Ways and meaning

We met in Cape Town where life always finds a way improbably and impossibly amid the shards and horrors of what humans do to each other. The subject was generation. The Leading Causes of Life Fellows explored the work of grown-ups hoping our life could be about more than our own life; that we could give ourselves to  the phenomenon of generation. Not abstract or innocent, we know how power is held  and it protects institutions, sometimes violently and sometimes on our behalf. Such contradictions and complications. The way is found with others seeking life. That’s what we saw when we looked at our lives, some threads woven across decades.

Here’s a sort of poem I wrote as notes to myself before the African dawn thinking about that.

I thought we were talking about engaging communities of need and vulnerability. Now I am home in my home, my people torn, scarred and scared.  I am reading my notes again and they seem  useful in another place, here.


On the old road over the pass to Paarl.

Question not

What first or


but how with.

Living systems ask

and offer

Acknowledgement of



And possibility.


Seek not first the things to fix.


In Sutherland, the first big telescope in South Africa–only 1 meter. Still useful as old instruments can ask new questions.


How with?


Approach with humility

Earned by you and yours.

Be tender at the




Mind, skin and space.



Massive cork tree at Schoenstatt. Out of Place, peculiar. Still growing.

Seek invitation,

Hope for membership.


First do no more harm.

You, invasive exotic

We, adaptive hybrid.



Your only possible



Offer it.

Inconsequential and



Your stuff and power

Weighed in the savage

Economy of another.

But usually life finds life

Practical as dirt.




Yellow Wood Tree, 400 or so, growing in place in the Company Gardens, Cape Town.

As for faith,

Have some.


As for hope,

Have some.



Less than love

Which lasts

the only way;




About garygunderson

Vice President, FaithHealth, Atrium Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. Secretary Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group). Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative
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