Thursday, July 21, 2011

I see you

Recently I discovered a short poem by W.S. Merwin called “Sight.” I’ve been memorizing it on my morning walks. It goes like this:


a single cell
found that it was full of light
and for the first time there was seeing

I was a bird
I could see where the stars had turned
and I set out on my journey

in the head of a mountain goat
I could see across a valley
under the shining trees something moving

in the green sea
I saw two sides of the water
and swam between them

look at you
in the first light of the morning
for as long as I can

The last stanza, “I look at you in the first light of the morning for as long as I can,” touches an inner chord. I now find myself repeating it in my early morning prayers, accompanied by a stab of joy I can’t explain.

About the same time, a Brazilian friend sent me a YouTube song in Portuguese, saying it reminded him of me. Since it’s a beautiful song, that makes me feel really good. The chorus repeats variations on the phrase, “I can’t stop looking at you.” Again, I have been singing this phrase as prayer to Jesus throughout the day. (Go to the link at the end of this blog.)

Last week Hal and I watched the movie, “Avatar.” I had wanted to see this film for a long time and, while our TV set doesn’t do 3D, I was not disappointed. I loved the geography and culture depicted on the moon Pandora, as well as the story of supposed enemies becoming friends. I was a bit discouraged when what at first appeared to be an anti-war message turned out to illustrate a just-war position.

But all that aside, I was especially taken by the way “people” on Pandora express love. Instead of “I love you,” they say to each other, “I see you.” Of course that phrase means more than, “I acknowledge your physical presence.”

Now and again, throughout the day, when I breathe the prayer, “I see you” to Jesus, I sense him whispering back to me, “I see you.” This exchange of love expresses both present reality and longing for more.

All three phrases say the same thing, and all three come from secular culture as expressions of human (or Pandoran) love. Yet they have turned into prayer for me.

I love it when this kind of convergence happens. It affirms the Spirit’s leading.

I am currently reading Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer by Richard Rohr (another convergence), and he makes the point that “true seeing is the heart of spirituality today.” “Prayer is not primarily saying words or thinking thoughts. It is, rather, a stance. It’s a way of living in the Presence, living in awareness of the Presence, and even of enjoying the Presence.”

I feel the Spirit lifting me to a new plane of prayer, where instead of words, I simply gaze. Sometimes the Presence is so close, sight fades. Other times, like the mountain goat, I look across a valley and see “under the shining trees something moving.”

I stand still and watch.


  1. "for as long as I can" also seems to me to be saying that we are changing, and our next reality will be so different, we will be seeing new things. We hold on to the joys of our present life and then let them go for something better, something that we can't even imagine yet.....

  2. Once again you've given me words for tomorrow's sermon. I needed the creative clarity. Thank you.