Within the Moment of Indefinite Suffering

Starting Next Week: Video Poems.

We will be taping the poems for you so you can have a small reading each week. Because we need each other’s faces and voices, don’t you think?


What a way to be united, eh? Here’s an elbow hug to all of you.

And helplessly, I hope that you are not among those infected.

It’s almost our daughter’s birthday. She has insisted that her age be 44 plus one. (Let it sink in. It can take a minute.)

I am often asked why I am happy all the time. It’s almost as if the question were really, “Don’t you know what’s going on?!?”

Let’s get something straight right off the bat that can’t be swung for at least a month…

I am NOT happy. In fact, I am quite sad. All. The. Time.

In fact, I don’t even believe in happiness. The pursuit of that imaginary goal in the Declaration was one of the world’s greatest mistakes. It’s caused more misery and break-ups as people keep trying to be happy and using it as a reason to leave one another. “Oh, I don’t know; I’m just not happy.”

Well, good luck on your next safari.

Happy is something that sometimes comes along. It’s not, never has been a part of us. “I need to see a therapist.” “Why?” “Oh, I don’t know, I’m just not happy.”

How in this world can anyone be happy? Sure, for a bit. It comes from an “external circumstance or stimulation.” We can’t decide to BE HAPPY. (Oh, I know the song: 🎼”Don’t worry. Be happy.”🎼)

Don’t worry??

How at a time like this, could one feel happiness?

What you may see is that I choose to behave cheerfully as an act of benevolence toward others. And lest you think I am consistent or can sustain this. Nope.

Of course I am full of disdain for those who or that which deserves it. And oh do I let down those who most deserve my being of good cheer. Time and again I forget that being of good cheer is something I must choose to be. It’s a set of muscles that need to be exercised constantly, but do get tired.

So, Let’s Be of Good Cheer. Or let’s at least try. Especially now..

Within the Moment of Indefinite Suffering

All it takes is a touch. You can be walking
your dog. Your dog can be stopping to
sniff a patch of jewel weed or pausing
to pee on a post surrounded by poison ivy.

You could be watching a swallowtail slowly
lifting and settling its wings while resting on
a swatch of crown vetch. The sun could be
lost behind clouds, clustered in a cumulus

mound of white or sinister gray, the moon
could be full, waning, new, the stars moving
across their scrim of deep space, everything
still benign in its revolving threat. You

could be sweeping the walk, passing under
the pergola draped in wisteria, wedding veil,
honeysuckle, or merely sitting on the bench
beside the brook out back. Or taking a path

through the park, joggers steady-stepping, or
walking along the well-worn trail to the pond
at the edge of town where you could be sitting
under the willow, its branches hanging their braids

over your wait for the sunfish to surface. It could all be
beautiful: the day, the light, the breeze bending the tall grass.

— Dedicated to all those suffering under the politics of the pandemic.

–Jack Ridl

First published in a slightly different form in Poet Lore.
Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State U. Press)

Unless the pandemic causes it to be cancelled, the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague has been set for 7pm on April 28, when I’ll be joined by friend and poet Mark Hiskes. I guarantee you will love the place along with its good food and beverages. Many thanks to owner and arts promoter Bryan Uecker.

Jack’s Homily, “The Devil Went Down to Douglas” is here for those of you interested in marking the occasion.

Don’t miss subscribing to this podcast.  And Then Suddenly is the brainchild of the kind and brilliant Angela Santillo, whose path I’ve crossed once before while working with CavanKerry Press. Her podcast has a brilliant premise…  Describe a moment in your life that changed… everything. She’s had that moment, and from it she has made this podcast. Here’s the conversation we had recently.  I hope you explore many of the episodes. Because they will change you. In a good way.

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Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

31 thoughts on “Within the Moment of Indefinite Suffering

    • Wow.To think I was helpful to one who has been
      always so helpful to me is a joy to hear.
      I owe you about ten million more!!!

    • Oh my goodness. I never would have thought this could be
      of such importance.
      Thank you, dear friend, for telling me.
      Virtual hugs!

    • You’re so kind. To know this is a great relief.
      I was pretty unsure about it.
      I sure hope you adventure teaching online goes well!!!!!
      Knowing you, it will be magic!

  1. Cheerfulness is a good practice. I cheer on your practice. Dogen might have said the genuine practice of cheerfulness is cheerfulness itself. The key is genuineness, that’s always the hard part. But practice makes perfect they say. Happiness is moment to moment, nothing more it seems. Perhaps genuine practice of cheerfulness = happiness. At least for the moment.

    • Amen and AMEN!

