Enough For One Man’s Life

I never realized how big the difference was between the words “of” and “from” until I went to Italy.  I have never studied much English grammar.  Most of what I know, grammar wise, has come from observation in reading, with a little help from some studies in Greek.   So I never gave the difference between “of” and “from” much thought.

But the Italians do.  It was on every single test.  Where I would say, “I am from Pittsburgh,” the Italians would say, “I am of Pittsburgh.”  Because “from” implies a leaving of a place with no real relationship, whereas “of” implies belonging.  This is the place where I was born.  This is the place where I belong.  This is the place I am of.  This is not to say that where you are born is where you will always belong.

My soul and my body stretch with the places I have been.  I have felt a belonging, a being of, in some places with which I have not had much connection before besides family heritage.  I can yearn for a place, wanting to go “back”, and feeling that I am going to a place of origin, returning.  But it is not only places that demand our sense of belonging, our being of.  It is people too.  My children will be of me as I am of my mother; a wife and husband become as much “of” each other as if they had been biologically related, but this being “of” is a much deeper and sacred union.  I am of the earth, and also, I am of God.

Being of God, his Spirit lives in me.  And so, I am filled.  I am blessed.  And when I brood in my mind over the things I desire, the places I want to go, the person I wish to be, the life I do not have that I want to have, a small voice in the back of my head says: “Isn’t He enough?”

I counter, I argue, I try to find a way around it.  But I am of God and his Spirit is in me; therefore, I cannot keep on avoiding the truth that is also inside of me.  He is enough.  And if I immerse myself in him, if I am constantly plunging into his grace and offering myself to him as a vessel for him to use, that is enough.  It is not that I cannot have desire to pursue, to carry out.  But if I am so rooted in Christ, he will open up the door for me.  And being in him, and him being in me, if I have an open mind, I can see ways that I didn’t think existed, or dreams that I never thought of dreaming.

I tend to separate the spiritual from the physical. My mistake is that I do not see Christ everywhere.  If I try very hard I can, but it doesn’t come without trying.  I don’t look at people and see Christ. I don’t look at the world and immediately think of God.  I don’t live slowly enough to grasp the full meaning of the moment, to look at that person and think: “He is made in the image of God.”  I know though, with the grace that is of and flows from God, that it doesn’t have to be this way.  Again, if I am so immersed in him, then I cannot fail to see him everywhere.  I want to see him everywhere. I want to be reminded of him in every face I see, in the sun and the moon and the unblinded stars at night, and in the fresh wind that smells wet and fragrant like the earth.

“To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man’s life.” (T.S. Eliot) Everything I have is enough.  Or if I do not have it, it is within my grasp, through him who gives me strength.  Because there is a difference between getting enough and having enough.  I have everything I need.  To do useful things, to be of service, to think about the beautiful things, to speak truth—all this is within me.  I have the ability to live the Christian life, and I can be fully satisfied, fully filled and even overflowing.

“My God, a moment of bliss. Why, isn’t that enough for a whole lifetime?” (Fydor Dostoevsky)  Neither do I need to be searching for happiness, or bliss.  One moment can last forever.  He is in me, and that can and will be my constant joy.  I feel it when I think on him, that happiness, or joy, is not a feeling, it’s a state of being, it’s like a place that we enter into by decision almost, like love.  And that place that we enter into is Christ.

 

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On Sunday The Church Bells Are Ringing

It is a lovely, cool morning with an empty sky and a bright sun, and the church bells are ringing every hour or half hour or even every fifteen minutes.  I haven’t counted yet.  I slept for a long time last night, and in my subconsciousness was thinking of verb conjugations for my Italian homework.  So much knowledge has been crammed into my brain this last week I have little time to think about anything else.  I’m still trying to sort it all out, and when I woke up this morning to the beautiful sun, I had a sense of peace and calm.

Last night at 8pm I finally stopped studying to go find myself dinner.  Claudia and the family are gone for the week, and I ran out of food last night.  I walked around various places, almost stepped into one or two restaurants, but decided against them.  Finally, not being able to ignore my hunger, I picked a restaurant that had the Tuscan soup which I love (and have forgotten the name of.)  The soup is made with bread, beans, and vegetables.  It was the only thing I ordered (besides some house wine), which the waitress seemed to think was strange.  But what was even stranger for her was when I ordered fresh bread after I was finished with my soup. “Solo pane? solo pane?” she kept saying, looking at me. “Si, si—solo pane!” I said, making some weird gesture with my arm to give her the idea that I knew it was weird to order only bread.

When no one was looking, I crammed a few pieces of bread into my purse.

I felt like some sort of character from a Dickens novel, spending the last of his money on a meal, and saving some of the food—stuffing it away—so no one would know how desperate he was.  Of course, I wasn’t desperate, I just knew that the bread would come in handy for today when I would take myself out for a picnic to the gardens, and I could make a sandwich with the bread I took.

