Something Insists We Forever Begin

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending

that always seems about to give in

something that will not acknowledge conclusion

insists that we forever begin.

Those lines are from the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly, whose poem “Begin” has been stuck in my head this weekend.  The news this summer, the news coming hourly as I type, is indeed the stuff of nightmares:  Charlottesville, Houston, Irma, Jose.  Disasters manmade and natural—though that dividing line grows blurry.

It’s more than the calendar that “insists” that this school year begin.  Talk to the Grace teachers about how they see their work at the school, and you’ll catch a contagious delight as they discuss their academic disciplines.  But it won’t take long before you hear them describe seeing their job as being about so much more than conveying knowledge.  They work at Grace because their guts tell them that this stormy world needs the sort of students the school attracts and seeks to form:  students engaged with the world and with their roles in it; students eager to do good and not just well; students whose experiences of joy, curiosity, hard work, and engagement in our classrooms fuel a sturdy sense of purpose for their lives outside of them.  This is the high calling of teachers at Grace, and even a newcomer like me can spot the ways it permeates our programs, curriculum, and culture.  It’s part of the spirit of the school, which can see the challenges in the world around us and insist that we forever begin to educate students till they’re well equipped to address them.

Our prayers this weekend are with those facing these disasters and those responding to them.  The storms are too big for there not to be Grace families affected by them, and we hope you and those you love stay safe.

Begin

Begin again to the summoning birds

to the sight of the light at the window,

begin to the roar of morning traffic

all along Pembroke Road.

Every beginning is a promise

born in light and dying in dark

determination and exaltation of springtime

flowering the way to work.

Begin to the pageant of queuing girls

the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal

bridges linking the past and future

old friends passing though with us still.

Begin to the loneliness that cannot end

since it perhaps is what makes us begin,

begin to wonder at unknown faces

at crying birds in the sudden rain

at branches stark in the willing sunlight

at seagulls foraging for bread

at couples sharing a sunny secret

alone together while making good.

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending

that always seems about to give in

something that will not acknowledge conclusion

insists that we forever begin.

 

by Brendan Kennelly

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