Here is another powerful poem by spoken poet Robert Maxie, Jr. He is sixteen years old and has been writing poetry since the age of seven. He has his own You-Tube site and his first book,BLEEDING INK, was published this year. More are on the way….
He says, “This poem is extremely important to me and my life. It’s a constant reminder that I’m not alive to make sure that I do and say what pleases everyone around me. That kind of life is unsustainable. Instead, I want to make sure that I’m saying and living my life the way I want to.”
A wise young man.
I did not speak much when I was a child
They asked me to speak, so I spoke
I spoke of whatever my mind could conjure up
hoping that the abundance of words
would make them like me more
I was wrong
They said I was annoying
That I talked to much
They asked me to be quiet
So I shut my lips and sewed them shut to please them
Hoping that they would love me more
I was wrong
They told me I was antisocial and quiet
So I was friendly and outgoing and I spoke what I thought
They told me my thoughts were wrong, that I still talk too much
So I hid my thoughts and agreed with whatever they said
Hoping they would want me more
I was wrong
They called me a follower and gullible
So I led my own path and said what I thought,
hoping they would love me more
I was wrong
They hated me for my diversity
They abused me and made me an outcast
I starved myself to death trying to feed everyone else
People don’t want you to think
People don’t want you to speak,
they want you to shut up
especially when you have something important to say
For if thought corrupts language,
language will also corrupt thought.
Ah…here it comes again. Another Un-Seeing Exercise. There’s THAT question: Who am I to be so bold?
The story you tell yourself about what you “cannot” do can hurt you your entire life. This question, in particular, can tie you up in all kinds of knots and keep you stuck in suck.
WHY BOLD? WHAT IS BOLD?
“Lemme tell ya, cookie,” as an old, rasty rascal of a friend used to say, “it’s supposed to be bold. What are ya? Some kinda snail?”
Jan (Arny) Messersmith published that sky-diving image in the header of this post in his Flickr stream in 2010. He tells the backstory in a long rumination in his image notes. He also includes one of the best definitions of “bold” I’ve ever seen.
He says, “Boldness is the exercise of one’s beliefs accompanied by a certainty that positive and well-considered actions will produce desirable outcomes.” He continues, “Timidity and fear are not compatible with confidence and trust.” It’s a truth, that.
This INBOUND Bold Talk, “From Suit to Seal” was published on YouTube by HubSpot in 2015. It features Phil Black who hung up his suit as a Goldman-Sach minion to become, of all things, a Navy Seal.
“Be bold,” Black says at the end of his talk. Bold is the first step to following your dream.
TAKING THAT FIRST STEP
How do you get to bold? Some counterpoint questions might help. How about these?
When you are 80, are you going to regret that you did not take action and believe in yourself because you were scared?
What message will you give your kids and your grandkids? How are you going to authentically encourage them to follow their dreams when you stop yourself from following your own?
The saddest comment I have ever overheard was one from an elderly grandmother telling her grandson, “Go do your dream, bebe. Me, I too old for dream now. I can only wish.”
Another take on this is the advice in this spoken poem, “Everybody Dies But Not Everybody Lives” in this YouTube video by Richard Williams, better-known as American rapper and spoken word artist Prince Ea.
Prince Ea published the video in 2016. It was a collaboration between the artist, who calls himself a “Futurist,” and Neste, a Finnish oil refinery company that, besides producing and marketing petroleum products, also produces “renewable diesel” which is produced in a patented vegetable oil refining process. The upcycled vegetable oil works well as an alternative fuel in diesel engines.
PRETEND THERE IS NO COUNTDOWN
The Real is that being bold isn’t all that hard to do. Major tip: Forget the countdown. Never mind “a-one and a-two and a-three.” Just go.
Practice will help with that. It gets easier every time you do something that makes you scared and nervous.
FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS
Bold can also get easier if you can follow along the trails of adventurers and explorers who’ve gone on ahead of you.