I paid the bill and went to sit in the Piazza, perfectly alone and perfectly content to be alone watching all these interesting people, listening to the only sound there was to listen to: the blended hum of people talking, with an occasional screech from a child or cheering of a crowd.  I walked home in the dark and tried to concentrate on more Italian, but my eyes were heavy and I went to bed, leaving it all for today.

And when today came, I had breakfast with a Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger placemat, my typical cocoa with orzo in warm milk, and some kind of biscuit.  I sat quietly eating, while listening to a refreshing sermon that I heard once a long time ago.  When it was over, I kept wishing it hadn’t ended.  Now the rest of the Italian waits for me, and I’m about to go in, resolutely, to butcher conjugations.  I have half an idea my teacher will be horrified with me tomorrow, but if she is we’ll have to have some one on one time.

Today I’m going to try to find the botanical gardens.  I am ready for some rest—not the rest of sleeping, but the willed kind of a rest.  The kind of rest you experience when you say: “I’m not going to let this or that worry me.”  I am ready to walk out of this apartment, into the old stone street shaded by the city wall, up the hills, and into beauty.  I am ready to experience beauty, to become one with it and reconciled with it, because it is peace and comfort to know that Christ is beauty and everything lives and breathes in him, and I can hear him when the wind blows and I can hear him in the light of the sun and the birds when they sing.  So I go out to be at rest.

After my verb conjugations are complete.

‘Sorrow Drips Into Your Heart’

Early in the morning, before you can quite see the sun, but when there is enough light to see the growing sky and the branches of trees, an autumnal wind usually blows scurrying leaves across the pavement and a feeling of life into your soul.  If I listen very intently, I can feel the energy in the atmosphere around me, the beating of my own heart, the urge to stride through the slight mist.  These times, in the early morning, are the easiest times for me to pray.  If I listen I hear nature’s chirps and calls, the wind in the trees, and I feel the air, see the sky growing golden and light blue.  I feel closest to God, for I am reveling in the cycle of Life that he has created.

But this time is also dangerous to me, for it makes me want to be alone, to make myself solitary so I can think.  It makes me want to grasp the early morning, to make it stay.  Once, not very long ago, I hoped that perhaps God would make the sun still in the sky somewhere far away, so I could keep this early light to myself.

So easily we taint our God-given pleasures.  We turn them into things that must stay, that must be present with us always.  Our blessings become our gods, and we give, as I heard in a book the other night, our “living affection to dying things.”  Things like nature serve a purpose, not only for the earth and the ecosystems they’re placed in—not only for the cycle of life but to enhance our appreciation of God and his masterful and intelligent design.  It is not the things we enjoy that demand our love and our undivided worship, it is God.

We waste so much of our sorrow on these passing things because they’re passing.  If our love and our faith and our entire being were implanted and embedded in God, then we would not have any sorrow to waste on passing things.  Rather, we would see nature and all the other gifts and pleasures in life through the eyes of righteousness, and they become what they are: blessings.  Enjoy your youth.  Don’t lament because it’s passing (this is my biggest problem) but embrace the whole cycle of growing up.  Enjoy your motherhood or fatherhood, your singleness or your married life, your old age.  Embrace it and come to terms with it.  Don’t weep because a time of your life you loved has passed, but keep on living with the assurance that you enjoyed it, and lived to the best of your ability, and now there is another adventure ahead of you.  Even we are passing, these bodies we have now, and there’s nothing we can do about it.  But our soul, the essence of our being, is eternal, and when we die, it will not linger on this earth to lament about lost pleasures.  It will haste on its way, called to stand before God and give an account of that life it just left.

The only reason we have for rejoicing is that there is a God in the heavens who has loved his people enough to give his own life for them, in order that they might live.  It’s because of this that we can laugh and sing and dance, that we can rejoice and be glad, that we can find joy in the blessings he has given us, and joy in him because of the assurance that we will one day be called into his presence.  Don’t let the world shape your view of God, but let your belief in God and your faith shape your view of the world.  For the world changes with its fashions and its phases, but God never changes, and that should be our greatest comfort: he is steadfast.

The Way of Living

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the things around you
maybe the swelling rain
that makes you blink in the dark,
and inhale the wet air,

or maybe the expectation
that tells you something perfect will happen,
if you only believe.

Watch the flowers, and see how the honey-crisp
bee plots and sticks his feet on the petals,
probing further and further;
watch him gather the honey, and fly away,
watch the flowers grow till they droop to the earth.

Listen to the wind, in its circuit across the lake
catch with your eyes the flip of the water’s surface;
hold in your hand a slimy earth-worm, and feel it writhe
or, if it’s too gross for you, a moth, holding it cleverly
between the cages of your fingers,
delicate.

Think about the things that matter,
the robin chewing up food for its young,
the eternal beat of our steps on the earth,
or the poem that told you: “live.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Excerpts From My Antonia

I’ve been reading My Antonia today by Willa Cather.  I can’t tell where it’s going to go, but I thought I’d share a few beautiful passages.  There are lots more that I would like to share… the book has a beauty and charm all its own, it’s singular and unique.

