Monday, August 14, 2017 “Never angryAlways smiling quietlyDining daily on four cups of brown riceSome miso and a few vegetables”
In late August 2015, Japanese poet Kenji Miyazawa met me for the first time when I first posted this poem; it was found in his trunk after he died young in 1933. His poem stops me — as the middle of Lake Michigan can under its stars at 2:00 am, or 18 men this weekend, still and leaning in on our chairs to hear each other telling stories from our lives across 60 years. Some of us are Jesuits, some former Jesuits; we gathered in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where we first met to risk Jesuit life 60 years ago this month in August 1957. Mostly we were teenagers with our lives waiting for us. So we told stories — falling in love, engaging with our children, burying our loves, taking deep wounds and sometimes inflicting them, going to work and coming home — paying the prices that adults do. 60 years gave us many stories — “good times and bad, in sickness and in health.” So we listened to stories, laughing and crying and breathing. We were sad when we left that place of grace Sunday afternoon.
You are watching: Be not defeated by the rain
Kenji Miyawa’s voice was schooled by the 1920s and 1930s, hard times on the Pacific rim. Even more than most poems, “Be Not Defeated” should reward reading aloud with pauses.
Have a blest work week. Breathe sometimes today.
See more: Be I Like Being Spontaneous On The Job., The Importance Of Spontaneity At Work
Today’s Post — “Do not be defeated by the rain”
Unbeaten by the rainUnbeaten by the windBested by neither snow nor summer heatStrong of bodyFree of desireNever angryAlways smiling quietlyDining daily on four cups of brown riceSome miso and a few vegetablesObserving all thingsWith dispassionBut remembering wellLiving in a small, thatched-roof houseIn the meadow beneath a canopy of pinesGoing east to nurse the sick childGoing west to bear sheaves of rice for the weary motherGoing south to tell the dying man there is no cause for fearGoing north to tell those who fight to put aside their triflesShedding tears in time of droughtWandering at a loss during the cold summerCalled useless by allNeither praisedNor a botherSuch is the personI wish to be
Curator’s note: After the poet’s death, a black notebook containing this text was found in his trunk. The poem appears in bold strokes amidst his repetitious copying of a Buddhist mantra. According to its date (November 3, 1931), he had composed it while on his deathbed. He was only in his thirties. Visit this link to view a photograph of the poem in the notebook, the original Japanese text, two very different translations (including Larrabee’s, which I prefer), and interviews with the interpreters.