Have you ever found a poem you wish you could adopt as your mouthpiece?
I am taking a free poetry class on Coursera called Modern & Contemporary American Poetry.
Recently, we studied Emily Dickinson's poem, "The Brain within its Groove".
I could not help but see the parallel between this poem and my life.
This is something I love about poetry: it makes you think.
The brain within its groove
Runs evenly and true;
But let a splinter swerve,
'T were easier for you
To put the water back
When floods have slit the hills,
And scooped a turnpike for themselves,
And blotted out the mills!
For most of my life, I lived within a rigid personal belief system.
I hated paradox of any sort.
If I spotted paradox, in fact, I quickly reconstructed it to fit into my "dualistic" paradigm.
Many years ago, a dear friend came to me with a personal story which ripped a hole in the walls of my belief system.
The story didn't fit into any of the boxes I had carefully labeled and filed away.
It forced me to open those boxes, dump them out and reexamine their contents.
That ol' splinter Emily mentions, well, it swerved me, derailing my thundering belief-train.
While I kept some of that content, I never rebuilt "the system", for I saw that if I was being completely honest, those boxes had always contained certain paradoxes and mysteries which could neither be labeled nor systematized.
Not only that, but this beautifully messy disorienting content was what gave my faith a heartbeat.
Just as Miss Dickinson suggests, once a splinter swerves the brain out of its groove, it would be easier to return a newly raging and rampaging river to its original placid path than to return the brain to its groove.
Once my mind had opened, I could not turn back to my old thinking.
The question remains, in Dickinson's poem, whether it is good or bad for a splinter to swerve the brain.
For me, it has been only good.
I run toward and embrace paradox and mystery.
After all, what joy is there in knowing everything that can be known?