I was talking recently with a good friend who is struggling to decide on the next chapter of his life. As I listened to the thoughts of this highly educated and immensely gifted person, I found myself wishing that I enjoyed a clairvoyant spirit or possessed a magic crystal ball that could show me the future.
As I went to bed that evening, I remembered a phrase from a poem that I had read earlier in the week. Eugene Peterson had referenced this phrase and poem in his authorized biography, A Burning in My Bones, written by Winn Collier. The title of the poem was Overland to Island by Denise Levertov.
Let’s go—much as that dog goes,
intently haphazard. The
Mexican light on a day that
‘smells like autumn in Connecticut’
makes iris ripples on his
black gleaming fur—and that too
is as one would desire—a radiance
consorting with the dance.
Under his feet
rocks and mud, his imagination, sniffing,
engaged in its perceptions—dancing
edgeways, there’s nothing
the dog disdains on his way,
keeps moving, changing
pace and approach but
not direction—’every step an arrival.
I fell in love with her phrase intently haphazard and I was thankful that it had also captivated the attention and the mind of someone as spiritually attune as Eugene Peterson. (Eugene Peterson was the Presbyterian pastor, author of over thirty books, and the translator of the immensely popular biblical translation The Message.) In her poem, Levertov portrays the task of figuring out life much like that her dog sniffing intently haphazard from one perceptual experience to the next.
Winn Collier then says this about Peterson,
The imagery spoke to him so deeply because he had been that dog for decades. His life and work been more like tracing a scent rather than following a map. Discovery, not direction. In all those fifty-five years, Eugene never truly mapped his future, never tried to lay some ordered path toward a clear career goal. Intent? Sure. But haphazard too. The whole meandering journey had been a dog sniffing the wind, the next whiff being the only real clue.
What would life look like if we all began living life intently haphazard? If we were all open to a new adventure? To following a new scent blindly into a thick fog, unaware of where it may take us.
Most of us, myself included, are too uptight, too controlling, too cautious to really live life intently haphazard, and it can cause us sometimes to feel as if we are living life in a rut.
I don’t think that is what Jesus envisioned when he said, “I have come that you may have life and have it in all its fullness.”
Intently haphazard living—I think it is God’s dream for us whether we are 18, 28, 58, or 78. Disdain nothing, keep moving, and appreciate every step as an arrival.