seattle’s snow

Snow in Seattle for three days, no school, classes canceled, this strange time outside of time, walking around the neighborhood in boots and gloves through the snow, stopping in at the coffee house up the hill crowded with folks from the neighborhood, the concrete floor wet with melting snow, the place feeling a little like the warming house at the ice skating rink that I knew as a kid, those long cold winter Saturday afternoons in Chicago when my mother would take me to the rink and leave me as I skated around and around…..

On every hill in the neighborhood kids have taken over the side streets for sleds and snowboards [I watched a teenager on my hill leap the curved trunk of a tree from the sidewalk, swing quickly right then left across the street and back to the sidewalk to a complete stop about half way down the hill], kids racing parents down 65th to 3rd or down 60th from 3rd all the way to 5th or 6th, kids on saucers, on makeshift plastic, their parents standing around in groups sharing beers or hot chocolate….

I walk through the neighborhood with no particular agenda, help out a young woman who’s Ford Escort was sliding down 62nd  and then talk to a few neighbors as I watch the activity on 60th, just below our house.  Snow falling, the streets otherwise quiet, just kids and sleds like it’s a hundred  years ago, like some Pieter Breughel painting. 

Late at night I go outside just to be in the silence, the snow, beneath the bare limbs of snow covered trees, beneath the douglas fir’s branches weighted down with snow, beneath the gray sky, streetlights far in the distance.  A life on pause, work to do which I’m doing but this odd sense of a few days of grace, time as a holy space that we walk about inside of like the city’s some great cathedral and we’re all somehow cleansed of our sins, all newly baptized and sent out into the snow to play, to try it all over again.

melancholia

12/30/11

Melancholia late yesterday afternoon, approaching year’s end, an appropriate film in certain ways if not exactly typical holiday fare.  It would make a curious double bill with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers:

There may trouble ahead’

But while there’s music and moonlight

And love and romance

Let’s face the music and dance

And curiously, for me at least those lines aren’t a bad summary of the von Trier film, which is a beautiful piece of work, scorching in its honesty but also leaving me oddly buoyant as I left the theater and walked back onto into the rain on an early Seattle December night.  .  A heart full, held within that ‘magic cave’ that Justine – the Kirsten Dunst character – fabricates with the help of her nephew Leo, a cave made of long sticks, a cave in only the most imaginative sense, which in fact is the point – little illusion in it, little by way of literal protection, a cave I suppose in the same way that chalk lines are walls in Dogville –and in the way that movies themselves are actual places, and the same way that movie theaters are magic caves. This is a cave that you can literally see through: but as Blake insisted, to see through  can also mean to see by means of.    And we do.

 A few sticks against the descent of the massive planet Melancholia is itself an intentionally obvious allegory, something we see through – a lens.  Depression, acedia, the massive weight that von Trier himself experiences in life but which also does powerfully and visually (and audibly in the rich use of Wagner) depict some feeling that many of us have of a doomed planet, a doomed species – all of this sheer gravity and pull of a kind of beautiful destructive power (commerce, commercials, capitalism, western oil-eating culture?)  — and with only a few propped up sticks as defense . . . .

And yet there it is, a magic cave.  It does nothing to stop the end of the world; it does not keep death at bay –and yet (my feeling, perhaps not von Trier’s) it is not solely illusion, but rather something real is generated from it as we see in the change in Leo, who sits inside the cave, eyes closed, with a rather peaceful sense about him – and Justine beside him, resigned, accepting –who knows? – while her sister Clair cries uncontrollably, who’s answer to the disaster (root of the word:  dis –astra, from the stars) is to have a glass of wine and sit on the porch, to which Justine says: that’s a piece of shit – meaning it’s a lie, it’s an attempt to live in denial which Justine like von Trier will have none of –

And so even inside the magic cave the planet Melancholia descends and the earth is obliterated – and perhaps it’s all gone,, all the movies, all the books, all the music, nothing remains.  There is no other life than here, Justine tells Clair, and now it’s about to all end.  Maybe so.  And yet I leave the film convinced otherwise, convinced that the three of them sitting inside the magic cave (the three, the number of ongoing relationship, creation, trinity), that the love that prompts Justine’s action for Leo – and the very simple ritual of creating the cave – that this is what survives: not the sticks, and not even the fleshly lives of the humans within the frame, but that other, that invisible quality that prompts the creation, the making – that poesis itself survives, and whatever is in us that is of  this – that too survives. 

