no straight lines, only the spiral endlessly reconfiguring
“may your hands be filled with blessings”
“may you be a blessing”
I was like one of their books, read once and then put on a shelf.
In one poem, which I’ve crunched here from my own journal entry, he replies: “You ask me how to pray to someone who is not. All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge and walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard, above landscapes the color of ripe gold transformed by a magic stopping of the sun. That bridge leads to the shore of reversal where everything is just the opposite and the word is unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned. Notice: I say we there, everyone, separately, feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh and knows that if there were no other shore they will walk that aerial bridge all the same.”
Elsewhere he wrote: “’I could not have had a better life than the one I had,’ she writes to me in February 1983 from Warsaw, Irena who has lived through the occupation of her country by two enemy armies, had to live in hiding trailed by the Gestapo, then adapt herself to Communist rule, witness the terror and the workers’ responses in 1956, 1970, 1976, 1980, and the martial law proclaimed in December 1981.”
I’m not sure I agree fully with his theology, but I completely appreciate the richness of his grappling with 20th century unbelief and its practice with his discovery that there is, indeed, something larger than what we admit – something few other artists in our time have been able to pull off convincingly enough to be considered sound artistically. (Milosz won the Nobel Prize, 1980.)
He also wrote: “To find my home in one sentence, concise, as if hammered in metal. Not to enchant anybody. Not to earn a lasting name in posterity. An unnamed need for order, for rhythm, for form, which three words are opposed to chaos and nothingness.”
And, he quoted from Renee le Senne: “For me the principal proof of the existence of God is the joy I experience any time I think that God is.”
Again, Milosz: “To wait for faith in order to pray is to put the cart before the horse. Our way leads from the physical to the spiritual.” And himself: “My friend Father J.S. did not believe in God. But he believed God, the revelation of God, and he always stressed the difference.”
I’ve been accused of being unable to understand because I’m a man. It was tempting to respond that she couldn’t understand my need to have a God the Father to relate to as a man who needs a role model and a complete positive (for the most part) male authority figure, and she couldn’t understand because she’s a woman. We are in a bind. But that cheap shot would have accomplished nothing. I still say that Biblical language is not exclusive, if rendered correctly.
The irony here arose in the case of a woman who was being criticized by a man for using Biblical language. Who should know more whether she felt excluded by its masculine nouns? As she said, it’s his problem.
Oh, my, this was all before some of my most important fictional characters were women.
Sometimes we need to state the obvious. So just to make sure we’re conscious of one impact, here are ten words and phrases the pandemic’s added to our everyday vocabularies over the past year.
- Coronavirus. (Of course.) We even learned to spell it.
- Covid. (Ditto.) Upper- or lower-case.
- Zoom. The word existed, just not in the context we now think of first.
- Shelter in place. This one still strikes me as strange.
- Self-quarantine, self-isolation. I suppose it’s supposed to sound voluntary. Or else.
- Social distancing. Specifically, six feet or more.
- Vaxxed. Which leads us to:
- Moderna. Not as a chic word for contemporary.
- Pfeizer. As a synonym for a vaccine, rather than the pharmaceutical giant.
- Fauci. Dr. Anthony.
There are more. What would you add to the list?
We writers or artists, at least some of us, push ourselves as far as we can, coming to a point where we no longer know if a piece is any good or not, only that we’ve done everything in its pursuit that we possibly can at this period in our life.
Either it gets published or whatever as is or gets pushed aside, maybe to be picked up later and reworked, maybe to go in the trash. Or maybe Death intervenes.
- We learned to Zoom. As much as I missed face-to-face and the subtle interactions there, Zoom did spare us a lot of driving. Sometimes it was a treat not having to leave home.
- We saved a bucket of money, apart from takeout. Well, Amazon made out like a bandit, but local retail took a big hit.
- We used less cash, if any, while credit card use for small items exploded.
- Kids lost a year-and-a-half of the growing-up experience. School events like the homecoming, prom, and graduation, as well as classroom learning, team sports, summer camp. I really feel for them, and their teachers. Can we make it up to them now?
- For worship communities, shut-ins and folks at a distance could tune in and be part again. But we definitely missed singing together.
- It’s triggered a big population relocation and a real estate frenzy. So how do we feel about working from home rather than an office? Or the opportunity to live anywhere we want and dial in?
- Arts, artists, and arts organizations suffered most of all. They need our renewed support, bigtime.
- As our astute son-in-law quipped, it was a year without culture. He was talking about sporting events, but it really fit across the board. We couldn’t even really get together as a book club.
- Going about without those masks feels refreshing. Or even naked.
- What’s your reaction to going up to the checkout counter and noticing the plexiglass barrier isn’t there anymore?
And, oh yes, we learned to spell coronavirus and even pronounce it.
What’s high on your own list of takeaways?