Rick Benjamin, my mentor, beloved friend, and current poet laureate of Rhode Island, gets everything he wants. But that’s because what he wants is to circulate the wisdom that words, and maybe words alone, can carry. His preferred medium is poetry, which calls words back to their sharpened purpose. In the everyday, words are such common currency that we can easily waste them or use them cheaply (ever done that?)– the way we can waste our breath, or even waste our lives, given to us so freely.
Wise words beckon us, AGAIN, to pay attention to what we are really saying, being, doing.
I am on this topic now because there is so much WANTING bound up with the college application process: the schools we want to attend or want our children to attend, the status or recognition we want (very much) to gain or not to lose– and the want to be Wanted. The process can be overwhelming and leave little room for breathing, for common sense, or for just plain joy in what is.
On New Years Day, a day that can be auspicious or a Big Headache or both, Rick and I chewed over ideas for his monthly column for the Providence Journal (which you can and should read regularly here)– something about change, what else? The poem “Oceans” I have long cherished popped up as fitting– do we get what we expect? Do we even know what we already have? Are we closed or opened to change?
o c e a n s
I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
happens! Nothing … Silence … Waves …
—Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?
~Juan Ramon Jimenez, trans. by Robert Bly
This simple poem teaches me at every rereading.
If you want to get everything you want, it’s easy enough: adjust your wants. Jimenez, perhaps not even meaning to, teaches us to feel and listen and be brave enough to notice that we may already be standing in the new life, the next “great thing.” But compared with our expectations, that new life may look nothing like we thought it would. Didn’t get accepted to your first choice schools? No one celebrates that.
But what if, what IF, not getting what we want is exactly what returns us to the overlooked ocean we are already standing in– the beautiful ocean, rich with immense possibility?
Essay Intensive wants you to get you what you want–in the biggest possible sense. Jump in the conversation and join our next intensive to get started.