Against the disposable, away from the technofix, certain questions emerge. They are about relearning our being in the world. I heard these from a scientist poet, although she didn’t call herself this. Asked to describe her work, she said listening. She said delight. She called it the work of waiting.
For what, I wondered. She said, consider the reverence of the speechless stone. What would they ask of us, she wondered back, that would allow our admission into their holy communion, and how would we hear them? Perhaps by these skeletons, our marrow singing like well-tuned bowls.
Nothing is single here, she said, and nothing goes one way. I want to wait with her, to learn the reverence of these silent-seeming stones, until their language hymns my bones.
Collect the fallen fruits of old labors by the light of a full moon. Wade in the water to rinse, then pat dry. Meanwhile, dice the insults, the past indignities, the collected impossibilities and memories of grade school wounds, lost pets, and burned skins. Steam gently on low heat. Now return to the bowl of hopes set aside to rise in a dark place. Knead vigorously on a floured surface for the length of three songs, longer if desired. Set to rise again. Cover and repeat. We’ll score it eventually, with some symbol of our own invention. We’ll bake it golden, display it on a special tray, cut into it while it’s still crackling hot, pass out fat slices to all assembled and serve it with the good butter. Mouths water at the dream, but don’t worry, there is bread already made. It’s on the table right now. We won’t be hungry. It is good to be kneading this together, this now and coming communion. May the nourishment of the earth be yours.
Inspired by John O’Donohue, who taught me the Celtic term Anam Cara, loosely translated as “soul friend.” And by my soul’s friend. The italicized line above is from O’Donohue’s poem “Beannacht” (Gaelic for “Greetings”).
My bread prepared, time calls. The ship is leaving port. Consider the surface like a poet’s fable.
Consider also what is cloaked in story: truth behind the ornament of fiction, Orpheus’s lyre taming nature as wisdom over the cruel heart.
Then consider discovery, the possibility that a reader might know transfiguration. Last, beyond the senses, what a soul may know when it leaves: no womb beyond the elements, no warmth without cold, nor word without silence of the beginning and the end.
No single sense, but senses. No goat song, foul at the end. Give me instead a tragic beginning, the known world all fire. Then, let me follow and welcome me home.
Inspired by (and borrowing phrases from) Dante’s Il Convivo, as translated by Richard H. Lansing.
Many faithful bodies keep holy days throughout the year, in which the day-to-day routine is replaced by a ritual or series of rituals, enacted in a manner designed to return the faithful to the spirit, via some transcendence. Outside of churches, mosques, and synagogues, you can find such abundant enthusiasms at football games, Sunday brunches, ritual meetings of friends, and ritual retreats in studio apartments. I know no other way to think of a creative practice but as an act of faith.
In this spirit comes the inaugural Sunday edition of these notes, in which we will rest and look for someone else to lead. Call it communion, a shared feast, or a chance to wear body paint and cheer for another artist, whose work breathes the transcendence that is as essential as any other basic need, and often more so. This is also the area where environmental hazards, left unchecked, tend to result in extreme malnourishment.
We may not know we are malnourished, slogging along in blind obedience to the dogma of individual production, forgetting all about the day of rest. But sometimes the sabbath comes knocking, and if we’re awake enough to get to the door, we can’t help but meet what will make us cheer, cry, laugh with relief, shouting hallelujahs of “Take Me to Church!” –– if only we look, listen, taste, smell; running our fingers against its jagged grain. Or, as I did when I watched this performance/talk/sermon by artist Bill T. Jones, be awed through a melting face. Does it add to the wonder to know he is the tenth of twelve children, whose parents were migrant workers? Or is it enough to simply know that he is managing to do what he does in this moment, in this environment, with this force and generosity? You decide.
I am doubly grateful because today, a beloved earthling artist shared this video with me in response to yesterday’s post in which one of us, left all alone, was moved by a sudden impulse to dance.
I cannot translate what he is doing here, and if I could, I would have to use only words once deemed too sacred to utter aloud. I was lifted and moved in ways as powerful as any of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had in any congregation. I will share only this line, which I think for any artist, might be counted as a sacred verse:
“Artists are always fighting the scriptures of their goddamned era! Am I allowed to say that?”
[answers his own question in dance]
The rest, I hope you will see for yourself. Thank you, Bill T. Jones, and the timing of your life, thank your parents; thank you, reader, and I love you for sharing what you see.