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February 19, 2012


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Szymborska died at the beginning of this month. Her Polish colleague, Czeslaw Milosz, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, said this about Szymborska's Nobel selection: “She’s a shy and modest person, and for her it will be a terrible burden, this prize. She is very reticent in her poetry also. This is not a poetry where she reveals her personal life.”

This is true. I have one volume of her poetry: View with a Grain of Sand (now out of print). Here is a link to her New York Times obituary that features other poems:



What do you all think of the final image in this poem?


Wislawa Szymborska

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love's concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms' fairy tales to the newspapers' front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven't mentioned here
to many things I've also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.


These are the lines that strike me:

"From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile."

Even hundreds or thousands of years later. When I read these lines, said the words 'rusted-out arguments' out loud, the image of Confederate flags still flying in private homes passed through my mind.


The image is in Beirut, by the way.

Interesting image that came to your mind, treesta. Was reading this morning about peace-making in a small book by the poet Wendell Berry. He took every verse in the Gospels about peacemaking and in about two pages makes a stunning case about how completely opposed to war Jesus was. Nothing, absolutely nothing Jesus says can be interpreted to mean lifting up a sword against another human being for ANY reason.



One of my favorite lines:

All the cameras have left for another war.

Perhaps Jesus wasn't as opposed to war as he was cynical that wars would ever stop like the poet featured today. He came from a "father" who advocated the death and destruction of lots of people (men, women and children) in the name of a paricular religion, philosophy, way of life.

If war is good enough for that god, who are we to oppose it?


The second thing I thought about after reading the lines in the 5:56 comment was Iran. Here we are again talking about whether or not to go to war because of weapons of mass destruction and terrorists.


Sigh. It never stops, treesta.

half-a: I'd like to believe that Jesus one-upped his Holy Parent; basically said that the Old Testament response to conflict just didn't cut it anymore. Sword for a sword and all that -- so yesterday.

What's the matter with me? I thought my pacifism was SO immature with so many "enemies" out there gunning for us. In my old age, it's looking true again, except it's so difficult. A lot easier to bomb the village and clean up the rubble than it is to sit around in a circle and listen -- really listen -- for decades.


Is it better to send in drones to bomb a person/family/village to rubble?

I don't think so. Chances are good a drone could strike someone "stretched out/blade of grass in his mouth/gazing at the clouds".


Flann, there are many things I would like to believe, but, in the end, can't/won't because of my life experiences.

We are already over Iraq and turning down the attention to Afghanistan. The cameras have moved away from Libya even though the revolution continues. The TV stations have left Egypt which is in turmoil.

The cameras appear headed to Iran for the next war du jour.


I agree with you, half-a.

I've been reading a lot of biblical interpretation by Walter Bruggemann -- perhaps my favorite theologian. Over and over again he talks about the Bible not being a set of rules we use to justify what we want to do -- like going to war -- but more like a living thing we need to listen to. A lot about how I see life has changed over the last 18 months and one of the things that has changed is that I need to listen more. Just shut up and listen. Seems like it could solve a lot of problems if more of us did that.

Anyway, I'm listening -- and am grateful to listen.


The Sassistas! are leaving for Bnbsista's B&B in about 30 minutes. I'll have the laptop.

At the risk of raising sass, I gotta confess that I'm back to believing that all wars are immoral. Rubble has no place in the world.


Enjoy your trip and your friends at Bnbsista's.

I'm curious, Flann. If you had to make a list of 'how you see life has changed'... what would be on that list...

1. Listen more

Would be an interesting question for all of us in the 'sphere. In my top ten would be:
Trust your instincts more, logic less.


good voyages to everyone...


"The cameras appear headed to Iran for the next war du jour."

Yes, half-a.

A brief excerpt from an article about a general in the US military warning against war with Iran at this time:

"Dempsey's remarks come amid a rising tide of threats and speculation -- some of it media driven -- about the possibility that Israel might launch a military strike against Iran in an attempt to forestall that country's development of a nuclear weapon."

A rising tide of media driven threats and speculation. Hmmm... sounds like someone's already chewing on the overgrown grass of cause and effect, someone's already milling about who finds things dull.


Many people have died during the "Arab Spring" uprisings. Though not labeled as "war" people are fighting for a cause, losing their lives and killing others. If all "war" is "immoral" is the fight for justice and freedom immoral also? It is a good question to ask ourselves, but I do not have the answer. It's not easy and labels such as good and bad, right and wrong, tend only to lead to further discrimination and war.

Today, in church the religious education director offered a children's picture book with a story about gargoyles. The story told of how old churches were built using them as decorations that symbolized protection. But, over time, the people forgot of them as protectors and labeled them ugly and as demons. The gargoyle's stone hearts were broken. Then, angels came down, to whisper in the gargoyle's ears, offering love and support. The gargoyles and the angels began working together at night, offer love, protection and support to others.