Start a file folder today – either a physical paper one or one on your computer. Choose a few people who you admire for their bravery and bold actions. Research their stories.
Chances are your heroes started in situations that are no better than yours right now and they made it. Find out how they did it. Look at ways that maybe you can do it your own self in your own field.
Cinthia I. Albers is a fellow member of the Maui Live Poets Society. She’s a lifelong poet with a quirky sense of humor and her own tales to tell. She has laid claim to a “poet husband and a poet cat” and has collected her poems in a series of books that are available on Amazon.
I asked her to share a poem that has meaning and mana for her and to tell us why. This is hers:
“I have always been at war with the ideas of what the world says woman should be. Magazines show us these images and most of us do not measure up.”
“I was at a doctor’s office and picked up a woman’s magazine and thought about all those magazines I had read and discarded over the years. The idea that what interests women is reflected on their pages seems like a cosmic joke. Women are much more than that.”
“This poem grew from that. This was published in Maui Muses Vol 4- Equitude (a collection of poems curated by the Live Poets) and in my own collection.”
I was flipping through one of those magazines
You know the ones
With the makeup ads
And perfume ads
And Handbag ads
And High heeled shoe ads
Just for you
The ones with the articles
How to lose weight
Lose belly fat
Sculpt your thighs
Sculpt your arms
Tighten those abs
Make that butt tight and firm
Those articles about
How to please your man
How to have more sex
How to have satisfying sex
How to declutter your home
How to organize your life
That kind of magazine
That follows the weight loss article
And the sculpt your body
into a fat burning machine
With the recipe for a 10000 calorie dessert
And the five minute meal
That takes three hours prep
And 100 dollars of ingredients
But you’ll be fine
Using their budget tips
I picked up that magazine,
I flipped through
I admired those thin women
With the leather coats
And the hair that flows in the wind
The one where you can smell her perfume
The one that runs in heels and never falls
Looking at them, the perfect make up
The happy homemaker
The husband pleaser
With the decluttered kitchen
And the picture perfect comfy house
Being born a woman
How did I fail so badly?
They showed me how
It’s so simple
They told me so
I just have to read
Follow simple instructions
Bat my phony eyelashes
Buy the right kitchen organizer
Use the correct perfume
Take care of my man sexually
And all will be perfect
I will grow the perfect boobs
Sculpt the perfect ass
I will the don the perfect haircut
And I will be able to run
In expensive spiked heels
With matching bag
And fly away coat
Truth is it never worked
I just can’t quite master that image
Who would have thought being a woman
Was so hard to become
Considering I was born one.
Ever since people started talking to one another, they’ve explored the power of words. The power of LOGOS (the Word) has been the fundamental foundation for building a religion, a culture, a movement, a life.
Words can move you. Words can move other people. That’s probably why everybody talks so much.
A MOST EFFECTIVE PUNISHMENT
Remember the Biblical Tower of Babel? According to the story, the people on earth got together and decided to build this great tower that would reach into Heaven itself. They figured they could be like little gods if they did that.
They were planning to invade and trespass into God-country. The Big Guy got mad that they even dared to make that attempt.
So, how did the Dude punish them? He made it so they began to speak in all kinds of different languages. All of a sudden, there was a major obstacle to collaboration and cooperation. You can’t work together if you don’t understand what the other person is saying. The project was abandoned.
Of course, that also meant that folks had a harder time just living together peacefully, but that’s another story….
DISTILLING THE WORDS
Poems are an especially powerful form of word-use. Poets distill their thoughts down to their essence, throwing away all the parts that interfere with their dance with the words.
Poems are like the essential oils of the Word World. It takes an incredible number of rose petals to make an essential oil. Imagine. It takes 10,000 POUNDS of petals to make one pound of rose oil. Each little 5mL bottle contains the essence of 105 pounds of petals.
Have you ever tried opening one of those teeny bottles of essential rose oil? Wow! One sniff and your nose transports you into the best enclosed rose garden there ever was.
