[Kitty Jospé, in the corner, looking over Genesee river, through Rundel’s windows, where even spiders have spun yarns. Photo: David Kramer from Kitty Jospé provides noon nourishment for the mind at Rundel.]
We’ve met Kitty Jospé many times. Today, she offers a short essay on our universal capacity for compassion.
Sometimes it happens, that a small reminder of kindness can change the unfolding of a day. And sometimes it is, that kindness rolls into a corner, forgotten.
As practicing poet and teacher, I collect poems to share weekly that contain reminders of a part of human nature we sometimes forget: our universal capacity for compassion! It is wonderful to watch how such poems kindle goodwill, gentle concern. Each poem becomes like a special guest to honor at the table as participants read the words aloud,
paying careful attention. The responses to the poems become a conversation, weaving associations and examples. The regular attendees of weekly sessions will tell you, it is truly magical.
A few days ago, I watched the documentary Mission: Joy, and was encouraged by the exchange between two remarkable spiritual leaders, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. One part of the documentary shows that the fact of being exposed to examples of the goodness of human nature is scientifically proven to increase health and well-being. Archbishop Tutu reminds us, compassion is a universal for all human beings, and essential to our happiness. Some might dismiss this, or forget, disregard, or even be cynical, citing plenty of examples where compassion is in short supply. However, especially in this time of pandemic where we are longing for human contact and humane actions, compassion for each other is more crucial than ever. Coupled with this, is compassion and respect for nature and all living things.
Sometimes, it happens… that a poem, long ago forgotten, returns and with it, a host of memories like a guest. I think of the poem by the 13th century Sufi poet Rumi comparing being human to a Guest House¹ with the advice to meet all emotions with laughing, whether they be dark with cruelty, meanness, or filled with joy. And sometimes it is, that we forget how complex the world is— and that there can be a pleasing sense in puzzlement.
Sometimes, a small sweep in the corners will remove the dust, the spiders—and sometimes it is, the sun arrives to paint the uncluttered floor with light…
The etymology of corner goes back to the idea of the meeting of two streets or walls, an intersection of angles. How do we turn the corner, change a mood, find encouragement when down and out? The hope is that this idea will stimulate you to create your own personal corner filled with reminders of compassion. Better yet, increase its power by sharing your personal anecdotes, memories and sharing uplifting stories and poems you have encountered.
I leave you with a link to the poem by Alberto Rios, When Giving is All We Have²
Biography: MA French Literature, New York University; MFA Poetry, Pacific University, OR. Art Docent (Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY) since 1998.
Since 2008, Kitty Jospé has been moderating weekly poetry appreciation sessions and occasional presentations on art and word. (Since March 2020, these are conducted by zoom.) Known for her contagious enthusiasm, she embraces the joy of working with language, art, and helping others to become good readers of poems, people and life. Her work is in 6 books, published since 2009 and in numerous journals and anthologies. Her latest book, Sum:1 is available from FootHills publishing.
She will be the featured reader on February 9, 7 pm. at the Just Poet monthly reading. (Free and open to the public, followed by an open mic.)
¹ There are many sites featuring this poem. For quick reference here is one: The Guest House by Rumi
ON AND BY Kitty