Think of Others”

Monday November 24 –As you conduct your wars, think of others . . .  (do not forget those who seek peace).

I encountered Mahmoud Darwish this morning as I looked for a poet new to me, and perhaps to many of you.   I love “Think of Others.”  Darwish, a compelling Palestinian poet, died three days after surgery on August 9, 2008.   Knowing that the surgery carried a risk of death, he chose August 6, the anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bomb,  as a way of making his death  a poem of the Palestinian people should he not survive the surgery.  The author of the Wikipedia article explains this way.

“Mahmoud Darwish died on 9 August 2008 at the age of 67, three days after heart surgery at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. Before surgery, Darwish had signed a document asking not to be resuscitated in the event of brain death.[54] According to Ibrahim Muhawi, the poet, though suffering from serious heart problems, did not require urgent surgery, and the day set for the operation bore a symbolic resonance. In his Memory for Forgetfulness, Darwish centered the narrative of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and 88 day siege of Beirut on 6 August 1982, which was the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. A new bomb had been deployed, which could collapse and level a twelve story building by creating a vacuum. Darwish wrote: ‘On this day, on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb, they are trying out the vacuum bomb on our flesh and the experiment is successful.’ By his choice of that day for surgery, Muwahi suggests, Darwish was documenting: ‘the nothingness he saw lying ahead for the Palestinian people.'”

Strong poetry, a poet friend liked to say, chooses every word carefully; the result is flint-hard and tender language, opening the reader to grief and delight, sometimes so close together that they touch.   Is “Think of Others” a lamentation or a caress?

Best to read the poem out loud.  If you have time the video will deepen your experience.

Have a blest day,


john sj

Mahmoud Darwish: “Think of Others”

Posted by Phyllis Cole-Dai on Nov 21, 2014 12:00 am

As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
As you conduct your wars, think of others
(do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
(those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
(do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
(those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you liberate yourself in metaphor, think of others
(those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
(say: “If only I were a candle in the dark”).

The original Arabic:

فكِّر بغيركَ

وأنتَ تُعِدُّ فطورك، فكِّر بغيركَ
لا تَنْسَ قوتَ الحمام
وأنتَ تخوضُ حروبكَ، فكِّر بغيركَ
لا تنس مَنْ يطلبون السلام
وأنتَ تسدد فاتورةَ الماء، فكِّر بغيركَ
مَنْ يرضَعُون الغمامٍ
وأنتَ تعودُ إلى البيت، بيتكَ، فكِّر بغيركَ
لا تنس شعب الخيامْ
وأنت تنام وتُحصي الكواكبَ، فكِّر بغيركَ
ثمّةَ مَنْ لم يجد حيّزاً للمنام
وأنت تحرّر نفسك بالاستعارات، فكِّر بغيركَ
مَنْ فقدوا حقَّهم في الكلام
وأنت تفكر بالآخرين البعيدين، فكِّر بنفسك
قُلْ: ليتني شمعةُ في الظلام

Darwish“Think of Others” by Mahmoud Darwish, from Almond Blossoms and Beyond. Translated from the original Arabic by Mohammed Shaheen. © Interlink Books, 2010.

Art credit: Video created by Tamim Fares and uploaded April 4, 2011. Music by Secret Garden. Note that this video uses a slightly different English translation of the poem.

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Nov 21 “Inside everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born”

Friday November 21 “What disturbs and then nourishes has everything
 we need.”

These blast days of wind and cold can wear even on a winter-lover like me. And when I hear, early today on NPR, that Buffalo’s 6+ feet of snow may be followed over the weekend with high temperatures and flooding, I catch my breath. And when I learn from a soul friend that a lovely little soccer-playing 3rd grader in our school on Pine Ridge, Jayla, was killed while sledding, apparently by a pack of wild dogs, grief makes its home in me. Again.

I wanted a poem about winter today as our work week ends. And found one that David Whyte wrote and published in his book of poems, The House of Belonging. Great poetry can steady us, open places of stillness in us, encourage us. “The Winter of Listening” reminds me of a nourishing one-liner written decades ago by the mystic Thomas Merton: “There is no way of telling strangers they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Best to read a poem out loud, with some pauses. Have a blest weekend.


john sj

Today’s Post “The Winter of Listening”

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,

what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
 nothing to say.

All those years
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.

All those years
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous

Silence and winter
has led me to that

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

David Whyte


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Wednesday November 19 — an old favorite poem

Wednesday November 19  — an old favorite poem  

I was off to the airport at 6:00  and hustling when I got back to make coffee for today’s half-day retreat group  (great group! good conversations) and went non-stop from then til now.   So instead of working on a fresh post, I dipped back to November 14 of last year when I posted a poem by Joy Harjo, a soul friend.  “She Had Some Horses” has graced this list before.  Bet you will like it when you read it again.  Preferably out loud with some pauses.

