For many years, I have been inspired by the life and writings of the late William Sloane Coffin, who was a minister, a civil rights and peace activist, a prolific writer, and an unapologetic liberal. In reading one of his books — specifically, The Heart is a Little to the Left: Essays on Public Morality — I've come across a poem by Czeslaw Milosz which offers me both solace and hope as I attempt each day to process the onslaught of news about the wars and economic injustices that seem to be tearing the world apart. Perhaps this poem will speak to others as well. If we can continue to be dazzled by wonder, and "recall only wonder," it may be that we will have the collective energy and perspective to pull the world back from the precipice of self-destruction.
Pure beauty, benediction: you are all I gathered
From a life that was bitter and confused,
In which I learned about evil, my own and not my own.
Wonder kept dazzling me, and I recall only wonder,
The risings of the sun in boundless foliage,
Flowers opening after the night, universe of grasses,
A blue outline of the mountains and a shout of hosanna.
How many times I thought: is this the truth of the Earth?
How can laments and curses be turned into hymns?
Why do I pretend to know so much?
But the lips praised on their own, the feet on their own were
The heart was beating strongly, and the tongue proclaimed
From Czeslaw Milosz, "A Mirrored Gallery," The Collected Poems: 1931-1987, trans. Renata Gorczymski (Ecco Press, 1988).