The Man Who Wanted To Change the World

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

I am stymied. I’m just no good at this divisive stuff, especially when someone keeps arguing by saying things like “Well, that’s what I believe,” or “It’s my opinion,” or “God’s word says.”

And yet a wonderful thing happened here in the nearby city. After more than nine years of fierce argument, and six more hours of the public standing at the mike and either offering scripted, unsupportable, cruel ideas and descriptions or reasoned and supportive explanations, the city ordinance against discrimination of any kind, especially against the LGBTQ community, passed 8-1.

I recall how difficult it was as a teacher working in that town to help certain students get past ‘ “It’s my opinion” as a basis for what they were enduring. I heard “I have a right to my opinion.” “It’s a free country, “ and I’d try to show that “you have a right to your opinion. It’s simply that I am trying to help you see how much more powerful it is when you also tell us the two or five facts your opinion is supported by.”

Sometimes the light came on. Often it didn’t.

I always felt a success in presenting the point and a failure at enabling the student to realize the importance of that point. And every morning as Julie reads aloud the wonderful nearly-daily column by the brilliant historian Hearther Cox Richardson, I feel again the overwhelming need for the world of opinion sitting alone to be extinct and the world of point-of-view emboldened by facts and history be what we waken to.

If you take in the Republican convention, have a good time noting how often this misguided way of thinking takes place. Watch for false comparisons based on… what? Watch for judgments supported by… what? Watch for promises backed by… what, exactly?

Or listen to jazz instead. Here’s a repeat that seems to fit—

The Man Who Wanted to Change the World

He thought exchanging the nouns
might help. No one could say
“gun” in the same old way. You
would have to pause, say,
“What’s the name again? Oh, yes,
sassafras.” You would hear
“Give me the wisteria to the car,”
or find yourself asking, “Why
don’t we add some whispers
to the bottom line?” He realized
this one long, hazy afternoon

while staring up into the trees,
into the wild acceptance
of their branches’ tangle. He
watched light settle on
the leaves. He believed
the robins, vireos, and
nuthatches could see it.
Later that evening, drying
his dinner plate, he felt everything
around him leaving, felt himself
alone amid the sparkles of dust.
Before bed, he addressed, sealed
and stamped a stack of empty
envelopes, one for everyone
he loved. The next morning
he made his first list: bread dough,
lightning, salt, candle, mourning dove,
while he thought of last
laugh, coffin, profit margin,
proliferation, highway, fake.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Scintilla
Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Where are the books? 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.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

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

8 thoughts on “The Man Who Wanted To Change the World

    • You better believe, David, how much that matters to me, coming from you who I know is suffering through this after having so much hope. I can’t imagine how maddening this all is for you.

  1. Thank you as always for your insights and creativity! A strange observation on the national front- why, since all the civil unrest is happening under Trump’s watch, are the republicans getting away with blaming Biden?

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jack for your clarification about “opinions”. I have someone I deal with that can never support his opinion and doesn’t seem to think he has to. It is VERY frustrating for me, but now I have a line to respond to him with. I am deeply grateful. Thank you for your writing. I appreciate it more than you know. Kathleen

    *“The human journey is a continuous act of transformation.”* *John O’Donahue*

    • Kathleen,
      I am extremely grateful that you told me that I was helpful. One writes, and hopes. Unless told, I am left only with hope.
      And I sure hope this takes hold!!!!


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