Possibilities for Becoming

With Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

If much of sight is the weight of understanding––the weight of the world, as the saying goes–– why not a vision to pull us forward and up, binding us to one another and this earth? What happens when one person and then many––live in devotion to the process of discovering this renewal: its anatomy and breath, its sublimated wants, and how its needs at their core might include us? In an age of crisis, we face over and again the possibility of a coming end, on a road increasingly populated by our dead and dying. What does it take to remember love––even here, and hold it long enough to see a way to its next beginning? You noticed sacredness in imperfection, even pain––because it is, because we are, because we are becoming. Of this age of loss, you suggested, now we are getting somewhere.

***

Inspired by the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Becoming Unbecoming

Undoing: an anti-manifesto.

In the spirit of helping, we began to work together, and in the process, unmade ourselves. Now we live in a hall of mirrors of our own creation, accompanied by nightmares and jokes. Some of these are our creation, others not, but there are no guards at the door. There are no doors either, so you get all kinds.

Don’t walk through here barefoot. There are shards of utopias all over the floor. If you look at certain times of day, the light playing in these is a wonder to behold. 

If there are any unbroken ones out there, you can keep them. Heroes, too. We are done with all of that. Keep your mastery, your individual agency, your sense of your own significance. In our madness, we think human beings would be a good idea.

Let us play. The game is you are not yet and neither here nor there. The game is care. The game is adapt. The game is laugh. Let us begin. Begin by stopping right here.

***

Inspired by, and with borrowed phrases from, the opening of Hyposubjects: Becoming Human, by Timothy Morton and Dominic Boyer.

A Centering Moment

Body and web.

Thread upon thread to bind us, forward and back in time, and no reason will save you. Given enough movement, a body becomes so unreasonably wound up in it that an old impulse returns, to believe the smallest movement of one affects the fate of all, and what follows is more touch and the grief that comes with it. The child’s glorious maximalism: no master of any fate, only servant to a call that defies translation, which is bound to make its listener seem foolish at best, and probably mad. But there it is again, the music of vibrating strings, resounding.

***

Inspired by Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Double Exposure

What haunts a body.

With a flash of brilliance against the eye, here comes another reminder that it is still possible to meet the heavens, here. Things fall, after all, and each of these may carry layered ghost images of what it was before. How many suns have fallen into this stream?

Invisible landscape, what was here before? What is also here now?

Tree Service

A life of devotion.

He sleeps at the edge of the nursery, spends his days in the shade of the mango tree. He keeps the planks for his future coffin nearby. Old friends, the tree will ask questions. They keep him up some nights.

He has brought her branch after branch, hundreds of varieties. She shows him how you may begin with the same seed and grow two very different fruits. Like children, he says.

This is a place of study, he says, for the mangoes of the world.

We are fleeting, he says, but the fruit is eternal. We eat and stay a little while, and then we leave.

I am no scientist, he says, just a servant of this tree.

***

Inspired by (and with borrowed phrases from) recent New York Times article (by Mujib Mashal and Hari Kumar) about Mango Man, also profiled here

Lascaux

The art of original sin.

After the age of the reindeer, people took to caves to paint the animals they’d learned to ambush in migration. Horse, deer, bull: each a flash of wild light to spark the chase. So here is where we find the first stories. Once upon a time there was a horse.

The arrow became the first hero. It won against the flesh. From the start, original sin and original notions of power were wedded. The horse, having no tools, ate only the garden. The paintings made the first history a sacred bond between hunter and hunted. To die, the creature had to consent to its killing.

Long after the age of the cave paintings, came a poet. He looked, wondering: to what do we owe the charm of this vivid bestiary? He admitted an answer: only insatiable, murderous, love. It weighted his heart ever after. No, he thought. This would not do. How could he accept this mythology as his birthright?

He went on, looking and writing. What was he making, some new myth? No, it was nothing so defined as the outline of those figures on the cave walls. He was only trying to return, again and again, to the flash of wild light before the chase began.

***

Inspired by Zbigniew Herbert’s essay on the Lascaux cave paintings, from Barbarian in the Garden. Italicized phrases above are his, as translated by Michael March.

Playing at the Cemetery

Stories in light and shadow.

Tell us again the story of this long walk. Narrate the separation, trace the lines of these forever journeys on our faces out and our bodies away, and draw them on our hands and back together in a net wide enough to hold the slippery forms of recent memory, the laughter of ancestors, and the mischief of our dead. Bring the children close, closer; bind them to us––close enough to keep them in the weave and weave us tight, between the living and the dead and back again.

Tell it in light, with the accent that reveals your time in the shadow lands. Wrap our losses in embalming cloth and hold them still. Let us visit. Then unwrap them, invite them on stage. We want to see them again, how they show us ourselves: the sad, the child, the ashamed, the elegant, the diva. 

In a state of partial decay, the smile widens to something between a laugh and a scream, and we find a face we recognize. Mirror, mirror, return us to ourselves, to one another. Come back.

***

Inspired by the photographs of Lorry Salcedo Mitrani. The title of this post is from a 1992 photograph that led me to the artist’s body of work.

Imagined Invitations

From the congregation of stones.

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.

***

Inspired by, and with borrowed phrases and images from Ursula K. Leguin’s Keynote address, “Deep in Admiration,” from Anthropocene: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, from the Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz, a gem curated by David Naimon in the beautiful ecosystem he’s created around his Between the Covers podcast.

Recent Findings

I once was lost, but now this.

From time to time, when feeling vaguely haunted by a general sense of loss, it can be useful to turn to the oracles of online message boards for reminders of the abundance that has recently been found. For instance, a small but costly kite has been discovered in an ice plant container, along with some keys at the ledge of the walkway near the dog park. Someone walking along Chollas Creek recently came upon a skateboard, and a foray into the Costco business center led one unsuspecting traveler to discover the proverbial box of money. 

It’s not just the bounty of these findings that’s worth noting, but the fact that person after person is going out of their way––after work, traffic, everyday aches and pains, in between nagging health concerns, personal grievances, and untold losses of their own–– to locate the rightful owner and return the treasure, resisting the age-old maxim of finders keepers.

I won’t comment on the sensitive nature of the personal items the dog keeps finding in the marsh, but there is reason to believe that they will be returned without any questions asked about how exactly they got in there. True, there is still no sign of the teeth that were left in a Skittles bag on a picnic table in Oak Park, but there is no shortage of found kittens ready to soothe the toothless without judgement. We are all on the lookout for the lost parts of ourselves, and what are we here for, anyway, if not to be ever returning them to one another?

***

I have an odd fondness for taking inspiration from Craigslist ads. Although I have never actually used them to locate any goods, services, or people, I take great delight in reading them. 

Something with Feathers

Smiles from the threshold.

After the body, winking branches point to cloud faces and birdsong heralds their parade. Here is a frame for the living, and in it, more seeds than there are numbers.

Far from immaterial, this breathes syllables of flesh and leaf, spore and wing; limbs and their memory, and without these containers it would be everything all at once like water to a fish, synonymous with life’s self, but we are creatures bent on naming. 

We make nests of words to offer as a frame for warming the babies, so that when the known perimeter breaks­­––by degrees and then completely, they might recognize in our heat, the beginning of something, and stay.