All Together in a Sudden Strangeness

Cambridge-based therapist and spiritual director Katherine Stiles offers the following meditation on Pablo Neruda’s well-loved poem “Keeping Quiet” during this time of pandemic.

We will be back to hugs and handshakes. Concerts and movies. Protests and elections. Travels and adventures. Gatherings. We will find a new normal. But for now, we have to step back in order to care for each other. The time is now. We must act in a powerful and skillful way to “Flatten the Curve” and stop the viral spread of fear and disease.

So here is a prompt from a favorite poet: Pablo Neruda.

What is being asked of us as we confront this global crisis, which is also a global opportunity to reset?

What is being asked of us as we contemplate right action in such crazy times?

What would it look like if we took a breath, hunkered down and stopped for a few precious moments to “all be together in a sudden strangeness"?

What would it look like if we just kept still? Just for a bit.

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about...

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
death.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

-Pablo Neruda

May we all be well, and safe, and free from suffering.

May we all know peace and happiness.

May we all dwell in love…