Blog > Al Etmanski

Like Shining from Shook Foil

The title above is borrowed from a favourite poem, God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins. July 28 is his birthday and I couldn’t resist the occasion.

The poem begins:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil:

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil



Whenever my petty mind thinks about denouncing and denigrating someone or some initiative they’ve launched, I remember these lines. Which in turn reminds me of the number of times an opponent or adversary surprised me with actions that made the world more just.

That’s when my snicker turns into shimmer.

Hopkins walked a lonely path. He rejected the High Anglicanism of his family and became a Catholic priest alienating himself from family, friends and the intellectual life of his cherished Oxford. From everything I’ve read, he was challenged by depression and never really fit in. He actually called his poems “terrible sonnets.” He was virtually unknown during his lifetime.

Yet out of his imperfections, challenges and conflicts emerged such beautiful poetry. He saw grandeur everywhere. Not just in nature but in  the heart of our conflicts, brokenness and tragedies. The crushed oil oozing out in the last line above is actually olive oil.

You find what you are looking for. To see grandeur in our shipwrecks requires a  beholder.  When the beholder and the beheld meet, music, dance and boldness burst forth. (from Paul Mariani’s book, Gerard Manley Hopkins.)

Apologies for playing loose with a great poem:

The world is charged with the grandeur of creation.

People shimmer with justice, like shining from shook foil.



The social concourse is essentially a matter of one citizen polishing another; polishing, that is, not only so that rough spots and edges may be removed, but also so that one may begin to reflect another in the common social project of public life.

from The World We Want: Restoring Citizenship in a Fractured Age by Mark Kingwell.


If this is all there is, maybe that’s okay

Believing in the bliss, wishing my time away

A tender-hearted sadness pulls me through the day

But that’s alright

My heart is okay

from The Bliss by the Fortunate Ones. Listen here. Buy here.


This blog was originally posted to This repost, for which we received permission, follows the style guidelines of the original post.

Blogger Profile

Al Etmanski's picture

Al Etmanski is a community organizer, social entrepreneur and author. He is a founding partner of Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and BC Partners for Social Impact. Previously he co-founded Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) with his wife Vickie Cammack and Jack Collins. Al is an Ashoka fellow, and a faculty member of John McKnight’s Asset Based Community Development Institute (ABCD). He once played air guitar with Randy Bachman of BTO (Bachman-Turner-Overdrive) in a rock video which convinced him to stick with his day job.

Latest Blog

You have more power to achieve the changes you are after than you think. Not as much as you might like. But more than you realize.

The trick is to claim it. And not let the boundaries of that power be defined by others, particularly government.

How much should you claim?

There is a hardy breed of activists who have set themselves the rather lofty goal of civilizing capitalism. This renaissance of capitalism will be achieved by reinventing businesses and corporations, transforming markets, recreating Wall Street, and humanizing investments.

As satisfying as your new project or initiative is, there is no rule that states it has to continue. In its current form at least.

That line from the anti-nuclear bomb folk song “Atomic Talking Blues” has been swirling around my brain since the release of recommendations by the joint Parliamentary Committee on physician-assisted dying.

Prévoyance is the ability to prepare for the unexpected in a world of uncertainty while maintaining your principles.

There is a warm line between you, your heroes and their mentors that unites memory and imagination. I witnessed this in 1995 at the first gathering of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute. John McKnight opened the gathering providing an overview of ABCD bedrock – asset focused; internally reliant and relationship driven.

Something is in the air in my home town. Posters on bulletin boards everywhere including my favourite bagel shop. Daily op-ed features in the Vancouver Sun. An ambitious, week-long "public square" celebration and dialogue beginning September 18th, hosted by Simon Fraser University, on the glue that binds us together as community; our connections with each other and our engagement in community.