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


About Greg Epstein

Greg M. Epstein serves as the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, and is author of the New York Times Bestselling book, Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe. A frequently quoted expert on Humanism and community for the nonreligious, Greg’s work has been widely discussed in the national and international media, including the New York Times, CNN, the Boston Globe, and on dozens of radio programs.

  • Y. A. Warren

    I’d like information on humanist officiating training. I am an ordained minister in the “Church” of Universal Life, the closet to humanist “ordination” that I could find. I have just released a book on the metamorphosis of our physical lives into what we call death to use in counseling and comforting people serving at deathbeds.

    I would very much like your feedback on it, from a humanist standpoint.