Category Archives: reality

All the airy words we summon.

Following on the theme of language, I’m re-posting this poem from Dana Gioia. As my situation is different from seven years ago when I first put it up here, so is my response to the poem. Then, I was often with my late husband, and we would tell each other the names of things, and amplify our knowledge and appreciation of the world together. Or, we would simply be together in silence, in those moments of happy existence in the world that does not need words.

Nowadays, I still have the impulse to tell all these things, or attempt to bring my readers into the wordless experiences I have — by means of words! Of course, I can’t even attempt to describe more than a fraction of the moments, the stones and sunlight and shadows. So I am learning — a little — to just sit with the things, “no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.” There is Someone with me, after all, who doesn’t tell me the names of things, but Who is the Reality from which they came into being. He also needs no praise, so we praise Him always.

WORDS

The world does not need words. It articulates itself
in sunlight, leaves, and shadows. The stones on the path
are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.
The fluent leaves speak only the dialect of pure being.
The kiss is still fully itself though no words were spoken.

And one word transforms it into something less or other –
illicit, chaste, perfunctory, conjugal, covert.
Even calling it a kiss betrays the fluster of hands
glancing the skin or gripping a shoulder, the slow
arching of neck or knee, the silent touching of tongues.

Yet the stones remain less real to those who cannot
name them, or read the mute syllables graven in silica.
To see a red stone is less than seeing it as jasper –
metamorphic quartz, cousin to the flint the Kiowa
carved as arrowheads. To name is to know and remember.

The sunlight needs no praise piercing the rainclouds,
painting the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving
each lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered it.
The daylight needs no praise, and so we praise it always –
greater than ourselves and all the airy words we summon.

— Dana Gioia

 

There is no god, the wicked sayeth.

“There is no God,” the wicked saith,
“And truly it’s a blessing,
For what He might have done with us
It’s better only guessing.”

“There is no God,” a youngster thinks,
“or really, if there may be,
He surely did not mean a man
Always to be a baby.”

“There is no God, or if there is,”
The tradesman thinks, “’twere funny
If He should take it ill in me
To make a little money.”

“Whether there be,” the rich man says,
“It matters very little,
For I and mine, thank somebody,
Are not in want of victual.”

Some others, also, to themselves,
Who scarce so much as doubt it,
Think there is none, when they are well,
And do not think about it.

But country folks who live beneath
The shadow of the steeple;
The parson and the parson’s wife,
And mostly married people;

Youths green and happy in first love,
So thankful for illusion;
And men caught out in what the world
Calls guilt, in first confusion;

And almost everyone when age,
Disease, or sorrows strike him,
Inclines to think there is a God,
Or something very like Him.

-Arthur Hugh Clough (1819 – 1861)

-Dmitri Petrovs

What is all your argument?

POLITICS

You say a thousand things,
Persuasively,
And with strange passion hotly I agree,
And praise your zest,
And then
A blackbird sings
On April lilac, or fieldfaring men,
Ghostlike, with loaded wain,
Come down the twilit lane
To rest,
And what is all your argument to me?

Oh yes — I know, I know,
It must be so —
You must devise
Your myriad policies,
For we are little wise,
And must be led and marshalled, lest we keep
Too fast a sleep
Far from the central world’s realities.
Yes, we must heed —
For surely you reveal
Life’s very heart; surely with flaming zeal
You search our folly and our secret need;
And surely it is wrong
To count my blackbird’s song,
My cones of lilac, and my wagon team,
More than a world of dream.

But still
A voice calls from the hill —
I must away —
I cannot hear your argument to-day.

-John Drinkwater, 1917

Van Gogh, Lilac Bush

The most cruel master of all.

“A spiritual life without canon, without custom, without tradition, without rules, is the ultimate democratic freedom. But it unleashes the tyranny of the individual imagination. For with no mediating tradition, the modern believer is subject only to his own whim. The effect is to have no Lord but the God of his own imagination. Even his appeal to Scripture is without effect – for it is his own interpretation that has mastery over the word of God. If we will have no hierarchy, we will not have Christ as Lord. We cannot invent our own model of the universe and demand that God conform.

“It is a great spiritual accomplishment to not be ‘conformed to this world.’ The ideas and assumptions of modern consumer democracies permeate almost every aspect of our culture. They become an unavoidable part of our inner landscape. Only by examining such assumptions in the light of the larger Christian tradition can we hope to remain faithful to Christ in the truth. Those who insist on the absence of spiritual authority, or demand that nothing mediate grace will discover that their lives serve the most cruel master of all – the spirit of the age.”

-Father Stephen Freeman, in this article.