Unless some energy comes to haunt, there is no movement in these words. But where does it come from? Things remembered, things observed, the contents of a collector’s shelf, or some displacement. A long drive will find it sometimes, the quick flash of wild creature crossing the road. Other times, it’s a matter of grim execution. Always the question of how much to push in the effort to grow a nascent being without killing it with overwork. We all move between the given language and the first, this waiting muscle bared and tense, all attention.
On the daily work of living.
There is an obscurity so obscure that it is no longer even dramatic. There is nothing unusual or heroic to celebrate in this way of being, because there is nothing to point to: no award, no arrival, no legacy. All of it is nothing, only ordinary work. And who doesn’t dream of freedom from this?
Except. If the people you love are in it, too, how will you continue to love them except by connection through this daily toil? The grind, my father calls it, and he is right. It grinds us from our husks, makes of our once-proud autonomies something else, something worth offering only because it is transformed.
This is what makes it possible to say here, take this bread. Dearly beloved, it is the body I surrender, for you.
The italicized opening line is from Thomas Merton’s essay “Renunciation,” in New Seeds of Contemplation.
Weave. Unravel. Burn. Engrave. Lift.
Horsehair, denim, parchment, wood.
Here is material, here a task.
Each focal point becomes a counterbalance
to the surrounding immensity.
Who are these people at these tasks?
They are attendants.
What are they doing?
They are present.
In what? I ask and no response.
In their work.
Because it is theirs to do,
because they are with it.
Inspired by some of the installations of Ann Hamilton, featuring attendants engaged in simple, repetitive tasks, which the artist sees as representative of the presence required of art.