Luminous and Compassionate: Good Goals

How did my daughters get so old?

Today my twins–Pearl and Annie–those tiny babies that we brought home in 1993–turn 26.

I have been reading old notebooks that I scribbled in when they were much younger (playing soccer, needing rides to friends’ houses and to the swimming pool), and I found this passage from the introduction to Steve Kowit’s In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop:

Poetry, in the end, is a spiritual endeavor. Though there is plenty of room to be playful and silly, there is much less room to be false, self-righteous, or small-minded. To write poetry is to perform an act of homage and celebration–even if one’s poems are full of rage, lamentation and despair. To write poetry of a higher order demands that we excise from our lives as much as we can that is petty and meretricious and that we open our hearts to the suffering of this world, imbuing our art with as luminous and compassionate a spirit as we can.

You could substitute parenting–and though I wish I could deny the moments of rage, lamentation and despair, there they are, inked across the pages of my notebooks. So, with my apologies to Kowit:

Parenting, in the end, is a spiritual endeavor. Though there is plenty of room to be playful and silly, there is much less room to be false, self-righteous, or small minded. To be a mother or a father is to perform an act of homage and celebration–even if one’s family life is sometimes buffeted by rage, lamentation and despair. To parent in this higher way demands that we excise from our lives as much as we can that is petty and meretricious and that we open our hearts to the suffering of this world, imbuing our interactions with our children with as luminous and compassionate a spirit as we can.

You could substitute teaching, or…anything. How can we, today, imbue our lives with a luminous and compassionate spirit?

My friend Louise says to her sons (and sometimes to me), “I’ve really enjoyed being on this bus ride with you.”

They are 26 now, and their baby sister will be 20 in 10 days. I can see them, still trying to figure out their lives, to become who they are. But I’m also a work in progress–still learning how to parent them. And I’m still working at that “luminous and compassionate” thing.

The first task of the poet is to create the person who will write the poems.

-Stanley Kunitz

 

 

5 replies
  1. Katja
    Katja says:

    Bethany – happy belated birthday to the girls and I am so glad I am also on that bus – and what a wild ride it is at times. I am glad I dodn’t miss it, let it drive by or even let it run me over (so far). Parenting is like a golden purse where each time you take out a penny it is being replaced right away – by their laughter, a sweet comment, a hug or a painting. Be well all of you! ~~~ Katja

    Reply

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