life poems & stories

The Wish to Be Generous – Wendell Berry

I ran across this poem and somehow it touches something deeper in me, something about making peace with all that is. Not being at odds with reality. Being perfectly content in moving forward in life, and even in death.

Wendell Berry is perhaps one of my favorite humans on this planet, even though we’ve never met. He has such a way of living with his feet and spirit planted firmly into the roots of home, place, purpose and gratitude. I truly believe that when we live a life of truth, gratitude and generosity, that that carries with us all the way to the ends of our lives. It’s as if everything we do and become in our lives is all in practice for the grace required to leave this life behind. Wendell Berry seems to have truly found and become that as evidenced by this poem.

The Wish to be Generous by Wendell Berry

ALL that I serve will die, all my delights,
the flesh kindled from my flesh, garden and field,
the silent lilies standing in the woods,
the woods, the hill, the whole earth, all
will burn in man’s evil, or dwindle
in its own age. Let the world bring on me
the sleep of darkness without stars, so I may know
my little light taken from me into the seed
of the beginning and the end, so I may bow
to mystery, and take my stand on the earth
like a tree in a field, passing without haste
or regret toward what will be, my life
a patient willing descent into the grass.

Wendell Berry

I love the last line, “my life a patient willing descent into the grass.” The thought of holding that posture towards life and death brings an instant relaxation to my body, and a very simple ease. I think the thing that makes it beautiful for me is that he writes not about death itself, but about the openness and willingness while alive.

It can be easy to read this poem and fail to notice the title, ‘The Wish to be Generous.” How beautiful. If you read here regularly, you’ll know that being generous is something I’ve been paying attention to, trying to better understand the blocks in me that have the effect of precluding generosity. Wendell Berry here is writing about an ultimate form of generosity, the willingness to offer his life peacefully and gracefully. With that perspective, how can one not be generous with all the material things that really don’t matter so much.

“…so i may bow to the mystery…”

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