Jan 12

Appreciative Mode

I recently ran across the following article about making poetry a spiritual practice:


The entire article is well worth the reading, but the first way of the thirteen really rung some bells for me. (I hope they don’t mind I repost)

1. Cultivate Uselessness. Poetry and spiritual life overlap – if they are genuine, neither are undertaken for any kind of worldly advantage, prestige or use. Much of our life is spent in the acquisitive mode, in Wordsworth’s “getting and spending” – we need to butter our parsnips somehow – but the value of poetry is in its antithesis: the appreciative mode. Yes, we need to buy things and earn money, but poets need to stake their claim in uselessness – in non-utilitarian appreciation. Our primary mode of being should be one of appreciation. We should just stand back and enjoy it all – relate to life not for what it can give us but for its own sake. Within this larger uselessness, we’ll need to work to pay the bills and feed the cat, but our real work is appreciation. This implies an element of asceticism. We need to live simply with as few distractions as possible so that we can get on with the real business of poetry.


I have never heard this before, but I realized that this “appreciative mode” is where I feel most Shea, it’s where I escape to – but it is also where I experience the most guilt and “ought-to’s” and ought-not’s”. I just want to stand and pause for a moment and tell you I am useless here, by design.