“What I Can Do”
by Mary Oliver
The television has two instruments that control it.
I get confused.
The washer asks me, do you want regular or delicate?
Honestly, I just want clean.
Everything is like that.
I won’t even mention cell phones.
I can turn on the light of the lamp beside my chair
where a book is waiting, but that’s about it.
Oh yes, and I can strike a match and make fire.
This poem speaks to me today because it feels like everything is complicated. Computers, online shopping, Facebook, email. Complicated. The simplicity of a book seems old fashioned, although there were times in my life when that was the primary technology that I engaged with. Now, sad to say, I’m more likely to read things on my phone than to sit down and read a book.
Mary Oliver’s line about the washing machine makes me laugh. And her last line about making a fire is affirming. Reading a book may be simple, but fire is more simple still. Elemental. Watching a fire burn is the opposite of complicated. The poem’s title reminds me that this is my choice: I can keep engaging with my technology; I can keep engaging with a consumerist busy world of noise and stress--or I can make simpler choices.
I try to make time every day for spiritual practice: playing music, going for a walk, writing in my journal, or meditation. This is the antidote to the complicated world. Done mindfully, my spiritual practice grounds me in simplicity and reminds me of what is important. Like lighting a fire. Like reading a book.
God of Life and Love, Still Small Voice Within, hear my prayer.
May I take the time to listen in stillness. May I have the wisdom to turn off the cell phone and take a break from the computer and the radio, the car and the errands.
Divine One, I know that you are always there when I take time to see you, to hear you, to look within, to feel the breath, to hear the wind.
May simplicity bless me, and bless everyone. Amen.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
Rev. Andrew Frantz
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