Tag Archives: service

Who teaches, learns


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Who loves, gives; who yearns, takes.

To see this weary world,
to hear it weep its hope,
to speak of it more sweetly
than typically is my wont.
Surely this is the way of it—
not beng me (that usual me),
blind, deaf and mute.

So breathe deep
the full thrum inside,
be joyous, be radiant—but be.
Qui docet, discit.


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Qui docet discit (kwee DOE-ket DEE-sket)  is Latin for “who teaches, learns.”

This is, I have discovered, invariably true. Anyone who has ever given a talk, taught any subject or facilitated any gathering, generally derives more benefit by that active role than anyone else. The point is, that to make something clear to others, you must first make it crystal clear to yourself, and that when you teach, you vibrate with the love of the topic. Without that you are not teaching, you are lecturing.

Thank you for reading Who teaches, learns. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Norwich, Connecticut along the Shetucket River.  To see my photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh  blog.

john

Photograph, notes and poem © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its copyright owner.

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In Normandy, in November

I’d just left a small but well-kept graveyard
where again I’d searched but failed to find my father’s grave—
I was beginning to wonder if it mattered.
And that was the moment, while closing the gate,
that I heard it, a set of Great Highland bagpipes
noising down the cobbled way.

A piper in regimental regalia, Glengarry, sporran and kilt,
even a sgian-dubh poking from his hose,
was slowly marching along the road, plaintively playing Going Home.
And amazingly, from every neat brick home from both sides of the street,
they came to stand and listen: young and old, small and tall,
men and women, each solemnly watching the one-man parade.

After he passed I asked an elderly man who the piper was.
His English was as bad as my French but eventually
I understood that the young man’s father used to annually
march this route, calling to the comrades he had left behind
in the scattering of graveyards thereabouts.
When the elder had become too infirm to stand his watch,
the son had taken up the call. Then the old Frenchman grew silent.

And in that silence, his eyes, soft under their big bushes,
lingered long on the back of the piper. Close but not,
I could hear just then the roar and screams of
desperate men in desperate times raging through
and around and over us. It was, no doubt, a time
when all that could be owned was chance, and as luck
would have it, he lived and mine didn’t, but more
importantly, he remembered what I had forgot.
Then catching himself, he nodded a curt Au revoir,
but before letting him go, I took the blood-red poppy
from my breast and pinned it to his own.

This poem originated from an idea poised by my dear friend and wonderful poet, Julia Dean-Richards who blogs at A Place for Poetry. She proposed co-writing a poem on the line, “Where would you put your poppy down?” But of course I botched the whole idea by making it the original title of this poem and writing the whole thing from beginning to end because I couldn’t stop, once the story got in my head. And then, eventually I changed the title. (That’s me for you, no gratitude, not even for a great line of poetry. Sorry, Julia!)

The story presented here is not factual, although I hope, real. I am particularly thankful that my father, although a veteran of the Second War, is still alive and hearty at 89. The part about the piper is, however, real and happened to my sister. She and her husband were visiting a small Canadian Military graveyard in Normandy when a young man came marching by playing his bagpipes in honor of his father who had recently passed away.

Some notes on the poem: Normandy, France was the site of the Allied invasion into Europe and against Germany during World War II, and was the site of much fierce fighting and loss of life, as attested to by the many military graveyards located there. November 11th, also known as Armistice Day, Veteran’s Day and Remembrance Day is dedicated in North America and Europe to the memory of those who have fallen in military conflict. The traditional emblem of the day throughout the Commonwealth Nations and Europe is a blood-red poppy, a flower which grows wild in the numerous graveyards dedicated to the fallen of the 20th century’s two World Wars, and as immortalized in the poem commemorating the dead, In Flander’s Fields. (Written, by the way, by a Canadian. We’re everywhere.)

Scottish regimental bagpipe bands wear a quite formal version of the highland costume: the Glengarry is a traditional Scot’s hat; the sporran is a pouch worn around the waist to hang in the front and the kilt is a knee-length and manly skirt-like garment with pleats at the rear and woven in a particular clan or organizational tartan color; it is traditionally worn by men in the Highlands of Scotland. A sgian-dubh (pronounced skee-en-doo) is a small, single-edged knife traditionally worn at the top of the mid-calf high socks (hose) of a kilt wearer. Bagpipes are a traditional Gaelic instrument that are based on smaller instruments originally introduced to the Iberian peninsula by the Muslim Moors of North Africa. They come in many sizes, but the largest and most impressive is the Great Highland bagpipeGoing Home is a tune adapted from the Largo section of Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony (the 9th) as a spiritual hymn.

Thank you for reading In Normandy, in November. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Alas for we who remain

Thy barefoot lovers who steal shoes
from their brothers
are not thieves—they are Thy signs.

Thy true parents who abandon the trusts
of Thy bounty
are not remiss—they are Thy lights.

Thy sincere ones who forswear every act
in Thy service
are not lapsed—they are Thy guides.

But alas for we who remain.
You—You created this paradox
for us, didn’t You?
Even with all of Your knowledge
it is only through You
that we can have any hope in us.

…we must sacrifice the important for the most important.‘Abdu’l-Bahá

It is a simple question with no easy answer: how do those who sacrifice themselves for their ideals justify their act to those who depend on them? How do we understand martyrs?

To be honest, I struggle with this one too.

Thank you for reading Alas For We Who Remain. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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The next after another

On the darksome trail of this black ledge
I am blind,
but that is what I feel, isn’t it—
the next step?

If on the rough scrabble shale
I slip and fall,
that is what I bleed, isn’t it—
the step back?

I am as lost on this path
as I am bound to it,
but that is what I am, isn’t it—
the lockstep?

Against the cliffs my noise-some heart
echoes wrongly,
but that is what I hear, isn’t it—
the step up?

And now? Now I’m just tired
‘either/or’ ‘stop/go’
but that is what this is, isn’t it—
the final step?

My wife and I were driving to a Bahá’í conference when I noticed a hand painted sign off to the side of the road which said “Black Ledge” and an arrow pointing off in a direction. It was both incongruous and odd; why would anyone point to a black ledge?

It struck a chord with me and I linked it up with a conversation I had previously had with my dearest friend and brother-in-heart, Sam, about service to humanity. Such service is an essential aspect of being human and yet it is not easy, nor does one pursue it without pitfalls and aches. Moreover, it can be wearisome and tiring, not the least of which because it can often fall on deaf ears and cold hearts. Yet, still it is important to continue and pursue such work, because you do it not just for the recipients, but for yourself, to learn humility and patience.

To learn humility and patience. That is my dear Sam in a nutshell.

Thank you for reading The next after another. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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