 

I sat down in the middle of the garden, where snakes could scarcely approach unseen, and leaned my back against a warm yellow pumpkin.  There were some ground-cherry bushes growing along the furrows, full of fruit.  I turned back the papery triangular sheaths that protected the berries and ate a few. All about me giant grasshoppers, twice as big as any I had ever seen, were doing acrobatic feats among the dried vines.  The gophers scurried up and down the ploughed ground.  There in the sheltered draw-bottom the wind did not blow very hard, but I could hear it singing its humming tune up on the level, and I could see the tall grasses wave.  The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers.  Queer little red bugs came and moved in slow squadrons around me. Their backs were polished vermilion, with black spots.  I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened.  I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.  When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep. (My Antonia, chapter 2)

All those fall afternoons were the same, but I never got used to them. As far as we could see, the miles of copper-red grass were drenched in sunlight that was stronger and fiercer than at any other time of the day.  The blond cornfields were red-gold, the haystacks turned rosy and threw long shadows. The whole prairie was like the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed.  That hour always had the exultation of victory, of triumphant ending, like a hero’s death—heroes who died young and gloriously.  It was a sudden transfiguration, a lifting-up of day. (My Antonia, chapter 6)

Favorite Things

I have favorite things, a lot of them, and sometimes I love to blurt them all out, so I’m going to right now.

1. Spring. The way it feels on my skin, and the shivers it sends through my body.  The tension between the wind that freezes and the sun that warms.  The heavy clouds that want to drop on the earth, and empty their burdens on my uncovered head.

2. Books. The way a book feels in my hand, the way my mind responds to it, the way my forehead creases into worry before I realize how anxious I must look to any passerby.  The way I get so immersed into it, as if the book was a culture in and of itself.

3. Colors. How the colors of my room remind me of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, with its snatches of beauty and color splattered here and there, the primroses on the sill of my window, a shelf filled with vintage collections from grandmothers, and old books.

4. Freedom. Personal freedom. How free my life is now that I’ve deactivated my facebook.  I feel more private, personal, and original, less busy, less of a nosey person. Really I’m just so happy, because now people have to ask me what’s going on.  They have to call me or come visit.  I love hearing your voices and getting your letters and seeing your faces much better than I like hearing about it all on the internet.

5. Guitar. Hearing my older brother play the guitar at night.  For six years he’s been out of the house.  Now he and his wife are staying with us a few months before moving to Scotland, and I realize how much I’ve missed hearing his fingers strum out the songs in his head.

6. Youth. The grace God has given me to realize the short time I have now, and the strength he’s given me to use my time wisely.

7. Forgetfulness. How often I don’t write on this blog, and how many times a day I say: “I should really write a blog post on that…”

8. Cemeteries.  Feeling myself living and breathing, and knowing that I will decay and rot, but someday, I will meet some of these souls in eternity, and my heart-beat quickens when I think of my approaching death, because it will bind me to my Saviour.  Another favorite thing is bound up in this: fighting the fight I was called to.  For though I look forward to death, I take joy in this life, in this battle, that is weary at times and painful, but I take joy in it because I do it for the sake of Christ, and he has given me a mind, a taste, a sense for the beautiful.

9. Flowers. Tulips and daffodils, and how, when I’m going to sleep, the spring breeze carries their scent from the vase where they stand to me, everything sweet and lovely about it.

10. Music.  The Water, sung by Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling.  It’s so simple, almost melancholy, but it appeals to my mind.

11.  Silence.  How, when I close my eyes, everything is filled.  The soul-waves that bear me almost to the brink of the unbearable, that fill me with pain, joy, thankfulness, and love.

12. Love. True love, and you’ll probably get a post on it soon.  I am rather fed up with the world and how most people deal with love, because to my eyes it is sacred.  The ties between siblings, children and parents, husband and wife, friends, the love that binds them together is sacred.  Alright… more on that later… maybe tonight…

13. Fifty-Six Stories.  I am truly addicted to it.  I love writing my little story each night, I love how it’s become a natural part of me.  I love seeing my writing progress and regress and then progress again.  I love the critiques my friends give me.

14. Memories.  I have many, and they seem bitter sweet.  A smell of something will remind me of days when I was little and ran freely in the joy of youth.  I am still basking in youth, loving it, embracing it, meeting it full in the face, trying to capture every moment of it.

15. Dreaming.  Purposeful dreaming.  A sudden lull in the beat of every day life, where a dream comes, the excitement it brings, and the joy.  Another purpose, a new goal, something to pursue.

16. Problems.  I have had a lot of problems this year.  I’ve felt pretty messed up sometimes, but looking back, I see how they’ve strengthened me.  Even in the midst of them, I enjoyed in a rather odd way how low I was, how completely laid low, just because I knew that I would be raised up with new courage.