POEMS AS A BUSINESS TOOL
In this 2013 TEDxMarin video, “The Power of Poetry”, leadership coach and teacher Dale Biron, who combines poetry with martial arts, leadership, and life-strategy, in his speaking, coaching and workshop sessions for business conferences, organizational retreats and university classes, talks about how great poems are like powerful “apps” for the mind.
Biron says poems can be “good stories with the boring parts removed.” He believes in the power of poems to get you to a life worth living.
POEMS IN MAXIMUM PRISON
Touring spoken word poet Phil Kaye has won many awards in his career so far. He’s currently a co-director of Project V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression). The Project, it says here, is “a national movement that celebrates youth self-expression through Spoken Word Poetry.” They aspire to encourage young people to use Spoken Word Poetry as a tool “to explore and better understand their culture, their society, and ultimately themselves.”
When Kaye was still a student at Brown University, he participated in and eventually became the coordinator for the college’s S.P.A.C.E. (Space in Prisons for the Arts and Creative Expression) prison initiative program. The University students, unpaid volunteers all, offer a variety of weekly art workshops at the Rhode Island Adult Correction Institutions (ACI). Phil did workshops about spoken poetry.
(S.P.A.C.E. also facilitates workshops in the Providence Center, a residential recovery service provider located on the campus of the ACI.)
Kaye developed a keen appreciation for the power of poems during the time he taught weekly poetry workshops in maximum-security prisons. In this TEDxFoggy Bottom video, “Poetry in Maximum Security Prison,” he talks about that time in his life and how it has influenced his life-direction.
Kaye’s journey has led him to venues all over the world from the Lincoln Center in New York City to the Malthouse Theater in Melbourne Australia. His work has been viewed online over five million times and has been featured in media outlets ranging from National Public Radio to Al Jazeera America and Upworthy.com.
One of Kaye’s favorite life high-points was being asked to perform alongside His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama during the beloved teacher’s 80th birthday celebration at the 2015 Global Compassion Summit conference in Anaheim.
In my own life, poems have been my way to get back to clarity about a life-situation or about my own self. Writing down and recording all the moving parts is like taking a step back from them so I can get a better handle on the whole mish-mash of chaos and confusion.
Sometimes, a hole opens up in the clouds and a light shines through. Sometimes not.
I keep working on it. Sometimes I get a whole bunch of poems. Sometimes nothing.
It’s all process….
Here’s a poem:
Nothing comes together.
This poem is not going well.
The words keep turning pale.
They fade, they float away.
They stumble around looking confused.
I let loose my Sergeant Major
Who growls at these clueless bo-bo recruits.
They keep stacking themselves this way, that way.
They keep falling over, all in a heap.
A horrible mess.
These words have forgotten how to weave, it seems.
They’ve lost the knack of bending and turning themselves
Into a shapeliness that lightly dances.
All they’re doing now is tripping all over themselves,
Faltering and flailing wildly.
Maybe they’ve contracted some runical laxness…
A touch of lyrical amnesia, perhaps,
Or maybe some versical repression.
They are limp, they are flawed.
They are a bunch of lazy bums!
Maybe I’ve stumbled upon a stash of leftover bits —
Just coagulated lumps of airhead thoughts,
Neither highly expressive nor particularly rhymical.
I was looking through an old poetry journal of mine, looking for something to use in a post. I found a folded sheet with a poem by a dear friend who died recently, Pat Masumoto. The poem was dated September 10, 2015.
I remembered that Pat asked me to read this poem for her at a Maui Live Poets gathering she wasn’t able to attend because of conflicts in her hectic schedule.
Memories came flooding back and I was missing my dear friend. Poems have that ability to speak for you when you’re gone, it seems.
Aloha no, my ‘aikane…aloha no….
Here’s the poem:
CHANGING THE GAME
(to be read with a perfectly straight face)
Self control. It works.
When I feel hurt by rude insensitivity
I talk a lot and sometimes shout.