See you Friday.

john st sj

She Had Some Horses

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Nov 17 – a love poem

Monday  November 17  “Watching you, I see how your face bears the signs of our time together”

I stood in the pre-dawn dark looking out on the McNichols gate, watching early traffic.  But mostly, breathing in the first snow that stuck after it fell overnight.  The campus always looks good — thank you Facilities — but this snow dusting helped me enter the morning with stillness, a restful time after the intensity of the past two weeks.  Judge Rhodes signs off on the City’s bankruptcy exit plan; Barak Obama responds to the elections by facing off with GOP leaders; some of the media I follow holds up the 25th anniversary of the 2 Salvadoran women and 6 Jesuit faculty.  That’s a lot in a short while.

The snow got me looking for simple beauty.   I lucked out and met Stephen Dobyns for the first time.  Wikipedia tells me he graduated from Wayne State and got an MFA at the University of Iowa. I counted 13 books of poetry between 1973 & 2010.   As with most good poems, “Waking” opens with the ordinary, the poet waking beside his still asleep wife and their baby.   Then it finds its depth. I hope you like it.

It’s best to read poems out loud, budgeting time for some pauses.

Winds out of the West South West get gustier as the day goes on, slightly warmer weather by the weekend, maybe some snow on Wednesday; so says  Have a good week.


john sj

Stephen Dobyns: “Waking”

Posted by Phyllis Cole-Dai on Nov 13, 2014 12:00 am

Waking, I look at you sleeping beside me.
It is early and the baby in her crib
has begun her conversation with the gods
that direct her, cooing and making small hoots.
Watching you, I see how your face bears the signs
of our time together—for each objective
description, there is the romantic; for each
scientific fact, there’s the subjective truth—
this line was caused by days at a microscope,
this from when you thought I no longer loved you.
Last night a friend called to say that he intends
to move out; so simple, he and his wife splitting
like a cell into two separate creatures.
What would happen if we divided ourselves?
As two colors blend on a white pad, so we
have become a third color; or better,
as a wire bites into the tree it surrounds,
so we have grown together. Can you believe
how frightening I find this, to know I have
no life except with you? It’s almost enough
to make me destroy it just to protest it.
Always we seemed perched on the brink of chaos.
But today there’s just sunlight and the baby’s
chatter, her wonder at the way light dances
on the wall. How lucky to be ignorant,
to greet joy without a trace of suspicion,
to take that first step without worrying what
comes trailing after, as night trails after day,
or winter summer, or confusion where all
seemed clear and each moment was its own reward.

“Waking” by Stephen Dobyns, from VelocitiesNew and Selected Poems, 1996-1992. © Penguin, 1994.


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November 16, 1989 – El Salvador Martyrs (6 Jesuit faculty, a cook and her teen-age daughter)

Friday, November 14, 2014

I’ve never posted after work on Friday before.  But, just before heading over to our Faculty Achievement Annual Dinner, I read this account from Mary Jo McConahay, a reporter who came very early to the Jesuit University of Central America on this day 25 years ago Sunday, to see the murdered bodies of six Jesuit faculty members, their cook and her daughter, all murdered by the right wing military of Salvador in the middle of the night.   She got there before the blood had been cleaned up.  One thing Ms McConahay does not mention that has stayed in my mind:  the killers split open the skulls of some of the faculty members, scooped some of their brains out, and left them beside their dead bodies.  It was, I think, a statement by that vicious police state, that professors with PhDs, working to find a voice for brutally poor people, would not win.  Their brains were reduced to trash.

These martyrs were well known across the Academy in the US;  many US scholars had studied with them, respected their intelligence, in many cases loved them the way PhD graduate students come to love each other.   They were like our faculty, dedicated to research, teaching and mentoring new generations of students.  Because they were such credible teacher-scholars, their murders woke the US Congress, thanks especially to Representative Joe Moakley whose Legislative Commission forced some truth into the light about the US funded military who murdered these 8 people, who then joined the tens of thousands of Salvadorans killed with savage brutality in that hard war.  As a result of their murders and Joe Moakley, the US began to back off from funding a brutal regime.

Today, 25 years later, it remains an imperfect world.  Still the beauty of these 2 women and 6 men shines.    When Joe Moakley died of cancer in 2001 I heard on the news that construction workers on projects along the funeral route in  Boston, stood to attention as his body passed.  I plan to stand to attention on  Sunday.

Tonight’s Post:  “Clear voices, silenced: Remember the murder of six Jesuits,”
Mary Jo McConahay,  National Catholic Reporter November 14, 2014.


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Nov 14 – the demanding business of rebirth

Friday November 14 — “Sorrow’s springs are the same”

It’s an aberration to many of my friends; I tell them that I cannot remember a single time in my life when falling snow did not lift my spirits and make me smile. Up in Marinette, Wisconsin we got plenty of practice watching snow, and shoveling it. So when, yesterday morning, I looked out my window and saw this year’s first snow, my heart leaped a little with joy. Not all easy delight though; there’s a maple outside our dining room window (along the west side of CHP); it is covering its ground with a thick scattering of leaves so piercingly beautiful. Such beauty tells the onlooker, unmistakably, that the beauty is passing; those leaves will curl and brown before long, and lose their splendor. Grief and joy played through yesterday and they will today. This is a season of ending and beginning. I subscribe to a weekly selection of poems on a list called “A Year of Being Here.” There are some good, tough, tender November poems this week. I was tempted to post about four of them. Here they all are.

