This story first appeared July 27, 2016, at Patheos where I write a regular weekly column called Wake Up Call.
I’ve honored the deceased recently, including my buddy Terry, a good man who passed away at 55 from a sudden heart attack, and my wise expat friend from France, John, who passed away in April. Now it’s time to honor the living—a guy who I feared might have joined Terry and John.
There’s a blogger from Edmonton, in Alberta, Canada by the name of Ivon Prefontaine. He gave me a jolt a few days ago when I suddenly realized I had not received a blog update from him in several weeks. For a few years now, I’ve looked forward to his regular e-mail missives and when I went to his Web site, Teacher as Transformer, there were no signs of activity since late-May.
It didn’t seem right, someone who blogged frequently to suddenly go silent, so I reached out to Ivon—and discovered he is alive and well. He informed me he is busy finishing a book, which has taken up a lot of his time, so had put his blog on hold.
Ivon is a writer and fan of poetry, neither of which I can say about myself, and he regularly shares poems he admires. But what pulls me into his blog posts aren’t the poems themselves, but his writings about them, which are full of great depth and insight. For me, they put a context around the words, and are often are more illuminating than the poetry itself.
Without further adieu, here are four examples of Ivon Prefontaine’s writings from his Web site:
Freedom to Choose
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space there is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom. ~Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist and neurologist who developed a school of psychiatry called logotherapy, which is the search for meaning in life. He used his experiences as a Holocaust survivor to help inform his findings.
Humans choose their responses and seek life’s meaning. When we lose our meaning in life, we drift, feeling rudderless and without mooring. What keeps us grounded are the choices we make in life and the meaning we find in life. For example, becoming a teacher, a farmer, a parent, etc. gives life purpose and calls us to take action.
We express who we are through responding to the continuous calling, the vocation, that we find through various meaningful roles. When and if we find our life’s meaning, it allows us to make a difference in the world, for other sentient beings, and for the non-sentient elements of the world. We care for all aspects of the world and feel connected to it.
Thomas Merton suggested some humans find their calling and others search throughout life, unable to find it. Perhaps, it is they do not hear what calls them and are unable to respond. Mindfulness and silence open spaces to hear the calls that give our lives meaning and make living meaningful.
I sometimes feel lost in the world, without bearings. David Wagoner counseled that when we feel lost, to stop and listen to the world, as if it were the forest and a powerful stranger able to speak to us.
When I stop and pray, I ask someone for help, but, if I rush on, without listening, the prayer cannot be answered. I pose a question that I cannot answer. Prayer is not just speaking. My heart opens and receives what is returned to me.
Is it in the form of words? Or, is it the gentle breath that is hardly perceptible? When I am mindful and listen to listen, I intuitively sense differences. Mindfulness becomes an attentive and sensitive way of life, as opposed to just happening.
Max Reif describes the rush of life and the calling of nature somehow overriding that rush. The poem reminded me of biblical passage from Matthew 6:28 describing lilies as just being.
What is my hurry? What roots me in this place and time? I overlook the depth of those questions. I enjoy reading Wendell Berry’s essays about farming. He reminds me that farming is a love of place and time. The small farm is home for people and nature. There is no separation.
My mother said farmers do not need Daily Savings Time. Depending on the time of the year, they understand their work based on the time and space they are in at that moment. When I think of the world as unpatterned, I sense its majestic wholeness and not compartments, rendering them virtual.
I hear the trees
say “What’s your hurry?”
how in my world
we have to rush
to keep in step.
I haven’t even time
to stop and tell them
how on weekends, too,
It’s only on a sick day
when I have to venture out
to pick up medicine
that I understand the trees,
there in all their fullness
in a world unpatterned
full of moments,
full of spaces,
been turned yet
on the lathe
lies open, light
and shadow. Breath
fills the body easily.
into a world
a quiet lover.
Prayer of St. Francis
Kathy and I celebrate our 40th anniversary this weekend and we are on our way to Alaska. We used The Prayer of St. Francis (Peace Prayer) as a reading for our wedding mass. As well, we have an inexpensive plaque that sits on a dresser in our bedroom. My mother gave it to us many years ago. When we celebrated my mother’s funeral mass a year ago, we read the prayer, as well.
When I was in Spokane for extended periods, I posted a copy of the prayer on my bedroom wall. It serves as a daily reminder of what we are capable of as humans in relationship with one another, the world, and God in our moment-to-moment living.
The prayer is about the travails and their rewards that we undertake. When I think about love, I recall Thomas Merton‘s saying we call it falling in love for a reason. We open ourselves, risk being hurt, and the rewards are worthwhile. We mind, care, and attend to people and things.
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
To see more of Ivon Prefontaine’s writings, you can visit his Web site here.