If I’m not heard, I walk away,
even when I want to choke someone
until he turns a putrid green.
When I feel alarmed by injustice
I stand up against it,
And if I can’t get anywhere, I read about heroes…
instead of spitting at people’s faces.
and I don’t like using guns either.
When I find myself in fear,
I might compose a poem…or two.
I won’t cross my arms and crouch and I absolutely
will not growl and bite anyone coming near.
As I become stronger and tougher,
I’ll do a silly giggle and laugh like crazy.
If you want to know what else, I’m aching to
get down on all fours and
howl at the moon, but I won’t.
When I’m gladdened by kindness,
By patience and generosity, I smile and grin.
I don’t get naked and
run amuck in the streets,
arms raised and hands open, screaming with joy.
(visibly take a breath)
After exercising self-control for my whole life, I’m now bored with it.
The Twin Poets are identical twin brothers, Nnamdi Chukwuocha (born Elbert Mills) and Albert Mills, with a unique style of poetry that evolved out of their habit of finishing each other’s sentences and the rap and hip-hop of their youth. They are internationally known for their live performances of socially conscious work, including “Dreams Are Illegal In the Ghetto” and “Homework for Breakfast.
Their book, OUR WORK, OUR WORDS…: Taking the Guns From Our Sons’ Handsare filled with poems that tell the stories of the people they’ve encountered in their work as social workers and teachers for more than 17 years in the poorest sections of Wilmington, Delaware. These poems are definitely “Life-Built Poems” — of the most heartbreaking kind.
The brothers appeared on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” series in the mid-2000s and, as a result have since performed on stages across America, Europe and Africa. Through it all they continued to work with the people in their communities.
Besides being poets, the twins spent more than 17 years working at the Kingswood Community Center in Wilmington, Delaware and continued to expand and develop their idea that art could counter the dream-killing effects of poverty and hardship. Mills is a family therapist and community-based social worker and Chukwuocha is a social worker who has served on the Wilmington City Council for a number of years.
In 2014, Newsweek called Wilmington, “Murder Town USA” and said it ranked third on the FBI’s annual list of “most violent cities” among cities of comparable size. It also ranked fifth when compared to all cities with populations greater than 50,000.
Most of the city is safe, Wilmington residents who were offended by the Newsweek article protested.
A 2015 Delaware Today article, “Wilmington Crime: A City That Bleeds,” pointed out that the numbers in the statistics used by the Newsweek report of murder and mayhem are disproportionately centered in areas like the Hilltop neighborhood mentioned as well as other, similar neighborhoods and are the result of a number of chronic problems – not enough jobs, not enough support of education and training, housing issues, and several generations of social ills that have no easy solutions. It continues to be an ongoing problem.
Over the years the brothers have received a number of awards recognizing them for their community service, including the Village Award (2006) from the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families and a Local Heroes Award from Bank of America (2006).
The Twin Poets were the State of Delaware Mentors of the Year in 2001, and, in December, 2015, they were named the 17th Poet Laureate (a shared title) of the state of Delaware by former Governor Jack Markell.
Another article in Delaware Today, “Wilmington’s Twin Poets Provide Healing Through Art,” chronicles the extraordinary efforts they’ve made and continue to make to help save the children in the poorest of the communities they service from the hopelessness and helplessness that the disenfranchised experience in their world.
The brothers founded Art for Life–Delaware, a community-based, social worker-led mentoring program that uses art to change the lives of delinquent youth and their families.
They also developed G.O.A.L.S. (Getting Organized Always Leads To Success), a tutoring and mentoring program that teaches children about the importance of self-expression and writing.
This Hearts and Mind Film published in 2013 features the Twin Poets poem, “Why I Write”:
“Why I Write” is also the name of a website about the brothers and their work that was initially designed by the interactive design students at the University of Delaware.
