Keeping Quiet

Pablo Neruda

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Awakin FeatureNow we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Pablo Neruda is a Chilean poet, who started writings poems at the age of 13. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971.

Seed questions for reflection: What does 'do nothing' mean to you? Can you share a personal story of a time you could feel life interrupting sadness as a result of your pausing? How do you reconcile the adage "keep moving on" with the poet's critique of our single-mindedness to keep our lives moving?

Add Your Reflection:

10 Previous Reflections:

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    On May 21, 2019 Peggy wrote:
    Why did you change the masculine form to feminine in the poem? For example the original was ""son sus hermanos" rather than hermanas. Also "todas estariamos juntas" rather than juntos.

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    On Apr 29, 2019 Isidora isis wrote:
    his words are food for our soul, constantly fighting through the battle of personhood

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    On Mar 30, 2019 Mark David Vinzens wrote:
    Pablo Neruda is not just a man who wrote poetry. He is the song of the world soul.

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    On May 31, 2018 lukenlow wrote:

    Thx!


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    On May 30, 2018 Ashok Kumar wrote:

     Amazing gift of writing by this Nobel laureate writer. His wordings in second last paragraph 'sadness of never understanding ourselves...' touch a chord. Thanks to Nipun family to share this amazing writing. 


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    On May 27, 2018 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
     Poet Pablo Neurada remins me of a poem written by an anonymus Zen master.                                      Sitting by the river                                      Doing nothing,                                      Spring comes                                      The grass grows by itself. Such words of wisdom have been sign posts in my life, a daily rrminder to count up to twelwe, be in the zone of being, letting go of my busy and often noisy world of doing and having. Such words rmind me to pause, feel and be with my natural rhythm of life giving and life sustaining breath, to count up to twelve, ... [View Full Comment]

     Poet Pablo Neurada remins me of a poem written by an anonymus Zen master.
                                         Sitting by the river
                                         Doing nothing,
                                         Spring comes
                                         The grass grows by itself.
    Such words of wisdom have been sign posts in my life, a daily rrminder to count up to twelwe, be in the zone of being, letting go of my busy and often noisy world of doing and having. Such words rmind me to pause, feel and be with my natural rhythm of life giving and life sustaining breath, to count up to twelve, to stay in the being zone. Such words have been my daily prayer washing  away the noise of irritation and agitation, frustration and anger, and fear and anxiety. Such words open up the door for meeting my being without craving and without holding.They create a wide open space  filled with unseen beauty, unheard sound, and unknown strangers. Such words take me to a land of emptiness filled with fullness,a land of formless forms, a land beyond space and time. This is my daily prayer, a meditative prayer creating birth of joy, awe, joy, fiufillment  and gratitudein in my daily living.

    May we take time out to count up to twelve everyday to be connected with our being!
    Namaste

    Jagdish P. Dave







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    On May 26, 2018 david doane wrote:

     In reading this passage, some of my favorite quotes come to mind.  Rumi said, "Silence is the language of God, all else is a poor translation."  According to Pascal, "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."  And Lin Yutang's "If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live."  'Do nothing' means to me to do no thing, and simply be mindfully present.  I allowed life to interrupt sadness when I paused to sit in my back yard, took in the beauty of nature, settled into it, felt together with it, and felt soothed and nurtured by it.  Such moments are an example of 'keep on moving' by being goallessly present in the flow of life which is very different than keeping our lives moving by determined goal-direct effort.


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    On May 25, 2018 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:
     Perfect timing, thank you. Do nothing means to stop and sit and be. I am in this exact position today as I take a break from what can be a "go getter" "overachiever" energy in Washington DC. I sit here alone at my friends' home in the Catskills, trees surround the house which sits near the Hudson River. I look out into trees, eye level with them. I have had the gift of 2 full nights and days alone here before everyone else arrives and i am grateful. I am literally moving through sadness, in a depressive episode which has been quite intense. "Moving through" has been mostly a saving grace as in "this too shall pass." At the same time, I wish to sit and be qiet to allow myself to heal, my mind to still and my body to do so as well. I slept until 10am with no apology. Today I had planned on visiting a Victorian mansion, the home of an artist, but instead, perhaps I will only walk to the river, sit on a bench and breathe. It is OK to simply breathe rather than constant movement. Rec... [View Full Comment]

     Perfect timing, thank you. Do nothing means to stop and sit and be. I am in this exact position today as I take a break from what can be a "go getter" "overachiever" energy in Washington DC. I sit here alone at my friends' home in the Catskills, trees surround the house which sits near the Hudson River. I look out into trees, eye level with them. I have had the gift of 2 full nights and days alone here before everyone else arrives and i am grateful. I am literally moving through sadness, in a depressive episode which has been quite intense. "Moving through" has been mostly a saving grace as in "this too shall pass." At the same time, I wish to sit and be qiet to allow myself to heal, my mind to still and my body to do so as well. I slept until 10am with no apology. Today I had planned on visiting a Victorian mansion, the home of an artist, but instead, perhaps I will only walk to the river, sit on a bench and breathe. It is OK to simply breathe rather than constant movement. Reconciling "keep moving on" with "critique of single-mindedness" I think is to know the difference of when to STOP moving, to simply be and breathe. I remember being caught in a dust storm at Burning Man and I set my bike down, turned on the lights, pulled my bandana over my nose and mouth, pulled goggles over my eyes, closed my eyes and simply let the dust swirl around me, It was like a mystical massage. When the storm was over, I slowly rose, lifted my bike and slowly pedaled back to my camp over 2 miles away. I listened for voices that were familiar and I moved when it was safe to do so. Perhaps this story better reflects. <3 Thank you for allowing me the space to share. <3 

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    2 replies: Usha, 🌷 | Post Your Reply

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