Yesterday a friend emailed after I’d posted Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Hurrahing in the Harvest” and asked if I could send a Hopkins poem that one of his high school teachers assigned. He said the poem bewildered him then and he wanted to return to it. “Spring and Fall: to a young child” isn’t really addressed to a young child, I think. The poet writes this elegy to us adults as we contemplate our children as they very gradually learn that along with play and discovery and wonder, they will eventually learn loss and grief.

All week our media has begun to interpret the significance of Detroit’s early steps of rebirth. The bankruptcy’s early steps of high risk-taking across political hard lines brought to mind a much older poem, written by Isaiah. Prophets cannot be endured without stretching our capacity for hope in hard places. These lines were originally spoken to a destroyed nation tempted to collective despair and challenged by the prophets to believe in rebirth, 2500 years ago. How do they sound in Detroit one week after Judge Rhodes rendered the verdict that Detroit could exit bankruptcy and get about the demanding business of rebirth?

No longer are you to be named “Forsaken,”,
nor your land “Abandoned,”
but you shall be called “My Delight”
and your land, “My Spouse”;
for The Lord takes delight in you
and your land will have its wedding.”
~Isaiah 61

I hope you love this season of turning; its grace is to bring us close to the sorrow that lives right next to the sheer beauty of our lives.

Have a good weekend.


john sj

Today’s Post: “Spring and Fall: to a young child”
Gerard Manley Hopkins, sj 1880

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

November trees - east of softballMcNichols Campus, just north of the softball field,  November 20, 2013


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Nov 12 – Summer Ends Now – G. M. Hopkins sj

Wednesday, November 12    “3 Feet in some places”

Gerard Manley Hopkins, sj looked inside the death of summer and the coming of cold weather as sacred beauty, the play of God with the earth; the poet recognized the gaze of human beings, moved to joy by sheer beauty, as prayer.  As today’s reports of deep snow up north reminds us, we recognize autumn’s passing splendor.   Northern Michigan U is closed due to “terrible weather.”  Rather than sacrifice the joy of the leaves dancing all around us here in Detroit to premonitions of gloom, I want to offer some stillness to this day.

You too?

Have a blest day,


john sj

Today’s Post Best to read aloud, with pauses.

“Hurrahing in the Harvest”

SUMMER ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!—
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, sj 1844-1889


p.s.       Looking for a new prayer to honor UDM’ s vets  yesterday I came across a short post about families of vets.  It’s not for the faint of heart;  reading it as if it were a poem helped turn it into a prayer and a reminder that right now c. 100 vets are part of our UDM community of research, teaching, and learning.

While it’s well known that 22 veterans a day kill themselves, a CNN investigation revealed that many military family members also have attempted or contemplated suicide.

“The Uncounted” examined how war’s trauma can wrack entire families. Family members have endured unprecedented multiple deployments during two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, lasting more than a decade. That means financial and emotional stress for relatives.

If a family member returns from war, it’s often the relatives who must care for them.

“If we can’t figure out a way to provide better support for families, the public will pay one way or another,” said Kristina Kaufmann, executive director of Code of Support Foundation, which tries to bridge the gap between military and civilian communities. . . .

“Don’t be afraid to approach us. This heartache I have — it makes other people uncomfortable. It hits them in a place that scares them,” said New Jersey parent Bill Koch, whose son Steven died in Afghanistan in 2008. His daughter committed suicide two years later, an act her parents believe was inextricably tied to losing Steven.

“It can hurt so much more when we feel like we’re making other people uncomfortable by talking about our kids,” Koch said. “Don’t push military family members away because you’re afraid you’ll say the wrong thing. Just asking us means you care, and that means everything.”

from “5 ways to honor veterans beyond Veterans Day”   By Ashley Fantz, CNN

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Armistice Day at The Tower of London

A postscript to today’s post:  Veterans day in the UK where searing memories of The Great War (we call it World War I) remain part of the national identity.

Poppies surrounding The Tower of London



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One more archive post for today — World War I’s 100th anniversary

This morning’s post[s] stirred several compelling responses. Here they are:
1) One of our readers from the Law School wrote to ask why I had not included John McCrae’s flint-hard voice coming out of the brutal violences of World War I, especially, he observed, since 2014 is the 100th anniversary of that many with long memories call “The Great War.”

2) Another reader, this one a close friend, sent me a YouTube clip of a 1942 BBC recording “Nightingale Sings as RAF Bombers Fly” You have to listen in a couple minutes before the bombers enter the sound field.

Thank you to both readers.


john sj

Today’s 3rd Post

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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