The machinery of the universe
is humming –
The night sky hints
That is the first poem I wrote. I was a teenager. It popped into my head as I was lying in bed, at night, staring up at the ceiling. I owe a lot to that poem.
It was that poem that taught me to love. That poem has filled me with inspiration everyday since. And it contains the gift that I most want to share with my son as he grows.
I came to this realization while reading about love. In Plato’s “Symposium,” he describes a “ladder of love” that begins with love for a single person. He is speaking of the love that starts with attraction.
If that relationship buds and the love progresses, the initial spark that provided “chemistry” grows into a concern for your mate’s well being. Their goals and spiritual progress become important to you.
If that is nurtured properly, Plato contends, that love will further bloom into a love for others, a concern for community. Eventually love for that special someone who caught your eye leads to a love of politics. Sounds like a leap?
How else could you properly care for the people in your life if you can’t make educated decisions about their schooling and other community resources, Plato would argue. So what does all of this have to do with the poem?
After writing that poem I let poetry consume me. I read poetry, biographies of poets, and interviews with poets, anything I could get my hands on.
Somewhere during the first sparks of my love affair with poetry I came across this gem: Having the desire to do something means that you are capable of achieving that goal as long as you “unfold” your desire properly. I can’t remember which early modern poet said it, but I love the concept.
About 20 years later, I can tell you that it is true. If I didn’t jump out of bed and grab a pen and paper to write that first poem down, it wouldn’t have been on the back cover of my college literary magazine, which was a kernel of pride that encouraged me to become a writer.
Reading for hours a day, led me down many paths. Obsessions for poetry and music led me to religion and psychology, led me to philosophy, led me to history and, yes, finally, politics. The high school me that decorated his locker with pictures of Jim Morrison and Emily Dickinson wouldn’t touch politics.
But my interest in poetry was genuine. It was a good fit that I reveled in. I nurtured it, and I loved it. True love is growth. This is what I would like to teach my son.
If there is something that you are passionate about, keep pulling that thread. Follow it to its source. If you follow your true desires, you will learn about yourself, learn about others, and you will be enjoying it the whole time.
Because, as Plato would add, unlike other notions of love, such as a thirst that can’t be quenched, or a high place that could never be reached, Plato’s belief was that love can be attained. It can be known and yet it will never end!