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It Is I Who Must Begin

Who can deny the political strife and civil coarseness of our times? And have you seen Al Gore’s new film about the latest ravages of climate change? What about the white supremacists marching in the streets of Charlottesville and the young woman who died that day? And yet, that is not all the news. There have also been thousands of acts of awareness, love and courage each day this week by people we will never meet or even know.

There is the young girl, maybe three years old who stopped her father in front of Whole Foods. She tugged his arm then suddenly squatted, pointed, then shrieked… A flower! I was there. She was right. And it was surely a tiny miracle for all who heard. And what about the tomatoes that are growing in my organic redwood boxes just below my office window? Already they have conspired with mozzarella cheese, basil and olive oil to stun my senses with their wonderfulness?

Here is a poem by Vaclav Havel that has been stashed in my heart and soul-saving bucket of poetry for years. Just today I’ve rediscovered its solace. It appeals to my intellect. It touches my heart. It confronts me. It leaves me with the distinct feeling of yes; it is all going to be ok. These words live on that wondrous and paradoxically grateful edge of opportunity to do the one simple thing we all can do. The right thing. The just begin it now thing…

It Is I Who Must Begin

It is I who must begin.
Once I begin, once I try —
here and now,
right where I am,
not excusing myself
by saying things
would be easier elsewhere,
without grand speeches and
ostentatious gestures,
but all the more persistently
— to live in harmony
with the “voice of Being,” as I
understand it within myself
— as soon as I begin that,
I suddenly discover,
to my surprise, that
I am neither the only one,
nor the first,
nor the most important one
to have set out
upon that road.

Whether all is really lost
or not depends entirely on
whether or not I am lost.

— Vaclav Havel

(Teaching With Fire, ed. by S.M. Intrator and M. Scribner)

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