The love of the making, and of the thing made: this is the generating force, this Wisdom,  and it does not burn out.

Kieslowski’s patterns

12/27/11

Watching Criterion Red supplements, Kieslowski speaking of the scene where the dog Rita goes into the church – echoing an earlier scene of Valentin in the same place.  And later the dog runs to the judge’s house, comes out, stands between Valentin and the  judge – the dog as connector.  Valentin at the gate, a threshold, and the judge comes through the door, another threshold.

Kieslowski talks about all the repetitions in the film, the way the film works on the audience, the viewer – almost subliminal – not just analytical, like a puzzle with its pleasure of filling in the pieces,  although this surely comes into play and is part of the aesthetic pleasure  — but something deeper in the pattern, linked to ritual, repetition’s power – chant.  Circling back.  Down. Deepening something – a groove almost literally in the brain, as we are coming to learn about neurological patterns.  The way we get into grooves, habits, both healthy and unhealthy – and the film with its own repetitions invites us into its patterning, its cycle, its beauty – which is circular and yet progressive, moving towards a climax, completion, which is a fullness from which another round/creation can commence – genesis again. 

As it is at the conclusion of Red with the tragedy of the ferry and its 6 + 1 survivors, an apocalypse, a kind of flood which is simultaneously a new beginning with these 3 sets of partners surviving [we almost are told] because of something healed and deepened in their own lives and their own relationships.  They survive – randomly and yet not.  Irrational, as Kieslowski says at the end of supplement, and yet completely controlled.

The aesthetics of repetition.  The swerve:  Lucretius.  Simple repetition is death.  There is in nature no such thing as absolute repetition:  it is always theme and variation, as in a fugue, as in a dance.  There is always the swerve.  Beauty, like life, is this combination of repetition and swerve. 

In Kieslowski there is an intellectual pleasure in the recognition of repetition, and a pleasure in ‘figuring something out’ as in a mystery – an obvious example being the scene with the old woman attempting to place a bottle in the recycling container in each film – but the greatness of the films lies in all the moments where a mystery remains – how each moment holds a weight, a presence of its own, and yet each moment also connects to so many other similar moments.  Threads woven through the three films and beyond into other films of his and other films throughout cinematic history – the way Karol Karol’s character (and how’s that for repetition?) in White echoes Krystof Kieslowski himself but also quite consciously recalls Chaplin, and thus all that Chaplin represents is made present again with this added dimension from the new film –and the scene of Rita going into the church not only echoes the scene of Valentin on the steps drinking water [and that moment holds great if simple weight] but also the scene of Karol Karol at the  beginning of White going up the steps of the court:  similar steps, similar structures, inviting a comparison between law and religion, as well as a comparison between Karol’s experience with the law and Valentin’s in the church.

Of course we can play this game of recognition, and it’s a good game for those of us who enjoy such things.  But again, what matters to me in these films is only partly this very intentional control and design on Kieslowski’s part [and it’s clear from comments from his colleagues that he was a perfectionist on the set).  Somehow his obsessive desire for order also allows for, and in some ways helps to create, the possibility of disorder, of chance,  something unexpected to blow in.  In Red  the spilled tea as the wind whips open the window and the glass tumbles onto the table – things falling, things breaking, things ending.  A scene that was planned out I’m sure but in the doing of it there is also a randomness to this  moment, this glass, this amount of liquid, this light, and this crew filming it.  Sometimes there’s magic. 

It’s the way that those involved in making Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks  back in 1969 talk about it, like there was this inevitability to the random alignment of producer and musicians.  “A cloud came along,” Brooks Arthur, the recording engineer said, “and it was called the Van Morrison sessions.  We all hopped upon tht cloud, and the cloud took us away for a while, we we made this album, and we landed when it was done.”  (Quoted in Greil Marcus, When That Rough God Goes Riding  53).

 Or like the scene where the workers are taking down the massive advertisement with the image of Valentin upon it, the image echoed at the end of the film in the freeze framed shot of Valentin stepping of f the boat, her hair wet, her face in shock – these moments are one and yet separate, the first a framed, artificially created moment for the sake of selling a trivial product [like the movie itself in one sense] and the second a reminder that for all of our playing such moments are real, that death does come, ferries sink, weather changes unexpectedly (this one the judge didn’t call). 