As Chukwuocha says in the Delaware Today article about their life, the brothers have refused many invitations to become rap and hip-hop sensations over the years. They wanted to “make a difference,” he said. They continue trying.
This poem was written by Robert J. Maxie, Jr, who has a You-Tube channel that features his spoken poems. (Do check out his poetry site on Wattpad for more of his work.) Robert recently independently published a book of poetry as well, BLEEDING INK, which is available on Amazon.com.
He says, “The back story of this poem isn’t as much in the past as it is what I’m living. I oftentimes recently have found myself in situations where I feel hopeless and powerless.
“This poem is a reminder to me that I can’t live that way. That if I let myself lose hope I won’t be able to make it.”
A wise young man….
Here’s the spoken poem on his You-Tube channel:
The words are powerful:
The truth is a blinding light
Shining over an ocean of lies
Gliding on black skies
On wings of fear and rage
It’s a rushing river that empties lakes
A hungry beast that takes and takes
A monster that terrifies
An ever living hawk
Scouting the skies
Bringing death to all
Because hope is the ultimate lie
A lie that lives on as long as the light is gone
Hope survives when hidden from the truth
Hope is the noble lie staying my soul from chaos and rage
Hope is a cage
Hope is control
Hope is a blinder over my eyes
And now that hope is gone
And all that’s left is an infinite
Black void through which I cannot find my way
Without my hope
Without my faith I stumble even though my eyes are open and my path is empty
I am blind to trouble
Though I see
This slim book took the world by storm in its day for a good reason. The master marketers were the first to distill down their work and life experiences into marketing “laws” that still apply to this very day. It’s a good one for any wannabe marketer to have on their shelf.
The second book was a joyous romp of a read. The book, LIFE IS GOOD, THE BOOK: How to Live With Purpose and Enjoy the Ride, is written by Bert and John Jacobs and is the story of how “two ordinary brothers from Boston, who didn’t want a job but weren’t afraid to work,” built a company worth more than $100 million by selling t-shirts with the help of their friends.
It’s a very good read, authentic and honest, that incorporates told-from-the heart stories and a picture album of their wonderful shirt designs and the people who made it all happen having fun.
It was also a real-life illustration of the Ries-Trout Fifth Law, The Law of Focus, which says, “The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.”
You burn your way into the minds of your customers by narrowing your focus to a single word or concept, these mavens say. And your customers will help you build your world around that concept.
The corollary to that law is this: “The leader who owns the word owns the category.”
ONE IDEA, ONE DESIGN, ONE BRAND
The rollicking tale of the Jacobs boys’ journey is part of their brand legend .
Starting in 1989, the Jacobs brothers wandered around, crisscrossing state lines in a nondescript mini-van hustling their shirts to no avail. By 1994, with $78 between them, the boys were ready to throw in the towel. They had, after all, given it their best shot.
As they drove home to Boston, they were talking about the daily flood of negative news. Between them they agreed that the only thing that could counter the mindset that arises from swallowing all that negativity was a different one with which they were very familiar.
It was a mindset that they had learned from their mom, Joan – untrammeled optimism in the face of constant obstacles and obstructions.
This You-Tube video, published by RogiDream, features two short poems by the brilliant Charles Bukowski who had a genius for hitting the heart. They are spoken by Tom O’Bedlam and speak to the real power behind the concept of optimism.
Optimism really is not about swimming in peaches and cream, you know. It is about fighting the good fight and staying with it no matter what.
The highway talk led the brothers to one idea that led to one shirt design that became the brand called “Life Is Good.”
LISTENING TO THE FEEDBACK
After every road trip, the brothers threw a coming-home party to celebrate making it back to home base. Even though they were depressed and tired, they went ahead with their ritual.
At each of these parties it was their practice to tape sketches of all of their newest t-shirt design ideas on the walls of their apartment and encourage their friends to comment on the ideas by writing on the wall.
The design that got the most kudos was the result of their highway talk: a line-drawing of a good ole guy with a baseball cap on his head and a wide grin. The caption said, “Life Is Good.”
