05/05/2014 01:05 pm ET | Updated Jul 05, 2014

Throughout history, there has always been a dissonant conversation between those who feel we as humans are dark creatures who need to be controlled and those who feel that we are born with and innate goodness that allowed to blossom will heal the world. Of course, it's both. This passage is part of my own inquiry.


To say there's a moral order to the Universe is to speak of physics as if it were nature and not our understanding of how nature works. It's how we fool ourselves into thinking we are the architects of this journey. This is real knowledge: marching barefoot from the concentration camp, a man stumbles and others fall on top of him because they know he will be killed.

It's our impulse to protect what falls, to bring water to the thirsty, to love what is hurting. Even today, at the food mart, a woman struggles at a pay phone and I fumble without thinking, "Here, use my cell."

Before we learn to judge and hesitate, we break surface like whales looking for each other. It's not moral. It's natural. I know a vet who lost a leg. Now he rescues homeless dogs. I know a psychologist who stopped seeing clients because he was drowning in their stories. Now he's a painter who gives portraits to the dying.

I keep asking, "What does it mean to be alive?" Each day reduces me to this question. And each breaking and joining for sixty years has been an answer that like water slips through my hands.
On the way home, I fall on the ice fiddling with my groceries. Two young boys are there in a flash: gathering what broke, cleaning what didn't, helping me up.

A Question to Walk With: Describe a moment when you felt compelled to offer someone help or assistance without hesitating. Where do you think the impulse of kindness come from in you?

For more poetry for the soul, click here.

For more by Mark Nepo, click here.