17. Learning.  Ideas, thoughts, philosophies, dreams, adventures.  I love these things with my heart, and I love talking about them with other people.  I’ll settle for reading, but I much prefer looking at the sky through the branches of a budding tree and talking about people’s ideas, and learning from wiser people.

18.  Fairytales.  The lost meanings, the misinterpreted beauty.  I love the originality, the sameness and yet variety.  I love folklore too.

19. Friends.  The good friends who inspire you, who help you along the road of life, encouraging, honing, giving all they can and accepting what you give.

20.  Family.  My mother, good and kind, wonderful and inspiring.  My daddy, strong and wise, who can answer any question I ask.  My brothers and sisters, dearly loved, with all their quirks and eccentricities, all their wildness, their different characters and personalities.

At the end of this list I find myself blessed, as always.  Almost burdened by so much goodness, so much joy that has been given to my soul.  Some people find me quiet, some find me loud.  I express myself in different ways, but I am a thinker.  I think when the joy is too much for me,  I laugh loud and sing when it is too much for me.  I am thankful and happy in the life God has placed before me, abandoned to the race in front of me, ready to fight His battle.

Of Primroses and Books

On this warm Spring day, my primroses are dying.

I killed them.

I really did, because I didn’t water them. And now I’m sitting calmly writing about it while their drooping leaves are draping themselves over the pots.

I should take care of my flowers.

I used to think  I would be a horrible gardener, because whenever I went outside I would most likely read and not attend to the earth.  At other times I think I would make a wonderful gardener, because I love feeling the dirt on my hands, and tending the flowers and herbs.

I admire people who garden.  When I’m gardening, I usually think: “I wonder how many pages of such and such a book I could have covered,” or, “I wonder how much I could have written in a blogpost or a story or an essay.”

I’m sitting here writing about all my faults, all the while neglecting a comparison essay on Darwin and Marx…

There’s been a thought in my mind that I’m sure has been there for my whole life, but has been experiencing micro-evolution, and has been growing with me.  It is the idea of a holistic life.  I do know how to cook, I know how to write, and I know how to play piano.  But I also know how to read, and that seems to send all the other things into the water.  I read when I’m supposed to write, I read when I should cook, and sometimes I grow impatient when I’m playing the piano so I go read instead.

As a writer, I have become convinced of the importance of “being accomplished” as the Jane Austen prigs would say.  I’m not saying that I have to know French, German and have “a general knowledge of all contemporary languages,” or that I have to play the piano incredibly well, or that I need to be able to paint screens and embroider cushions.

But I do believe in experience.  I believe that experiences form the most poignant stories.   That’s why true stories grip us.  When Gene-Stratton Porter writes about birds, insects, and nature in fiction you appreciate it all the more because she was, in fact, a naturalist.  The same goes for any author who describes the way a drawing or portrait is done, if he has a knowledge of art.

Beatrix Potter’s stories are charming because she wrote and illustrated them, and because she kept many of the animals she writes about as pets.  Arthur Ransome wrote and illustrated his own works as well.  And we mustn’t forget J.R.R. Tolkien, whose illustrations for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings lend a whole new perspective into the work.  They are truly beautiful, and you know that this is exactly what he wanted things to look like.

Historical literature is a wonderful thing, let me tell you.  But what makes it so interesting?  That the writer has knowledge enough of history to know what he’s talking about in fiction that he knows how to write. (We’re talking about the good historical fiction here, yes? Yes.)

What I’m trying to say is that fiction is always more interesting when it’s not just a romance where people talk back and forth about how they can’t live without each other.  (By the way, I think that romance in literature is biblical and sometimes, depending on the context, necessary, but I think it needs to be well-mixed with other elements.)  Fiction is always more interesting when there’s a law intrigue (Bleak House by Charles Dickens, for example) or when there is an art theme (A Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevelier) or when there is historical background (Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.)  But if you think about it, all these books have many, many other elements combined.  In order to have a variety of characters, there must be a variety of characteristics.

Imagination is a beautiful thing, but imagination also tends to go overboard. (I always tell myself that I can’t write stories about Switzerland until I go to Switzerland… but maybe that’s beside the point.)  Imagination tends to make things out to be more than they really are.  The problem with mine is that it tends to blow up a circumstance—one I’ve never been in— like a balloon, and then make the character respond as I would imagine they would respond, not taking the time to see the character as a real person with their own personality.

This is why the study of life is so important to those who are going to write.  I know I’ve said it before, but I like to say it again because it sounds nice and studious and thoughtful.  I would like to have a general knowledge of art and drawing and painting… Then I could draft my illustrations and have some other painter who’s good at the thing paint them.

It’s always nicer reading a book where the mother is cooking something and you know that the author knew how to cook because of the way he describes the food, lovingly, in a way, and thoughtfully.  He knows what he’s talking about.  I’m guessing Dickens didn’t cook because the way he approaches food is rather indifferent.

Chesterton is another matter.  If he didn’t know how to cook, he certainly was passionate about his food (see here Chesterton on Cheese) and that fact alone makes the meals described in his books more interesting to read about.