When they printed up 48 shirts with that one design and took them to a street fair to hawk, they were amazed. All of the shirts (including the two they were wearing) sold in less than an hour to a wide array of people.
BUILDING OF A TRIBE
Naturally they made more of the shirts. They kept on selling and LIFE IS GOOD became their brand name.
The concept grew and evolved as more and more people joined in the fun and the brothers kept listening to the suggestions from their customers. More and more people jumped on for the ride.
The result became that $100 million company that uses art work and shares inspiring stories from their customers. Their designs, all focusing on the power of optimism, were magnetic. People flocked to join a tribe who sincerely believes in the power of optimism.
These days, ten percent of the company’s annual profits goes to help kids overcome poverty, violence and severe medical challenges. Their nonprofit LIFE IS GOOD Kids Foundation positively impacts the lives of more than 100,000 children a day.
Festivals and celebrations are a part of corporate life. So is helping people.
Here’s a YouTube TEDx talk at Beacon Street recorded in 2013 featuring one of the brothers, Bert Jacobs, “Do What You Like, Like What You Do.” The company’s grown a bunch since then.
It’s all good.
SUPERPOWERS YOU CAN GROW
LIFE IS GOOD, THE BOOK lists ten “superpowers” that can be developed to enhance your own optimistic mindset: Openness, Courage, Simplicity, Humor, Gratitude, Fun, Compassion, Creativity, Authenticity and Love.
The brothers devote a chapter to each of these attributes, ending each one with ideas and suggestions for growing your own. And they promise: “The Life Is Good superpowers will help you overcome obstacles, drive forward with greater purpose, and enjoy the ride of life.”
That is also a very good thing….
Here’s a poem:
THE CYCLE CONTINUES
The cycle continues:
arising, becoming, crumbling away,
then born again in some new-old form –
a never-ending relentless pattern
flowing, spiraling through this life,
in this world of dust.
And here’s me:
trying to dance on top of this turning wheel…
moved to try to direct it, even…
(not that there’s a steering wheel).
It rolls on, it rolls on,
and I keep trying to play with it,
reiterating halcyon days of youth
when us kids took turns
rolling that abandoned old truck tire
down the grassy hill behind the baseball field,
trying to keep from crashing it through
the mean old neighbor-lady’s hibiscus hedges
and running over her half-blind old English bulldog.
It’s happening again. This is the 18th year that the annual statewide Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry contest will be organized by volunteer teachers, writers and artists who call themselves “The International Peace Poem Project.” Small donations keep them alive.
Almost every school in Hawaii is invited to participate in the contest and there is no entry fee. Every student winner in the contest from each class gets a certificate of honor and a prize for their winning poem during spring ceremonies on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, the Big Island (Hawaii) and Molokai.
Last year more than 2,000 students in Hawaii entered the contest and hundreds of them were recognized at ceremonies held in auditoriums statewide. In past years other schools throughout the United States have taken on the Peace Poem as a class project.
PLANTING THE SEED
The seed for this Maui-based Project was planted in 1996 when three friends Melinda Gohn, Frank Rich (aka Wide Garcia) and the late Lawrence Hill, who had started the Maui Live Poets Society, began compiling what they called “The Peace Poem.”
The idea was to get people from all over the world to contribute lines to the poem until it became the world’s longest poem about peace. A six year-old girl, Libby Barker, contributed the first two lines:
“Peace means everyone loving everyone else
And we are all part of one world.”
The group has been collecting lines for the poem ever since.
The poem is hand-written by many, many hands on a scroll constructed of rag paper sheets and other papers. (In those early years, the group considered and rejected the option of collecting the lines over the Internet. It felt more real to have the lines laid down by all those hands.)
At every Live Poets gathering the people in attendance are still being asked to contribute their lines. People who visit the islands and people who live here have been tapped to write a couple of lines.
