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The Grandness of Uncentering Ourselves

Robinson Jeffers (1887–1962) was an American poet who was deeply involved in the environmental movement of his time. He was one in the great procession of saints who’ve devoted their lives to trying to end the mindless damage we human beings do to the precious planet we call home.

In his poetry, Jeffers challenges us to “uncenter” ourselves. We must stop imagining that the earth revolves around us, our needs and our greed. We must learn to live lightly on this “sparkling blue and white jewel” floating in space (to quote astronaut Edgar Mitchell).

When people told Jeffers he was a dreamy idealist, he said (in effect), “Well, here’s some realism for you! One day the human race will disappear, but the earth will carry on long after we are gone.”

To put it more poetically, as Jeffers does in “Carmel Point,” nature “knows that people are a tide / that swells and in time will ebb, and all / their works dissolve.”

For all my love of the human tribe, I find strange solace in the fact that, in the end, the rocks and weeds and insects will outlast us all. Mother Nature will triumph!

But how grand it would be if — with that awareness — we could “uncenter” ourselves as Jeffers challenges us to do. How grand it would be if we could put the largeness of life itself, not our egos, at the center of our attention, care, and active concern.

“Carmel Point”
by Robinson Jeffers

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses—
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs …

(Excerpted from The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, Three Volumes. Read the full poem here.)

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