Then there is the aspect of music.  I love music.  I play piano, but not like I should.  Every day I sit down to play and I think: “Good heavens, I wonder why I’m so sloppy.” I shouldn’t be surprised when I never really practice.  I know enough about music, the history of music, genres, and composers to appreciate it in literature.  The First Violin, by Jesse Fothergill, is not very well known, and the romance is a bit sentimental  but I was able to appreciate the many musical aspects of it because I was introduced previously to Beethoven and Bruckner and others.

The thing of it is, people don’t appreciate books that were written by unintelligent and misinformed people.  Perhaps the majority of America love Stephanie Myer, but I have to wonder if she really knows what love is.  Awhile ago there was a rumor that J.K. Rowling was a witch.  If she was, then we know that Harry Potter was truly penned from the heart.

All this gets back to the idea of a holistic life.  It is not enough to imagine myself doing the gardening, or cooking a meal, or painting a picture.  It is not enough to simply read about them.  Even on a small scale, it is enough to experience.  This is because sight, sound, texture, smell, taste… these are all part of it.  I love the way the air tastes around the basil and oregano plants.  I love the way it feels to play Chopin passionately.  I love the way the paints swirl together while your mixing colors for a picture.  I love the way bread dough feels under my hands.  You cannot experience the feelings that come as natural consequences of these activities through reading.  You must do them.

Turkish Rugs

I want to be a Turkish rug.

Because I am saying it now, it probably seems ridiculous to you.  After all, why would I want to be a rug? Even metaphorically speaking?

I often amuse myself by looking at questions in my science book before I read the material.  It amuses me because it shows me how reading one or two paragraphs can teach me so many things.  The phrase “I want to be  Turkish rug,” acts like the science question.  It makes no sense now, but after you read my post it will, and I hope you will want to be a Turkish rug with me.

I was reading about Edmond Dantes apartments in Rome in The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas.  It talked about the rugs, the tapestries, the paintings, the vases, and everything else.

“Of course,” was the first thought that came to my mind.  The description didn’t surprise or astonish me, because everything was relative.  It is not surprising that some of the best composers were German, because of Beethoven, Bach, Mendelssohn, Strauss, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann.  French silks, Egyptian cotton, Indian spices.  The best glass is, of course Venetian glass.  Dutch cabinets are quite common, and Arabian horses are said to be the fastest.  All well-plotted and planted gardens must be English.  If you wish to describe a richly woven tapestry or carpet, it will probably be Turkish. None of these things surprise or shock us—they are all in their element, especially when put together.  It is only right that they should go together.

Let us look at the reverse of the Count’s room.  The hovel.

A broken table, three-legged chairs with pieces of rotten wood replacing the missing support.  The floor is of dirt, pieces of soiled rags are stuffed in the cracks of the walls.  Rain drips from the roof, but there are no buckets to place under it.  The children are hardly dressed, the wife has greasy hair and filthy clothes.  The husband sits at the table, head in his hands.  A rat investigates a broken cupboard, but there is no food.  A piece of yellowed canvas stretched over a smashed window pane.  Rivulets stream under the door and gather into a puddle underneath the table.  The walls are stained, the ceiling is of rancid straw.

This is the way I imagined the poor man’s house in The Idiot.  I do not remember his name, but it was not surprising to me.  When his poor, ragged clothes were described, it was only right that he should live in a hovel.

But could you imagine the bright, rich, warm Turkish rug in this hovel?

Or could you imagine the dirt floor in the apartment of the Count?

Those two things are startling, when you think about it.  If I walked into the hovel, I would not gape in astonishment at the natural surroundings.  But if the Turkish rug were there, I would be puzzled, confused.  Likewise, the Count’s room would only surprise me if I saw that he had a dirt floor, or a thatched ceiling.

It’s because the Venetian glass and the Turkish rugs, the rat and the broken window are all relative.  When the glass and the rug are by themselves, they stand out.  When they are put together, they compliment each other.  It is the same with the rat and window, but in a more repulsive sense.  Yet, if the Venetian glass was set by a broken window, the thing becomes confusing, as does the rat on the Turkish carpet.

The latter combination does not fit, and does not belong.  It never will.

If this world were our hovel, then I would want to be the Turkish rug.  The bright, cheerful element that lifts the utter depression of the place, and shocks and surprises the onlooker at the same time.  But it is a good sort of surprise and curiosity.

“Where did this rug come from?” they would ask.

But I would never want to be the dirt floor in the count’s apartments.  I would want to replace the hovel with a mahogany table, French paintings, Venetian glass, Roman marble floors.  I would want to make it into the count’s apartments, but I would never want to be the stain on the beautiful.

Hitler was a stain on the beautiful.  He destroyed many of the carpets and smashed the Venetian glass, reducing the spectacular elements of the room to more like that of a hovel.