The group has taken the poem into churches to collect lines from the congregations. They’ve gone into prisons to get lines from the inmates in lockdown. Contributors represent all ages, social strata and religious beliefs.
The youngest donor was a 3-year-old girl whose 7-year-old sister wrote her words, “Peace is seeing a baby’s smile.” The oldest known contributor was a 93-year-old Maui poet.
Poetry was collected from China, Vietnam and Greece, and poetry scrolls circulated through England and Switzerland. The poem’s mission was translated into Spanish and was sent to international Spanish-speaking organizations. About this last, Gohn said, “There is so much unrest in South America. It’s a perfect place for the poem.”
“It’s very powerful,” Gohn says. “As soon as I bring up the Peace Poem, immediately we’re dealing on a high level. All the other stuff falls away.”
As she points out, “Everyone has a common desire for peace.”
In more recent years, the poem has gone (sort of) digital. Anyone who wants to can contribute their two lines about peace to the poem by downloading the group’s Peace Poem Scroll Page, copying the thing onto an 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper and get friends, fans and other fellows to write their lines as well. The sheet can then be mailed to Peace Poem, P.O. Box 102, Lahaina, HI, USA 96761.
By September 19, 2000, the poem had more than 15,000 lines that had been penned by people from over 120 countries. On that day the poem was symbolically presented to the United Nations during its Millenium Peace Day celebration. (Today, the poem has grown to over 160,000 lines.)
That was an exciting day for Melinda and Wide, who traveled to New York for the Millenium Peace Day, and made the presentation along with another member of the Project Allen Lewis.
Melinda recited poetry before a panel including the UN President Harry Holkieri and dignitaries from the UN General Assembly. She told the assembled world leaders, “The project has been a voice for people of the world to express their hope for peace. Let us hope world leaders will listen and work toward nonviolent solutions.”
Fifteen-year-old Maeh-ki (Red-Sky) El-Issa (the tall guy sharing her microphone) read a peace poem written by Mother Teresa in honor of his late mother, Ingrid Washinawatok, who was killed on March 4, 1999, when she was on a cultural education mission to Colombia. Allen and Wide hold up a part of the Peace Poem Scroll.
The presentation of the poem to the UN was the accomplishment of a goal set when the friends began the poem four years before.
START OF THE PROJECT
However, that event was not the end of the poem. Instead, a new chapter in the story began when Melinda and her friends organized the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry contest and opened it to elementary school students from all over the state. The organization even put together poetry lesson plans and suggestions for the teachers at its website, www.peacepoem.org.
Students from schools on all of the islands are invited to enter the contest. The young poets vie for prizes and the winners are honored by island mayors or state officials at a school assembly and presented with Certificates of Honor and assorted prizes furnished by the Peace Poem organization.
Each of the student poems are a maximum of twenty lines and “can be about any kind of peace.” All of these poems are added to the Peace Poem scroll which continues to grow.
Melinda says, “The Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Contest was started in 2000 as a way to share with Hawaii students an understanding of the need for peaceful reflection and active work toward peace, as exemplified by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
“In honor of these peace and nonviolence principles which have played a vibrant role in Hawaiian culture—and in particular the Hawaiian Renaissance—we encourage Hawaii students to contribute their poems to the contest and the International Peace Poem. ”
Every year now thousands of students have participated in this statewide event. Other schools throughout the United States take on the peace poem as a class project.
Meaning and mana are the pillars that hold up the gateway to life lived as poem-fodder. Oregon’s late poet laureate William Stafford once said, “Poetry and other arts come from acceptance of little signals that immediate experience contributes to beings who are alive and fallible and changing.” Actually, meaning and mana are probably the pillars for the gateways to all the different lives a human can live.
Life lived by humans is almost never simple, even when the moves we make appear to be straightforward. According to ancient wisdom teachers, our moves arise out of a mixed bag of needs and motivations, desire and goals that form the matrix we call “self.” The motives and needs and desires are pretty much standard-issue, they say. It’s just the mix that differs.
