It’s a Hard Time to Be Human

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 5:00 am

It’s a Hard Time to Be Human

When I ran across this Ellen Bass poem recently, I was immediately drawn to the line, “It’s a hard time to be human.”

I’m sure there’s never been a time when it wasn’t hard to be human. But this is our time, and our world seems to be spinning off course.

And yet, as the poem’s title says, “The World Has Need of You.” It’s hard to credit that our little lives, words, and actions can make a difference, but they do. The “proof” is in the last three lines of this poem, which I’ll let you read for yourself.

I’ll simply say, “Let’s get out there and drop lots of apples!” The world is full of people of good will — together we can help the good earth get back to spinning properly on its axis!

“The World Has Need Of You”
by Ellen Bass

everything here
seems to need us

—Rainer Maria Rilke

I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple.

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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