The beauty of ties.

wilder ranch, near the wild turkeys

wilder ranch, near the wild turkeys

“Are we not of interest to each other?” Elizabeth Alexander, Ars Poetica #100 I Believe

I love the evocative query by Elizabeth Alexander. I understand this as when we are of interest to each other, we cease trying to change each other. Or, in more colloquial terms we stop trying to get all up in one another’s business. This is the beauty of ties. Deep and abiding friendship. And love. No we no they.

This is a short post about relationship as a cornerstone of zen practice. On the one hand, there is the work of cultivating an awareness of the conscious and unconscious interior. Or, as Dogen counseled, “Turn the light inward and take the backward step.” And on the other hand, the backward step shows up in our relationships with others.

What does it mean to be of interest to one another? In my view, it can be as simple as “oh I see, thats interesting, tell me more.” And then, “thank you.”

I have been so fortunate to have this modeled for me by my teachers, my friends, my family.

This is the end of the post, for those who would like more to read, below, is a teaching about ties from The Little Prince (a children’s book for adults) and the complete poem by Elizabeth Alexander.


The Little Prince.

“I am looking for friends. What does that mean -- tame?"

"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties." 

"To establish ties?" 

"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world....” 
―Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe


Poetry, I tell my students,

is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves

(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”),

digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,

emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find

in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God

in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.

Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,

and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)

is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

Elizabeth Alexander, “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe” from American Sublime. Copyright © 2005 by Elizabeth Alexander. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press.

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