All this will be gone

6 am/5:29/8:06/72/95. It’s the birthday of Erik Erikson (1902), the psychologist who coined the term “identity crisis,” and of Japanese haiku master Kobayashi Issa (1763), who wrote more than 20,000 tiny poems celebrating everyday life. So does today’s featured WA poem by Annie Lighthart: “I hear the children in the yard, a train, then birds,” she writes. “All this… will be gone.”

All this, all the little things of everyday life, are music to the ears of those who train themselves to hear. “The Second Music,” the poet calls it. That’s what I’m always listening for out here on my back porch at around dawn, with the birds and the early light. Trying to catch the tune and add my little verse, trusting the repetitiveness of that small activity to add up to something meaningful and conquer the little crises of identity we mortals pass through.

The last and best stage of developmental insight, I’d add to Erik Erikson’s list, is that really learning who you are is not the product of a sudden crisis but is the gradual, dawning, accumulating realization that we are each in the song of life but are not its sole authors, and that we should sing along while we have the opportunity. That’s real “ego integrity,” or as an older tradition puts it, wisdom.

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