drop by drop

Posted by Daniela Elza on Nov 23 2008

The Flight of the Hummingbird below, is a parable borrowed from the Quechuan people of South America and beautifully illustrated by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas.

The story appears in the book, which also features Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner from Kenya who launched the Green Belt Movement, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

It is not a long story, but it could be, not only because it has come to us preserved over hundreds and hundreds of years, or because it has equivalents in many cultures, but also because it stays in your head, and creates ripples. So on days when you think signing that petition is not going to make a difference, writing that poem is useless, your drop of water is not going to put out a fire, and doing what you can is not good enough, listen. Think again.

Incidentally, and in the strange way things connect in my head, I was thinking about the Rocksalt Anthology and the phenomenon it has presented before me with its diversity of poems and its convergences of poetic statements. The voices in it sing in two ways in the anthology.

Alan Hill’s statement in the anthology strikes me today as positioning poetry within our mind’s adventures quite beautifully. It seems to place poetry possibly back to its more ancient origins.

He says:

“Poetry is a way of re-connecting with mystery and otherness, while not leaning too much in either rationalist or traditionally religious direction. It is a tool that borrows from both the spiritual and the rational, pulls them together in ways that allow exploration of feeling, history and places a depth that can’t be reached any other way.”

This appeals to me, because it speaks to the integrative potential of the poetic voice. It speaks against the worn out and petty squabbles around what is intellectual, what is story, or what is given historic status, or what is religious, or what is spiritual, or academic, or popular, or crap.
Are our intellectual landscapes on fire that threatens? If we let these kind of secondary definitions and pretensions take over there is a danger we will lean more and more toward what we keep trying to promote as a panacea ie. science and rationality.

Hill also says: “If you try to rationalize and pull apart a beautiful object, in the end you are left with broken pieces and the object you started with has gone.”

So yes, a drop of water in a burning forest may not put the fire out, but the ocean is made of drops of water. So the next time you feel intimidated by the fire, do drop that drop, and trust that there will be enough hummingbirds out there to make a difference. What other alternative is there? It starts with me. It starts with you.

Comments are closed.