The Lamb and the Pinecone


Neruda, Pablo




Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971 and was active in political and social causes. "The Lamb and the Pinecone" comes from an interview with Robert Bly and was first printed in Bly's volume, Vallejo and Neruda: Selected Poems. The poem explores how a simple act of giving between two young boys influenced Neruda's worldview of connectedness and unity, "giving [his] poetry light." The piece inspires dialogue about giving, human connection, selflessness, intimacy, childhood, and creativity.

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Talking Service: Readings for Civic Reflection. ed. Adam Davis and Eilzabeth Lynn. The Great Books Foundation. 2008.


Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.


Connection and RelationshipGiving and ReceivingLove and CompassionWisdom and Contemplation

Big Questions

What kinds of relationships matter the most?What makes it possible for us to connect to others? What gets in the way?Why is connection important? What does it enable? What does it impede?How do we know what a gift achieves?How much should I give? What, if anything, might limit my giving?What makes a good gift?When I give, what do I expect in return? What do I receive?How do we define love? How do we show love?How does a person learn compassion?How do we become wise?What do we hope to learn from meditation or contemplation?


Talking Service

Civically Engaged Reader

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Why do the boys exchange gifts?
  2. What do you think of the two gifts?
  3. Why does Neruda feel he has been "a lucky man"?
  4. What is widening the "boundaries of being"?
  5. Do you agree that an exchange like this could reveal something about humanity?
  6. What do you think about Neruda's claim "that all of humanity is somehow together"?
  7. Do gifts always have to be reciprocated?
  8. How do we know how much to give and how to be gracious for what we receive?
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