Now in his sixties, Mark Nepo is harvesting the meanings and memories of a rich and full life, which has been criss-crossed with pain and elation. He has spent more time than most in the far country of illness and known the great stalking fear of death. Nepo is an inveterate meaning-maker who has delved deeply into the wisdom traditions and the world's religions. He has not been afraid to call himself a philosopher and for us that has turned out to be a good thing. There are not a lot of bestselling authors who are always on the lookout for connections and epiphanies which illuminate the human condition and give us insights into what's going on inside us and buzzing about in our high tech culture.
In an early interlude, Nepo writes: "I've learned that if we can stay true to experience and to each other, and face the spirit that experience and love carry, we will eventually be reduced to joy. Like cliffs worn to their beauty by the pounding of the sea, if we can hold each other up, all that will be left will be wonder and joy."
Wonder and joy are two of our favorite spiritual practices. We think of them as a soft breeze wafting through the first 13 poems of the 73 in this substantive collection. Here Nepo considers the three faces he has carried down through the years, the similarities between his hand and his father's, the bothersome question as to whether or not we have loved well, the messy art of facing things, and the lure of a more peaceful life.
There are many other memorable poems in this book — see the excerpts linked from the right column here for two of our favorites — but "Where Is God?" stopped us in our tracks with its mystical perspective. It is the kind of poem that awakens us to the world and at the same time warms the heart. It is the kind of poem that challenges us read it aloud to others. It is good medicine for the soul and the spirit in these harsh and hard times.
Where Is God?
"It's as if what is unbreakable —
the very pulse of life — waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.
It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way."
Here is an interspiritual gem that shines a light on the accumulated wisdom of the past and points a path for us to take into the future. Clinging to old ideals and habits, we know in our heart of hearts that grasping gets us nowhere: it would be better for us to hold on to nothing. At the same time, if we want to know love in this world, all the wisdom traditions tell us the same thing: let in everything and do not exclude anything! And one more part of the path: don't keep track of how many things fall apart; put your mind under new management and feel the presence of everything with joy and wonder. "Where Is God?" is an aha! poem for us, and we hope that you will be fed by its truths as well!