      And I would add that even if not genuine, it’s moral to bring cheerfulness (Not necessarily cheer)to another rather than dump self-pity on the other.
      My Zen master would be so pleased to read this.
      Do stay well, good man.
      Elbow hugs

  2. Oh Jack, yes, my friend. I love this poem. And the man who wrote it.

    From: “comment-reply@wordpress.com”
    Reply-To: “RIDL.COM”
    Date: Thursday, March 19, 2020 at 6:31 AM
    To: Rosemerry Trommer
    Subject: [New post] Within the Moment of Indefinite Suffering

    Jack posted: “What a way to be united, eh? Here’s an elbow hug to all of you. And helplessly, I hope that you are not among those infected. It’s almost our daughter’s birthday. She has insisted that her age be 44 plus one. (Let it sink in. It can take a minute.) I “

    • Oh Dearsst One, I am so moved that you love this poem.
      The original was so difficult to let come to the page
      because it was written for Julie. The first line had “tick”
      instead of “touch”
      I love you madly
      Virtual elbow hugs

  3. I’m with you on happy, Jack. The golden moments come and let’s celebrate them when they do.
    Did you catch Yoyo Ma on the NewsHour last night?? He’s so right about the power of music. Getting his cds out “as we speak.”

    • Dianne, I am so glad we are on the same page. I brooded a long
      time about this post, but so far it has hit the right note with others.
      Drat, I missed one of my heroes, YoYo Ma last night. Maybe I can
      find it online. One of my thrills was seeing him receive a honorary
      degree at Yale when our god-daughter graduated.
      Virtual hugs to you and mike. We miss you.

  4. So good….so needed…so true. And truth is in such short supply from our fear-less (intended…wish he had a bit of fear) leaders.


    • Oh my goodness, your Haiku of a a response menas so much o me,
      I spent hours trying to get tis post right so that it would be right
      for the hearts it’s intended for. thank you so much, Friend. Your
      assurance salves my heart!!!
      Virtual elbow hugs

  5. Jack,
    God bless us all, for we all are suffering under the politics of the pandemic.
    Paul Edward Gainor/Ganges

    • Well, I don’t know about that, but to deny you is to insult you.
      So I’ll say, “aw shucks,” and humbly thank you.
      Virtual elbow hugs

  6. Seeing YoYoMa perform is the only one in the bucket with you, Jack. I was medically impaired while he was often in Chicago for Silk Road and now we voluntarily isolate, so small chance of even an elbow bump with you.My visitor wishes are modest yet against viral spread, so I shall just thank you greatly for today’s poem post.
    Lou’s birthday is March 30. When his nurses at Meijer Heart Center doubted he’d live through his Widowmaker recuperation , they called a priest who gave him last rites 3 years ago.(My choice :I sing 🎶 another song rather than HBday while daily cleansing more times than surgeons do.) Usually the children’s prayer from Hansel and Greek: 14 angels just about right number. Or sometimes
    “Un Bel Di” for the Italian, tho w/o the theatrics that follow.
    The Spirit who winks introduced us when I drove his mom to visit him. We dare not look for another wink during this plague when others need a good Godwink.and I, who wince whenever I must provide my April 5 birthdate with the matching year, [got the 44 plus instantly].Trifecta:, our street address ends with that Same Number!.
    May you LIVE for today, HOPE for tomorrow, dear ones.~Vicki

    • Oh Vicki, Here I am, the guy who is supposed to come up with stuff to help others keep on,
      and in comes this angelically lyrical,lovingly heartbreaking epistle from dear you. Oh how
      I wish I could reach out and say “fix and fix; You’re all better.” And here, all I can offer
      is my helpless care and my overwhelming admiration for you two. I care.
      Virtual elbow hugs

  7. I have only met your daughter a few times…but I knew even then that she’s someone I’d like. This confirms it.

    Thanks for faithfully providing inspiration, comfort and honest. We can all use those and I personally really appreciate it.

    All the best to you and Julie….

    • Tony, Meridith will be delighted. YES, you would like her instantly.
      She was born with joy, something we have nurtured along with the
      reality of the accompaniment of constant sorrow, They walk together.
      Please PLEASE know what your lovely affirmation means to me. I spend
      hours brooding over what is best needed each week. To know it’s being
      helpful keeps me going, keeps my spirits up.
      And you sure do keep spirit up. What a gift you are.
      Virtual elbow hugs

  8. How beautifully honest you are, my friend. I remember when we first met, you told me you were triggered by PTSD all the time. I didn’t know what that meant then.

    I marvel at the wide community you have created and how essential I imagine your words and thoughts are to so many folk. You are indeed in inspiratrix (is their a masculine word for this?), breathing life into deflated souls.

    Thank you. Bless you. I’m right here with you. chanting amen.

    Love, Dale

    Dale M. Kushner

    author of The Conditions of Love now available

    Please visit me on my website and Facebook and my Psychology Today blog





    • Dear one who embodies love of the deepest kind, how can I express what
      your message means to me? I spend hours brooding over what best to write that just
      might help another, if even just a bit. Your affirmation, coming from one who helps
      so so sooooo many lifts this spirit and helps keep it at the keyboard. Please know
      what this from you means to me. You are ALWAYS here.
      As a kind of PS, thanks to EMDR therapy, my PTSD rarely raises its claw.
      Virtual elbow hugs

    • And to you. Do know I carry deep care for you and your suffering.
      Julie and I care and miss that explosion of a laugh.
      Elbow hugs

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