An Integrated Approach


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on taking it personally.

I love the following poem. Truly. I come back to it again and again. I find that I often subconsciously pick a poem that becomes emblematic of a stage of life. Its becomes an anthem, something I come back to in times of stress and point to, saying, “See! Don’t you all understand? He gets it!”.
 
I found this poem in college. Its not my constant mantra anymore., but it testifies to the gosepl in a way that I think Fredrick Buechner would appreciate–I just finished Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale. Rather, if it doesn’t testify to the truth of the gospel, this poem at least gets at the core thing in all of us that desires the cosmic narrative, the story of our lives to be played on the grand scale. In that respect, Hoagland, with out referencing the gospel, demands and articulates our deep need for all of this to matter, and in such perfectly pairs with the tradgey, comedy and fairytale of Burchner’s gospel. And there is just something lovely about someone brazenly demanding that the ugly, the unkempt, the rigmaroll of life, in all its beauty be acknowledged.
 

By Tony Hoaglandb. 1953 Tony Hoagland

Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—
the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,
the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me
and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.
The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,
and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.
Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk
Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts
but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;
I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,
I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back
and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries
like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.
Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?
You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.
I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:
trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.