That glass tumbling over, the liquid spilling.  It’s the weight of reality.

christmas eve pie on the road

12/26/11

 The child.  You must become as a little child.  The child’s sense of safety, of trust – this is what Christ refers to.  The arms that reach out to the mother, the father.  The child’s dance around the room, the child’s explorations of the world. 

Christmas Eve begins early in the morning as I stand on the hill outside our home and do a simple meditation as I face west, down the slope towards Ballard and beyond to Bainbridge Island and the Olympic Mountains.  While there my neighbor and friend Bob Martin comes out; we greet each other and he tells me the story of meeting Josephine the day before, a woman he sees almost every day when he bikes to work along the Burke Gilman trail.  A homeless woman of unknown age, she’s lived outside for eleven years – no tent, just a tarp and a sleeping bag. Maybe not even that.  Her space is this stretch of the bike path and its neighborhood from the bridge west to a nearby store which allows her to use a table outside as a place to sit and occasionally eat. 

Josephine.  Claims to be the mother of two daughters, neither of whom she’s seen in years. 

On Friday Bob took the time to stop and talk with her, mostly to tell her how much he is inspired by her presence there on the trail, how much she teaches him simply by being there, and, really, simply by being.  He offers to buy her breakfast which she accepts, and, at the end of the meal Bob asks if he might give her a hug.  She looks at him a long moment and then agrees.

I haven’t been hugged in five years she says.

At the Christmas Eve service at St. Mark’s the Bishop preaches, sharing a story from that same morning, over in West Seattle, near his home, when he, like Bob and myself, was out for a walk.  He came to a crossroads at a major arterial and stopped as a car completely loaded with people and presents pulled up to the stop sign and then roared off into the morning, losing a pie that had been sitting on the roof of the car.  The pie slid off and landed in the middle of the street right side up and undamaged.  Greg ran out to the street and picked it up, then waved frantically to the disappearing car.  A gift from the gods.  A Christmas gift not unlike a child born out there in the stables.  So he took it with him to the cathedral and shared it with those serving at the early service.

As he shared it later that evening in his story.

Gifts, he said, sometimes come in strange packages.

Gifts in the dead of winter. 

I found myself reflecting on the curious fact, throughout that late evening Christmas Eve Mass, that all of this celebration, all of this energy – commercial, communal – is for a date that is pure fiction.  It wasn’t until the 4rth century after Christ that the date was officially established by the church, and even then it was chosen not because of any Biblical authority but because of its proximity to the winter solstice (and, of course, to land on top of other current solstice celebrations, as was so often the case with the church and its calendar).  Odds are vastly against December 25th (on whose calendar?  The one we use, called Gregorian, also came into use. far later) as the birth of the historical Jesus.

And yet, what does it matter?  The date though fiction is also fact – meaning that it is  the birth of Jesus, the birth of all that Jesus represents, which includes words like Christ, the anointed one, or Logos, or son of God, son of Man, light from light.  It is the birth of light out of darkness, the birth of hope, the birth of new possibilities, the birth of a kind of faith in the midst of a truly bleak political midwinter.  The songs have it right in part because the songs have helped create  this rightness.  The songs –along with the liturgy, along with the community of believers, along with whatever genuine connection and relationship happens in the midst of the frenzy of shopping and cooking.  I was fortunate to find Jesus or whatever name you wish to give to this light as I was sipping tea at the Perennial tea Shop in Pike Place Market that same Christmas Eve morning, and found it again sharing an amazing cup of chocolate chaud at Le Pichet with my wife –and indeed throughout the day and evening with Judy and friends. 

Something or someone surely shows up as we sing, as we share a meal and the stories for the hundredth or thousandth time, the grooves worn deep, the road before us clear. 

All is calm, all is bright

Holiday Inn

12/20/11

Airborne from Sarasota to Seattle, working on syllabi, reading Bruce Chilton on Mary Magdalene.   A few days with our daughter out on the beach, going out for breakfast, visiting with my mother.  Talking, talking.  Watching Holiday Inn.  The shift from the stolid – if neurotic and jealous — Bing Crosby – to the flight and radiance of Fred Astaire as Crosby sings be careful, it’s my heart, and even in that moment as he sings so self absorbed even in that moment Astaire appears from nowhere and takes Marjorie Reynolds into his arms and literally sweeps her off her feet – and, of course, all of us with him.  He is the grace of poetry, pure inspiration, a breath of the god come down upon us.  In spite of herself –or not – she follows him, Eurydice to his Orpheus.  And Crosby sings and the orchestra swells as the pair spin and separate only to return again and again, Psyche burning her wings at the flame of Eros, drawn in and up by the dance while poor Bing, oblivious and self absorbed, already is missing what he claims to want. And anyway as a valentine present the song is oddly narcissistic, having nothing to do with her, being all about is own fear.  He’s a man who deserves to be robbed –as  Astaire, trickster that he is, understands only too well as he crashes through the paper valentine with Marjorie in his arms.

