“The light is everything” is the last line of “The Ponds” by Mary Oliver, who is one of my favorite poets of all time. In “The Ponds” Oliver encourages herself and us to look past the imperfections of life and focus on the beauty that exists. Here is the whole poem:
The Ponds by Mary Oliver
Every year the lilies are so perfect I can hardly believe
their lapped light crowding the black, mid-summer ponds. Nobody could count all of them—
the muskrats swimming among the pads and the grasses can reach out their muscular arms and touch
only so many, they are that rife and wild. But what in this world is perfect?
I bend closer and see how this one is clearly lopsided— and that one wears an orange blight— and this one is a glossy cheek
half nibbled away— and that one is a slumped purse full of its own unstoppable decay.
Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled— to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world. I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery. I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing— that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum of each flawed blossom rising and falling. And I do.
“I thought that being faithful was about becoming someone other than who I was … and it was not until this project failed that I began to wonder if my human wholeness might be more useful to God than my exhausting goodness.” – Barbara Brown Taylor in “Leaving Church”
I absolutely love the poet Mary Oliver. The quote “And I say to my heart: Rave On” is the final line of her poem “A Pretty Song” in which she is talking about the great love she has for someone she has lost to death. The line is like a “cheer for love”, an admonishment to love well, to love extravagantly, to love radically, to love without restraint … because that is the way love should act and live and be…otherwise it may not pass muster as love. And we need to be cheered and encouraged because it takes guts and courage and gumption to let our hearts rave on with love….but I think it is worth it and so do many others and so we do…we love with abandon, we leap off the edge, we take a risk, we fall and tumble, we say to our hearts: rave on!
P.S. Here is the complete poem “A Pretty Song” by Mary Oliver
From the complications of loving you I think there is no end or return. No answer, no coming out of it.
Which is the only way to love, isn’t it? This isn’t a playground, this is earth, our heaven, for a while.
Therefore I have given precedence to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods that hold you in the center of my world.
And I say to my body: grow thinner still. And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song, And I say to my heart: rave on.
“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too. “