Meditation 3: The Peace of Wild Things

Right now the Humanist Community Project is in the midst of a 3-day intensive training seminar. We’re helping 18 students who want to work as Humanist celebrants, officiating at Humanist wedding, funeral, baby welcoming, and other ceremonies. There are very few training opportunities for such folks in the US today, despite the fact that it is hard, complicated (and ultimately extremely rewarding) work, for which there is a great demand. Hopefully programs like ours can help grow Humanist celebrancy in the US over time. It’s certainly gotten quite big in Europe and we’re looking to follow the successful European models.

Anyway, one could say so much on this subject but right now I’m just trying to focus on the Daily Humanist Meditation I promised you guys.

Well, one idea I’m sure I’ll return to often on this blog is that Humanists don’t quite do liturgy, but we do have great poetry and music as an alternative to liturgy. This is especially true in our ceremonies. Here’s a poem we looked at today as an example of something that might be included in a Humanist funeral. It’s a wonderful example of how Humanists deal with grief, mortality, and impermanence. What else do you see ? What is your favorite poem for dealing with similar emotions? Do you disagree with anything the poet is expressing here?

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry


  • louise

    I was weeping in bed a few hours ago. My life is dreadful. I feel misunderstood. Unloved. Life feels inhospitable to me.

    This poem was lovely and touching. It helps me remember that life itself is not really my problem, but managing relationships is. Disappointment, wrong turns.

    It’s hard to love humanity, or yourself, when you are repeatedly tossed aside.

    I have to admit, Greg, that I do often envy theists. They have a rock to hold on to during the hardest times. I know my fellow nontheists may disagree, but so what if that “rock” is imaginary. That faith is enough to pull a theist through.

  • Bo Lee

    I too have always turned to the beauty and peacefulness of nature when I have been having a hard day or hard week. The poem is beautiful and I thank you for sharing it. I had never heard it before. Thanks again.