27 September 2009

Try a Little Tenderness

On a day when the events of the world can seem inordinately cruel and random, I recommend either listening to some Otis Redding (and dancing in your jammies around the apartment) or reading some Jane Hirshfield.  Take, for instance, this little piece from Hirshfield's collection The Lives of the Heart.

Late Prayer

Tenderness does not choose its own uses.
It goes out to everything equally,
circling rabbit and hawk.
Look: in the iron bucket,
a single nail, a single ruby --
all the heavens and hells.
They rattle in the heart and make one sound.

I love the quiet astuteness of Jane Hirshfield's poetry.  No doubt her studies in Zen have helped her develop a keen, still gaze, the kind that penetrates through the illusory world of objects to see what is essential about this existence.  Hirshfield's poetry can take readers to the calm center of the universe, reminding us that the true self is the self at peace, one with the world, one with what is beyond the world.  And, if as Hirshfield says, tenderness "goes out to everything equally," it goes out to you, even if you are the one who has to send it out to yourself.  Go ahead.  Try a little tenderness.