The article on the back page of the March 2011 issue of Shambala Sun magazine highlights the following poem, written by Naomi Shihab Nye:
The Art of Disappearing
When they say Don’t I know you?
When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
If they say We should get together
It’s not that you don’t love them anymore.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.
When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.
Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble at any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.
The entire poem deserves its share of consideration, but it was the first sentence that caught my attention. My mind tends to ping-pong from one related idea to the next (it might be a cascade failure), and that sentence reminded me of an interview I had heard recently with Thomas Hubl. Essentially what he said was: when I see if you, if I think I know you then I begin automatically to build a box around who I think you are and forego the idea that you may have changed since last we met. It’s an easy trap to fall into…
That got me thinking about Tom Brown Jr, who runs the Tom Brown Tracking, Nature Awareness and Wilderness Survival School, and what he calls, “The Same Old Thing”. According to Tom you can always tell the tourists in any city because they’re seeing everything for the first time. The heads of tourists are perpetually on a swivel as they’re looking around and around, trying to take it all in. However, the brain likes to organize things so within a day or so even the tourists begin to feel they’ve seen it all and go back to staring at their feet as they walk.
Tom also talks about a mythical ‘Johnny’ – a young boy who (like all small boys) loves to jump in mud puddles. Now, if you were to stop Johnny just before he was about to jump into a puddle and ask him, “Why are you jumping into that puddle? You jumped in that puddle yesterday…” Johnny would look at you like you were nuts! Maybe deservedly so, because it’s not the same mud puddle at all. Today it’s a completely different mud puddle. Maybe it’s rained or may it’s dried up a bit, maybe that new kid down the street has ridden his bike through it or… any one of a bazillion things. Just take it on faith that it’s not the same mud puddle.
Marcia and I have been a couple now for 16 years, 5 months and 17 days (but who’s counting?) In that time so much has changed in our lives that it’s fair to say we’re completely different people than we were when we first met. One of the things that’s so magical about ‘Us’ is that the ‘We’ part has grown and shifted and changed as much as we have individually. We celebrate who we have become, but more so we celebrate who we Are. We don’t take anything for granted, not one precious moment of our time together. And neither should you!!
So, whether you always take the same walk to the store or you drive the same way to work, or the next time you see your spouse or your oldest and most trusted friend, look at them all as if you had never seen them before. Let your mind be open to wonder. And if you come across a mud puddle, well, you know what to do…