That beautiful flight.  All that cannot be sustained.  The heavy and the light, earth and air. 

Of course part of the joke of the film is that these qualities are divided between the two men (I’ll win her with my dancing, I’ll win her with my singing} while Marjorie Reynolds (or at least the character she plays, since Reynold’s voice was dubbed) combines the two gifts in her own beautiful presence.  She sings.  She dances.  She moves between the two  with grace and ease.

Occupy Seattle in Advent

12/11/11 third Sunday in advent.  David Mesenbring’s sermon at St. Mark’s Cathedral about the banks [well, not really about the banks, more about john the Baptist as witness – the word shows up 33 times in john’s gospel after being almost entirely absent from Mathew Mark and Luke] – Occupy Seattle and the question of the cathedral’s (or really, each of us in the cathedral) simply enjoying the reputation of a place of  radical hospitality as opposed to actually living it out. 

Guilty.

The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor; and the day of  vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion…. [Is 61:1-4]

— words Christ reads to the assembled in Nazareth, offering himself not only as the prophet who proclaims liberty but himself as its embodiment.  The thing itself. 

John: who are you?   A witness to testify to the light. 

What do you say about yourself?

I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’

John the Baptist in the voice of Isaiah as Jesus inhabits the voice of Isaiah as Isaiah inhabits the voice of those who came before him.  Who are you? We ask of John as we ask of those in Occupy Seattle or Wall Street or San Francisco or Moscow or Cairo or Jerusalem.  Who are you? Elijah?  The prophet?  The Messiah?  Let us have an answer for those who sent us.

Are you Elijah?  Meaning what?  An incarnation?  Elijah returned from the dead? 

The ancestors – they are not departed.  We wear their clothes (sometimes literally).  We inhabit their voices, their words, their ways.  They are who we are, we carry them, bear their burdens as they prepare the way for us, for a new revelation, a new and deeper insight (if we do our work) – or simply a new clarification, a new metaphor.

Things come around.

 Jesus carries Isaiah across a threshold with  a new revelation, just as some earlier unnamed sage or prophet added what scholars now call the second and third Isaiah to a previous text.  A New Testament, a new vision born of the old but clarified, deepened, revealed in and through himself – a fulfillment.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Logos “in in fact identical to Chochma/Sophia, Holy Wisdom,” Jesus “as a moshel moshelim (a teacher of Wisdom) rather than the long-expected political Messiah who for two thousand years has been the primary stumbling block to Jewish-Christian reconciliation.  ‘A Wisdom Jesus I would have no problem with!’” Rabbi Rami Shapiro says to Cynthia Bourgeault.

Not a political Messiah?  .  the Lord has anointed me; God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.  Messiah:  the anointed one.  And it is John’s gospel that highlights the Baptist as precisely a witness to this this Christ, this anointed one.  But the wisdom teacher is the same who proclaims good news to the oppressed, who makes straight the way.  This Logos enfleshed is that way which is a way of love which is a way of absolute alignment with the fundamental facts of the universe. 

Which means justice. 

At the heart of corporate religion is the question of power: Who rules over whom? Writes Rabbi Shapiro; Who rules over whom?  From the priestly tribe of Levites to the priestly class of the Church to the learned rabbis and imams, there is in corporate religious life a hierarchy of power supporting a ruling elite that claims to have a more direct connection to God than the rest of us.  Chochma and Her teachings are a direct challenge to this hierarchy [The Divine Feminine in biblical Wisdom Literature xix]. 

Wisdom in this sense inherently challenges this ownership of power –hence the alignment for thousands of years of this tradition with the [often underground] tradition of radical democracy. From Piers Plowman to the seventeenth century Diggers and Muggletonians to Blake to Dostoevsky’s own radical brand of Christianity which in turn was deeply connected to  a Russian wisdom tradition….  We see this revisioning history that links the Gnostic [meaning gnosis, meaning knowing] with the political and prophetic. 

