Riffing off a conversation during the week about the difference between giving and receiving and giving and taking has set some sparks flying. I am pretty good at giving and I am getting better at receiving but the idea of taking that is foreign territory. What does it mean to take? Literally to grab something with both hands, yank it into your life, pull it towards you feels a little violent and perhaps even greedy or entitled … but what if it was about showing up, leaving nothing to chance, proactively and decisively making a claim? I think I am out of practice at taking a trick. We played a lot of cards and board games when I was growing up but no so much in recent times. I steered away from competitive activities and have somehow aligned taking with competition – if I have something then someone else doesn’t. This is not true. That is a scarcity mentality and that doesn’t line up with my usual approach to life around abundance.
Taking and giving are not mutually exclusive. I can take a photograph and enhance the beauty of what is there and see something new and give that to others. I can take a position and advocate to be more inclusive which opens up, not closes down possibilities. I can take what I imagine is potentially mine and that need not be taking from another or from someone else’s future. There is intentionality in taking that feels quite different to the humility of receiving. This is sparking me up to consider what might I like to take from this time? What might I want to manifest, grab with both hands … make happen, instead of passively let happen? Alert: No children will be harmed in the making of taking.
With the death of Mary Oliver this week I have been reflecting on her legacy to future generations and how even a tiny spark of her talent has held me many times. She took from the natural world and shared her insights. She absorbed, at a cellular level the lessons of all things elemental. While we received, she did take, and knead and hold and filter and fuse. I am sure she would have seen her taking as necessary for her to give. In fact her instruction is quiet clear in her famous One Summer Day poem meditating on the grasshopper – what is your plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Embedded in that line is a confirmation and imprimatur, to be wild, accept your life as uniquely precious and irreplaceable, unable to be replicated as each day, each moment to be spent by only you and the way to you spend it. Making a plan includes giving, receiving and taking. Paying attention to falling down, kneeling, rolling in the grass, gazing around, floating away – these are all instructions from the school of life and living includes pushing through pain barriers in dark days, unfurling wings while they are still wet, moving the jaws up and down, ruminating, chewing through things hard to swallow, being nourished and fed in the process. I don’t know what a prayer is either, but the spark to consider taking as well as receiving and not making anyone else the poorer, weaker or losing in the process that may also make be richer, stronger and a winner along the way is worth considering … and even a bit of planning. Here’s to the summer day!
|Who made the world?|
|Who made the swan, and the black bear?|
|Who made the grasshopper?|
|This grasshopper, I mean–|
|the one who has flung herself out of the grass,|
|the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,|
|who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —|
|who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.|
|Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.|
|Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.|
|I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.|
|I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down|
|into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,|
|how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields|
|which is what I have been doing all day.|
|Tell me, what else should I have done?|
|Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?|
|Tell me, what is it you plan to do|
|With your one wild and precious life?
by Mary Oliver
ps To hear or read an interview with Mary Oliver and Krista Tippett from On Being click here.