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The On Being Project

We Need Each Other on This Dangerous Terrain

From the ancient Greeks to the liberation movements of our own era, poetry and politics have often gone hand-in-hand. Here are two poems that were always in the background for me as I wrote Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit.

Both poems remind us that morally and practically, we’re all in this together — one of the five “habits of the heart” I explore in the book. When our political leaders make decisions that fly in the face of that simple fact, we need to remind them that in the long run we rise or fall as one.

In fact, let’s remind them that, if they want to stay in office, they need us as much as we need them and each other!

P.S.: If you love poetry and don’t know the work of Naomi Shihab Nye, do yourself a favor and check it out. She’s marvelous!

by Naomi Shihab Nye

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

“A Great Need”
by Hafez


Of a great need

We are all holding hands

And climbing.

Not loving is a letting go.


The terrain around here


Far too








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