Sunday, May 23, 2010

Blog 3 May 23, 2010

Dear friends,

We left each other last week thinking about the question, "Is what I have done my life?"
Some of you looked up William Stafford's poem "Ask Me" and considered the question in the context of the total poem. You discovered, I'm sure, that Stafford has a great deal more to say (and ask) than the original question suggests when left standing alone as I quoted it.

Others of you answered "Yes" or "No," responding in our opening dialogues in the either/or format of the question as Staford initially framed it.

Thank you--all of you--for your responses. We have a fine beginning.

Today I want to begin by thinking about the issue from a slightly different angle. In doing this I hope to clarify without simplifying the depth and density of Stafford's writing. I want then to move on to the additional thorny issue that underlies Stafford's initial question.

The question that Stafford invites us to consider is a pivotal one in the context of personal identity. Are being and doing synonymous? If who I am and what I do are not the same, then what is the relationship between the two? What if, as Stafford's question makes plain, the doing includes mistakes? Where then does my value lie? How does my doing poorly (i.e., mistakes, and deliberately wrong choices) impact my being who I am?

Ask me about this, Stafford invites, but ask me when the river is in ice.

Some of you with a strong gift of common sense and practicality may be frowning. How, you wonder, does a river in ice come into this question of doing and being? Others of you may have sensed something of Stafford's oblique drift of meaning. You may have heard him saying (Hubbard paraphrase), "Ask me about the meaning of mistakes I have made in terms of who I am, and ask me when I am living in a winter season in my life."

And so, this week once again: Is what I do who I am? How does my doing poorly (i.e., mistakes, and deliberately chosen wrong) impact who I am? But this week, the question with an added turn--if I am living in a winter season of life, will my answer be shaped by that winter as well?

And for those of us who take our faith journey seriously, what difference has the doing and being of that itinerant rabbi Jesus made in the answers it is possible for us to give?

See you on screen this week, I trust, giving the hard questions your careful thought,


P.S. "Ask Me" can be found in the following collection:
William Stafford, "Ask Me," p. 126 in The Darkness Around Us Is Deep: Selected Poems of William Stafford." Edited and with an introduction by Robert Bly. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993.

P.S.2-- I'm sorry that the response process has been a bit difficult. Hope to include an instructural paragraph next week that will make the procedure easier. I want to know what you're thinking. Blessings,



  1. Gay,
    I've been thinking about that frozen river for a week now. I've also been thinking about the purpose of winter. I believe that I am in good company when I say that winter is my least favorite season. I'm willing to endure really miserable Texas Summer, and sometimes Spring, just because Winter here is shorter and less intense than those North of here. In the larger scope, though, why would God include this season, year after year after year?

    So. . . I've thought about winter and what happens. A lot. I've discovered that frozen rivers are not common, like frozen lakes or ponds. It doesn't happen every year. That's interesting to me. I also am interested in that current that does not freeze.

    I'm almost ready to comment about your further question because it seems to me that there is a planned, corrective, restorative quality to winter.

    I posted a link to the poem on my Facebook page. I'm hoping that some of my thoughtful FB friends will help us learn. ~lori

  2. Perhaps personal awareness of identity comes in realizing even the frozen river has an impact on its surroundings in its meanderings down stream. In the river there is the being, the doing, and the impact upon surroundings even as in the human frailty the being, the doing, and the impact upon all with whom we have contact. Is a stone merely a stone once thrown into the sea, or is it the sum of its "beingness" [permit me a smidgen of license] and its impact?