After the story, the children went downstairs to make belated valentines to send to my son and the unit he serves with in Afghanistan. Sara's simple message (and she is VERY liberal) was that we can offer caring and support to the people who work to protect us. We can BE their angels. At coffee hour after church, Sara asked church members to sign the book, which she will send to the troops along with the valentines.

So, it is good to listen and even better to take the wild risk to LOVE ... which is what the sermon for the adults was about. What if we could set aside our personal sadness and fear in order to take the risk to follow our true passion, to do what we really love, that which makes us feel fully alive? And what if cultivating that kind of courage allowed us to really love each other better as well? Yes, love takes courage, because we must always face the inevitability of loss. I'm willing to risk it all for love.

Have a good belated Valentine celebration my sweet sassistas!


Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, PEACEsista. I do not have the answer, either, but you are braver than I am -- and a better listener. Thank you for that, too.

It is possible to "fight" for justice and freedom non-violently as the Civil Rights Movement has shown us. That method took decades and not one season in Spring. Would fewer innocent citizens have died if non-violence had been practiced, like in "Budrus"?

I have read many articles where the strategy in Afghanistan is to spend more time in "circles" with villagers -- get to know them, etc. -- which I was heartened to hear. I do not know what has shifted inside me to believe that war, according to the teachings of Jesus, is immoral. I find that I can't be wishy-washy about it -- and I wish I could. I find myself feeling about it the same way I do capitol punishment which I believe is wrong, period. The teachings of Christ appear to be unequivocal. I hate that. A friend posted a cartoon on Facebook this week. In it, a woman has answered the door to her home to a man standing outside asking, "Have you found Jesus?" You see a sliver of Jesus hiding behind a living room curtain. I love that cartoon and commented: "Usually it's Jesus who finds me. So irritating."

Sara's example is beautiful and timely. Your son and anyone serving overseas needs a lot of love sent their way -- as do the the citizens of oppressed and war-torn countries.

Regarding love -- I follow in your eloquent footsteps in my own lousy sneakers. Your risk is my risk, too. Thank you, sweet friend.


Many people have died in the "Arab Spring" when masses of people stood up to the governments in power and said enough. Many times this was without weapons or the killing of those in power. Those uprising caught the imagination of people all over the world: a non-violent uprising showing how weak the governments were who responded with violence.

These fights for freedom and justice are immoral if it involves the killing of other people in the name of freedom and justice. When we kill and maim to achieve an objective we plant the seeds of the destruction of the freedom and justice we seek to establish.

The children's story while sweet does not involve armies killing anyone. It involves talking and listening. Also, both the angels and gargoyles were on the same side: the protection of the church.

I want nothing bad to happen to your son or any of his unit or to any of the other people over there. I wish everyone would talk to each other and listen and see if a non-violent compromise could be worked out.

This is the point where I reach a divide between my beliefs and what I know is true for me. War is immoral, but I don't want anyone I love to die because they participate in wars. If anyone dies, I want it to be the "enemy."

I can't expect that to happen, or so people tell me, and I understand that fact in my heart and soul, but I wish it was true. My life would be so much easier, but then it wouldn't be a real life.


Thank you, half-a, for your honest and brave comment. I don't want anyone I love to die because they participate in wars. At the same time, I wish that they did not have to participate in wars, but I suspect that is not realistic.

I am always grateful for the opportunity to listen to you.


half-a: thanks for your comment. Being a person, for decades, who wanted everyone to like me, it was hard for me to accept the concept of having any real enemies. I thought if I just tried hard enough, everyone would like me ... eventually. I got over that belief when I served on the local school board. There were people who genuinely hated me and would leave a room when I entered. Agreeing to disagree still comes at the price of estrangement and alienation sometimes.

It seems to me that some Americans still believe as I used to ... that there are no real enemies. But, I am more of a realist now. I can see that there are Americans who hate others and I can see that there are those who hate everything about America and her people. I know there are people who wish to harm us and would not hesitate, if given the opportunity. Many of them have no interest in talk or negotiation. Their wish is to annihilate us. I know there are Americans who would do that to others, too. The work of peacemaking is about revealing the truth and changing the misperceptions. It may take lifetimes.

And though He spoke of love and peace, Jesus could not save Himself by preaching it. The people who hated and feared Him, crucified Him. They did not negotiate. And to this day, religious differences remain among the most bitter and contentious battles. People are still willing to die, to defend what they believe and to oppose what they despise.

My Marine son works in counterintelligence, more specifically, in human intelligence. His job consists mostly of talking to people and writing reports about what they say. Some very different things are happening in the military now, than what we might think of as "conventional" warfare. There is a lot more talking, listening and negotiating. I hope that it results in some sort of peace for all of us.


I have read your comment several times, PEACEsista and want to be certain that I understand it. Because there are people who wish to harm us and would not hesitate, if given the opportunity -- we are to harm them first before they harm us? I don't think this is precisely what you are saying, but it could be read this way.