But I am determined to be a Turkish rug, and I want my friends to join me in this.  Be something outstanding, be as startling and shocking to the world as the rug in the hovel.  Remember that the world is watching you.  It will not be surprised if I revert to being the dirt floor—in fact, it might feel a little less uncomfortable if all things remain in their own elements.  “Leave Heaven to itself, and let the world be, though it is a hovel.”  But I cannot do that.  If the world is a hovel with all its proper elements, how can those who enter have any idea of a salvation from such a life?

So I want to be  Turkish rug, or the Venetian glass, or a German symphony, or an Indian spice.  Join me.

Ethereality

Sometimes there are those wonderful poems that take us away from the reality and darkness of this world and bind us to beauty and peace.  I feel like this poem is one of them.  I know it is a little long, but it is worth the read.

Sleeping Beauty, by Maxfield Parrish


Alfred, Lord Tennyson


THE DAY-DREAM

Prologue

O Lady Flora, let me speak:

A pleasant hour has passed away

While, dreaming on your damask cheek,

The dewy sister-eyelids lay.

As by the lattice you reclined,

I went thro’ many wayward moods

To see you dreaming—and, behind,

A summer crisp with shining woods.

And I too dream’d, until at last

Across my fancy, brooding warm,

The reflex of a legend past,

And loosely settled into form.

And would you have the thought I had,

And see the vision that I saw,

Then take the broidery-frame and add

A crimson to the quaint Macaw,

And I will tell it. Turn your face,

Nor look with that too-earnest eye—

The rhymes are dazzled from their place

And order’d words asunder fly.

 

 

The Sleeping Palace

I.

The varying year with blade and sheaf

Clothes and reclothes the happy plains,

Here rests the sap within the leaf,

Here stays the blood along the veins.

Faint shadows, vapours lightly curl’d,

Faint murmurs from the meadows come,

Like hints and echoes of the world

To spirits folded in the womb.

 

II.

Soft lustre bathes the range of urns

On every slanting terrace-lawn.

The fountain to his place returns

Deep in the garden lake withdrawn.

Here droops the banner on the tower,

On the hall-heaths the festal fires,

The peacock in his laurel bower,

The parrot in his gilded wires.

 

III.

Roof-haunting martins warm their eggs:

In these, in those the life is stay’d.

The mantles from the golden pegs

Droop sleepily: no sound is made,

Not even of a gnat that sings.

More like a pictures seemeth all

Than those old portraits of old kings,

That watch the sleepers from the wall.

 

IV.

Here sits the Butler with a flask

Between his knees, half-drain’d; and there

The wrinkled steward at his task,

The maid-of-honour blooming fair;

The page has caught her hand in his:

Her lips are sever’d as to speak:

His own are pouted to a kiss:

THe blush is fix’d upon her cheek.

 

V.

Till all the hundred summers pass,

The beams, that thro’ the Oriel shine,

Make prisms in every carven glass,

And beaker brimm’d with noble wine.

Each baron at the banquet sleeps,

Grave faces gather’d in a ring.

His state the king reposing keeps.

He must have been a jovial king.

 

VI.

All round a hedge upshoots, and shows

At distance like a little wood;

Thorns ivies, woodbine, mistletoes,

And grapes with bunches red as blood;

All creeping plants, a wall of green

Close-matted, bur and brake and briar,

And glimpsing over these, just seen,

High up, the topmost palace spire.

 

VII.

When will the hundred summers die,

And thought and time be born again,

And newer knowledge, drawing nigh,

Bring truth that sways the soul of men?

Here all things in their place remain,

As all were order’d, ages since.

Com, Care and Pleasure, Hope and Pain,

And bring the fated fairy Prince.

 

The Sleeping Beauty

I.

Year after year unto her feet,

She lying on her couch alone,

Across the purple coverlet,

The maiden’s jet-black hair has grown,

On either side her tranced form

Forth streaming from a braid of pearl:

The slumbrous light is rich and warm

And moves not on the rounded curl.

 

II.

The silk star-broider’d coverlid

Unto her limbs itself doth mould

Languidly ever; and, amid

Her full black ringlets downward roll’d,

Glows forth each softly-shadow’d arm

With bracelets of the diamond bright:

Her constant beauty doth inform

Stillness with love, and day with light.

 

III.

She sleeps: her breathings are not heard

In palace chambers far apart.

The fragrant tresses are not stirr’d

That lie upon her charmed heart.

She sleeps: on either hand upswells

The gold-fringed pillow lightly prest:

She sleeps, nor dreams, but ever dwells

A perfect form in perfect rest.

 

The Arrival

I.

All precious things, discover’d late,

To those that seek them issue foth;

For love in sequel works with fate,

And draws the veil from hidden worth.

He travels far from other skies—

His mantle glitters on the rocks—

A fairy Prince, with joyful eyes,

And lighter-footed than the fox.

 

II.

The bodies and the bones of those

That strove in other days to pass,

Are wither’d in the thorny close,

Or scatter’d blanching on the grass.

He gazes on the silent dead:

‘They perish’d in their daring deeds.’

