Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Lifetime of Meaning in 28 Words

            So many stories in literature are about awakening because life is about awakening. In Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller says the elements of good storytelling — setting, conflict, climax and resolution — come from that great conflict in the universe, which exists in our subconscious and we experience as separation from the divine. When we awaken to this, we know we must find the divine within us, which is a journey to our true self. Donald Miller says it a lot better and a lot funnier than I can. Just read his book.
Even though they lived more than a century apart and their writings were nothing alike, I love Edna St. Vincent Millay just as much as I do Donald Miller. They both had an unconventional approach to the act of awakening and they both had the gifts to express it well. Besides, Edna St. Vincent Millay—who had a really cool name—wrote the poem, “Renascence.” Anyone who can do that is immortal in my book.
Miss Millay was an American poet and novelist who was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She had a controversial personal life, probably because she had an open mind. She had red hair and liked to call herself “Vincent” sometimes. Nancy Milford’s biography of her was named Savage Beauty and that’s probably pretty descriptive. She was the type of woman who attracted both women and men admirers although men didn’t seem to understand her or her poetry. “She liked nature,” one man wrote of her. Oh, what a shallow, shallow being he must have been. She wrote about so much more and everything about her tells you she was awake from an early age.
Her poem “Renascence” is about awakening. I’ve loved it since I was an adolescent and reading it was quite possibly the beginning of my own personal renascence. The words I love best are toward the end. Sometimes I read the whole poem just so the last words will have the power they’re intended to have.
            The world stands out on either side, no wider than the heart is wide.
            Above the world is stretched the sky, no higher than the soul is high.
            Words to remember for a lifetime.