Nov 21 2018

May Sarton – Unison Benediction

Published by at 10:28 am under Poetry

Unison Benediction
by May Sarton

Return to the most human,
nothing less will nourish the torn spirit,
the bewildered heart,
the angry mind:
and from the ultimate duress,
pierced with the breath of anguish,
speak of love.

Return, return to the deep sources,
nothing less will teach the stiff hands a new way to serve,
to carve into our lives the forms of tenderness
and still that ancient necessary pain preserve.

Return to the most human,
nothing less will teach the angry spirit,
the bewildered heart;
the torn mind,
to accept the whole of its duress,
and pierced with anguish…
at last, act for love.

— from May Sarton, Collected Poems, 1930-1993, by May Sarton


/ Image by me3009 /

I came across this poem today in Roger Housden’s Living and Writing Wild email newsletter (which I highly recommend). It felt like the perfect poem for today, so I thought I’d share it along with some of my own thoughts…

Return to the most human,
nothing less will nourish the torn spirit

I am so aware of how much frustration people feel over the dark turn in politics in recent years. More than frustration, there is a sense of anguish, even betrayal. For many, it is as if our vision of who we are and the future we might achieve has been defiled and damaged to the point that we no longer recognize ourselves as decent people.

As an American, how do I understand the racist, proto-fascist, violent forces emerging within my own country? At the same time, similar tendencies are appearing in the UK, India, the Philippines, and we could add several other nations to the list.

How can people of good heart not feel horrified at these developments?

While harmful forces must be answered with courage in the public arena, I want to suggest that there is something important happening on another level, as well: an enforced awakening.

We are going through a collective process of disillusionment, whether we like it or not. We are being required to drop our illusions and witness unpleasant truths, about ourselves and about the world around us. What have we ignored that has allowed such fear and hatred to fester? How have our political and social systems become so damaged that they are unresponsive to the needs and demands of society? What cruelties are encoded in society that I have ignored or made excuses for? How did we imagine things were solid, when they are so fragile? How can my neighbor believe such things, and what is his hurt that I was blind to? These are the questions we are forced to ask now.

Painful though it may be, devastating in some cases, we can only be strengthened by the process of disillusionment. We want to drop our illusions. We want to see things as they are, as fully and as clearly as possible.

Return, return to the deep sources

We might think of it as a meditative exercise. Let’s look at reality, everything we see, the terrible and the beautiful together, and just sit with it. It may break our hearts. But we just sit with it. It may fill us with moments of pure joy. But we just sit with it. It may overwhelm us with its immensity. But we don’t run, we don’t seek to merely feel good. Instead, we just sit with it. We allow ourselves to see and feel fully. We watch our reactions too, but are not hooked by them. In this way, we begin to inhabit a bigger reality, a fuller reality. Our personal sense of reality becomes more integrated and a truer reflection of what actually is. As we do this, we become more capable of fashioning healthier lives and healthier societies.

Here’s the thing that I’ve noticed in my own life, when I stop trying to assert some idea of how reality should work, and just really notice what is, at first I feel heartbroken and even humiliated. Then I feel overwhelmed. And then… everything just opens up into a vision of stunning beauty and possibility. The heart opens in unexpected ways, making healing possible where only walls seemed to stand. It’s easy to think that reality is somehow broken, but when we really look, we discover that we inhabit an improbable wholeness instead. It’s not entirely logical amidst the world’s fear and suffering, so I encourage you to look for yourself and see. Really see. Seeing the full picture, our actions become more effective and lasting. Looking honestly, we become capable of compassion and connection, where we only felt anger before.

Combining action with an expanding awareness, we return to what is most human, and by that I mean we return to what is most divine.

Return to the most human,
nothing less will teach the angry spirit,
the bewildered heart;
the torn mind,
to accept the whole of its duress,
and pierced with anguish…
at last, act for love.

May Sarton, May Sarton poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry May Sarton

US (1912 – 1995) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by May Sarton

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “May Sarton – Unison Benediction”

  1. Beryl s bissellon 21 Nov 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Thank you Ivan. This is a blessed post.

  2. jenny mmon 21 Nov 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Thank you! Your comments so express exactly what I’m noticing about the world today. As always, the mind asks why, leading me to question what there is to learn………….

  3. Mystic Meanderingon 21 Nov 2018 at 10:56 pm

    Beautiful post, Ivan! Thank you… Recently the word “indigenous” keeps arising within; not in terms of Native American, but a sense of returning to what is “indigenous” within, the Indigenous Self, if you will – the “deeper source” within…

  4. Carol Burnson 22 Nov 2018 at 4:55 am

    Thank You Ivan,

    Indeed a beautiful poem and so appreciated your commentary. The thought that we should stop trying to assert how reality should work and really notice what is, is very
    powerful.

    ‘Return to the most human, nothing less will teach the angry spirit, the bewildered
    heart; the torn mind, to accept the whole of its duress, and pierced with anguish. . .
    at last, act for love.’

    What beautiful thoughts. Thank You Ivan, Peace and Love, Carol

  5. Carol Burnson 22 Nov 2018 at 5:10 am

    Thank You Ivan,

    This is a beautiful poem and I appreciated your commentary so much.

    The thought that we need to stop trying to assert some idea of how reality
    should work and just really notice what is . . .is very powerful.

    Return to the most human,
    nothing else will teach the angry spirit,
    the bewildered heart;
    the torn mnd,
    to accept the whole of its duress,
    and pierced with anguish. . .
    at last, act for love.

    Beautiful post for Thanksgiving and I will share. Peace and Love, Carol

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