05. Oxygen (Poetry is Thoughts That Breathe)

This episode was beautiful. I’ve really been loving this whole season, and Oxygen just might be my favorite so far. It was a fast-paced thriller with a heavy side of feelings, and it didn’t let up from the tragic opening scene to the finish. Along with taking on futuristic space capitalism, the Doctor saves Bill from death by exposure to the vacuum of space. Although he survives, it is a risk and a sacrifice that leaves him blind.

oxygen doctor
(image source)

Poetry is Thoughts That Breathe

…and Words That Burn –Thomas Gray

Each week the Doctor has given a moving speech or lecture, reminding me of the power and beauty of words. This episode was no different. We find the Doctor back in his lecture hall quoting Star Trek and describing the dangers of space. I’ve been focusing on the science of kindness, so I decided to take a different path and explore the art of kindness. I searched for poems on kindness, compassion, and empathy. Here are five of my favorites:

  1. This first poem I came off over and over again, and for good reason. I thought it was a tender dose of reality.

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

  1. I’ve loved Shel Silverstein’s poems since I was a child and my parents would read “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “The Light in the Attic” to me. His ability to evoke deep, lasting feelings from simple rhymes is an amazing talent. Here’s one example:

Hug O’ War by Shel Silverstein

I will not play at tug o’ war

I’d rather play at hug o’ war,

Where everyone hugs

Instead of tugs

Where everyone giggles

And rolls on the rug,

Where everyone kisses

And everyone grins

And everyone cuddles

And everyone wins.

cuddle gif.gif
“Cuddle” (image source)
  1. Another one from a child’s perspective. I thought this brilliantly captures one boy’s first understanding of empathy:

My Mother’s Lesson in Empathy by Aufie Zophy

At the time, I was a five-year old boy
A visit to my aunty, always a joy
My cousin was playing with cars at the back
He just had a new one, the body in black
Orange lines on the side, oh boy, what a toy

Only a few minutes later, it is hard to believe
My cousin was called and he had to leave
This left us alone, that beautiful car, and me
The temptation was great, as great as could be,
I could not resist and became a thieve

Into my pocket, very smoothly it went,
I was delighted, extremely content
When we reached home, I told to my mom
With much pride about what I had done
And that’s where contentment would end

My mother, incredibly sweet, incredibly bright
Swallowed her anger but asked in a voice, slightly tight
Please consider for a minute or two
How you would feel if someone did this to you.
Deep in my mind, I considered this plight.

It was easy to see the horrible feeling
I’d caused in my cousin by carelessly stealing
Our next visit, I was allowed to put it silently back
That car, with orange stripes on a body of black
Since then, I ‘ve quit forever the stealing

I don’t think that there ever could be
A more brilliant lesson in empathy

  1. This next poem by David Henry is straightforward and pure:

A simple act of kindness
can stop a million tears.
A little hug
can give so much joy.
A letter now and then to someone
can save so many wasted years.
We should hold every moment precious
and help as many as we can
with a simple act of kindness
every now and then.
The world would be a better place
if we all cared a little more.
Imagine how many smiling faces
would greet us at the door
if we extended that helping hand
with a simple act of kindness
that could spread across many lands.

  1. And finally, this one, so short and sweet, that I found on tumblr by an unknown author:

A little bit of being kind –

A tiny open door –

A nicer slice of peace of mind

Begets a little more.

It won’t correct the world tonight,

Nor change tomorrow too –

But maybe if you do it right,

You’ll find it changes you.

I hope you enjoyed the lesson in physics – err – poetry. 😉

poetry physics gif.gif
DOCTOR: Poetry, physics. Same thing. BILL: How is it the same? DOCTOR: Because of the rhymes. (image source)
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