Living with Spaciousness

Excerpt from "Your Life is a Poem" an On Being conversation with Naomi Shihab Nye and Krista Tippett (July 28, 2016):

I just came back from Japan a month ago, and in every classroom, I would just write on the board, “You are living in a poem.” And then I would write other things just relating to whatever we were doing in that class. But I found the students very intrigued by discussing that. “What do you mean, we’re living in a poem?” Or, “When? All the time, or just when someone talks about poetry?” And I’d say, “No, when you think, when you’re in a very quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another, that’s a poem. That’s what a poem does.” And they liked that.

And a girl, in fact, wrote me a note in Yokohama on the day that I was leaving her school that has come to be the most significant note any student has written me in years. She said, “Well, here in Japan, we have a concept called yutori.” And it is spaciousness. It’s a kind of living with spaciousness. For example, it’s leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around — and then she gave all these different definitions of what yutori was to her.

But one of them was — and after you read a poem just knowing you can hold it, you can be in that space of the poem. And it can hold you in its space.

You don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently.

And I just love that. I mean, I think that’s what I’ve been trying to say all these years. I should have studied Japanese. Maybe that’s where all our answers are. In Japanese.