This proverb flashes thro’ his head,

‘The many fail: the one succeeds.’

 

III.

He comes, scarce knowing what he seeks:

He breaks the hedge: he enters there:

The colour flies into his cheeks:

He trusts to light on something fair;

For all his life the charm did talk

About his path, and hover near

With words of promise in his walk,

And whisper’d voices at his ear.

 

IV.

More close and close his footsteps wind:

The Magic Music in his heart

Beats quick and quicker, till he find

The quiet chamber far apart.

His spirit flutters like a lark,

He stoops—to kiss her—on his knee.

‘Love, if thy tresses be so dark,

How dark those hidden eyes must be!’

 

The Rivival

I.

A touch, a kiss! the charm was snapt.

There rose a noise of striking clocks,

And feet that ran, and doors that clapt,

And barking dogs, and crowing cocks;

A fuller light illumined all,

A breeze thro’ all the garden swept,

A sudden hubbub shook the hall,

And sixty feet the fountain leapt.

 

II.

The hedge broke in, the banner blew,

The butler drank, the steward scrawl’d,

The fire shot up, the martin flew,

The parrot scream’d, the peacock squall’d,

The maid and page renew’d their strife,

The palace ban’d, and buzz’d and clackt,

And all the long-pent stream of life

Dash’d downward in a cataract.

 

III.

And last with these the king awoke,

And in his chair himself uprear’d,

ANd yawn’d, and rubb’d his face, and spok,

‘By holy rood, a royal beard!

How say you? we have slept, my lords.

My beard has grown into my lap.’

The barons swore, with many words,

‘Twas but an after-dinner’s nap.

 

IV.

‘Pardy,’ return’d the king, ‘but still

My joints are somewhat stiff or so.

My lord, and shall we pass the bill

I mention’d half an hour ago?’

The chancellor, sedate and vain,

In courteous words return’d reply:

But dallied with his golden chain,

And, smiling, put the question by.

 

The Departure

I.

And on her lover’s arm she leant,

And round her waist she felt it fold,

And far across the hills they went

In that new world which is the old:

Across the hills, and far away

Beyond their utmost purple rim,

And deep into the dying day

The happy princess follow’d him.

 

II.

‘I’d sleep another hundred years,

O love, for such another kiss,’

‘O wake for ever, love,’ she hears,

‘O love, ’twas such as this and this.’

And o’er them many a sliding star,

And many a merry wind was borne,

And, stream’d thro’ many a golden bar,

The twilight melted into morn.

 

III.

‘O eyes long laid in happy sleep!’

‘O happy sleep, that lightly fled!’

‘O happy kiss, that woke thy sleep!’

‘O love, thy kiss would wake the dead!’

And o’er them many a flowing range

Of vapour buoy’d the crescent-bark,

And, rapt, thro’ many a rosy change,

The twilight died into the dark.

 

IV.

‘And hundred summers! can it be?

And whither goest thou, tell me where?’

‘O seek my father’s court with me,

For there are greater wonders there.’

And o’er the hills, and fary away

Beyond their utmost purple rim,

Beyond the night, across the day,

Thro’ all the world she follow’d him.

 

Moral

I.

So, Lady Flora, take my lay,

And if you find no moral there,

Go look in any glass and say,

What moral is in being fair.

Oh, to what uses shall we put

The wildweed-flower that simply blows?

And is there any moral shut

Within the bosom of the rose?

 

II.

But any man that walks the mead,

In bud or blade, or bloom, may find,

According as his humours lead,

A meaning suited to his mind.

And liberal applications lie

In Art like Nature, dearest friend;

So ’twere to cramp its use, if I

Should hook it to some useful end.

 

L’envoi

I.

you shake your head. A random string

Your finer female sense offends.

Well—were it not a pleasant thing

To fall asleep with all one’s friends;

To pass with all our social ties

To silence from the paths of men;

And every hundred years to rise

And learn the world, and sleep again;

To sleep thro’ terms of mighty wars,

And wake on science grown to more,

On secrets of the brain, the stars,

As wild as aught of fairy lore;

And all that else the years will show,

The Poet-forms of stronger hours,

The vast Republics that may grow,

The Federations and the Powers;

Titanic forces taking birth

In divers seasons, divers climes;

For we are Ancients of the earth,

And in the morning of the times.

 

II.

So sleeping, so aroused from sleep

Thro’ sunny decades new and strange,

Or gay quinquenniads would we reap

The flower and quintessence of change.

 

III.

Ah, yet would I—and would I might!

So much your eyes my fancy take–

Be still the first to leap to light

That I might kiss those eyes awake!

For, am I right, or am I wrong,

To choose your own you did not care;

You’d have my moral from the song,

And I will take my pleasure there:

And, am I right or am I wrong,

My fancy, ranging thro’ and thro’,

To search a meaning for the song,

Perforce will still revert to you;

Nor finds a closer truth than this

All-graceful head, so richly curl’d,

ANd evermore a costly kiss

The prelude to some brighter world.