In short: a new way of seeing  leads to a new way of being.  And what wisdom brings is a new way of seeing.

But this is not simply a matter of an intellectual insight.  It is intended to be embodied – what else is the point of Incarnation?

little gidding

12/1/11

1:30 in the afternoon, the first of December, the feast day (in the Anglican calendar at any rate) of Nicholas Ferrar, founder of the religious community Little Gidding, inspirer of Eliot,  friend of the sweet George Herbert, poet and priest, A grey day, fog over Ballard early this morning as I stood on the hill outside our house and offered up prayers.  Trees swaddled in mist. 

End of the quarter – many of you will remember such days in December, when you were still in school, at college in particular, the smell of the air, the anticipation of the holidays, the cold, the lights, this rare time of year when we can feel ourselves all together on the verge of a threshold and praying, however unconsciously, that it may not be simply the turning of another year.

It is more  we seek – the more  of sea and sky and mountain, the more  of the stars, of poetry.

I’m sitting at Macrina on Queen Anne nursing a cappuccino and reading T.J. Gorringe’s Earthly Visions:  Theology and the Challenges of Art (Yale UP 2011), caught initially by his discussion of Botticellli’s secular paintings (The Birth of Venus, Primavera) as examples of ‘radiant humanism’ – Karl Barth’s terms for the Christian scriptures, and caught by his (Gorringe’s)  defense of beauty in the context of the cross. ( Is there in fact beauty in the cross?  If so, of what kind?  I think above all of Grenwald and the Isenheim Altar. . . .  a subject for later!).  He quotes Paul Tillich, one of the great protestant theologians of the 20th century, who “recalled the impact of seeing Botticelli’s Madonna and Child with Singing Angels  in Berlin, while on leave from the trenches in the First World War.  ‘In the painting,’ Tillich wrote, ‘ there was Beauty itself . . . . As I stood there, bathed in the beauty its painter had envisaged so long ago, something of the divine source of all things came through to me.  I turned away shaken.’”

Around me residents of Queen Anne Hill – a well- to-do Seattle neighborhood – eat soup and bread.  Cars pass by on McGraw, mostly SUV’s, Subura Outbacks.  I think of Tillich in Berlin fresh from the front lines gazing at the Botticelli, seeing something so close to the nature of prayer that I suspect he was ready to get on his knees before the image.  He had been living inside the Cross, or some hellish parody of it, or probably both since the battlefield too is a place of extremes, a doorway if there ever was one, as my father learned in the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge – and so moving with one reality to another, the slaughter and waste that was the folly and tragedy of the War to the astonishment and grace of Botticelli’s Mary, her bent form, her curves which read as feminine and erotic and yet somehow pure,  “full of this wind-born movement which shivers through the outer world,” as one of his critics says, “and communicates itself to the dancing figures that look as if there were poised for flight” (Nesca Robb, quoted in Gorringe p. 44) –

Imagining the earth borne Tillich fresh from the blood and mud standing before this wind-blown incarnation of the grace of God, shivering through the outer world —  and I look up and hardly recognize the world around me.  Botticelli – even the name conjures a world where wind, spirit, blows through and invites us to bow before it, no matter how bloody it may be.  Paul Tillich!  Who I read so many years ago in and out of grad school, to whom I offer thanks and praise, along with Botticelli and the good man Nicholas Ferrar.

I am he who puts together….

November 22nd, 5:00, streetlights on, car lights crossing the Fremont bridge reflecting off the wet pavement.  The day done.  A kind of dance continuing.   I continue my reading in Religion in Human Evolution,  reaching the stage of ritual, of myth, the development of language.  Robert Bellah quotes Morris Berman’s quote from a Mazatec Indian shaman:  I am he who puts together  [135].

It’s worth noting that the word analysis means to separate: in short, to take apart.  

To put together:  this is to heal, from an Old English root also related to the Old English halig,  holy, and hal,  meaning hale or whole.  This is the work of putting together.  To cohere:  to make coherent.  And the question is whether this is putting together that which is inherently chaotic, even meaningless, or whether it is an act an act that mirrors what is, which is in fact already put together, already in some sense coherent some sense whole. 

Does the universe already make sense?  Is it whole, halig, hal?  Does it proclaim Wassail?

