The Occupation by Robert Bringhurst

I will tell you how it was the world

changed, she said — and darkness

wrapped us round.

I heard her clearly, though I barely

heard the words. It was nearly — yes —

as if she were singing.

Our job, she was saying, is not

to change the world — nor even

to keep it from changing.

No, she was saying (the story

was over already): our only

job is being changed.

The Occupation

This is one of those short, seemingly simple poems that says a lot. How the world has changed, and darkness / wrapped us round. These days are feeling rather dark, the sunshine notwithstanding – so many unknowns, so much confusion, fear and grief. So it is not unreasonable to say we are wrapped in darkness. And yet…

The poet says he heard her, though I barely / heard the words, heard her as if she were singing. The message comes through the music, saying we are not meant to change the world, nor even / to keep it from changing. I think especially we are not meant to keep the world from changing though one could certainly argue that there are aspects that demand our attention and action, most obviously being the desecration of our planet.

Nevertheless, the speaker/singer is telling us that our only / job is being changed; this is our deep work. I’m not sure what being changed means for me, certainly not for you. But there is something about that assertion that that I find oddly comforting, allowing myself to be changed, to grow with whatever is happening around me. This is how the world changes, one heart at a time.

19 thoughts on “The Occupation by Robert Bringhurst

  1. Hi Jan 🙏😊❤️ This is another poem to touch the soul. I feel the poet sighing, not in fear or anger, but with gentle acceptance and understanding.

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  2. And I’m struck with the need for humility in this changing, to look at myself and not the world around me, to know that it is I who must change and to know its not even something I can do myself but must allow. Allow something out of my conscious control to change me, to hold still for it, to surrender to it, to beg for it. If I want the world to change it has to begin right here, with me. Thank you for this one, Jan.

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  3. Oh, another thought: about the title The Occupation. This is not only what must occupy me as my work, this allowing myself to be changed; but I also must allow myself to be occupied, allow something to enter me, to dwell in me, to do the changing from the inside.

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  4. Oh, Jan, this is so perfect. I love “the speaker/singer is telling us that our only / job is being changed; this is our deep work.” I’m beginning to get it, especially as I get older, the difference between “changing myself” and “being changed”. My deep work is softening into this message and allowing. thank you.

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