MayBE 2019: Day Thirty-One

mayBE 2019: day 31


by W.H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well

That, for all they care, I can go to hell,

But on earth indifference is the least

We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn

With a passion for us we could not return?

If equal affection cannot be,

Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am

Of stars that do not give a damn,

I cannot, now I see them, say

I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,

I should learn to look at an empty sky

And feel its total dark sublime,

Though this might take me a little time.

I was talking to a young person yesterday. She asked me “Why bother?

This question came on the heels of starting an astronomy block. Before I could jump into astronomy, she asked me where we get most of our oxygen from. I told her about the tiny ocean plants called phytoplankton filling our oceans. She asked if people know this. I said that maybe not everyone knows about the phytoplankton but everyone knows that plants give us oxygen. Then she asked, “So how can we still cut down our forests and pollute our ocean?”

I couldn’t give her an answer.

I could have said money, miseducation, apathy, politics. But I just shrugged because I too couldn’t understand it.

She asked me, “Why bother?” This is a dangerous question. But here I am anyway introducing astronomy. I am asking her to copy a Vincent Van Gogh quote about the stars while she is coming to terms with the fact that we are consciously killing our air supply.

She wanted to know all about the planets and now she wants to know why no one understands our interconnection with plants, the ocean, and the earth.

I tell her to copy the quote. We look at pictures of the life cycles of stars. I tell her that our world and life itself wouldn’t exist without the death of stars. She looks at me and says, “Why?” I tell her that when a star dies, all of the elements are born – including carbon, the building block of life. She sketches a supernova with pastel and asks more questions.

The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Earlier today, some of my kids and I went to a magical river spot with friends. The only way to get there is swimming up the river. The kids swung from jungle vines into the river. There was a huge tree that stood on the banks, its roots hugging the sides, holding the land almost with a tender affection. They swim and explore and as the sun starts to get lower, we make our way up the river to go home. No one wants to leave and we are already planning a return visit.

And this is why we bother. This nature connection starts with a love of a best friend, a recognition of self within the surrounding land, waters, and living things. And then we share the wonder of our universe and our perfect place in it all – not too hot, not too cold, not too far, not too close, not too big, not too small.

We not only have the privilege but the responsibility to stand in amazement of existence. When we fill our space with this feeling intentionally and pass it on, we have no room for despair. We only have room to love it all with wonder and gratitude.

And after thirty-one days of maybe’s, of possibilities, of what-if’s, I have more questions and even less answers. I am inspired by the thought that my life is both the blank page and the poem. This month I have learned in embracing both the spaciousness of being and the densest singularity of potentiality – where things begin and end again and again.


  • What inspired you this month?
    • Copy the poem above.
    • What did you create or imagine?
    • Make a list of possibility. (Have you imagined six things before breakfast?)
    • Draw or paint.

Creative Autobiography below.

Your Creative Autobiography 1. What is the first creative moment you remember? 2. Was anyone there to witness or appreciate it? 3. What is the best idea you’ve ever had? 4. What made it great in your mind? 5. What is the dumbest idea? 6. What made it stupid? 7. Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea? 8. What is your creative ambition? 9. What are the obstacles to this ambition? 10. What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition? 11. How do you begin your day? 12. What are your habits? What patterns do you repeat? 13. Describe your first successful creative act. 14. Describe your second successful creative act. 15. Compare them. 16. What are your attitudes toward: money, power, praise, rivals, work, play? 17. Which artists do you admire most? 18. Why are they your role models? 19. What do you and your role models have in common? 20. Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you? 21. Who is your muse? 22. Define muse. 23. When confronted with superior intelligence or talent, how do you respond? 24. When faced with stupidity, hostility, intransigence, laziness, or indifference in others, how do you respond? 25. When faced with impending success or the threat of failure, how do you respond? 26. When you work, do you love the process or the result? 27. At what moments do you feel your reach exceeds your grasp? 28. What is your ideal creative activity? 29. What is your greatest fear? 30. What is the likelihood of either of the answers to the previous two questions happening? 31. Which of your answers would you most like to change? 32. What is your idea of mastery? 33. What is your greatest dream?

― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life






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