 

IV.

For since the time when Adam first

Embraced his Eve in happy hour,

And every bird of Eden burst

In carol, every bud to flower,

What eyes, like thine, have waken’d hopes,

What lips, like thine, so sweetly join’d?

Where on the double rosebud droops

The fulness of the pensive mind;

Which all too dearly self-involved,

Yet sleeps a dreamless sleep to me;

A sleep by kisses undissolved,

That lets thee neither hear nor see:

But break it. IN the name of wife,

And in the rights that name may give,

Are clasp’d the moral of they life,

And that for which I care to live.

 

Epilogue

So, Lady Flora, take my lay,

And, if you find a meaning there,

O whisper to your glass, and say,

‘What wonder, if he thinks me fair?’

What wonder I was all unwise,

To shape the song for your delight

Like long tail’d birds of Paradise

That float thro’ Heaven, and cannot light?

Or old-world trains, upheld at court

By Cupid-boys of blooming hue—

But take it—earnest wed with sport,

And either sacred unto you.

 

The Voices of My Life

There are so many voices of my life.  They inspire me, they clear my head, they make me feel.  I absolutely love music.  Today I was doing some Algebra on the couch with Tirzah…. I had my headphones in, and I was singing along with all four movements of Beethoven’s fifth symphony… and pretending I knew how to conduct.  I did it because the music enthralled me.  I made her laugh, partly because I couldn’t hear myself sing and probably sounded very sharp through the — ahem — shall we say difficult passages.

There is another song that inspires me to the -enth degree.   Listen to it.

I cannot tell you… how… amazing that is to me. How wonderful.  As Bugs Bunny would say, “I have goosebumps, on my goosebumps.”

I realized that music like this song and Beethoven’s fifth form the voices of our lives.  I mean that they are the most inspirational—the ones we listen to over and over and over again.   The voices of our lives… it sounds beautiful, but it also does not imply that they are good voices.

In the beginning of the Silmarillion, in the thought of Iluvatar, the Ainur spun him a melody that was glorious.  Together they created a chorused that pleased Iluvatar.  But Melkor, one of the highest Holy ones, had it in his thought to create his own melody, and not follow the one that Iluvatar had instructed.  Therefore, he began to spin and weave, and the theme was no longer melodious, and the Ainur sensed a powerful music being played.  Melkor’s self-will was great, and he challenged Iluvatar to a duel of Melodies.

“Then Iluvatar rose, and the Ainur perceived that he smiled; and he lifted up his left hand, and a new theme began amid the storm, like and yet unlike to the former theme, and it gathered power an had new beauty. But the discord of Melkor rose in uproar and contended with it, and again there was a war of sound more violent than before, until many of the Ainur were dismayed and sang no long, and Melkor had mastery.  Then again Iluvatar arose, and the Ainur perceived that his countenance was stern; and he lifted up his right hand, and behold! a third theme grew amid the confusion, and it was unlike the others. For it seemed at first soft and sweet, a mere rippling of gentle sounds in delicate melodies; but it could not be quenched, and it took to itself power and profundity. And it seemed at last that there were two musics progressing at one time before the seat of Iluvatar, and they were utterly at variance.  The one was deep and wide and beautiful, but slow and blended with an immeasurable sorrow, from which its beauty chiefly came.  The other had no achieved a unity of its own; but it was loud, and vain, and endlessly repeated; and it had little harmony, but rather a clamorous unison as of many trumpets braying upon a few notes. And it essayed to drown the other music by the violence of its voice, but it seemed that its most triumphant notes were taken by the other and woven into its own solemn patter.

In the midst of this strive, whereat the halls of Iluvatar shook and a tremor ran out into the silences yet unmoved, Iluvatar arose a third time, and his face was terrible to behold. Then he raised up both his hands, and in one chord, deeper than the Abyss, higher than the Firmament, piercing as the light of the eye of Iluvatar, the Music ceased.

Iluvatar told Melkor that no one could invent a theme that did not have its uttermost roots in himself, and he threw him out.

There are voices in our lives, and not necessarily songs, that are like Melkor’s melody.  They bring discord, they are loud and violent, making more noise than anything.  But there are voices in your head that inspire you to do good, to think wonderful things, voices that turn your head to all things wonderful and beautiful, voices that bring you back to the center of everything: to the Creator.  These voices are things that guide you, that influence you.

So then there’s the bad voices. What a clever discrimination—the good voices, and the bad voices.  Well, what would you have said? For these bad voices, I cannot name any one element of intellectual study or cultural products because it changes for each person, depending on their strengths and weaknesses.  But we must be wary of what our Voices are.  We must be ever so careful… and we must always ask if it matches Iluvatar’s melody, to use the metaphoric image.

Just remember the three aspects of Iluvatar’s melody… Truth, beauty, and goodness.  This famous guideline doesn’t say happiness, or sorrow, or non-violence, or violence… but if it fits into those three aspects, it is probably a beautiful and wise Voice.