It was in the act of NOT saving himself that Jesus truly demonstrated love and peace. I have a button that says, "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" Nobody
whether motivated by a desire for more oil (or hay for his donkey) or to fight enemies (i.e. terrorists) or to free the Iraqis [or insert name of country the United States believes needs us]. Jesus clearly stated, and modeled, that weakness is power. His resurrection exposed the myth of redemptive violence, replacing it with the truth of redemptive weakness. Love really is the answer. He announced, time and time again, His Kingdom had arrived. It relies on new methods. As 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 states, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world." Perhaps the toughest thing for Christians to live into is this: according to the teachings of Jesus, a new Kingdom is now in place, fulfilling the words of the prophet in Isaiah 9:5-6:

"Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

I read recently that of all religious groups in America (including atheists), a Pew poll found that evangelicals were the least likely to be concerned about civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is appalling. If only more evangelicals had the patient courage of your son who listens and talks all day. It may look like a "weak" response, but it is redemptive weakness which is much closer to peacemaking than, as Falwell once said, "Bombing all terrorists in the name of the Lord." Falwell knew nothing about the requirements of living in "a new Kingdom". The requirements for peace-making are tedious and humbling like writing reports. No wonder the great non-violent peace-maker Gandhi said, "I love your Jesus Christ; it's you Christians I can't stand."


PEACE, thank you for your comment. I too have spent a lifetime trying to have everyone like me and, as a result, have a sometimes misshapen personality from all that bending and twisting.

I too have realized that there are some people in America, too many it seems at times, who would shoot me on sight or send me to concentration camps, for something I am that I believe I had no choice in becoming. I was even threatened at work one time by a man who told me my name was on a list of homosexuals who would be rounded up and dealt with. I had never had any direct dealings with the guy.

I agree that some Americans don't see that we have enemies in the world. Those people don't understand the things that we have done to create enemies all over the world. We tend to see whatever actions we take as "good" when, in fact, they aren't always. Sometimes (most, I would say) our actions are to benefit us and not the people on whose behalf we take the actions (e.g. bringing democracy to Iraq or Vietnam). The people of the world sometimes see us as an opportunity to destroy the peace in their parts of the world by shouting about democracy and liberty when all they want is power and we march in to support them.

Look at Afghanistan as an example. The Russians moved into the country and took over installing their guy in Kabul. The Taliban, as despicable a religious sect as one can find outside of America, fought against the invaders. The U.S.A. sent weapons, trained their guys, and cheered when they drove the Russians out. Then we decided to liberate the country for Kharzi and his merry klan who were very unpopular in most of the country. So we send our children over their to die at the hands of the weapons and ammunition we provided the Taliban to fight the Russians.

Now we've admitted defeat (or will very soon) and have even discussed the possibility of negotiations with the Taliban which will plunge Afghanistan back under the thrall of those ignorant, religious men who will go back to their old ways and all the Afghans who were naive enough to believe the coming of Americans meants democracy and freedom will buckle under, get killed for violating Sharia law, flee the country, or kill themselves. What will America get out of it? More Afghani restaurants and more foreigners that many Americans don't want?


And about Jesus, he could not have acted in any way other than the one he did or the story would have ended differently and the world might have been saved from the wonders and the ravages of his believers because there wouldn't have been any. But, another "savior" would have come along.
We need saviors.

The Jesus drama only worked because he was crucified. He was the sacrificial lamb sent by the "loving father" to save only those people who believed in him as the lord and savior, no one else. All the unbelievers would go to Hell because they didn't believe.

Jesus never once stepped away from what he saw as the conclusion of his life--the crucifixion. He knew what was going to happen and chose to stay on the path even though it meant death, a suicide of choice.

People have lauded that selfless act as an example to emulate for reasons that go straight over my head. Even the folks who most admire his sacrifice have done everything in the world to portray him as a warrior who wouldn't put up with sh*t from anyone; hence the pictures of Jesus armed to the teeth and knocking at the door and the denial of Jesus as a "pussy" to quote a local minister who said, "Jesus was no pussy" as though that's something to despise.

The death on the cross and subsequent resurrection (another good story) serve as reasons to believe in his Godhood because we want to think that some power greater than we are looks after us, sent his son to die on our behalves, and now waits for us who believe. How self-centered. How prideful.

In a universe consisting of billions of stars with zillions of habitable planets, how dare we think we are the only ones (and then only a small percentage of the people on this inhabited world) whom some sky god watches over and "saves" if we believe. Nice story if you can believe it.

PEACE, I mean no disrespect to you or to any of the other sassistas. I hesitate to respond to any posts about war or Christianism because of my wildly divergent views (my assumption) on the subjects. I fear the loss of friends and friendships over my beliefs and it has happened in the past.


A compelling and sad assessment, half-a. Thank you for taking the time to post it.


half-a: just now noticed your 7:38 comment which I did not see when I posted my 7:38 comment. I will read it now. Just didn't want you to think I hadn't read it or was ignoring it.

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