Autonomy (which is about understanding oneself and cultivating self-direction, a large part of developing mana or personal power)
Mastery (which is the other part of developing personal power)
Purpose (which is another word for “meaning”)
Says Pink, “Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.” In his book, Pink goes on to present assorted ways and means for achieving that liberation in your own life by working with your own particular mix of motivations.
A PARABLE OF SORTS
Need an example of the wide variance in human motivations? Imagine that you’re a time-traveling researcher gathering data for some scientific study or other research project about why people do the work they do. Your subjects happen to be laborers working on a cathedral. Not just any cathedral. Make it a big one, like the Notre-Dame de Chartres.
Four journeyman bricklayers are among the people who’ve agreed to take part in your study. You ask them why they are engaged in this work they all do.
The first one says, “It’s hard work, but it’s my job. I do this for my family, to provide for them.
The second one says, “It’s hard work, but this is my career. I do this because someday I shall be a master builder and I will be the one in charge of a project like this.”
The third one says, “It’s hard work, but this is a part of my family tradition. For generations now, my family have been bricklayers and builders. I do this because I am carrying on the legacy of my ancestors and I want to pass it on to my children.
The fourth one says, “It’s hard work, but this is my calling. I do this for the glory of God. I do this because even when I am gone, this cathedral will still stand, and it will be beautiful.”
Each one of the bricklayers is doing the same hard work. Each one looks at the work with different eyes. Each one does the work for a different reason. And each one of them are probably living very different lives. Motivations — the “why” of living your life – vary. So do the results.
This YouTube Video by the Great Big Story video network, “The Lone Man Building a Cathedral by Hand” is about 90-year-old Justo Gallego who has spent 53 years of his life building a cathedral on the outskirts of Madrid in Spain. It is amazing….
THE EXAMINED LIFE
Life lived as poem-fodder requires a particular mindset – one that begins by looking at who and where you are now. Poets, artists and storytellers are particularly prone to examining life-as-we-know-it.
We look at the messy chaos of it all, focus on one specific thing that catches at our hearts, and we unpack and tease out the meanings contained in this ordinary slice of life. We roll all of these meanings and metaphors up into a ball that makes some sort of sense to us and we play with it. Sometimes by doing that we can discover new worlds to which we can invite other people to come and play.
Here’s a YouTube video, “For Those Who Dream.” It’s a heart-felt spoken poem by Osric Chau.
THE MEASURED LIFE
Scientists, engineers, technicians and other more linear sorts also look at the world with special eyes. They pull out their tape measures and calipers and use them to tally the height and width and depth of some part of life. They gather together far-flung bits of data and throw them into a funnel that moves the bits through a series of filters that have already been set up. These filters have names like “hypothesis,” “premise,” and “theory.”
All of the data gets compared and correlated according to preset or already established ideas and ideals. They hope, these smart guys, to suss out how the “rules” are supposed to work.
They take the little bits they’ve sifted out of the whole thing and press them into molds made according to older, established constructs to make more bricks. With these bricks they build other rules and constructs and edifices as they trundle right along making their visions “real.”
This way of seeing and doing can also be quite exciting. This YouTube video, “A Day In the Life of An Oxford Physics Student” was published by Simon Clark. What is most evident is the young man’s passion for his field of study.
Very different ways of seeing become divergent ways of making. Each one is a perfectly valid way to build a life with meaning and mana.
Here’s a poem:
NOT MY WALK
I forget sometimes, you see…
Your walk is not mine,
You are not me.
You’re headed off in
Some direction that
Makes no sense to me.
Maybe it’s ’cause your horizon’s set
At an odd angle from mine.
Maybe your gravity well’s
Located in a different place.
I don’t know.
It really looks peculiar,
That way you’re standing,
But, mostly…probably…that’s just me,
Just the way I see.
Looking at your stance from here
Gives me the jimmy-jams!
What is holding you up?
Do you get dizzy from that levitating thing you do?