I think of Hemingway, a clean well lighted place, the darkness surrounding the tavern, darkness of war, of the cosmos:  all it needs is a little order, a little light,  which hemingway’s prose can temporarily provide….

So here’s the blog.  A story of Fremont, traffic, rain.  The sound of an espresso machine and a Bach.  There’s a shaman for you, the one who puts together.  That place where poetry dwells, what  George MacDonald (whom my students are also writing on) calls Fairy Land,  found in the depth of the eyes of the beautiful Grandmother:  they filled me with an unknown longing . . . .  I looked deeper and deeper, till they spread around me like seas, and I sank into their waters . . . .  

There is this beauty also in the rain, in the dark of a November day.  An intimacy, a stillness: the lights of houses, a café.  We await birth.  We await resurrection.

the virgin point

11/20/11

The nature of this blog.  Some poetry, some prose, some fact, some fantasy.  Reflections on art, film, literature, as well as on economics, Israel Palestine, climate change, the general crisis. 

And at its center?  The virgin point.  Meaning:  the still point, that place from which words arise, from which relationships arise.   From which we arise.

 It’s intention:  to talk about the internal  weather, to bring the crisis to a head, to cross a threshold, to say hello to the mystery. 

A young Mr. Emerson speaks to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, who has come to him in New York hoping to land a job.  “Of course,” Emerson says, “but surely you suspect there is more to it than that.  Aren’t you curious about what lies behind the face of things?”

 

I imagine it beginning like this: 

 

Zoka’s 3 baristas dancing to Motown

muses or fates, dressed in black

like guides to the underworld

some story they’re sharing

behind the counter

pouring Ethiopian coffee

Guatamelan

Nicaraguan

The late afternoon sun

On an October day

 

A world apart

A darkness coming

 

 

And then a single point of light

and a person sitting cross legged

on the floor in a stocking cap,

 bald headed, slightly round. 

He speaks to us all: 

 

How the valley awakes.  At two-fifteen in the morning there are no sounds except in the monastery:  the bells ring, the office begins.  Outside, nothing, except perhaps a bullfrog saying “Om” in the creek or in the guesthouse pond.  Some nights he is in Samadhi; there is not even “Om”.  The mysterious and uninterrupted whooping of the whippoorwill begins about three, these mornings.  He is not always near.  Sometimes there are two whooping together, perhaps a mile away in the woods in the east.

                The first chirps of the waking day birds mark the “point vierge” of the dawn under a sky as yet without real light, a moment of awe and inexpressible innocence, when the Father in perfect silence opens their eyes.  They begin to speak to Him, not with fluent song, but with an awakening question that is their dawn state, their state at the “point vierge.”  Their condition asks if it is time for them to “be.”  He answers “yes.”  Then, they one by one wake up, and become birds.  They manifest themselves as birds, beginning to sing.  Presently they will be fully themselves, and will even fly.

                Meanwhile, the most wonderful moment of the day is that when creation in its innocence asks permission to “be” once again, as it did on the first morning that ever was.

                All wisdom seeks to collect and manifest itself at that blind sweet point.  Man’s wisdom does not succeed, for we are fallen into self-mastery and cannot ask permission of anyone.  We face our mornings as men of undaunted purpose.  We know the time and we dictate terms.  We are in a position to dictate terms, we suppose:  we have a clock that proves we are right from the very start.  We know what time it is.  We are in touch with the hidden inner laws.  We will say in advance what kind of day it has to be.  Then if necessary we will take steps to make it meet our requirements.

                For the birds there is not a time that they tell, but the virgin point between darkness and light, between nonbeing and being.  You can tell yourself the time by their waking, if you are experienced.  But that is your folly, not theirs.  Worse folly still if you think they are telling you something you might consider useful-that it is, for example, four o-clock.

                So they wake:  first the catbirds and cardinals and some that I do not know.  Later the song sparrows and wrens.  Last of all the doves and crows.

                The waking of crows is most like the waking of men:  querulous, noisy, raw.

                Here is an unspeakable secret:  paradise is all around us and we do not understand.  It is wide open.  The sword is taken away, but we do not know it:  we are off “one to his farm and another to his merchandise.”  Lights on.  Clocks ticking.  Thermostats working.  Stoves cooking.  Electric shavers filling radios with static.  “Wisdom,” cries the dawn deacon, but we do not attend. [Thomas Merton, from conjectures of a guilty bystander:131-2]