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The On Being Project

What We Need Is Here

“What we need is here.”
—Wendell Berry


In one way or another, every wisdom tradition I know says that what we need is here. It’s just a matter of opening our eyes and appreciating what I call “secrets hidden in plain sight.”

But we can’t do that when we’re obsessing about the past or the future, or about what we don’t have, or allowing a thousand distractions to prevent us from noticing the gift of “here and now.”

Here’s a poem from William Stafford that reminds us to pay attention to such simple gifts as the way “sunlight creeps along a shining floor,” respecting and receiving them for the gifts they are. Look around, he says, “starting here, right in this room,” and see what we’ve been given.

He’s not advocating passivity. He’s advocating receptivity and gratitude, without which life becomes hollow.

You Reading This, Be Ready
by William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. The interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life—

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

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