Words of WonderYou, the Unbreakable Water - John Roedel

Me: Hey God.

God: Hey John.

Me: I’m about to break.

God: Why do you think that is?

Me: Because life just keeps getting harder.

God: Then you need to become softer.

Me: Huh?

God: Here is the thing:

glass is hard
but it can shatter
easily when dropped

rock is hard
but it can be broken
quickly with a drill

gold is hard
but it can be melted
in a blazing fire

don’t be so hard
that you break down so easily.

be soft
like wet clay
in the hands of a potter

be soft like
river water
in the summer

be soft like
the breeze through
a row of tall pines

all of those things
survive no matter what
happens to them

they endure because
they haven’t built their
existence out of hard

be soft with other people

don’t break them
with your words
and don’t let them
break you with theirs

be soft with yourself
your heart is more cotton
than iron

your soul is wrapped
in the softest of fabrics
for a reason

the softer you become
the more you understand
how precious all life is

be more of cotton
then you are of concrete

~ love isn’t cold granite
love is shapeless

love is like ocean water
gently passing through your toes

in a world where the hardness of diamonds
helps determine its worth

don’t become one yourself

become so soft
that nothing can
break you

by John Roedel


What does it mean to heed the invitation that John Roedel is extending to us in this poem? When I read this poem I feel an infusion of tender receptivity, and my musculature and the borders of my body soften. I also feel the rawness of my heart, which is so susceptible to feeling and to pain. But this feels real and alive, and I prefer it to the automatic hardening that can form an armour around me and keep me cut off.

John Roedel is a poet and comedian from the US. He seems to project a lovely mix of cheekiness and soft-heartedness (see here for more about him). He has his finger on the pulse of human pain, while he simultaneously revels in a quirky, playful attitude.

It takes courage to be soft. Isn’t it strange that there is some strong conditioning, at least in my white British heritage, that says that being soft is weak. This seems to be particularly true for some (not all!) men and often comes up when we teach mindful self-compassion. What would the world be like if being soft was not seen as weak and unmasculine, and if being soft was thought of as honourable and courageous, in the right circumstances?

I very much enjoy John Roedel vouching for softness as unbreakable, particularly because he speaks with his male voice. In fact, the way I receive the poem, the feeling it gives me, is really influenced by this. I wonder, does it affect you?

Isn’t there so much to learn when we bring presence and awareness to receiving a poem!

Fay Adams

PS. If you would like an immersion in receiving the wisdom of poetry through mindful presence check out the upcoming Mindfulness meets Mystical Poetry course beginning in May.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash