Tag Archives: friendship

Suspenseful, but not impossible.

Wholeness was the plan, when God created the cosmos. Then, humans distanced themselves from their maker, the one with whom they had walked in the garden. Harmony between the man and the woman was broken, and they both lost connection with their true selves, which had been grounded in the Giver of Life.

C.S. Lewis imagines how an unfallen world might have looked, in his novel Perelandra, which I recently re-read. A scientist with a utopian vision comes from Earth to a strange planet — of course, we have plenty of this stuff to export! — to be the tempter of the Eve figure, the Green Lady. She struggles to maintain her natural and primal, essential oneness with her god, and the drama that ensues is full of suspense.

I suppose it is because of my non-fiction fallen-world perspective that I despaired of the Green Lady being able to withstand the arguments of the oily Weston, even while descriptions of the grace-full divine dance with humans lifted my hopes. I don’t think it’s in my power to say more about this book or the whole trilogy, and what I have just written probably makes little sense, but the story came to mind when I read the poem below. Because the Green Lady won’t remain firm unless the strength comes from knowing who she is.

In this in-between world, the time of waiting for the fullness of the Kingdom, we get moments and glimpses of unity and wholeness, an intuition of how it might feel to be in full communion with one’s own being and one’s Maker, and from there, with other people. But our parts are mostly disjointed and disconnected.


For example, with someone who no longer is,
who exists only in yellowed letters.
Or long walks beside a stream,
whose depths hold hidden
porcelain cups — and the talks about philosophy
with a timid student or the postman.
A passerby with proud eyes
whom you’ll never know.
Friendship with this world, ever more perfect
(if not for the salty smell of blood).
The old man sipping coffee
in St.-Lazare, who reminds you of someone.
Faces flashing by
in local trains—
the happy faces of travelers headed perhaps
for a splendid ball, or a beheading.
And friendship with yourself
—since after all you don’t know who you are.

-Adam Zagajewski

Father Alexander Schmemann writes about this in The Eucharist:

“… nowhere is the darkness of ignorance into which we were immersed with our fall from God more obvious than in man’s staggering ignorance of himself, and this in spite of the insatiable interest with which, having lost God, man studies himself and endeavors in his ‘sciences humaines’ to penetrate the mystery of man’s being. We live in an era of unrestrained narcissism, universal ‘turning into one’s self.’ But, as strange and even terrible as this may seem, the more elemental is this interest, the more obvious it is that it is nourished by some dark desire to dehumanize man.

“The thanksgiving offered by the Church [in the Eucharist] each time answers and destroys precisely this not only contemporary but age-old lie about the world and man. Each time it is a manifestation of man to himself, a manifestation of his essence, his place and calling in the light of the divine countenance, and therefore an act that renews and recreates man. In thanksgiving we recognize and confess above all the divine source and the divine calling of our life. The prayer of thanksgiving affirms that God brought us from nonexistence into being, which means that he created us as partakers of Being, i.e., not just something that comes from him, but something permeated by his presence, light, wisdom, [and] love….”

-Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist

Out for a walk.

flowerMonteryThis morning I took Liam (4) and Laddie (2) for a walk in their new neighborhood in Monterey, on California’s Central Coast. It was foggy and cool — it never gets summery hot here — and we enjoyed the flowers in the gardens we passed. This succulent with wild magenta flowers is one I am not familiar with.

We stopped at two different parks with playgrounds, where we pretended the stroller was a train, and I taught them the Hokey Pokey.

Nothing monumental or philosophical happened, but it was very meaningful to me. The last time I took Liam for a walk in a stroller was when Laddie was the new baby. This time the new baby is Brodie and he and his mom were napping at home. I’m grateful to be involved in their daily life for a few days.

Last week I discovered this poem about a walk:


Both of us understood
what a privilege it was
to be out for a walk
with each other
we could tell from our different
heights that this
kind of thing happened
so rarely that it might
not come round again
for me to be allowed
even before I
had started school
to go out for a walk
with Miss Giles
who had just retired
from being a teacher all her life

she was beautiful
in her camel hair coat
that seemed like the autumn leaves
our walk was her idea
we liked listening to each other
her voice was soft and sure
and we went our favorite way
the first time just in case
it was the only time
even though it might be too far
we went all the way
up the Palisades to the place
we called the pinnacle
with its park at the cliff’s edge
overlooking the river
it was already a secret
the pinnacle
as we were walking back
when the time was later
than we had realized
and in fact no one
seemed to know where we had been
even when she told them
no one had heard of the pinnacle

and then where did she go

-W.S. Merwin, from The Shadow of Sirius

The giving comes, the taking ends.


Such love I cannot analyze;
It does not rest in lips or eyes,
Neither in kisses nor caress.
Partly, I know, it’s gentleness

And understanding in one word
Or in brief letters. It’s preserved
By trust and by respect and awe.
These are the words I’m feeling for.

Two people, yes, two lasting friends.
The giving comes, the taking ends.
There is no measure for such things.
For this all Nature slows and sings.

~ Elizabeth Jennings

Are toddlers lonely? — Blue Chameleon

A chameleon is the protagonist of Emily Gravett’s simple-plotted story with minimalist illustrations and text. He enters the story in a blue state and with the lament “I’m lonely,” after which he proceeds to change his colors and even shape as he goes about trying to make friends with a banana, a boot, a spotted ball, a sock, a fish, etc. until he gives up and becomes white and nearly invisible.

A colorful fellow chameleon eventually comes along and is the first to answer the lonely guy’s minimal queries such as “Hello” and “Can we hang out together?”

I wouldn’t read Blue Chameleon to my children or grandchildren because the social dynamics of the story are so unrealistic and foreign to the world of this age child.

Why introduce someone so young as to not know his colors to the concept of loneliness? If there is a deeper message to the book, it might be that if you are a Colorful Character you might make friends more easily — yes, why not get the kids started early on, stressing over their self-image. It could be seen as a cautionary tale as well, a heads-up that inanimate objects or fish won’t be likely to answer your greetings.

These messages are beyond the concerns of children I have known in my own family and in my day-care business. I haven’t seen a child who was worried about friends until at least Kindergarten, and at that time I would rather teach them how to be a friend rather than start them off with the example of discontent and self-focus.

If a child has someone there to read this book to him, he is not alone and already has at least one other human in his life. But if friendlessness is truly a problem for a very young child, I can’t see that this story would do anything to help.

I’d prefer to teach colors with a book like The Color Kittens — not that anyone is in dire need of a book to learn about this aspect of every single item in his environment.

The animal in this story is not a good representative of his species; real chameleons use their color-changing abilities in order to make themselves unseen, not the opposite. To hide from enemies, not to make friends. And I’m pretty sure they don’t change their shape, or take on more than one color at a time, unlike these storybook creatures — or the stuffed toy in my living room — who go about with all their colors shining brilliantly at once.

I suppose the biggest problem with this book is that I find it boring, so I am annoyed with it and try to figure out what bothers me. Too many books for the very young aren’t any fun for the adults and I suspect that that is one reason they don’t read to the children as much as might be profitable. Next time I should write about a book I love to read to children. But you probably already know about all of those!