841: The Whole World is the Best Land I Ever Lived

841: The Whole World is the Best Land I Ever Lived

841: The Whole World is the Best Land I Ever Lived

Today’s episode is guest hosted by Jason Schneiderman.


I’m Jason Schneiderman, and this is The Slowdown.

I have always felt a little guilty about not being happier to be alive. I know that my existence is stunningly unlikely, on scales both big and small. Out of the vastness of the universe, I came into being on this habitable planet where we have beautiful trees, comfortable sweaters, and really good coffee. Out of every possible place on the globe, I was born in a relatively prosperous place to a relatively prosperous set of parents who said things like “If people are mean to you, it means they’re jealous,” and “Don’t go into debt for a fancy college.”

Even if you do the math on my parents alone, my existence is still stunningly improbable. Out of the hundred of thousands of eggs and the millions of sperm my parents brought to their union, I’m the product of just two microscopic lottery winners, which makes my existence a prize. Still, being unlikely doesn’t exactly add up to being excited about being alive. I wish I woke up every morning to the thrill of a new day, eagerly hopping in the shower and embracing another chance to be in the world. The truth is that most mornings, I stay in bed as late as I can, wishing I never had to get out from under the covers.

The Russian poet Osip Mandelstam wrote “I love this poor earth because I have never seen another” which I find both beautiful and…confusing. Is he saying that love means focusing on what is right in front of you? Or something else? I’m always looking for people who don’t want to retreat from the world, but to charge into it with gusto and love. I want to learn their secret. Today’s poet helps me learn. She meditates on being so devoted to the world that she decided to bring someone else into it. To offer the unlikeliness of being to her daughter out of love and wonder.

The Whole World is the Best Land I Ever Lived
by Lynn Melnick

It’s not that I don’t remember
the pain of childbirth, it’s that
maybe I needed it. Lately,

women are brave for saying
they hate being a mother
but I’ve gambled on all the pain

I will bring my babies
because I have loved nothing
more than mothering. When

finally we were alone, I saw
you study me from your plastic
bassinet and I knew you knew

my ambition. I was ashamed
by all the ways I will fail you and
then flown by your forgiveness.

When you were six, mornings
you’d look for one unbroken
leaf on our walk to school to hide it

so later we could find it again
walking home. That kind of faith.
Green then red then brown then

green again, proof of longing
and immutability. Often I was
impatient. Often we were hurried

or my mind was on an irrelevant
elsewhere. But you trusted me
to come back to you and be there.

Be. There. Each afternoon
we dug through the shallow leaf
graves, your fingers my fingers

but slowly distinct. I am sorry
I will have to be finite on your
wondrous and steadfast earth.

“The Whole World Is the Best Land I Ever Lived” by Lynn Melnick from REFUSENIK © 2022 Lynn Melnick (YesYes Books). Used by permission of the poet.