When God Decided to Invent, A Little Talk on a Poem by E.E. Cummings

When God Decided to Invent

A Little Talk on a Poem by E.E.


Joseph Anthony


I am not an
E.E. Cummings scholar.  I simply like
E.E. Cumming’s poetry, as odd as it can be. 
When I read his poetry doors open, windows open, entire skies bloom in
an instant inside me. This post will be my meditative reflections that came
after reading one of his poems. 


Here’s the
poem.  It doesn’t have an official title.
 It was published in 1944.

god decided to invent 
everything he took one 
breath bigger than a circustent 
and everything began

when man determined to destroy 
himself he picked the was 
of shall and finding only why 
smashed it into because 


First off, I
love Cumming’s joy at creation:

              God takes
one breath “bigger than a circustent

unfamiliar with Cumming’s poetry need to know that he does a lot of play with
words—completely throwing out conventionalities, spellings, word breaks, and so
on.  Here he simply blends two words
together “circus” and “tent,” and we are given an image of bigness—fun
bigness—extravagant bigness-playful bigness—billowing bigness.

everything began.”  It began with
breath.  Just like with us. 

If we are
seeking mental clarity, inner healing, peace of mind, and creativity, then we
need to start at the beginning—with breath. 

The more we
learn to consciously breathe—big breaths (i.e. deep breaths)—from the belly–full,
rich breaths, the clearer we become.  The
more we can breathe and revel in the full funness of life, the deeper and more
nourishing our breaths will become. And the more we consciously breathe, the
more everything begins…again and again…

Yet there
are times we forget to breathe.  And when
people can’t breathe, they lash out—they lose control, trying desperately to survive.  And desperate people do desperate things. 

Some people
are suffocating their dreams, their hearts, and when that happens, things get
smashed to bits.

Notice God
makes the decision to invent. 

A decision
is final.  It is will blossoming into action,
and it is done.

Man, on the
other hand, according to this little poem, determines, which literally means, “to
set bounds or limits (Online Etymology Dictionary).” 

What do we
set limits to?  Our own beliefs—our own
minds and hearts.  We carry limited
beliefs within us that would knock down the circustent. 

limited beliefs are in “the was of shall.” 

And “shall”
means, in its roots, “to owe (ibid).” 

So I look at
these words, “the was of shall,” and interpret them to mean:

We set
boundaries on our beliefs due to unresolved memories and issues from our past.  There are amends to be made, forgiveness to
give and forgiveness to seek.  We need to
pay back what we owe.  Clean our side of
the street. 

If we want
freedom, we need to live in the consciousness of now and learn to transform
painful, limiting memories, into healing, creative big-top fun. 

In short, we
must stop living and blaming the past.

What happens
if we don’t?  What happens if we stay
victims and imprisoned by limited beliefs? 
We sink deeper and deeper into the suffocating waters of looking for
answers, into the “why this and why that.” 
And since we can never truly know all the whys, we smash everything up
with justifications and rationalizations. 
We smash it to bits and then, like any angry child does when asked why
he or she did something destructive, we say:


We don’t
know why (consciously) we do many things we do. 
And thus we stop breathing, and thus we become unconscious. 

Sometimes we
know why we feel angry, we might know why we feel afraid.  Sometimes it makes little difference in the end. Deep
down we know time is ticking.  We’re
throwing away our dreams, and instead of making decisions, we set more and more boundaries
in (and on) our minds and hearts.  Our
minds shrink into prejudices and violently limiting ideologies—about others, about
people we judge, the world, and ourselves.

The solution?
Breathe breaths as big as circustents

things rather than destroy them. 

Learn to
have fun even in the work of becoming.  (Humanely)
train the animals in your circus (i.e. your passions and your shadowsides) to work for you and with you, and perhaps even, to do tricks.  Use any
odd talents and gifts you have, and shine. 

Even when we
become aware of our limited beliefs, we needn’t destroy or try to resist them,
we can breathe through them with affirmations and positive actions of love
towards self and others thus transforming them instead of waging war against

We can learn
to breathe with child-like joy; with the awe of a child at a circus. 

We can
simply be and rejoice in the lavish play going on before (and within) us.


So there you
have it. 

reflections and inspirations 

after reading this little poem by E.E. Cummings.

What comes to you? 

I’d love to hear.

Thanks for reading.

Peace and Light, Joseph


Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

3 thoughts on “When God Decided to Invent, A Little Talk on a Poem by E.E. Cummings

  1. Years ago … my university English prof broke this poem down for us.

    I can still remember the impact over 30 years later.

    Your interpretation is pretty similar.

    That being said, here is his rigorous analysis of “the was of shall”:

    ~ ‘was’ is past tense
    ~ ‘shall’ is future tense

    So what is the “the was of shall” ?

    What is “the past of the future” ?

    The present.

    Now, what pronoun do we associate with ‘was’ and ‘shall’ ?


    So conjoin ‘I’ with the present.

    ‘I was’ is past
    ‘I shall’ is future

    The present then ?

    ‘I am’

    Then we move to ‘finding only why’

    Thus we have the immortal question:

    Why am I here / Why am I alive ?

    What does it all mean ?

    – – –

    Now read the poem again …
    … but read it cyclically

    Verse 1
    Verse 2
    Verse 1

    Man determines to ask:

    Why am I alive ?

    And in his frustration at the lack of answer, man smashes where god creates – again the oppositional contrast of words between verse 1 and verse 2.

    Why am I alive ?

    (because) when god decided to invent
    everything he took one
    breath bigger than a circustent
    and everything began

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